Lenhardt's Restaurant owners speak out about fight over historic conservation

Family says old mansion in 'severe disrepair'

CINCINNATI - After an emotional hearing before the Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board March 25, the family that owns the old Clifton Heights building that housed Lenhardt’s Restaurant wants to explain its point of view.

Lenhardt’s was open for more than 60 years before closing in December. Two of the family’s former employees reopened Christy’s bar earlier this year and is operating it for the Windholtz family.

In a statement issued to WCPO Digital, Christine Windholtz Lammers wrote that she and her parents, Erika and William “Joe” Windholtz, had considered closing Lenhardt’s and Christy’s for “quite some time.”

“The business was not making money, and we could not afford to keep the business open,” she wrote. “After 60 years of hard work, Erika and Joe need to enjoy their retirement, and the best way to do that was to close the business.”

The family now is negotiating with a Rhode Island development company to sell the old building and other surrounding property for $6 million. The developer wants to raze the structures on the land to build a seven-story student rental development.

The CUF Neighborhood Association and some University of Cincinnati students are fighting to preserve the old mansion at 151 W. McMillan St. by having it declared a historic landmark. The neighborhood association won the first round before the Historic Conservation Board, but the battle is far from over.

It could take months before Cincinnati City Council decides whether to declare the building a landmark. And even if that happens, the building still could eventually be demolished.

In her statement, Lammers wrote that the building at 151 W. McMillan St. is in “severe disrepair.”

“We have put over $150,000 into repairs and improvements over the last 10 years,” she wrote. “This does not include the incidental plumbing, electric and general repairs that go with an old building. We cannot afford to put any more money into this crumbling building.”

She also noted that her grandparents, Aton and Emmi Lenhardt, started assembling property around the building in 1955. Joe Windholtz, the Lenhardts’ son-in-law, continued buying nearby property over the years, too.

“My parents have lived and worked in the neighborhood for over 60 years. Through our investments and commitments to the neighborhood, my family has provided an authentic German restaurant, jobs for thousands of people, parking for the neighborhood, housing for students and retail space for other businesses,” Lammers wrote. “All this fight over the building is just plain hurtful to my family, especially after all they have done for the community.”

Lammers wrote that her family will continue to oppose the neighborhood association’s application for historic landmark designation.

She said it would cost more than $1.5 million to repair and restore the old building and even more if the building is made more accessible to people with disabilities.

“Our property rights are now in jeopardy if historical designation becomes a reality.  The restrictions which could be imposed will cause a severe economic hardship and may prevent my family from realizing its investment in this and other property it freely owns,” she wrote. “Historical designation will place significant and perhaps insurmountable burdens on the property affecting its value and the value of our remaining property interests.  We will be deprived of the best economical use of the property.”

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