Park West Behind-the-Scenes part 4: Saving Over-the-Rhine's golden lady

Wyant: 'Not all developers would have pulled back'

CINCINNATI – It can be nearly impossible for developers renovating historic buildings in Over-the-Rhine to anticipate every curve ball the neighborhood could throw at them.

For Hyde Park-based Grandin Properties, the latest curve ball came in the form of The Golden Muse. The muse is a mural on the west wall of a building at 28 W. 13th St., one of two structures that Grandin is renovating and joining to create an 11-unit apartment development called Park West.

Grandin CEO Peg Wyant knew the mural was there, of course. It’s impossible to miss. The golden lady covers the entire wall of the four-story structure, which sits across from the newly renovated Washington Park. It was created by the nonprofit ArtWorks as part of the Taft Museum of Art’s 80th anniversary celebration in 2012 .

But it wasn’t until the day that construction crews were about to start removing bricks from the west wall of that building to install new windows that Wyant and project manager Peter Frey realized the impact that work would have on the muse.

“We realized the top window would go right in the middle of her face,” Wyant said. “I called (ArtWorks CEO) Tamara Harkavy and said, ‘We have a triple red mural emergency alert!’”

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Before Wyant even heard back from Harkavy, she decided she “couldn’t do that,” she said. She couldn’t be the person responsible for punching holes into The Golden Muse to make her apartments more marketable. The mural, she decided, was too important.

“Not all developers would have pulled back,” she said. "It was a good thing we were here. It sort of speaks to the importance of being here every day in some way."

Harkavy said Wyant's decision just goes to show how much people recognize the mural's value. "She's just become sort of an icon of the park," Harkavy said of the muse. "It was super touching that Peg bothered to call."

To give the public a better idea of what it takes to bring a historic building back to life, Grandin has given WCPO exclusive access to the Park West project from start to finish to document the work involved.

WCPO published the “before” story on March 9 , a couple weeks after touring the properties for the first time. Part two was published after a tour March 19 , about three weeks after initial demolition had begun inside the buildings. The third installment of the series was based on a tour taken April 16 .

These pictures were taken during a tour May 21.

Much of the current work on the development is focused on an addition onto the rear of the building at 28 W. 13th St. The extra space will accommodate bedrooms for the apartments, and each of the units on that side of the development also will have a deck.

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Units at the rear of the building at 26 W. 13th St. will have a view of a garden and fountain that belong to a neighboring property.

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Some of those units also have old wallpaper that has been uncovered as part of the renovation. Wyatt said she enjoys finding those “hidden treasures” when her company redevelops historic buildings.

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The two buildings are now connected through openings that have been cut through the thick, brick walls between them.

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Wyant said she likes the looks of the rough, raw brick and wants to maintain that when the project is completed.

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This view shows how much higher the floors of the units in 28 W. 13th St. are as compared to the units in 26 W. 13th St. Stairs lead from the entry in the building at 26 W. 13th St. up into the apartments on the upper floors of 28 W. 13th St. The first-floor apartment at 28 W. 13th St. has a street-level entrance that can be seen in the photo at the top of this story.

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The rear wall of 28 W. 13th St. has been demolished, and crews are working on an addition on the rear of the building.

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This is the spot inside the third floor apartment at 28 W. 13th St. where the proposed window would have put a hole in the middle of The Golden Muse’s face.

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The fourth floor apartment in 28 W. 13th St. will have access to a rooftop deck. In the photo below, Wyant is standing in front of what will be a door to the deck that will have steps leading up to it. On her left is a window that will overlook the deck.

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The deck will encompass most of the rooftop seen in the photo below.

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The building’s chimneys were missing their original tops so Grandin purchased replacements from Wooden Nickel Antiques.

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The fourth-floor apartment also will have a skylight that will go inside this hole.

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The development remains on track for completion in Fall 2014. And The Golden Muse remains safe for now. Wyant said her ultimate goal is to build a new structure on the parking lot that Grandin owns just west of 28 W. 13th St. But she’s holding out hope that anything her company builds will be designed in a way that respects the golden lady, she said.

Harkavy said she knows not all of ArtWorks' murals can last forever.

"It will

make me very sad if that one ever has to go," she said. "In time, we know it will happen. But I think everyone understands that she's here for a while, and she'll continue to hang high over our heads."

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For more stories by Lucy May, go to www.wcpo.com/may . Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.

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