CINCINNATI — Residents fighting to preserve St. Mark's Church achieved a major victory at City Hall.
City Council voted to name the church a local historic landmark. The decision signals a watershed moment in the battle to protect and redevelop the building for the neighborhood that stretches back years.
St. Mark's is known for its classic Rome architecture and for being a beloved safe haven in Cincinnati's Black community.
“Black sites of history in Cincinnati have been underappreciated and underprotected, and this is a wonderful step forward to correcting that history and doing it in concert with a community that's really committed to a vision of its future,” said Paul Muller, the executive director of the Cincinnati Preservation Association.
St. Mark's is currently owned by the Church of the Resurrection in Bond Hill. Before today's decision, the old church was at one point at risk of being demolished. Muller said that landmark status presents a significant obstacle to the possibility of the church being knocked down.
"When a building gets landmark designation, it brings the zoning protections to it that mean that anything that happens to the building has to be reviewed by the historic conservation board. That's particularly important here, because there was an application for a demolition permit...But now, any changes to the building will have to go before the historic conservation board."
Vice Mayor Chris Smitherman is calling on the city's administration to explore options for locating gap financing for someone in the Evanston community who might want to assume ownership of St. Mark's Church. However, it's unclear as to whether the city or a community member can intervene. The Church of Resurrection is still under contract to transfer ownership to Kingsley Realty Investments—a factor the church emphasized in a statement to WCPO.
Kingsley Realty Investments and its founder, Chinedum Ndukwe, released a statement saying:
I’m most excited for the Evanston community. The Historic Designation is critical and takes us a step closer to preserving an important piece of Cincinnati’s Black History. Henry J. Schlacks was the original architect and also founded the Notre Dame Architecture Program, so I’m proud to keep his legacy alive as a Notre Dame alum. Our plan to activate one of the coolest buildings in Cincinnati continues.
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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