04 September 2007

Non-profits allowed to demolish historic buildings

The City of Cincinnati has 21 locally designated Historic Districts. Construction in these districts is regulated by law. Of these districts, the Over-the-Rhine district is by far the largest, and is certainly the most important. Demolition of a contributing structure, such as 1606 and 1608 Walnut is definitely not allowed.

However, there are 4 exemptions, which allow for demolition:

1. Demolition has been ordered by the Director of Buildings and Inspections for public safety because of an unsafe or dangerous condition which constitutes an emergency. See Section 741-21(c).
2. The owner can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Historic Conservation Board that the structure cannot be reused for any use or a reasonable economic return from the use of all or part of the building or from the sale of the property proposed for demolition cannot be realized. See Section 741-13(h)(2).
3. The owner is a non-profit corporation or organization and can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Historic Conservation Board that the denial of the application to demolish would also deny the owner the use of the property in a manner compatible with its organizational purposes and would amount to a taking of the owner’s property without just compensation. See Section 741-13(h)(3).
4. The demolition request is for an inappropriate addition or a non-significant portion of a building and the demolition will not adversely affect those parts of the building which are significant as determined by the Historic Conservation Board

There is a fifth reason which I don't compltely understand, but it is basically to make way for new construction under a City-approved plan. Here, in PDF format, are the OTR Historic Guidelines if you want to read them yourself.

If you are a private joe, or for-profit corporation, and you own 1606 Walnut Street, you would not be given a permit for demolition.

Most of the demolition in OTR over the years has been because of #1. Very few (if any)have been because of financial distress. The Board regularly denies such applications.

Below are pictures of three buildings, that at one time, the Historic Conservation Board denied demolition permits. They were shells, and now they are all restored. There are many, many others, but these are a few that come to mind, that I know about from personal experience:

1106 Main Street, The Hanke Building:

The Sun Building, 1102 Sycamore:

This one, very similar in size and scale to 1606 Walnut. 111 E. Thirteenth Street:

If it hadn't been for the Historic District regulations, these would be parking lots.



5chw4r7z said...

So the way I'm reading it, not allowing a building to be demolished is a form of Eminate Domain? Am I reading that wrong or is it totally crazy?

CityKin said...

It is not emminent domain at all. EVERY property in the city is restricted by zoning. A local historic district is an only an additional chapter in the zoning code that restricts permanent modifications to the exterior.

Improvements, additions, changes of use are fully allowed. Removal of the historic features or demolition is NOT allowed. In return for this designation, all property owners in the district recieve many benefits, especially: historic tax credits, which have helped subsidize many rehabs.

The three photos shown are of projects whose owners at one time applied for complete demolition. They were all denied. Just like if your neighbor applied to build a junkyard next to you, he would be denied.

After each of these was denied, the owner or subsequent owner totally rehabbed the building, benefitting the whole neighborhood and the city. This is the entire reason for the designation of Historic District.

If a property owner does not value the historic buildings, and wants to demolish them, they should move to the other 99% of the city that is unprotected.