3CDC wins approvals from Cincinnati's Board of Housing Appeals

Developer making progress on crumbling buildings

CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. avoided fines after showing it made enough progress on three crumbling Over-the-Rhine properties to win approvals from a city tribunal Wednesday.

Cincinnati’s Board of Housing Appeals heard from representatives of 3CDC about the tens of thousands of dollars 3CDC has spent to stabilize three decaying structures on Vine Street and Republic Street in Over-the-Rhine.

The nonprofit developer plans to landbank an old garage building at 1408 Vine St. and is working on a development plan for the buildings at 1321 and 1323 Republic St., said Adam Erskine, 3CDC’s asset manager.

“This is a long time coming, but this is headed in the right direction,” said Michael Morgan, chairman of the city’s Board of Housing Appeals.

The board on Wednesday voted to give 3CDC 30 days to continue work on the Vine Street garage. The board also granted the development group a two-year suspension of city Vacant Building Maintenance License fees for the Republic Street structures as long as 3CDC quickly brings both into compliance with the city’s regulations for vacant buildings.

Over-the-Rhine resident Tim Mara thanked the board Wednesday for continuing to pressure 3CDC to take care of its properties.

“Progress is progress,” Mara said. “I just wanted to thank the staff and the board for continuing to press 3CDC.”

As WCPO Digital first reported, Cincinnati’s Board of Housing Appeals on May 1 accused 3CDC of demolition by neglect related to a boarded up house at 1321 Republic St. in Over-the-Rhine.

Demolition by neglect is when a property owner lets a vacant building decay until it becomes unsafe and could require emergency demolition. It’s a first-degree misdemeanor in Cincinnati.

The board’s May vote marked the third time it accused 3CDC of neglecting property. The board took similar action earlier this year related to 3CDC properties at 1323 Republic St. and 1408 Vine St.

A WCPO Digital investigation found building inspectors had logged concerns about the decay of several properties owned by 3CDC, the influential development organization that City Hall has put in charge of the revitalization of Over-the-Rhine.

But the vast majority of the 98 3CDC properties reviewed by WCPO Digital comply with the city’s building codes.

After WCPO Digital’s initial report, 3CDC officials went back to the board and said the nonprofit would work to save the buildings instead of allowing them to rot. The Board of Housing Appeals in June gave 3CDC a 90-day reprieve to begin work on the properties. That 90 days ended this month.

3CDC was back before the board July 1 because of another decaying building – this one at 1416 Elm St. in Over-the-Rhine. City inspectors had condemned that building in 2010. And despite 3CDC’s assurances to the board that it was working to fix a massive hole on the third floor of the structure, Mara testified at the time that no work had been done to fix the hole for more than a year.

Board members scolded 3CDC for a lack of action on that building and voted to give the development group 60 days to stabilize the structure . That property was not on Wednesday’s agenda.

The Board of Housing Appeals is an administrative tribunal appointed to resolve controversies over the city’s property maintenance and zoning codes, especially as they relate to vacant or condemned buildings.

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