CINCINNATI - Since beginning its work almost a decade ago, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. has been hailed as nothing short of a savior in Over-the-Rhine.
The nonprofit known as 3CDC has bought roughly 200 of the historic neighborhood's beautiful, decaying buildings. With city backing and hundreds of millions of dollars, 3CDC has overseen the redevelopment of scores of structures.
But a WCPO Digital investigation published this week revealed another side of the organization that showed how at least several of 3CDC's buildings have fallen into serious disrepair.
For our mobile users, read the investigation here: http://www.wcpo.com/dpp/money/business_news/Cincinnatis-3CDC-charged-with-demolition-by-neglect-in-historic-Over-the-Rhine
Chad Munitz, 3CDC's executive vice president for asset and capital management, talked with WCPO Digital about what it takes for the organization to maintain its holdings in Over-the-Rhine.
"I'm not going to say we haven't made mistakes or missed stuff," he said. "But we want to do all we can to preserve every building and stay on top of it."
What follows is a Q&A with Munitz that sheds more light on the group's process and procedures and their plans for buildings that are in various stages of disrepair.
Q: Can you talk to me about 3CDC's complex and expensive preservation work?
A: I'm guessing we're going to spend another half to three-quarters of a million dollars doing stabilization work on these buildings. We want to keep up with it. At the beginning and end of the day, it's what makes this neighborhood so great. It's the building stock that's here and the people who lived there and the people who will live here.
Q: Who is in charge of keeping track of all these old buildings that 3CDC has purchased, what their maintenance needs are and what needs to happen to keep them stable?
A: We have a revolving fund that helps us acquire property and do pre-development work on it. We have a staff of professionals who do our pre-development work and keep track of our assets. We try to assess the shape of it and try to keep up with it to make sure they don't deteriorate any further.
Q: Do you have your own, internal inspection process?
A: We do. We have people who manage the projects as we start looking into how to do the final redevelopment.
Q: 3CDC representatives told the Board of Housing Appeals that the organization wanted to demolish buildings at 1321 and 1323 Republic St. Now 3CDC has said it will save them. What changed?
A: I think it was a bit of misunderstanding from what our original plans were a few years ago to what they are today. At one point a few years ago, we wanted to demolish those buildings. That got turned down by the Historic Conservation Board. And we want to try to preserve those buildings now, and I think we can put a good plan together.
Saving these buildings, the end goal is to redevelop them all. It's not just putting the investment in to save them. But we don't have specific drawings and plans for every building under our control.
Q: Do you have a specific plan for 1321 Republic St.?
A: I do not. We have a lot going on right now, probably more active construction than ever before in the history of 3CDC. Most of it is timing. We have Gateway V, Mercer Commons. And we're building the dunnhumby USA headquarters downtown. That's a significant construction project.
It's mostly because of doing Phase V and Mercer at the same time. As we sell units we develop, we get money back to put into other projects.
We are pre-planning for what will be Phase VI. But we're still a year off before we can even start construction.
Q: What process will 3CDC use to determine what to do with 1323 Republic St. and 1408 Vine St.? Those two structures were highlighted in WCPO Digital's coverage.
A: It's all about saving the building and stabilizing the building. 1408 Vine is complete – it has been stabilized. For the others, we will have engineers and architects involved to draw up plans for the stabilization. We want to make sure everything that's done is structurally sound and will last a long time.
Q: The building at 1323 Republic St. is all covered in vines. How hard will that one be to stabilize in its current state?
A: I don't know that any one is more difficult than another. They all have their challenges. It's fun because actually most of the challenges are unique building by building. There are plenty of great people in town who specialize in this kind of work.
Q: Do you think 3CDC gets any type of special treatment or consideration from the city?
A: No. I think the city has been a tremendous partner to the development effort in Over-the-Rhine through council and resources. But I think that the city is very fair. I don't feel that we get any unfair advantage for what we do. And I would hope that we get treated as fair and equally as anybody.
Q: Are you still acquiring property?
A: Not really. Every once in a while, something will pop up. But we are not actively out trying
to find things. This is hundreds of buildings we're talking about and thousands of units. A lot of it is in very rough shape.