24 January 2008

Freestore Hearing Monday

The Freestore Foodbank is going to the the Board of Historic Conservation 3pm Monday, on the 7th floor of Two Centennial Plaza, 805 Plum Street, to ask for permission to demolish two 125 year old Italianate homes. I wrote a letter to the Board this morning that included some of the following points:

In August when the plan to demolish 1606 and 1608 Walnut Street first became public I took the time to meet with the Director of the Freestore at the site, and also took the time to visit the architect in his office to review the plans.

From those meetings and from investigating the condition of the buildings, I have come to the conclusion that the proposed demolition is not necessary and indeed will be detrimental to the Freestore and the neighborhood.

The current loading dock is located in the rear, as it should be. The elevator that is now used to take goods from the dock area to the basement is serviceable, but nevertheless is planned to be replaced with a larger freight elevator. The proposed loading dock on Walnut is planned to be depressed to allow direct offloading from trucks into the sales area. Admittedly this will save use of the elevator, but at what cost? The cost of valuable streetscape. The cost of our neighborhood's infrastructure. The cost of labor reduction (at a place that is full of people looking for work).

The existing rear loading dock could easily be reconfigured such that loading would be directly onto the elevator platform. When visiting the site, this solution seems obvious, but has not been considered.

The Freestore's future plans include further demolition and control of most of this block for use as parking. Buildings such as 112 Corwine, and 1614 Walnut are viewed as nuisances to be rid of by the leadership of this institution, when buildings like this are exactly the opposite. Italianate rowhouses like these are really this neighborhood's only hope.

If the Freestore has its way, the block bordered by Liberty, Walnut and McMicken will resemble the block immediately to the west, where the Shell gas station and three lonely buildings remain. Fifteen years ago much of this adjacent block was demolished because Husmans could not survive without additional parking. Now Husmans is gone, and the neighborhood has a big hole in its center.

Institutions like the Freestore have the ability to be a healthy contributor to the neighborhood by restoring housing, or they can be a hungry monster gobbling up the neighborhood around them in disregard for those of us who live here. Unfortunately it seems we must force them to be a good neighbor.

Finally, I want to point out one obvious point. If the two rowhouses are demolished, the remaining German Baptist church will be an island and will look out of place, with a huge blank wall facing south along the sunken loading docks. It will not look right and it will increase its chances of future demolition.

I choose to live in OTR, like many others because of the superb tight urban fabric. Removing yet another piece of this fabric to create a parking space for semi-trailers will make it very unlikely that any kind of neighborhood will develop on north Walnut Street.

Please, keep the loading dock on Corwine Street where it belongs!

You may also want to read my previous post on this issue.

Send emails to:
Historic Conservation Office
Department of Community Development and Planning
805 Central Ave., Suite 700
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 352-4890
William L. Forwood, Urban Conservator


Julie said...

Thanks for the heads up-- I'm writing a letter now.

Anonymous said...

Pendleton Neighborhood Council voted to oppose the Freestore expansion plans as proposed at our January meeting. Now that the Historic Conservation Board meeting is scheduled, we will send a letter voicing our opposition.

Thanks for the heads up that this meeting has been rescheduled for Monday!


CityKin said...

Historic Conservation should do everyone a favor and post the meeting agendas on their website. How hard would that be?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for standing up for the old buildings! I agree that yes, the old buildings are the neighborhoods future, do you mind if I share your message to others?
in an email? thanks!

CityKin said...

^of course, this is a public forum. Spread the word.

Anonymous said...

The lack of information on the the HCB website is more to due with them being short-staffed than being secretive. The city hasn't seen historic conservation as a priority, and has consistently reduced the Historic Conservation staff from 5 a few years ago down to 2 1/2 now, and the Urban Conservator is going to retire in the Spring, so the department will be down to only 1 1/2 staff. That's barely enough to do the grunt work, let alone do anything pro-active or any community outreach. I think you can ask to be on the circulation list when the HCB agendas are sent out, and then post them here. But more importantly, we should be advocating for more staff to watch over the city's historic resources.

dew said...

Just spoke with Historic Conservation this morning and they said the FreeStore will not be presenting at today's meeting. It sounds like they will be presenting at the first meeting in February (which I believe is Mon, Feb 11th).

CityKin said...

Yeah I just found out that the date changed too.

I agree that they seem understaffed. I wonder if the City could lose its ability to offer tax credits if they cannot provide the protection required of historic districts.