Cincinnati files nuisance lawsuit against owners of Terrace Plaza Hotel in heart of downtown

Posted at 6:33 PM, Mar 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-13 08:16:46-04

CINCINNATI — The city of Cincinnati filed a nuisance lawsuit against the owners of the Terrace Plaza Hotel, alleging the high-rise building in the heart of Downtown is a menace to public health, structurally unsafe and dangerous to human life.

Mayor John Cranley warned that a lawsuit was imminent during interviews with WCPO two weeks ago.

“When people are almost killed driving on our streets and plaster falls off the building because they’re slum lords,” Cranley said then. “There’s no question that will be Exhibit A in our public nuisance case as well as the mistreatment of Gus Miller at Batsakes.”

In October a chunk of plaster fell from the hotel and onto a passing car with two adults and a child inside. Metal and plaster smashed through the car’s windshield and embedded into the steering wheel.

In late January a water pipe burst at the hotel and flooded two street-level stores – Batsakes Hat Shop and Wendel’s men’s clothing store, causing massive damage.

The city filed a complaint in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on Monday against owners JNY Capital, Cincinnati Terrace Associates LLC and several others who could have claim to the properties located at 15 West Sixth Street.

The lawsuit alleges two building code violations, including a hazardous cooling tower and loose debris masonry on the roof. Plaster from that cooling tower hit the car last October, according to the lawsuit.

“The current owner was not responsible for the condition of the property at the time of its purchase,” Robin Miller, an attorney representing JNY Capital, wrote in a response to WCPO two weeks ago.

The building was “severely dilapidated,” when JNY bought it in August 2018 and reports that it, “has not stepped-up to correct the problems with the property simply are not true,” she wrote.

Miller did not immediately return a request for comment on the lawsuit.

As of March 1, the Terrace Plaza owners owe the city $189,500 in civil fines and $4,681 in outstanding fees, according to the lawsuit.

Other problems outlined in the suit: deficient boiler heating system and fire protection; lack of water service; lack of appropriate fire separation; and damaged, rotten or missing structural elements.

The hotel owners had hired contractors to begin work removing the cooling tower and building debris from the roof. But the contractors quit working in December 2018 because Terrace Plaza owners had not paid them, the lawsuit states.

Gus Miller, owner of Batsake's Hat Shop.

Gus Miller lost 159 hats and four autographed baseballs when a frozen water pipe burst in January, flooding his store through the ceiling and soaking his carpet.

“I would like to see these people who bought the building spend money to put it back in,” Miller said. “All they got to do is spend money and fix the place.”

The city alleges that Terrace Plaza is a “dangerous and unsafe building because, among other things: the cooling tower on the roof is a “dead load” on the roof that is causing damage to the roofing system; there are deteriorated, rusted-through structural I-beams present that are in a complete state of failure.”

The city is asking the court to declare once iconic Modernist hotel a public nuisance and appoint a receiver to abate the public nuisance if the owners fail to address it.

The city also wants a judge to order the owners to pay all outstanding fees and fines and the city’s costs and attorney’s fees.

This is the latest in a string of troubles for the once famous Terrace Plaza Hotel –one of the first modernist hotels in the nation and home to the one of most spectacular views of the city from the circular windowed Gourmet Restaurant.

The Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board designated the Terrace Plaza a local landmark on Feb. 25. But passersby only see a condemned building with boarded up windows.

The building between Vine and Race Street has been vacant since 2008 except for a few street-level stores such as Batsakes Hat Shop.

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