University of Cincinnati retirement community on hold, but upscale apartments coming to Mount Auburn

CINCINNATI -- It's not the development that University of Cincinnati retirees had eyed, but a Mount Auburn hilltop will soon be home to 350 interested in city views and easy access to Cincinnati's downtown and uptown neighborhoods.

Uptown Realty Properties has broken ground on a 259-apartment complex and underground garage on Wellington Place tucked between Christ Hospital and Cincinnati's Inwood Park.

"It was sort of hiding in plain sight," Uptown Development Director Patrice Eby Burke said of the Mount Auburn location.

The complex will almost but not quite be in the shadow of Christ Hospital, with sweeping views of downtown and views of Uptown to the north and west.

It borders the underused Inwood Park, a 20-acre wooded oasis tucked between Vine Street and Auburn Avenue.

Inwood Park, as seen from the edge of the new apartment complex. (Bob Driehaus | WCPO)

Construction of a 350-space garage will begin in April, Burke said, and the first apartments are scheduled to be ready for occupancy in March 2018.

"These apartments are going to attract professionals who work either downtown or uptown and really anyone who wants to live in the urban core next to a 20-acre park and within walking distance to a grocery (the new Kroger on Corry Street) and bars and restaurants on Short Vine," she said.

Retirement dream deferred

With strong encouragement from then-UC President Santa Ono, a group of developers and UC retirees had worked to develop the site as a retirement village that catered to UC retirees and alumni.

As they told WCPO in December 2015, the group envisioned upscale apartments with communal dining and entertainment rooms and regular shuttles to UC's sporting events, theater and music productions and other campus events.

But Bert "Carl" Huether, a retired biology professor and president of UC's Emeriti Association, said a market study that indicated tepid interest among retirees derailed the effort. He said Ono leaving UC to lead University of British Columbia also meant that the project lost its biggest champion.

"President Dan Schimberg at Uptown bent over backwards for us," Huether said, but Uptown had to move ahead with another project when the lackluster market study failed to generate interest among retirement community builders.

Burke, who said Uptown would have sold or leased the land to an interested retirement community builder, said retirees who sell their homes usually want to live in the same neighborhood and not across town.

"If I live on the west side, there is no away I'm going to move to Mount Auburn to retire, or even Walnut Hills to Mount Auburn," she said.

Close to both

But for working professionals, the location is a good one, she said, given its proximity to Downtown and Over-the-Rhine and the ability to walk to the new Kroger and numerous restaurants and bars.

A rendering of the new apartment complex. The final design has not been made. (Courtesy of Uptown Realty)

Rents have not been set, but they'll be less expensive than OTR rents for people whose budget is smaller but who still want to be close to the action.

Uptown Realty is bullish on Mount Auburn.

"This project is one component of a large investment that we’re making in Mount Auburn that will total close to $100 million over the next five years," Burke said.

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