CINCINNATI - Carew Tower is going condo.
Documents filed with the Hamilton County Recorder’s office show the owners of Cincinnati’s second-tallest building are dividing the hotel, office and retail tower into smaller units – enabling sections of the building to convert to residential ownership, while maintaining office and retail leases.
“By converting to condos, you can then sell off individual units,” said Keith Yearout, senior managing director for Newmark Grubb Knight Frank in Downtown Cincinnati. Yearout said the condo conversion could be a precursor to a sale of hotel or retail properties within Carew Tower. Or, it could be the first step in converting the tower’s upper floors to residential units.
“Those upper floors have phenomenal views but the floor plates are small,” he said. “They don’t really lend themselves to today’s office users.”
Yearout also said other Downtown building owners have converted to a condo structure, without following through on the sale of units. So, this week’s filing is not a guarantee that the building is going to be sold off in pieces. In fact, the building continues to market office space for lease. A recent email to brokers touted the availability of more than 98,000 square feet for office users.
The building’s owner, Carew Realty Inc. President Greg Power, declined to answer questions about the conversion. But he did offer a statement: "This is part of our continued development of the Carew Tower Complex which remains a truly special property in Cincinnati."
The 126-page “Declaration of Condominium for Carew Tower” was filed March 20 by Carew Realty Inc., which owns the 49-story tower that opened in 1931 as the tallest building west of the Alleghenies. The document was recorded as a deed by the Hamilton County Recorder's office on March 27.
“Units may be used for residential and commercial uses,” the document states. “Commercial uses include office use and hotel or other similar hospitality uses, and retail operations, and any other uses consistent with this declaration and applicable zoning and land use regulations.”
The document further states that “all existing leases will remain in full force and effect,” a sign that current office tenants will not be forced out by the reconfiguration.
The condominium declaration was drafted by Cincinnati’s Taft law firm and includes a floor-by-floor breakdown of condo units to be created by the real estate filing.
The plan, drafted by Phoenix Architects LLC in Kenwood, shows a single unit on each on the building’s 30th to 48th floors. The units range in size from 3,629 square feet on the 48th floor to roughly 7,900 square feet on floors 30 to 39. The Phoenix drawings show how 1.2 million square feet of space is divided into three kinds of condo units and how expenses for 81,722 square feet of common area is to be divided among the building’s future owners.
Carew Tower’s prospects as a residential tower has been a topic of speculation since November 2014, when local real estate investor Greg Power acquired a controlling interest in the property from Belvedere Corp., which acquired the historic property in 1990. Western & Southern Financial Group CEO John Barrett endorsed the idea of a condo conversion in December, 2014.
“You could have some great living units,” he told WCPO at the time.
Known for its art deco design and "city within a city" concept that was copied by later Downtown properties, the building is known to generations of Cincinnati families as an place to dine, shop, celebrate weddings and work. The office tower, retail arcade and a 561-room hotel wing, the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.