Cincy skyline could be getting a major addition

Posted at 2:18 PM, Apr 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-02 07:58:17-04

CINCINNATI — The construction of a new, 25-story apartment building and a four-story parking garage along East Pete Rose Way took a step toward becoming a reality Friday.

The Cincinnati City Planning Commission voted 4-1 to accept a concept plan for the high rise and approve a change in zoning that would allow the construction to move forward.

The zoning of the land, a 2.77 acre property located at 601 E. Pete Rose Way, presently permits the construction of structures on the site that are about 15 stories tall or under. 

The developer, Atlanta-based Novare Group, hopes to begin construction of what it’s calling SkyHouse Cincinnati by this summer, with project completion estimated for winter 2017.

SkyHouse Cincinnati would include about 352 rental apartments and about 3,000 square feet of retail. The parking garage would have about 500 spaces, and would be connected to the apartment tower by a connector canopy.

“This is a different kind of product that is just not available right now in the Cincinnati area in the for-rent market,” said attorney Tom Gabelman, who presented plans for SkyHouse Cincinnati alongside Novare Group President and CEO Jim Borders.

The $90 million project would create about $135 million in economic impact and create 800 jobs during the construction phase, Gabelman said. In addition to generating about $1 million per year in taxes after the building opens, Novare Group was committed to contributing $166,000 per year for streetcar operations, he said.

Several hurdles still need to be overcome before SkyHouse Cincinnati can move forward. In addition to acquiring all necessary permits, the concept plan and zoning change must be approved by the city’s Neighborhoods Committee and the full City Council. The final plan for construction must be approved by the City Planning Commission.

Commission president Dan Driehaus voted against the approval, citing concerns about the lack of timely notice to residents that live near the site.

A packet of letters from Cincinnati residents that raised concerns about the construction of the building was received the morning of Friday’s meeting. Driehaus called for a 10-minute adjournment so the board could review them, a move he called “unprecedented.”

Not Without Opposition 

The commission only reached the 4-1 vote after a lengthy, sometimes testy discussion about the project.

Commission member John Schneider originally motioned to table the project for further review because he said the parking garage would be an eyesore to anyone viewing the property from the south.

“I think you have a great apartment building and a parking deck that needs a lot of work,” Schneider said.

Fellow commissioner Rainer vom Hofe also originally supported tabling the project because he felt the economic impact numbers presented by the Novare Group were “misleading.” Vom Hofe said he otherwise supported the project.

Pressure from City Councilwoman Amy Murray and Sheila Hill-Christian — who is City Manager Harry Black’s proxy on the commission — both expressed concern that delaying the project could mean losing it, given the number of other bureaucratic steps that need to be taken.

“We’re just slowing up the process,” said Murray, who added that as City Council recesses during the summer, approval of the zoning change might not come until September.

Schneider eventually withdrew his motion to table and replaced it with one to approve on the condition that the parking lot not exceed 530 feet above sea level at the top of the garage’s spandrel.

The project also generated opposition from private citizens. Kurt Grossman, a resident of 400 Pike St., said that while there were things he likes about the SkyHouse Cincinnati project, he worried that it would set a precedent that would trigger the construction of more high-rises along the river.

“How many more dominoes will fall?” Grossman said.

Grossman also noted that several of his neighbors hadn’t received adequate notice of the meeting, echoing Driehaus’ concern.