Housing board gives 3CDC more time to fix crumbling building

Elm St. bldg is 4th accused of being neglected

CINCINNATI - This time they mean it.

The Cincinnati Board of Housing Appeals gave an influential development group 60 days to stabilize a decaying building in Over-the-Rhine that was condemned by building inspectors in 2010.

Board members imposed the deadline on the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) Monday afternoon, after persistent complaints from a person who lives near the crumbling structure at 1416 Elm St.

Tim Mara lives in a house on Pleasant Street, located immediately across an alley from the rear of the Elm Street structure.

Bricks are falling from a large, gaping hole on the 3CDC building's third floor, and Mara has tried to get city officials to take action for about a year, he said.

City inspectors had ordered 3CDC to stabilize the building's rear in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

That prompted 3CDC to file an appeal in January 2012. The case was first heard by the Board of Housing Appeals a year later, in January 2013, and was delayed for further action until Monday.

"They just don't want to preserve the back-end of this building, that's why they haven't done anything," Mara told the board Monday.

Chad Munitz, 3CDC's executive vice president, conceded some mistakes were made.

"I want to apologize to the board," Munitz said. "We have stepped up our asset management system."

3CDC plans on demolishing the rear-half of the Elm Street building, and stabilizing the front-half until it creates a development plan for the site, he added. The plan needs an OK from the city's Historic Conservation Board, which is expected soon.

Mike Morgan, Board of Housing Appeals chairman, said the stabilization plan presented by 3CDC was identical to a previous submission and didn't understand the reason for delay.

"It's essentially the same plan as before," Morgan said.

Mara noted that 3CDC had told city officials in 2008, 2010 and 2012 that it planned on rehabbing the building, which caused inspectors to delay taking action against the developer.

In Cincinnati, developers who let vacant buildings decay until they become unsafe and require emergency demolition can be charged with demolition by neglect, a first-degree misdemeanor.

3CDC has a "deliberate strategy of delay, deception and deceit of the board," Mara said. Other property owners would've been charged by now, he added.

"Everybody else in the world is prosecuted for not following the rules, except 3CDC," Mara said.

Monday's vote was the fourth time the board accused 3CDC of neglecting its property, as WCPO Digital reported in May. The board took similar action earlier this year related to 3CDC properties at 1321 Republic St., 1323 Republic St. and 1408 Vine St.

Still, the vast majority of the 98 3CDC properties reviewed by WCPO Digital are in compliance with city codes.

Bruce Goetzman, a Board of Housing Appeals member, chided Munitz for not knowing how many floors the Elm Street building had during questioning.

"You're supposed to be in the development business and know your business," Goetzman told Munitz.

Morgan also was critical of 3CDC.

"I tend to agree that if you were any other landowner in Cincinnati, you'd be in jail."

3CDC's Board of Directors includes many prominent business leaders like John Barrett, CEO of Western & Southern Financial Group; Margaret Buchanan, publisher of The Enquirer; and Neil Bortz, partner in Towne Properties.

Cincinnati's government and business leaders formed 3CDC in 2003 to quicken redevelopment in Over-the-Rhine and downtown.

The organization, which is partially supported by taxpayer money, has invested more than $284 million in Over-the-Rhine since 2004.

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