Although plans are still under way for future development, demolition may be a likely option for the former Hudepohl Brewing Co. building and its iconic smokestack.
The Port Authority of Greater Cincinnati purchased the former brewery location – which includes the historic-brick “Hudepohl” tower at 801 W. Sixth St. – for $400,000 in May 2014.
The port also bought the adjacent building at 840 W. Fifth St. for $250,000. Collectively, the buildings make up close to three acres of developable property within the South Mill Creek Corridor. The brewery was originally established in Cincinnati in 1885 and was known for its signature brands, including Hudy Delight and Hudepohl 14K.
“Late last year, we applied for a $200,000 US EPA grant to abate asbestos at the site – which was unsuccessful," said Port Authority Spokeswoman Gail Paul. "We think demolition is the likeliest scenario for the property’s redevelopment at this point. The properties are well-located within the region’s I-75 industrial corridor. Our vision is to return the site to a clean and accessible state for future investment by a commercial user."
Since the purchase, the Port Authority has done an extensive amount of work to review and secure the properties. The organization has also looked at the remediation work needed. Specialists have been hired to assess both the environmental condition and the structural condition. An engineering team has also been brought in to assess the condition of the smokestack.
“The Port Authority installed security fencing and razor wire shortly after we took ownership, and posted ‘No Trespassing’ signs that warn of the properties' danger. To date, we have spent upwards of $12,000 on these materials to secure the site. Last year, we paid an engineering firm to have the condition of the smokestack evaluated, and we also pay for regular site maintenance. We make a visual inspection of the properties weekly, looking for breaches in the fencing and evidence of vandalism,” Paul said.
According to Port Authority officials, the former Hudepohl property is registered with the City of Cincinnati under Vacated Building Maintenance License (VBML). The Port Authority is in regular communication with the city and Cincinnati Fire Department about the condition of the property. In April, the Port Authority met with Cincinnati Police to discuss site security alternatives and to request patrol of the properties.
In July, the Port Authority installed razor wire and took further measures to reinforce security at the site, Paul said. This summer, during a walk-through with the city property maintenance code enforcement director, officials noted additional security measures to take and have received bids to do that work, which includes additional razor wire, welding doors shut, walling off accessible points of entry, and posting additional “No Trespassing” signs. That work is scheduled to commence this fall.
“When a building is condemned or vacated, it triggers the requirement for a 'Vacated Building Maintenance License' (VBML), the owner pays a fee, and makes the building conform to a 13-point preservation and maintenance and safety criteria such as repair the roof, gutters, etc.," said Rocky Merz, Cincinnati's director of communications. "Or the owner may appeal the fee and requirements if they have a development plan. The Board of Housing Appeals may suspend certain VBML provisions and the fee for cause to allow development to proceed."
There is no limit on how long a property can remain vacant. However, it must comply with the code for occupancy, or have current VBML approval.
“The city works to see that properties are developed and conform to all applicable laws and regulations. The city may offer assistance with planning, zoning, economic development incentives and infrastructure, etc. Ultimately, the decision rests with the developer; however, common best practices may include utilizing a market study,” Merz said.
This is the Port’s first major purchase in Queensgate. Reportedly, the Port’s on-going plan for the site will involve a several hundred-million dollar investment to clean up and prepare the area for future use in the next decade. A specific timeline has not been confirmed.
“We own quite a few vacant buildings through our Land Bank (http://www.hamiltoncountylandbank.org)," Paul said. "They are mostly residential, but we have some other commercial, vacant properties as well.
“The reason we buy a property through the Land Bank is motivated by a whole variety of reasons," she said. "Usually, we’ll buy a property at the request of the community for a variety of different reasons. Maybe, they don’t want out-of-town ownership, or an owner that has a track record of neglecting buildings and they want some control over its redevelopment. Sometimes, it makes sense for us to buy it, and help them."
Other times, the purchase is made to take the risk out from the municipalities, for example, if a building might need to be demolished, she said. The Port does have grant monies available for the demolition of blighted, vacant buildings.
“In Hudepohl’s case, we looked at it from a variety of angles," Paul said. "We talked to municipal leaders. We agreed we were the right owner at the time to prevent its continued deterioration, and to be able to shore it up, while a redevelopment, or a demo plan was put together."
She stressed, though, “What motivated us to acquire it was to halt the damage that was occurring, and put it into some kind of safer mode, to secure the site, and work on a plan with multiple stakeholders to really assess it, and see what needed to be done there.
“As we have gone through this process, we are working with the assumption that we are going to have to demo most or all of the existing structures on the site,” she said.
The Port has had conversations with companies that might be interested in locating at the site, and using part or all of the structures that are currently there in a redevelopment plan, but the price tag has proven to be too high.
The demolition to tear down the existing structures will be expensive as well. The Port has been exploring several sources of grant monies, which would help in the remediation process.
It would also be expensive to move the smokestack. According to the assessment, it would cost just shy of a million dollars to have it moved.
“The Port would consider transferring it to someone who has the funding and a plan, Paul said.
The property would be a great site for an industrial, or advanced manufacturing, use. The location is very well connected to other commercial sites in the area. It’s in an ideal, central location that is right next to the central business district. There are also multiple transportation assets nearby, officials said.
As far as future uses for the property, Merz said, any use established would need to conform to the zoning of the location, which is presently manufacturing.