CINCINNATI - Advocates for historic preservation asked Cincinnati City Council members Tuesday to help save a Clifton Heights building from demolition.
Owners of the structure at 151 W. McMillan St. that houses Christy’s and the Rathskeller beer garden applied for a permit March 1 to demolish the old house to make way for a new student housing development.
The permit is on hold while city officials consider the neighborhood’s request to designate the structure a historic landmark, which would make the building much more difficult to tear down.
“This has to do really with vision, and I know that you all want Cincinnati to continue to grow and develop, and Clifton Heights and the whole university area is such an important part of our city core,” long-time Clifton Heights resident Julie Murray told council’s Livable Communities Committee Tuesday. “Please understand that we really want to keep these treasures.”
Preservationists have likened the old Clifton Heights house to the Gamble House in Westwood, which the Westwood neighborhood fought to save after its owners applied to demolish it.
But Sean Suder, the city’s chief counsel for land use planning, noted that the city’s historic preservation laws have changed since the Gamble House controversy began.
And, unlike the Gamble House, the neighborhood applied to have the Clifton Heights structure declared a landmark before the demolition permit was filed. Under the city’s new code, that means no permit can be issued until after a decision on the historic designation is made, Suder said.
Councilmember Yvette Simpson said she agrees that the business district along McMillan Street where Christy’s is located is an important area to maintain.
“Hopefully this is a catalyst for thinking about the entire stretch of that road and what you all want it to be and how we put the measures in place so it’s not too late,” Simpson said. “You don’t want to be chasing bulldozers down the street.”
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said city officials must find a way to preserve the city’s sense of place while meeting new development demands.
“We need to figure out how to integrate opportunities for increased density while actually preserving the historic fabric of the community,” Qualls said. “Other communities have figured out how to do it, and now we have to figure it out.”
The next step in the landmark designation process is for the city’s Urban Conservator to make a recommendation regarding the Christy’s property.
That recommendation will be given to the city’s Historic Conversation Board, which will issue its own recommendation.
That decision will then be forwarded to the City Planning Commission for review. And the planning commission’s decision will go to Cincinnati City Council, which has the final say on the matter.
That entire process could take several months.