Part 2: Respect for 'old school' at Strietmann Biscuit Building in Over-the-Rhine

'There's a great deal of interest in the building'
Posted at 7:00 AM, Mar 07, 2017

CINCINNATI -- When it comes to renovating a building that's been standing for well over a century, it only makes sense to use old-school techniques for the job.

Which explains what could be called The Strietmann's million-dollar string.

The 100-foot-long yellow string hangs through most of the building's seven floors, marking where an elevator will be installed from the ground floor to the sixth. And while $1 million might be a bit of an exaggeration, it's fair to say that hundreds of thousands of construction dollars depend on the string.

George Fryman

"That’s how important that string is," said George Fryman. He's the project superintendent with HGC Construction who is overseeing Grandin Properties' $16 million renovation of the historic structure, and Fryman is the one who decided to use the tried-and-true string approach instead of a newfangled laser device.

The string was part of WCPO's most recent behind-the-scenes tour of the old Strietmann Biscuit Building's rebirth. To give the public a better idea of what it will take to restore the massive property, Grandin is giving WCPO access to The Strietmann project from start to finish to document the work involved.

RELATED: Inside the rebaking of this OTR biscuit building

This is the second installment.

There has been a lot of change already.

Work is proceeding simultaneously on all seven floors of the cavernous building, Fryman said. The ground floor, where Grandin is hoping to secure a restaurant operator as a tenant, should have initial renovations complete within a few weeks, Fryman said. Final finishes won’t be completed until a tenant is chosen.

George Fryman, left, and Kathy Meier check out the street-level restaurant space.

Grandin has asked HGC to save bricks and metal from the building so the original components can be used throughout the renovation.

Bricks are piled neatly in several places

Heating and cooling units already are being installed throughout the building. These are on the second floor. They won't need traditional ductwork because the units blow warm or cool air throughout the area, kind of like high-tech space heaters, Fryman said.

A high-tech heating and cooling unit.

Bathrooms are being roughed in on each floor, too.

This is a women's restroom on the second floor.

The plumber doing the work has supplies on one of the upper floors so they're halfway from the ground floor and the top of the building.

Plumbing supplies.

Throughout the building, walls are painted and subfloors are being installed. The most dramatic flooring change is on the fifth floor, where the center of the floor was four inches higher in the middle than the rest of the surface. Fryman said the floor was built that way on purpose -- maybe as part of the old bakery's manufacturing processes. The renovation will make the entire floor level.

Construction crews must work to ensure the floor is made level.

The fifth floor also offers the best view of an unwelcome surprise in the project: Water damage to a wall that added more than $100,000 to the renovation's cost, said Kathy Meier, Grandin Properties' project manager for The Strietmann. The damage was the result of broken downspouts that let rainwater rush down the wall like an open faucet over many years, Fryman said.

Some of the damaged wall.

The fifth floor has more than just headaches, though. The partial ceiling in part of the structure opens up to skylights that HGC has been working to repair.

Skylight repairs are underway.

A balcony area on the sixth floor offers a view down to the fifth.

The current view from the sixth-floor balcony.

The sixth floor offers a view of the beams that HGC has added so that the massive structure's concrete roof will be able to handle the weight of a rooftop patio and rooftop solar panels.

The new beams shown here have not been painted yet.

One feature that will not be re-used in the renovated building: the old freight elevator. The elevator is more like a platform that allows people to see the guts and gears of the device as they ride it, and it uses both AC and DC power. It's such an unusual model that Duke Energy has asked Grandin Properties if the company could keep the elevator after it's removed, Meier said.

Inside the freight elevator.

Overall, the mild winter has helped HGC stay on Grandin's ambitious schedule for the project. Before long, the building will get a new roof, Fryman said. And Grandin already is talking with potential tenants.

"There's a great deal of interest in the building," Meier said, adding that she expects the first tenants will move in by early September.

The exterior of The Strietmann.

More information about The Strietmann is available here.

WCPO will continue to follow the redevelopment of The Strietmann through 2017.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. She has been writing about women- and minority-owned businesses in Greater Cincinnati for nearly 20 years. To read more stories by Lucy, go to To reach her, email Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.