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West Side developer has high hopes for Sedamsville

'I would like to go out doing something good'
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Posted at 1:25 PM, Dec 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-04 12:55:52-05

CINCINNATI — A Columbus homebuilder who grew up in East Price Hill is hoping to turn Sedamsville into Cincinnati’s next new housing hot spot, with 40 luxury river view homes on vacant land he acquired in November.

Kim Knoppe, founder of Autumnwood Homes, purchased 26 River Road parcels from Ray Brown, an apartment investor who assembled a development site more than a decade ago but never completed his vision for a mid-rise condominium project on River Road west of the Waldvogel Viaduct.

“The views are magnificent, and that’s what attracted me to this property,” Knoppe said. “And I’m not talking about a much better place for the West Side residents. I’m talking about attracting the East Side residents and North Side residents and let them know the hidden gems that are here on the West Side.”

The Sedamsville project is the latest in a series of moves through which Knoppe plans to reinvest the wealth he amassed over decades in Columbus into the communities that shaped his character.

“Everything I have, and I mean everything, including the house I live in and all its furnishings, are in a trust,” he said. “And the beneficiary of that trust is the Kim Knoppe Foundation. So, everything I do, I’m doing for charity in the long run.”

Realtor Don Johnson sees Knoppe as a visionary who has the financial resources and patience to bring lasting improvements to the West Side, much like the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. did for Over-the-Rhine.

“OTR has 3CDC. Price Hill and Sedamsville has Kim Knoppe,” said Johnson, a regional vice president for Cutler Real Estate.

Johnson worked with Knoppe to acquire dozens of vacant lots in the Incline District of East Price Hill, where Knoppe designed a three-story home that will be the model for his Sedamsville development. Now under construction on Hawthorne Avenue, the three-bedroom home has 2.5 baths, a two-car garage and a list price of $450,000. Knoppe expects to sell the same model for up to $700,000 in Sedamsville.

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Kim Knoppe designed this model home to fit on narrow lots while including amenities like a two-car garage.

“With the rise in property value in the Incline District, we have now reached the next progression,” Johnson said. “With 15-year tax abatements, this makes for a more affordable option even at a higher purchase price.”

Knoppe is working to schedule a meeting with the Sedamsville Civic Association, but Vice President Cindy Bastin is cautiously optimistic about what she’s heard about Knoppe so far.

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Cindy Bastin, vice president of the Sedamsville Civic Association.

“I think it sounds exciting,” Bastin said. “We’re the type of neighborhood that really needs some new development.”

Built by German immigrants in the 1800s, Sedamsville is well-known to baseball fans as the birthplace of Pete Rose. But the neighborhood has been threatened over time by floods, highway improvements and bad developers.

“Sedamsville is only five streets,” Bastin said. “We’re the second-smallest community in Cincinnati. We don’t have any business district at all. We have a Speedway and a Shell gas station. That’s nothing.”

The widening of U.S. 50 in the 1940s destroyed its business district. The 1976 closure of Our Lady of Perpetual Help school and 1989 closure of its red-brick Gothic church robbed the neighborhood of its cultural anchors. And St. Mark’s German Evangelical Church was demolished by Ray Brown in 2008, nine days before neighbors got the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Kim Knoppe, right, says he convinced Sedamsville property owner Ray Brown to sell him 26 parcels by sharing his vision for the land.

That demolition made Brown unpopular in Sedamsville, but Bastin said another big property owner did even more damage to the neighborhood by sexually harassing tenants and failing to follow the terms of a federal consent decree he signed in 2020.

“John Klosterman was probably the worst property owner we’ve ever had,” Bastin said. “He owns like 70-80 pieces of property and to just have it sit there and deteriorate was sad. (But) if we can get developers in who really want to clean up the neighborhood and redevelop some of the older houses, then I’m all for it.”

Whether Knoppe can meet those expectations remains to be seen. But he is clearly taking a different approach than the developers who preceded him in Sedamsville.

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This photo from Elder High School's 1968 yearbook included the caption: "Knoppe snares 1 of record breaking 44 receptions."

The 71-year-old real estate investor was born on Grand Avenue and set a record in 1968 with 44 receptions for Elder High School’s football team. He returned to a hero’s welcome in 2018 when he pledged $1 million to complete the second floor of the Panther Fitness Center.

Knoppe made the donation to honor Mike Honold, whose “playbook defined the Elder experience and instilled a confidence that cannot be described,” Knoppe wrote for a plaque honoring his former coach.

After graduating from Xavier University and relocating to Columbus, Knoppe became one of central Ohio’s most prolific property flippers – buying and renovating thousands of single-family homes and selling them in lease-to-own transactions through Autumnwood Homes, founded in 1987. As the company grew, Knoppe started financing real estate transactions for other investors all over Ohio. In 2013, the head of the Columbus Real Estate Investors Association called Knoppe “the single-biggest expert in rehabbing houses in the state of Ohio."

But Knoppe wasn’t an active investor in his hometown until 2018, when he bought a condo at Queens Tower and started exploring the neighborhoods he roamed as a kid. In the three years following that purchase, Knoppe has been consolidating his companies into a family trust that will continue to operate his companies after he dies while paying a percentage of its profits to the Kim Knoppe Foundation.

“I see Price Hill, especially East Price Hill and Sedamsville, as an area where I personally can make an impact,” Knoppe said. “I would like to go out doing something good.”

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