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Will Mt. Auburn park land be sold for housing?

Hollister Court faces Park Board vote Thursday
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Posted at 10:07 PM, Oct 20, 2021

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati’s Park Board this morning approved the $1.5 million sale of a three-acre site in Mt. Auburn where neighborhood leaders have complained for years about an untamed drug trade and two of the region’s largest real estate developers want to build hundreds of upscale apartment units.

The sale would enable Hollister Court, a $60 million residential project, spearheaded by Uptown Rental Properties LLC and North American Properties LLC.

Their jointly-owned venture, Auburn Land Holdings LLC, was the city’s winning bidder in a request for proposals for the sale of a portion of Hollister Recreation Area, on Vine Street north of Inwood Park.

Owned by the Park Board and managed by the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, the Hollister complex is known in the neighborhood for its heavily damaged tennis courts and a homeless population that remains after numerous attempts to relocate them.

“It’s been a problem for ten years,” said Carol Gibbs, CEO of the Mt. Auburn Community Development Corporation. “If it were just a homeless camp it would be one thing, but it’s not. Drug sales, drug use. It’s really bad. They hang out at the bathroom in Inwood Park, which makes it dangerous and hard for families to use that bathroom. (At night) drug users go up to Hollister, party all night. And when people come back to their offices, there’s needles and drug paraphernalia.”

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Rendering shows the $60 million Hollister Court apartment complex from Vine Street looking east.

The solution? A four-story apartment building atop a three-story parking garage, fronted by a row of townhouses facing Vine Street. An existing green space would remain in front of the townhouses, maintained by a $30,000 annual contribution to the Park Board by developers, who also agreed to pay the Park Board $259,000 for trees that will be removed by the project.

“That was really important to us,” Uptown Rentals CEO Dan Schimberg said. “It was really important to the neighborhood and the Park Board that this major two-acre frontage on Vine Street will go through a major revitalization from some of the proceeds of the sale. (It will make) Inwood Park a much more sustainable product for everyone in the city.

Uptown Rentals is the most active residential developer in the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Cincinnati. Its 4,000-unit portfolio includes recent Mt. Auburn projects One41 Wellington building, a 259-unit property completed in 2019 and the 182-unit Bigelow, now under construction.

Schimberg said Hollister Court will likely offer rents comparable to the Wellington property, now quoting $1,369 a month for one-bedroom units. He expects the hospital workers and young professionals filling that property will be interested in Hollister Court as well.

Schimberg is hoping to complete the land sale by the end of this year, then take steps to “secure this site” with fencing, lighting or other improvements to “make it so it’s something the police are able to patrol and control. There’s a massive drug trafficking and drug problem here that is really too dangerous for the police to deal with because there’s no lights back here and in the evening it’s not accessible by vehicles.”

Auburn Land Holdings has acquired other properties adjacent to the Hollister Recreation Area, so the development partners will spend much of next year revising its development plan. Over time, Schimberg thinks, the site could hold up to 500 dwelling units. He hopes to begin construction by 2023 and move the first tenants in by 2024.