Impact 2020: Landbank stabilizes historic structures, preserves fabric of communities
Once known as “The Paris of the West,” Cincinnati’s architectural landscape is varied and robust, but many of these older structures are expensive to maintain and without the needed care and maintenance, risk demolition through emergency or neglect. Loss of iconic neighborhood landmarks, historic streetscapes, and notable spaces to decay and demolition has an impact beyond just one structure; the buildings around us play a role in our community identity as well. That’s why the Hamilton County Landbank, a managed entity of The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority (The Port), started the allocation of funds toward stabilizing endangered historic structures in Hamilton County. From 2013 to 2020, the Landbank stabilized 36 structures.
Stabilizing a structure is the first step
The buildings stabilized through the Landbank’s Historic Structure Stabilization Program have a few elements in common: they are vacant, they have been neglected for a long time, and they are at risk of emergency demolition or collapse. The path back to productive use for these properties is a long one, but stabilization is the first step to make that possible. The Landbank believes it is critical to save these endangered buildings even without an end user in place, because demolishing significant structures due to a lack of current end user is a permanent and irreversible solution to a temporary problem. In fact, often stabilization is the critical first step needed to make rehabbing a building viable for a new owner. This was the case for Mt. Auburn’s Flatiron Building stabilized in 2018. Neyer Holdings is currently rehabbing the circa-1895 landmark located at the entrance to the Mount Auburn neighborhood.
“If The Port had not stabilized this building, it would not make economic sense to redevelop this building. The Port’s saving of this building from demolition, and I should say, it was vacant for over 20 years before The Port came in, and you can imagine how bad that building was before that stabilization. That stabilization made this project possible.” - John Back, Director - Neyer Holdings
Additional funding helps accelerate our impact in the West End and Evanston
In 2020, the Landbank stabilized a record 14 properties, compared to five in 2019. A big reason for the significant increase was the Landbank’s ability to leverage additional funding sources to amplify its impact. Prior to 2020, funding for the program came from the Landbank, with support on some projects from the City of Cincinnati. In 2020, the Landbank added funding from IFF, a Midwest-based mission-driven lender, and the Neighborhood Business District Improvement Program (NBDIP). The $1,200,000 loan from IFF is supporting The Port and Landbank’s work in the West End, enabling the stabilization of nine residential and mixed-use structures in the neighborhood. The end-use for the stabilized properties will be informed by the goals laid out in the “West End Speaks” Plan and the 2019 West End Housing Study.
The NBDIP program funding helped the Evanston Community Council and The Port stabilize a number of buildings in Evanston’s northern business district. The Port has since worked with the Evanston community to develop and issue a Request for Proposals, ultimately resulting in plans for 25 mixed-income apartments and street-level commercial space across three mixed-use buildings.
“We're excited to see new momentum with the coffee shop reopening and thriving and a full-service restaurant opening soon,” Drew Asimus, Chair of the Business Committee for the Evanston Community Council, said. “We're hopeful for mixed-use development providing commercial spaces that fill a need for Evanston residents and bringing the residential component back to the business district, which is going to be critical for long-term success.”
Continued need for stabilization
Even with recent successes, the need for stabilization to save our historic structures far outstrips current capacity. The Port and Landbank are continuing to work with local partners, including CDCs across neighborhoods, County jurisdictions, and the Cincinnati Preservation Association, to identify endangered structures and seek resources and funding to make sure these critical pieces of our region’s identity are not lost forever.
“The Port is doing great work. They have saved some wonderful buildings in different parts of the city – a lot of different neighborhoods. Without them, you would be looking at a vacant lot” - Margo Warminski, Preservation Director - Cincinnati Preservation Association
- City of Cincinnati
- West End
- Cincinnati Preservation Association