City seeks developers for two Downtown sites

Downtown housing boom near City Hall?

CINCINNATI - The city of Cincinnati launched a “Cyber Monday” deal for real estate developers yesterday, putting up for bid two city-owned sites that sat idle for decades.

Shillito’s West is a former department store property that could be demolished and combined with adjoining parcels to form a 1.2 acre site, according to a one-page request for proposals. The parking lot at 9th and Plum streets is also being marketed with adjoining properties as a potential development site of 1.06 acres.

The city is hoping to encourage a new wave of residential or office development in northwest corner of Downtown near City Hall.

“It’s really about momentum,” said Oscar Bedolla, director of the city’s department of community and economic development. “In the last two years, we’ve seen over $1 billion in new investment Downtown. So, we just thought now is the time to take advantage of where the market’s going.”

The city sent bidding information to more than 200 developers and community organizations, hoping to attract letters of interest in the properties by Jan. 9. The selection process will have two phases. Developers will be asked to submit qualifications and preliminary concept plans for the sites in the first phase, with a short list of developers invited to continue more detailed discussions with the city next spring.

The Shillito’s West property at 137 West Seventh Street consists of two adjoining buildings that were wrapped in a limestone façade as part of a 1937 expansion of the Shillito’s department store at 7th and Race streets. The city acquired the site in 1996. Developer Towne Properties converted the eastern half of the building to apartments in 1997.

Because it’s part of the Race Street Historic District, the building could be eligible for federal and state historic tax credits if a developer wants to renovate the building instead of tearing it down. The city has determined that demolition would be permitted if no federal funding is used to redevelop the site.

“We don’t anticipate it being demolished but we’re open to development proposals,” Bedolla said.

The Shillito’s West building is 400,000 square feet with a ground-floor footprint of 0.95 acres. Bedolla said two nearby property owners have expressed a willingness to sell or partner in the redevelopment, which would enable a site that fronts an entire block of Elm Street between 6th and 7th streets.

Similarly, two city-owned parcels could be combined with a building and parking lot owned by Goodall Properties Ltd. That would enable a half-block development site facing City Hall on 9th Street between Plum Street and Central Ave.

The city’s bid documents indicate there are 11,544 residential units in Over-the-Rhine, Pendleton and Downtown, with 1,000 new units under construction or due to be completed this year.

“You’re seeing office space that sat vacant … now turning into residential and you’re seeing these properties trade at a premium,” Bedolla said. “Both of these sites have seen great investment around them and we just want to make sure that the vibrancy around these parcels continues to perpetuate and we’re not holding up progress for the city.”

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