Historic College Hill building revived for affordable housing

RuthEllen Building.jpg
Posted at 5:54 PM, Jan 12, 2022

CINCINNATI — A residential building more than a century old in College Hill is having its facade torn down so it can be brought back to its full, historic glory.

The College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (CHCURC) and 8K Construction have formed a partnership called CH KeyMark LLC to restore the RuthEllen and three other vacant buildings along Hamilton Avenue. The partnership recently closed $9.5 million in financing to bring five commercial spaces and 26 affordable housing units.

Residents in the area said they are enthusiastic about the project. Many did not even notice the original, stately structure of the RuthEllen towering above until the 1930’s Art Deco exterior addition at the street level was torn down this week.

“I was absolutely thrilled and amazed,” said Tina Stoeberl, the owner of the College Hill Coffee Company. “I feel like the building itself got lost because everybody’s looking at street level, nobody’s looking back and up.”

“You see how gorgeous it is right away,” said Seth Walsh, the executive director of CHCURC. “Now that we’ve really been able to show it off, I think it’s going to be one of the most popular buildings in College Hill and hopefully the city.”

Currently, there is a construction site obstructing the sidewalk. The RuthEllen will be all residential with 12 units. Mergard Lanes, an old bowling alley nearby, will have another 14 residential units and an office space. While prices for the units will vary by square footage, they will fall between 60% to 80% AMI.

“We’re trying to have affordable housing units that allow and ensure that the members of the community that were here in the first place remain with us even as the development happens,” Walsh said.

RuthEllen 1924 Image.jpeg
The image pictured is believed to have been taken in 1924.

The RuthEllen was built in 1900; Walsh said the builder named the property after his two daughters.

Funding for the project has come from a number of sources including new market tax credits, the city, The Port, traditional debt and money raised privately by CHCURC and 8K Construction. Other stakeholders include Duke Energy, Capital One and the College Hill community.

The developers said it will take them about 14 months to complete renovations.

Stoeberl predicts that units at the RuthEllen will be highly sought after, and is excited by the changes.

“I’m so thrilled to live in a neighborhood that is interested in preserving history and taking what’s great and making it better,” she said.

Monique John covers gentrification for WCPO 9. She is part of our Report For America donor-supported journalism program. Read more about RFA here.

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