(Video) Port Shorts: Historic Structure Stabilization Program
Hamilton County is home to hundreds of historic, vacant structures, but many are in serious disrepair. Buildings such as the Mt. Healthy Theater, the historic home at 4661 Hamilton in Northside, the mixed-use structure on 722 East McMillan in Walnut Hills, and Italianate structures in the West End like 1916 Freeman are all a vital part of our region’s unique character, but sadly, many face demolition because of neglect.
The Hamilton County Landbank, a managed entity of The Port, stabilizes and preserves these historical landmarks for redevelopment and reuse. Through its Historic Structure Stabilization Program, the Landbank has stabilized 39 properties since 2014.
“The Port’s stabilization work is one of the most important things we do. It saves Cincinnati’s history, and it does it in a way that’s different than anything else Cincinnati is currently doing.” - Liz Eddy, Director of Residential Development - The Port
Often, the Landbank acquires these properties after years of neglect, when they are in danger of collapse and emergency demolition. The recent collapse and necessary demolition of the Mt. Auburn Cable Car building underscores the urgency of this work. Once these structures are lost, they are gone 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
The Mt. Auburn Flatiron Building was named one of our region’s most endangered buildings prior to its stabilization in 2018. The 1895 structure sits atop a prominent intersection, acting as an iconic landmark and gateway to the neighborhood. Stabilized in partnership with the City of Cincinnati, the building is being redeveloped by Neyer Holdings.
“If The Port had not stabilized this building, had not chosen this building to stabilize, 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
Many properties the Landbank stabilizes don’t have a buyer or development plan in place, but it’s still critical to save the structure from demolition – which The Port views as an irreversible solution to a temporary problem.
In February of 2019 when 1916 Freeman partially collapsed and faced emergency demolition, the Landbank stepped in to save this Italianate structure in the West End. The building was in an advanced state of decay and required extensive stabilization including rebuilding the floor plates, stairwell, roof and front facade.
“The Landbank is an excellent partner because they’ve got tools in their toolbox – they can do the expedited foreclosures, so they make an excellent partner to work with on these things to get title.” - Ed Cunningham, Division Manager - City of Cincinnati
1916 Freeman does not yet have a new owner, but stabilization is the first step to getting properties like this one back to productive use. In the meantime, the Landbank’s stabilization program continues to preserve our region’s iconic structures, one building at a time.