Summary of Former SCPA Development Meeting 01/09/2013

Community members packed the house as John Watson, CEO of Indianapolis-based Core Redevelopment, presented preliminary plans for the development of the former SCPA and Woodward High School building on Broadway Street in Pendleton. Core purchased the property at auction in December of 2012 for $1.3 million and this was their first public release of their plans and request for public input. The meeting was held at The Public Library of Cincinnati in downtown.

Photo tour: a look inside the historic SCPA Building in Pendleton

CORE's Plan to Develop former SCPA in Pendleton

The plan for the historic structure is to build 170 apartment units for market-rate rent, ranging in size from 500 sq. ft. to 1100 sq. ft. and ranging in rent from $775/mo. to $1600/mo.

The renovations would preserve most historic features as necessitated by the use of both state and historic tax credits to help fund the project. Core plans also to maintain chalkboards and other classroom aspects as they believe that this is part of the appeal of living in such a building.

Watson mentioned that currently there is a $3 million gap between what the renovations will cost and what it will be worth to Core to do it. He is looking at funding from the city or non-profits to fill this gap and is confident that it will happen.

The plan also calls for the removal of both pools as well as the modification of both the theater and basketball court/gym into apartment spaces. This will allow for more of the building to be revenue-generating (due to the large hallways and odd layout, only 60% of the building can actually be converted rentable space; the rest being common area and money lost).

(We’ve asked Core for their original photos and will post them as they are supplied to us)

According to Watson, besides the necessity that they can generate money, there are other factors that contribute to the decision to modify these spaces. The auditorium was ruined by fire in 1996 and the pools have not been used for swimming in over 50 years. Also, the elevated running track portion of the gym and the balcony in the auditorium will be maintained and utilized as loft spaces. Mr. Watson proposed that if anybody had a concrete plan in place to use the theater (business plan and funding to support it), that he’d be open to keeping the auditorium largely as it is.

Then came plans for parking. Core’s plan at this time is to use the green space to the north of the former SCPA -known as Cutter Playground- and convert roughly 47% of it to parking with the rest being redeveloped as park space with input from the community.

This became the divisive issue and became the topic of conversation for much of 2 hours. The community is concerned that a place in which they’ve gathered for a long time will be ruined, that more pavement will scar natural beauty and that in general the space should be left as a community center and gathering and focal point for generations to come, left just as it is.

On the other hand, Core would have to argue that besides urban zoning requirements with regards to parking that would require 250 spaces, that the perceived danger and inconvenience of needing to travel from perhaps a nearby parking structure would be a deterrent to potential tenants. According to Watson:

He held that he could potentially reduce the required 250 to 230 but factors in when considering how many spaces to provide that not only are tenants probable to have multiple cars, but that some of the highest demand for parking will come when friends want to park at the apartments on the weekends and that there needs to be space to accomodate visitors as well. After some conversation, Watson considered removing some of that “visitor” parking provision but held firm based on 30+ years of experience that he needed adjacent parking for his tenants and not parking in another location or on the street.

The conversation continued and became argumentative at points. Many different possibilites were proposed ranging from underground parking (eg Washington Park), to help from the city to acquire and maintain the park, to groups such as 3CDC getting involved.

At one point, OTR/Pendleton mainstay Jim Tarbell stood up and the room went quiet. His point was that economic factors cannot be a reason to build a parking lot against the will of many in the community. If it is a financial gap that is the reason, recent trends have more than proven that we can overcome such difficulties with the likes of 3CDC and others; especially with regards to their creative use of public funding including HUD. Jim was clearly upset that the SCPA has sat beautifully dormant for so long and was very grateful to have a proven and successful developer such as Core coming in to the neighborhood. But with a projected cost of roughly $12 million for an underground parking feature, it was clear that the community at large would need a big initiative to save the green space in its entirety.

Tarbell’s words (paraphrasing): “With $50 million invested in the new Washington Park, with $60 Million being invested in Mercer Commons, with all of the investment going on in OTR and Pendleton; we will find a way to make this work.”

The night ended essentially with no resolution but with both parties agreeing to do more investigating into finding an equitable solution. Core is open to ideas about how to solve this issue but at the end of the day are developers needing to be profitable and are inclined to use a solution that ensures success to the highest degree.

We will post updates as they come including future events.  We will also be posting an audio transcript of the entire meeting. And finally, we encourage you to keep up with the Pendleton Community Council, to
email us
with your concerns or questions and to contact Core directly with viable solutions for this project.

How can we provide parking and safety for tenants and also maintain as much of the green space as possible? Let us know in the comments.

Core Redevelopment Meeting Audio

(This is from an iPhone and many of the questions came from around the crowd and are indiscernible)

Local 12‘s Angenette Levy’s report from the meeting:

Comments
43 Responses to “Summary of Former SCPA Development Meeting 01/09/2013”
  1. wmross says:

    Could they use the basement or part of the building for parking?

    • Scott Hand says:

      Doubtful – the foundations and structure for the old building wouldn’t be very conducive for that configuration. It would be cheaper and easier to just build a new underground garage below the empty lot.
      The parking was going to be a problem regardless of what developer or business got into the building.

      • John_Blatchford says:

        That’s a great question and one that was brought up during the meeting. Using the basement (or other parts within the building) for parking would be problematic for a few reasons.

        – What is considered the “basement” is what is the ground floor on the Broadway and 13th sides and below grade on the park/north side. To use this as parking would mean potentially interfering with the historic limestone, Greek tiled floors, marble columns and other historic features of that floor. Besides preservation on its own, this would obliterate chances of receiving much needed historic tax credits. It would also be a nightmare to try to use the floor in its current state with cars navigating sharp hallway turns and parking in the hallway itself.

        – To use the basement below this level would not work because on top of strange layouts down there, this is where the mechanical necessities would be housed and it would be prohibitively expensive and logistically pretty tough to dig tunnels especially when compared with paving a lawn.

        One solution discussed would be creating bi-level parking where there already is existing parking but this would probably not even address a third of the needed parking spaces as per Core’s plans.

        • Bonnie J. Speeg says:

          Anyone who went to, worked in, sang in, volunteered in, studied in, the SCPA basement knows a parking facility would be more than a nightmare, but undoable. There are tunnels, buried famous people and all that marble that developers never took time to consider in most of their planning lives.

    • John says:

      That’s a great question and one that was brought up during the meeting. Using the basement (or other parts within the building) for parking would be problematic for a few reasons.

      – What is considered the “basement” is what is the ground floor on the Broadway and 13th sides and below grade on the park/north side. To use this as parking would mean potentially interfering with the historic limestone, Greek tiled floors, marble columns and other historic features of that floor. Besides preservation on its own, this would obliterate chances of receiving much needed historic tax credits. It would also be a nightmare to try to use the floor in its current state with cars navigating sharp hallway turns and parking in the hallway itself.

      – To use the basement below this level would not work because on top of strange layouts down there, this is where the mechanical necessities would be housed and it would be prohibitively expensive and logistically pretty tough to dig tunnels especially when compared with paving a lawn.

      One solution discussed would be creating bi-level parking where there already is existing parking but this would probably not even address a third of the needed parking spaces as per Core’s plans.

    • Bonnie J. Speeg says:

      Question cannot come constructively from anyone unfamiliar with the building….there is far too much at risk physically, too much improbability, to this line of query. Other comments site those issues as to no reuse of the ‘basement’.

  2. 5chw4r7z says:

    I lived in the Groton Lofts for a few years and had to cross Race St and walk down an alley to get to the Gramercy garage. As my first experience living downtown I didn’t think anything about it. And the visitor angle is bogus as well, nobody downtown/OTR has visitor parking.
    The reality is, people will need close parking for the foreseeable future so what can we do that doesn’t ruin the fabric of the neighborhood? The last thing OTR needs is another surface lot.

  3. Couldn’tone or a few of the parking lots across the street be acquired and an above
    ground parking garage be built. Or the city could do a land swap and trade
    Peaslee Neighborhood Center for Cutter Playground? Peaslee Neighborhood Center
    could structure a lease to use some of the spaces in Woodward. The neighborhood
    Center is not an attractive building and has a large enough lot to construct a
    substantial garage to serve this portion of Pendleton. This would also create an opportunity to remove all of the surface parking directly surrounding Woodward.

  4. “I am unwilling to ask my residents to cross a street to get to their apartments” – John Watson CORE Redevelopment
    This is what happens when we have an Indianapolis-based firm in charge of redevelopment – no creativity, no understanding of actual urban neighborhoods. Having lived in Indy and being familiar with CORE’s past projects – they take on interesting projects but deliver vanilla.

    • joe gayetsky says:

      Numerous cincinnati developers who work in OtR passed on this property. Thankfully someone found a way to make it work and we’re not ending up with VLT Annex #5

    • Even if there is the parking issue, I am pretty impressed with the amount of creative solutions to difficult retrofitting problems with the property this guy is proposing. When looking at a national scale especially compared to cities like Boston and San Fran, Cincinnati isn’t that great at adaptive reuse. This is a rare example of a developer willing to take some chances and deliver a more unique product.

      This doesn’t mean that the parking issue is something people shouldn’t fight for, but at the very least credit is due where credit is due. I hope something can be worked out that makes everyone happy.

    • Bonnie J. Speeg says:

      Mr. Meckstroth,
      I can go about my day now, knowing that there are like-minded people commenting on the demise of SCPA. Even before it was sold there was the inspired rumor of actual CREATIVE reuse of the building for the community/city at large. This, of course takes energy, creative thought, time, money, time and time. Did I mention time? CPS only had so much of each of those elements to implement in handling their ownership of the property. Hence, we’re now exactly where I knew back then we’d be. All the Vanilla in the world, right in front of the community concerns.

      The quote “unwilling to ask MY residents to cross a street to get to their apartments” may cause William H. Whyte to come back from planning heaven. (he’s worth googling, reader).
      MY residents? How did this suddenly become an owner advocacy march at a public meeting to help the community deal with a developer?

      Thousands, yes, thousands of tiny 10 year-old ‘survivor’, so honorably called, students, up to 19 years of age students trudged along every street surrounding and leading to SCPA for decades. No crossing guards, video security cameras, police escorts…..just kids going to school. Parents, faculty, local residents and the students all took this process for granted. Kids have to get to the school. It was a complete ‘urban environmental package’ back then.

      No freakish fears by the kids from the guys standing on the street, neighborhood issues, panhandling kids occasionally that could barely lead to a dollar…..

      The community/society surrounding the SCPA building has not changed,
      the structure has not changed,
      human nature and going to school hasn’t either
      but something has—
      that something is the owners responsible for the future of the building; their perspective of the site, building and grassy lawn is through a lens of financial profit, something a public school for all its near 100 years could do to itself or community.

      Now we are obliged to watch the slow transformation, and isolation, of the grand old building that will become a closed fortress to all but those within…
      scurrying quickly from their cars into the ‘safe’ building under much security (well, just LOOK at that neighborhood!)
      and the shroud of privilege.

      This is really absolutely preposterous and comes from an obviously outside of the realm of OTR reality.

  5. Patrick says:

    Seems to me we have to decide once and for all if we need “unplanned” greenspace in our urban areas. This really is one of the last ones we have outside of Washington Park’s lawn and we all know that is frequently “programmed”. If we allow this one to go the way of asphalt, we’ll never get it back. Shouldn’t the developer consider whether his development would be more desirable to tenants if the greenspace remained? It presents a unique opportunity. And to say that his residents won’t cross the street is curious because to live down in OTR/Pendleton means you embrace being part of the fabric – this is a walkable area where people walk almost everywhere and you take the good with the bad and you love it. That quote make me fear a 10 foot gate around the property with security at the entrance.

    • Amen to that. Living in Chicago has changed my perception quite a bit and when I read that whole statement about parking I thought it was absurd. I don’t mind one bit walking two blocks to get to my apartment when parking is tight, and frankly in even in OTR its rarely if ever that bad in Cincinnati.

      Charge more for the limited spaces and allow people to park in the neighborhood and the massive number of parking lots that surround that area (Arnold S. Levine [who owns most of the parking lots] has already ruined to much of the urban fabric around sycamore, might as well make that area less fallow). In other words much of the extra spaces for visitors aren’t needed – plenty of other street/parking lots to take care of it in the area.

      • Scott Hand says:

        I just moved back from Chicago, too, and your statement rings very true, Neil.

        One thing I just considered while reading through our responses here is that this land under consideration – existing green space – is now private property. Even in Chicago this would be a crazy anomaly reserved only for tall buildings that were required to put greenspace on their lots to bypass zoning limitations (height, buildable area, etc…). I certainly hope that CORE keeps it open, but they have no financial incentive and pretty much no precedent for keeping it this way. The city needs to step in and control the situation if it’s important to maintain the park. That’s what the recreation department is for. Otherwise, the developer is going to do what they want to do. A private park would be a strange addition regardless.

        I love the idea of keeping a non-programmed green block in the neighborhood, but if I had won the auction, I would easily be turning this into as much parking as my redevelopment use needed, too. Instead I’m looking at another site and trying to figure out how to find the parking required…

        • I’m actually still in Chicago, but am really fascinated by the restoration of OTR – its something I never thought I’d see honestly, and a restored OTR would be an amazing urban neighborhood. Since I missed out on the beginnings of mass gentrification of the areas close to the Loop and the North Side in Chicago (its still going but its not a new thing anymore), its fun to see a place where things are just getting started.

          And you are right about private parkspace, the only places I know of in Chicago where that happens is like Streeterville – very expensive new high rise apartments. Though there are on the flip side a lot more courtyard apartments in Chicago that have basically private parks just nothing that’s really new development.

          • John_Blatchford says:

            I agree totally with the point of the developer buying the property (including the green space) and doing whatever they want with it. It is their right. To this point, interested parties can only hope that the city steps in in the interest of non-SCPA residents or other (profitable) alternatives are found.

            I think this is very different from a Chicago situation though as OTR/Pendleton really don’t have that demand for property like Chicago does. I think the building was valued at 10 times what it sold for and there are many under-utilized parking areas within half a mile. That is to say that because there is no precedent in a city like Chicago doesn’t mean there can’t be a precedent set for historic rehab in OTR/Pendleton.

        • Nina says:

          Actually, Scott – residents of the Pendleton area surrounding Cutter’s Playground understand that the greenspace (and the former school building) are part of the historic Woodward Trust. As such, any private interest can LEASE those properties for a period, but they cannot own those properties indefinitely. So they are at once private and public, in perpetuity. So the developer CANNOT just do whatever he wants – he must have approval as per stipulations outlined in the trust.

          • Nina says:

            (If he does not do everything in his power to win approval, his lease will be revoked and any investment he’s made so far will be lost.) Previously, the Cincinnati Board of Public Schools held the lease to both the greenspace and the building for 100 years.

          • Greg Wilson says:

            Oh, you had me going for a minute there. I thought there was hope. but, alas, the four acres that are in the Woodward Trust are south of the school. Bad luck.

  6. We live in a city on the rise and if we hope to continue down a progressive path we cannot follow the ideals of suburban living. While Indianapolis has thrived as a city that is a “drive in – drive out” style, Cincinnati is hoping to become more of an urban destination to live and visit. Parking is more than ample and the surface lots surrounding the city lay as piggy banks for land owners waiting on a pay day. There is no desire for them to put money into their property.because they are already making “enough” money with little risk. Indianapolis is a profitable city but from my experience of living there twice in the past 8 years it lacks in character and design. Hotel and retail tax in the city is up to 13% with the main focus concentrating on attracting convention and corporate business. The closest true neighborhood of Broadripple is nearly 20 minutes north of the city center while Cincinnati has multiple villages within a 10 minute drive. Back to the point…. We live in a CITY, not a convenient or simple place to live but a place where all come to get inspired or make their personal and professional dreams come true. Park your car. Walk home. Interact with those who surround your world. Don’t duck into a garage and keep your eyes down till you find the comfort of your flat screen and newly purchased IKEA life containers. Hopefully this parking issue becomes a conversation for the current project and future ones.

  7. Bonnie J. Speeg says:

    Ultimate sin the the integrity of the building to take away the theater. Really?

  8. OTRrez says:

    I’m a white female, and I attended SCPA for 6 years, and graduated from there. Once I had my license I drove to school (I was an art student so carting my supplies on the metro wasn’t always an option), and I was often subject to looking for parking in public places – I didn’t pay to park in a lot. I walked across streets, etc. early in the morning and sometimes later in the afternoon and at night, and I was just FINE, never once was I robbed, assaulted, bothered, etc. (okay maybe once in a while someone asked for change, but that’s not really a big deal, that happens in ALL big cities). The neighborhood is significantly better now and I don’t see why people would or should have a problem walking across the street to get to their building. Plenty of people in OTR do it already. If the developers feel that it’s unsafe, why invest in this property? They would have been better off buying something in the suburbs because it seems like those are the people they want to cater to. The people that are going to want to move down here, to these units, are going to be people that want to be close to OTR, vine street, work, etc. and will probably be walking to these places already, so why should the proximity of their car to the building matter so much? I would only be concerned if I lived there, that there IS a parking space available to me if I want to purchase it. I don’t care if it’s across the street, down the street, ON the street, etc.Also, there are parking lots in the back, side, and front of the building already. What’s the plan for those spaces?

    • John_Blatchford says:

      There are currently 90 spaces around the building for parking. I believe the number was 40 will be kept almost exactly as-is with 30 more pretty much staying the same. That’s 70 out of 90 to remain but would be primarily guest parking, the leasing office and the like. I commend Core for keeping them.

      I think as the conversation continues, some of those may not be still reserved for non-residents in an effort to reduce the total number needed.

    • Bonnie J. Speeg says:

      Dear SCPAer: I agree with your questions and experience at SCPA.
      I hope you read my comment on the thousands of kids who somehow made it SAFELY into the building all those years and now we’re shown a development emphasizing the need for security, severe parking issues, and the rest….
      I agree with your question…”if the developers feel it’s unsafe, why invest in this property?” Well, OTRrez….that’s not how developers work (bad news)….they fully intend to see the surrounding area take up the slack and ‘do stuff’ to make everything more accommodating to THEIR development.
      More bad news…..the people wanting to move into the building are NOT actually wanting to be close to OTR …..they want to magically transfer from their apartment to whatever chic place they pick somewhere ‘over there’ on Vine St.
      Will they be interested or accept a walk through 12th Street to get to Ensemble Theater, Park & Vine, or Music Hall? NO WAY…….there will be many non-urban types from another city as this CORE development’s clients (I can name two redevelopments for residential in the heart of the city that catered to those types of clients and they’re now living in them)
      Yet, you..and my children too (lifers at SCPA) seemed to execute with grace and aplomb, their movement from the school to their bus stop, their ride, their assignment to sketch on an OTR hillside with Dr. Glover without being assaulted (okay, sometimes there were some local annoyances, but nothing that really shook the foundation of the school…..other elements did that for it).

      Proud of you going to SCPA….and all the others who have graced its halls.

  9. Alex says:

    Please e mail Mr. Watson and let him know how important these issues are to us. This is our city and our treasure, we have the largest stake here.

    Dear Mr. Watson,

    I attended the meeting last night regarding the SCPA project and wanted to express my thanks to you for taking this project on, its going to great.

    I believe that I am a member of your target market for tenants in this space and wanted to share another perspective regarding the parking/greenspace issue. I am 23, and just moved to Pendleton to accept my first salaried job with a company located in OTR. I pay $800 a month for rent and own a car, I park on the street and often drive to work, although I bike when the weather permits. I have never had my car broken into or even felt unsafe in this area. I enjoy being on the street, getting to know the area better, and interacting with the diverse groups of people living here. Many of my friends are excited about OTR and realize that it is a desirable place to live – its an extremely hip area and has been for quite some time. The draw is there.

    My point is, the types of people who will be interested in living in the SCPA building really won’t mind parking across the street. If you could ask your future tenants, would they rather have 100% of the greenspace and park across the street or sacrifice 47% the space and park behind the building – I would bet that the vast majority would say leave the greenspace and I’ll cross 13th St. Then let the tenants who don’t feel that way pay a little more for spaces adjacent to the building.

    More and more young working people are happy, and paying rent, to live in OTR and make the small sacrafices that go with urban living.

    Thank you and I look forward to being neighbors with you,

    Alex

    • Bonnie J. Speeg says:

      I’m going to bet a whole lot of money the residents of the SCPA building are NOT going to park even across the street. Drive to Fairview School, Salmon Chase School, and future apartments at Kirby School, and you will see Iron-fenced, gated, locked, secured, no neighbors in residential redevelopments. The expense used for this aspect of these projects would not have been undertaken if not for the necessity, either on the property owners end or the target market they wanted to appeal to. People with money enough to buy apartments in what will no longer be a beloved school but a prestigious, elegant redeveloped, cool and PRIVATE refuse for extremely beautiful FORMER public art…..are NOT going to be willing to hike from their cars across ordinary pavements to get inside their secured building.
      I know it’s wonderful to project into different expectations; that people will somehow not be this way….but I site the above re-developed public schools, and there are many more OTR buildings that have been re-developed for residential re-use that definitely do not have common street parking acceptable by the residents. Drive along Pleasant Stree, and numbers of other streets in that part of OTR….the first thing one sees is the IRON fencing and locked gates surrounding the residential properties. There’s are very strong reasons for this, and I’ll spare the reader all of them…..as even a 10 year-old could come up with at least one.

      • charles ross says:

        They said Apartments, not Condos.

        • Bonnie J. Speeg says:

          Am I to understand that apartments don’t have the type of parking I’m describing and only condos do? I didn’t know that.

          • Bonnie J. Speeg says:

            I just looked at Stratford Apartments which was the former Fairview School. They are indeed apartments; and they definitely have a locked down, iron-fenced property to keep the residents from having to go out any further than the parking which surrounds the building.

  10. Centerfielder5 says:

    I have to say that constructing a surface lot across the street in an urban setting can and has worked. There was a historic warehouse-to-lofts conversion in downtown Dayton that was on the corner of 4th St. and St. Clair. Unfortunately, they tore down a building across the street…but they created a decent sized lot that was gated and required punch-key access to enter. The tenants walked across a street that is actually busier than both Sycamore and 13th both currently are. Granted, the size of the necessary lot in OTR would be larger, I still think it could be done without ruining the limited greenspace that is already there.

    But, we must not lose sight of the fact that this development group has done some pretty amazing work in other locations…and there were many local developers that passed on the opportunity here.

    If the SCPA building would have continued to sit vacant, you would have seen a significant increase in cost for upkeep and repair as the building slowly deteriorated. And there is a very good chance that other developers would have continued to pass on the property on that matter alone.

    As long as all interested parties continue their dialogue in a constructive, professional manner, it should all work out.

  11. Greg Wilson says:

    To me, highly developed green space graded and flattened with lighting and concrete pathways and benches and the usual stuff they put in these so called shopping mall type green spaces one sees around office and apartment buildings are not much better than parking lots. The untamed nature of the Cutter Park is what makes it so special.

  12. Bonnie J. Speeg says:

    “The auditorium was ruined by fire.” This is the only statement used by CORE to justify taking the SCPA theater out of the building. The statement gives the listener the impression it’s a dark, blackened hole devoid of anything resembling a theater after the fire.

    Not so. In 1996-1997 $70,000 was spent to restore the theater so that a year after the fire the school had a ceremony honoring the saved theater and had its first performance since the fire (long anticipated by the students devastated) two weeks later.

    The dramatic (pardon the pun, considering the school) interpretation to the public rendered vulnerable at a public hearing (where the new owner seems to know more than the collective community suddenly, and in one fell swoop) by human nature tends to want to hope in belief that in fact nothing can help (in this case) the destroyed theater and it must go. What a beautiful asset to the building to retain it. As the students and faculty said in a FOX 19 interview after the fire “the theater is the heart of the entire building…..”.
    Historic preservationists and development marketers alike could well use this as an asset in the residential plight of the SCPA building; rather than writing it off because they may not know exactly what else to do.

    • Bonnie J. Speeg says:

      CORRECTION: The total cost of the SCPA theater restoration was $700,000. It was $70,000 under-budget.

      • John_Blatchford says:

        Great comment Bonnie. Have you any links for this? Would love to learn more.

        Unfortunately, the reason the fire is so significant is that now the auditorium does not need to be preserved for historic tax credits as it is not original. Core does plan to maintain much of the features including the balcony, but would remove seating and the stage for instance to make room for living.

        As we mentioned though, if there is to be a good business case for keeping the theater as it is, Core is very willing to listen.

        • Bonnie J. Speeg says:

          Fox 19 coverage should be pretty easy to find regarding the rebuild of the theater. At this point in re-development of an historic building, after architectural effects are at risk (including Rookwood at SCPA), it’s typically proposed by the developer that if anyone can find a way to save such items in spite of what the re-developer can usually work around, go ahead….try it and good luck. I’ve seen this play out in Cincinnati and other cities, having worked with an urban planner for many years.

  13. Zachary Schunn says:

    Isn’t the biggest draw of living in OTR the walkability factor? And the developer is saying a tenant won’t cross a street to get to/from their car?

    If there was a lack of parking in this part of town it would be understandable. But half the on-street spaces in Pendleton are always empty, let alone the abundance of surface lots.

    Further, one would think having a park/playground right outside would be more attractive to residents than looking at a surface lot… which would in-turn make the park more valuable to the developer.

    Ideally, the surface lot to the south could be sold to and controlled by the developer. But the owner may not be interested in selling. Regardless, the developer could find a way to work with the local parking companies managing the lots.

    This may be a case where the developer is just trying to motivate the residents to ask the city to give him money. How often such is the case…

    PS: $1.50/sf/mo. for apts. is NOT market-rate in OTR.

    • Nina says:

      Agreed, many of your points are valid.

      Note: the majority of street parking in the Pendleton area has been freed-up during the workday by the introduction of Cincinnati’s first residential parking zone in 2011. Now a residential permit is required to park on streets within the zone between the hours of 7am and 5pm, Monday through Friday, which means there are many empty spaces during the day. But then there’s street cleaning hours twice a week, requiring residents to move their cars to one side of the street or the other overnight to avoid ticketing, which adds some fierce competition for parking at night – between visitors and residents within the zone.

      So as it stands, anyone living in that building would be eligible for the residential parking permit and could surely park as close as they like without having to cross the street from some lot. But the current availability of street parking could NOT accommodate 230 more cars – NOT AT ALL.

      Still, there’s a wealth of parking lots in the Pendleton area already. One should weigh the cost of acquiring such existing real-estate against the cost of developing on-suite parking (including the cost of toxic public relations that will result from paving the greenspace)… You may be right in speculating that the developer is trying to motivate us to pressure the city to defray costs for him and thereby boost his potential profit margin substantially.

      • Zachary Schunn says:

        Interesting to know Pendleton is now a permit-parking zone. Didn’t know that.

        As for buying vs. developing a lot… in this real estate market it’s rare for something to be cheaper to develop. Since I’m working to sell a lot down at 9th/Walnut I have an idea what those lots would go for, and I’m hard-pressed to believe it’s more than developing the park into a parking lot. (Granted, I haven’t seen their construction estimates, so I’m largely talking on experience here…)

  14. Nina says:

    Dear Mr. Watson –

    In 2004, I first moved into the neighborhood over-lookiing Cutter’s Playground. The view from my bedroom window was the majestic London Sycamore trees lining East 14th Street and the wide expanse of green lawn which is Cutter’s Playground. Most buildings in that area do not have lawns of their own – so having the field there makes our neighborhood feel much like Alamo Square in San Francisco.

    Out of necessity, I moved to North Avondale in December 2011. That neighborhood was full of mansions (literally) and prospering families. But within a few months I knew it was a mistake. Living in a neighborhood of private lawns and private driveways is not for me or my dog (he’s almost 5 years old) — We missed Cutter’s Playground, and the long afternoons we used to spend chatting with our neighbors over tennis balls and frisbees in a priceless spirit of conviviality. And so I began hunting for an apartment as close to Cutter’s Playground as possible.

    In September 2012, my new lease began. I am now on Broadway Street, a stone’s throw from the field again. I pay $700 for a one-bedroom apartment (I gave-up some amenities to be so near the greenspace), I park wherever I can find a space on the street, and I am a single woman living alone. I work downtown in the PG-GO, and I walk 9 blocks to work everyday, rain or shine.

    Should you complete this development project at the former SCPA/Woodward High School, I am the very picture of your target demographic. And what motivates my decision to live in this neighborhood – above all – is Cutter’s Playground. Should you sacrifice any of that green expanse for the sake of parking, you will drive away your target demographic – myself and people like me.

    Sure, we love living in close proximity to businesses along Main Street and Vine. We love the historic architecture and walk-ability of our neighborhood. But the school building is not the crowning jewel of our neighborhood – it’s Cutter’s Playground. From Prospect Hill, Pendleton, Clay Street, Findley Market, Mount Adams, Clifton Heights, Covington and Newport… (areas of Greater Cincinnati you may not know, being from Indianapolis as you are) people are drawn with their dogs and their children and their baseball/softball/dodgeball/rugby/football teams to gather in Cutter’s Playground – because it is the largest green space to be found in the downtown area.

    We all know this field has been maintained by the Cincinnati Park Board as a public space, and so we’ve made good use of it over the years. The picnic tables have hosted family reunions and children’s birthday parties; Coaches use them to address their teams; Organizers use them to assemble volunteers. The baseball diamond and batter’s cage have hosted softball tournaments for local church groups, dodgeball practice for community teams, even football drills for high school teams who have no fields of their own. And the paved basketball court (besides being used as a basketball court) has hosted dance and cheerleading practices long-since SCPA moved to Vine Street. A few years ago, neighborhood children squealed in delight while a horse – yes a horse! – was led around the field by its owner to graze idly, passing time waiting for a trailer to be repaired/replaced. (This horse pulls a carriage-for-hire, which tours historic OTR.)

    Cutter’s Playground is more than just a field of grass overshadowed by an historic building – it is THE communal equalizer, the contemporary town square, the boundary-less point of exchange between us all where class, race, gender, and age matter the least. PLEASE do your best to honor thy neighbor, and preserve this most valuable un-sung landmark of downtown Cincinnati.

    – Nina

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