12 September 2007

1111 Spring Street

This building was not saved by the Local Historic District, because at the time, Over-the-Rhine had only National Designation as a historic district. A National Designation does not stop demolition.

The struggle over this building in 1988 explains a lot about the recent (past few decades) history of OTR. The following is my understanding and recollection, without doing research. If anyone wants to correct or add to this, please do so.

A lot of project-based Section 8 Rehab occurred in the Pendleton area in the 70's. About this time, a plan deveoloped to renew the area around the Old St. Paul's Church. Spring Street was re-routed, and buildings were demolished to create a new plaza, and the church was adaptively re-used by Verdin Bell. After this "urban renewal" process, one vacant building, 1111 Spring Street was somehow left in the City's posession, just south of the plaza. I don't have easy acces to any old pictures, but the building was a deteriorated shell, just like many in OTR.

A map of the area, with the building highlighted:

[where: 1111 Spring Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202]
Notice the open space, mostly parking all around it?

In 1988, (was it bastille day?) buddy gray and several housing activists took the boards off the 1111 Spring Street and occupied it, demanding that the city not demolish it, but rehab it into housing.

When he heard what was going on, Jim Tarbell came over and attempted to remove buddy himself. They had a physical fight, involving wrestling and allegedly attempts to push each other out a window. I don't know the details, and they don't really matter, but it was a significant moment in the history of OTR.

The protestors were forcibly removed by police. However, eventually City Hall relented and the building was transferred to the newly formed, OTR Housing Network, and after several years of hard work, restored into decent housing for several families, which it remains to this day. The fight unified the activist community, but also unified the opposition, represented by the OTR Chamber. It would be an extreme understatememt to say it was polarizing. There were battles before and after this one, but this one marked a tipping point.

Here is a picture of the building today:

I am writing about this to help people understand the battles fought to save buildings, and save OTR. On thing that always struck me: despite the disagreements over who would live-in or control the buildings, most people on both sides did agree on one thing: The buildings should be saved.

Today, this is not always the case. The Community Council is a smaller institution with a full plate of issues. The OTR Chamber of Commerce has younger leadership that doesn't see demolition as a major concern. There are groups like the Cincinnati Preservation Association and the OTR Foundation, as well as individuals who speak up now and then, but what good is their voice if a building collapses from neglect or is emergency demolished by the City?

Much seems to be in 3CDC's hands right now, including some buildings that will be a challenge to rehab. They have stated that they intend to save anything that is salvageable. We will soon see.

1 comment:

CityKin said...

I thought people would comment on this one.

I wonder if the fact that no one has commented on this post means that people don't want to dwell on the past, but would rather see what is going on now.