Windholtz family wins latest round in fight over Lenhardt's

Fight to preserve building got tougher

CINCINNATI -- The fight to make the old Lenhardt’s Restaurant building a historic landmark just got tougher.

The Cincinnati Planning Commission on Friday voted 4-0 against a neighborhood association’s request to have the old mansion declared a historic landmark.

The Windholtz family, which owns the property, is fighting against the designation because it would make the building more difficult to demolish. The family is trying to sell the old house and some surrounding property to a Rhode Island development firm that wants to raze the existing buildings to make way for a seven-story student rental development.

“The family is pleased because it means they have the opportunity to go forward with the sale that’s pending,” said lawyer Tim Burke, who represented the family.

The building was home to Lenhardt’s Restaurant for decades, but that closed late last year. The adjacent Christy’s Rathskeller & Biergarten is still operating.

The Clifton Heights, University Heights and Fairview Neighborhood Association, or CUFNA, applied for the historic landmark designation to try to save the old house. Residents argued that the house was historic for a variety of reasons, including the fact that beer baron Christian Moerlein built it as a gift for his daughter, Lizzie, and her husband, John Goetz. They refer to the building as the Goetz House.

But Burke argued that the building wasn’t worth preserving and that repairs to bring the building back to a useable state would total as much as $2 million.

“Goetz married well,” Burke said. “He was the son-in-law of a famous person.”

Tim Mara, who represented CUFNA, called the planning commission’s action “confusing,” in part because it reversed action taken earlier this year by the city's Historic Conservation Board.

“Their job is not really to determine whether something is historic or not,” he said. “That’s not their job.”

Cincinnati City Council will have final say on the matter. It’s expected to go before council’s Livable Communities Committee in the coming weeks. After that, it will go to council.

It would take a two-thirds majority council vote to overturn the planning commission’s decision.

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