The Canal Building, located at Central Parkway and Magnolia Street in OTR, is a pre-Civil War historic building, one of the last examples of commercial Erie Canal structures in Cincinnati. The building is a contributing building to both the National Register of Historic Places and the Over-the-Rhine Historic District.
For the past two years, a group of neighbors has been fighting a proposed demolition of the building by a developer and its partner, the longtime owner of the building, Downtown Property Management. This development group seeks to construct a hotel and claims the historic property must be demolished as it is economically infeasible to reuse the building. They claimed this while the building was being used as an office and had been used as an office prior to the historic district being in place. Early on in the case before the Historic Conservation Board, Cincinnati Preservation Association supported the legal fees with a $2,000 donation. While the Historic Conservation Board (HCB) UNANIMOUSLY rejected the demolition request, the developer appealed the decision to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) which overturned the Historic Conservation Board’s Decision. The ZBA based its decision on its opinion that lack of profitability for a business is an economic hardship for the building. The ZBA’s review should have been limited to whether or not the Historic Conservation Board made any errors on how they made their decision, not to decide that case anew and second guess the Historic Conservation Board.
If the Zoning Board of Appeals’ decision stands, anyone will be free to demolish a historic building merely by showing that he or she has not realized a profit since owning it and purposely not investing in its upkeep other than for the bare minimum code compliance. On appeal, the Court is being asked to reverse the Zoning Board of Appeals’ misguided decision and restore the carefully calibrated balance between public and private interests that the City of Cincinnati’s Historic Preservation Ordinance creates.
This case has a great legal significance for historic preservation in Cincinnati and Ohio. As CPA works to support the case we are also asking our members and historic preservation advocates to help support the neighbors that are leading the fight and give to their legal fund so they can continue their fight.