Monday, August 23, 2010

Old St. George hotel proposal needs $65K

Old St. George Church  (BC)
A partnership of state and local companies wants to redevelop Old St. George Church in Clifton Heights into a boutique hotel, but needs an additional $45,000 in pre-development funding to make it happen.

HineSite Strategic Services, LLC principal Douglas Hine presented the proposal for the Saint George House last week before community leaders at the Niehoff Urban Studio on Short Vine in Corryville, saying that his group needs the funding to provide and assessment of the building's architectural and functional suitability, schematic designs, a development budget and sources, construction cost estimates, a market study, operating projections, and a strategic development plan.

So far, $20,000 has been raised, of which $10,000 has come from the Clifton Heights Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (CHCURC).

"We thought it was important, before going out and asking for money, to show our support for the project," said Matt Bourgeois, director of CHCURC.

Previous developers have kicked around the idea of a boutique hotel, which is why Hine said that the pre-development activities are so important.

"It's not sustainable unless you have a sustainable use for it," he said. "We have to make sure that when we complete a museum-quality restoration, the operations can sustain the hotel."


Under the proposal, a partnership including CHCURC, HineSite, CR Architecture + Design, and Cleveland-based Paran Management Company and Richfield Hospitality Management Company would:
  • Restore the church's sanctuary as the hotel's "public room", complete with a ballroom and auditorium/lecture hall, plus space for a bar or restaurant.
  • Build a three-story, 60-room addition on the east side of the site.
  • Convert the friary into nine unique suites and meeting rooms. The library would be converted into a breakfast area for both hotel guests and the community at large.
  • Landscape the courtyard areas for outdoor functions.
  • Construct a 29-space, single-story parking structure beneath the property, accessible from Classen Street. A parking agreement with the University of Cincinnati for the Corry Street Garage would be likely to handle overflow.
Very early estimates are that the work could cost between $14 million and $17 million to complete. Multiple avenues of financing would be necessary, Hines said, including state and federal historic tax credits and federal New Markets Tax Credits.

"This is right in the sweet spot of both of those programs," Hine said.

A neighborhood fixture

Built in 1872 and designed in the Romanesque Revival style by renowned local architect Samuel Hannaford, the historic St. George Church is not only a well-known local landmark, but is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well.

Vacated by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 1993 following a merger with nearby St. Monica, the church eventually was purchased by CHCURC to prevent the construction of a Walgreens drug store.

But on the evening of February 1, 2008, a three-alarm fire tore through the structure, causing nearly $2 million in damage.

Bourgeois said that, the night of the fire, he was told by several firefighters that the building was as good as gone.

But the next day, he was pleased to discover that the steeples had acted as chimney, directing the smoke and fire away from the main structure. Very little water damage was found.

In the meantime, CHCURC is working with the City on a contract to replace the roof and keep the building stabilized.

"The longer these types of buildings sit idle...time brings damage," Hine said.

Real passion

Following the fire, Hine was transitioning out of a job at Miller-Valentine Group.

Although he opted to not be involved with the Old St. George proposals at the time, he did find himself working on the redevelopment of Park Place at Lytle, a condominium project that converted the former R.L. Polk factory building into livable space.

"I have a real passion for urban renewal," Hine said.

Hine said that the building had outlived its useful life as a factory, then as offices.

"It's got another 100 years of useful life Downtown, and that's crucial," Hine said.

A partner with a track record

Hine gives high praise to partner Joseph Shafran, chairman and CEO of Paran Management Company, who has a track record of more than 20 years of working on such transformative projects.

"Shafran has a real passion for the institutions of Ohio," he said.

Shafran's best-known project may be the Glidden House at University Circle in Cleveland, adjacent to Case Western Reserve University.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1910 French Gothic Eclectic-style house was purchased by the university in 1953 for its Department of Psychology and its Law School Annex.

Following four years of permitting and other red tape, the mansion opened as a 60-room boutique hotel in 1988. Its carriage house became a popular neighborhood restaurant.

Goodbye, Dresden

A revamped Old St. George would provide a more impressive gateway and bookend to the eastern side of Clifton Heights' neighborhood business district, an area that University of Cincinnati adjunct professor of Community Development Terry Grundy described as World War II "Dresdenesque" and consisting of "several City blocks that disappeared somehow".

"We've got a lot of new construction at various stages," Bourgeois said. "But this would be an example of a building that's seen better days, where we can come in and give new life to it and create a new neighborhood anchor."

And it could help spur the planned redevelopment of the multi-phased Uptown Commons project along Calhoun and McMillan streets. Towne Properties already plans to build a $25 million, 100,000-square-foot office building at Calhoun and Vine streets, a project that will likely begin construction when it's 60 percent pre-leased, he said.

"That project could happen in a relatively short period of time," Bourgeois said.

"I'm really just the facilitator to make this happen," Hine said. "We don't know who will be the end user. But we don't want the community to lose that asset. The important thing is to save it."

Previous reading on BC:
Panel to discuss future of Old St. George (5/27/08)
CHCURC: Old St. George will be saved (2/5/08)


Randy Simes said...

I believe it is called "Uptown Commons" not "Uptown Crossings." You may be mixing it up with "Corryville Crossings" just around the way.

john does Amsterdam said...

well now that's fun.

glad to see unique projects in the works for the uc area.

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine 3CDC having to beg for $65,000? The city throws money at them left and right. If Old St. George were in OTR, this wouldn't even be a discussion.

Randy Simes said...


I don't believe that 3CDC has ever come to the city asking for money to put together a development plan. They usually seem to have their ducks in a row, then come to the city asking for some gap financing, or infrastructure improvements nearby.

If I were a betting man, which I'm not, I would say that the city ends up contributing to this project financially once it is ready for development.

Anonymous said...

Do not plan on using the Corry Garage for this facility.
Employees/students of UC need this parking. Our access to Corry Garage parking, which we have to pay for, is already crowded by Atletic Events. Athletics gets all funds for _that_ parking and none goes to subsidize the staff/faculty parking needs. In effect the staff/faculty/students fund parking spaces/cash directly into the athletics department and not parking budget.

Now including this added population would impact those who need to work and study at the University.

Anonymous said...

OK, wait a minute here. This dude cant come up with 55k to get this project started, yet somehow, somewhere he will find 17 million to complete it? Really? Well hell then I guess I could be a real estate developer too!

Seems like a low class operation if you ask me.

paul s said...

such a disgrace! Show some respect! Take down the building...

Anonymous said...

paul s said...

"such a disgrace! Show some respect! Take down the building..."

Respect what?

paul s said...

reply to anon 10:47...

it's kinda like urinating on your father's grave, if you have one.

Anonymous said...

Not surprise that they will take another historial building to make way for a cute little boutique and hotel. They've already done it with a church that is off of Calhoun across from the Shell station. Pretty soon there will be no historial value left in the city. That's why I love visiting Europe and other countries overseas; they maintain their historial buildings while adding new construction.

Tennfossil said...

Clifton Heights huh?!
For those of us that attended St. George School for eight years and mass in the church for many more years, we know the location to be CORRYVILLE.
It is too bad the writer of the article couldn't get the facts straight.

Anonymous said...

Randy, what about Meiner Flats? They got money just to stabilize it. It's pre-pre-development.

If Old St. George wasn't in dire need of stabilization, there would be money for pre-development planning.

There's a church on Elm that 3CDC made the city buy and stabilize. And then there's Kaufman. 3CDC is taking up all the resources.

Randy Simes said...


This pre-development money doesn't appear to be for stabilization work. My point is that the city appears to be willing to contribute to construction-related efforts, but not so much for pre-development planning.


Old St. George is most definitely in Clifton Heights:

Anonymous said...

Abandon the hotel idea and make it into an events venue and hire someone who can bring interesting things into it, not just concerts (as Bogarts is already on Short Vine). Examples would be cultural lectures, large art installations, some concerts, private parties, raves, etc. With the right management, the place could be a like a Busboys & Poets on crack. Would really work in a place like Clifton, too. Less investment, more bang for buck.

Tennfossil said...

People can attempt to label the old St.George site whatever they want. For those of us who grew up west of Vine street and east of the UC campus know that location is what it is: CORRYVILLE.

Randy Simes said...


It's not about trying to label anything any differently. This location is simply located within the Clifton Heights neighborhood that is part of the Clifton Heights/University Heights/Fairview Heights (CUF) community council. Corryville is located east of Jefferson and generally north of William Howard Taft.

Check it out for yourself:

14thStBen said...

I want the church to stay but I wish they could keep it as something more respectful. The city does such a horrible job preserving historic structures I guess that's all we can hope for.

Tennfossil said...

Randy Simes:
You proved my point! You stated:
"CORRYVILLE is north of William Howard Taft and west of Jefferson Ave." Have you looked at a map of the area in question recently?
If/when you do, you will find old St George is north of Calhon (sp) (William Howard Taft extended) and west of Jefferson Ave.
It may inconvenient to accept but, it is what is. Hope the project does well in CORRYVILLE.
ps: Growing up on Corry St.we were
not very impressed with fancy labels like "Mount"or "Heights".
Guess it still shows.

Randy Simes said...


You clearly either didn't read what I wrote, or you intentionally misquoted what I said. Look at my comment again, and you will see that I wrote the following:

"Corryville is located east of Jefferson and generally north of William Howard Taft."

Anonymous said...

Great idea.... ask the Vernon Manor folks.

Jason said...

Ever since this blog got placed on the front page of the enquirer's website, all the same idiots from the comment section over there come here to post their anonymous comments now.
Old St. George would be in danger of being lost forever if someone didn't come forward to save it in some way.
Thank goodness there's an interest in developing it into a hotel. It is a very special building that holds SO MANY memories for generations of cincinnatian's and it absolutely deserves to be preserved. If it has to be a historic hotel, so be it. I for one would be proud to see it still standing for generations to come.

Anonymous said...

To Jason: not saying it shouldn't be preserved. I absolutely think it should. However, the market for a hotel of that size existing in that area is dubious - hence the Vernon Manor being converted into office space.

Dustin said...


Sergio's is the great restaurant in the Cleveland renovation, but I do hope a student-friendly price point comes with the Old St. George's possible restaurant.

This is a huge sign for Cincinnati, and hopes we can stop leave our historic fabric and resources for death. I was partial to a micro-brewery at the location--haha--but this i definitely a better plan to include the entire complex.

Grundy is right, yet it is the very institution that employs him that is to blame for the decimated Calhoun-W McMillian block, let alone the-once-proud surrounding neighborhoods! But alas, I rejoice in the future. Many wealthy travelers to UC will have a great experience within among the most-unique hotels to-be in the country, and that is great for UC BUT MOSTLY great for the city as a whole.

Too bad the future hotel guests will not have the gracious view of (the hastily and quietly demolished) Friar's Club across the street on the corner of Ohio Avenue--a giant blow to the city and aspiring preservationist, historians, architects, and planners that need reassurance things like that would not happen.

One last thing....I have a personal bad taste in my mouth for a certain two-word phrase, used by Mr. Hine:
"I have a real passion for urban renewal," Hine said.

Lets call it...Urban 'Regeneration' or something to that effect--the other phrase still stings....

Kevin LeMaster said...

Anonymous..."Do not plan on using the Corry Garage for this facility." Agreed. They should be searching far and wide for parking for an additional 50 or so cars. The question is, will any of these new developments along Calhoun and McMillan come on line before work on the hotel begins in 12-18 months?

Anonymous..."OK, wait a minute here. This dude cant come up with 55k to get this project started, yet somehow, somewhere he will find 17 million to complete it? Seems like a low class operation if you ask me." These guys have a track record of developing similar properties. They're reaching out to neighborhood stakeholders, just like any other developer. If it happens, do you expect that the developers will fund the entire project themselves?

paul s..."such a disgrace! Show some respect! Take down the building..." How is this respectful?

Anonymous..."That's why I love visiting Europe and other countries overseas; they maintain their historial buildings while adding new construction." Isn't this what they're proposing to do? There aren't many alternatives for re-use of church structures, and CHCURC has been working with various developers on this for five years. It really says something when even CPA supports this idea.

Anonymous..."Abandon the hotel idea and make it into an events venue and hire someone who can bring interesting things into it, not just concerts (as Bogarts is already on Short Vine)." It used to be one, between the time that the Archdiocese sold it in 1994 and the early 2000s.

Anonymous..."Great idea.... ask the Vernon Manor folks." Or just ask the developers who built a new Hampton Inn right down the street.

Dustin... Completely with you on the term "urban renewal". It conjures up thoughts of the wholesale demolition of low-income, mostly black neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

Why don't they apply to CDF for the development funds? They were just awarded a chunk of change - $750K?

Kevin LeMaster said...

I believe that they have talked with CDF, but have it didn't look like a project CDF would be able to fund. But you're right, it might be a good time to try again.

Anonymous said...

What is Duke energy doing in Corryville? They bought five houses near the Jefferson Ave electric plant. Two houses are on Jefferson and three houses are behind those on Glendora.

Maybe I missed hearing about it - but thought Kevin would know.

Kevin, did you ever think of having just a comment board blog - where people ask things?

Anonymous said...

Correction: Six houses. Three on Jefferson.
Sorry about that.

Anonymous said...

I'm using Old St. George's towers as litmus of are we as society done - can't maintain can't restore; in short more can't than can.

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