Wednesday, July 12, 2000

Builders have eye on prime city parcel

Towne Properties, others covet 30 acres below Mount Adams

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Several developers are eyeing a 30-acre chunk of property at the base of Mount Adams that the city says will be freed up by a recent Hamilton County judge's decision.

        The land near the Montgomery Inn Boathouse restaurant has sat idle for more than five years as the city and a private developer quibbled over design and other details of a proposed 50-unit townhouse project.

        Hamilton County Judge Fred Cartolano agreed last month that the developer, Adams Landing Limited Partnership, didn't fulfill the contract, clearing the way for the city to terminate the deal and choose another firm.

        That's left a handful of developers waiting eagerly on the city's plans for the prime lot.

        “It's a great piece of property, and we're definitely (interested),” said Blair Pogue of Dallas-based Phoenix Properties.

        Rick Kimbler, of Al Neyer Inc. of Cincinnati, envisions the land as a prime spot for rental and commercial properties, but he would bid only if offered a reasonable price and all remaining legal details are settled.

        If the contract is severed, Adams Landing Limited wants to be reimbursed for a $438,000 deposit and sewer work, said Mark Vollman, senior assistant city solicitor. The two sides are scheduled to meet in court July 27, he said.

        Another developer, Towne Properties of Cincinnati, has been courting city officials behind closed doors to gain control of the development rights.

        Towne has a contract with the developer and manages the nearby high-rise Adams Landing condo project.

        City officials haven't said whether they would negotiate a separate development pact with Towne Properties or search for another firm.

        Cincinnati City Councilman Todd Portune said he is wary of immediately signing a deal with Towne without first seeing what other developers offer.

        “I'm not ruling out Towne, but we have to get the best possible deal for the city,” Mr. Portune said. “I don't want to rush in with anyone.”

        Towne Properties partner Arn Bortz said he submitted a plan to the city more than a year ago to take over the development.

        Adams Landing Limited, funded by Benenson Capital, said it couldn't make money on the project because of strict design guidelines imposed by the city.

        The developer claimed City Manager John Shirey verbally agreed to change the design guidelines after meeting with him in January 1997. City lawyers argued a Shirey-negotiated agreement would be invalid without approval of City Council, which originally established the guidelines.

        Adams Landing Limited purchased the land from the city for $150,000 in May 1996 on the condition that it complete the 50-unit townhouse project within a year.

        Greg Mohar, a lawyer representing Adams Landing Limited Partnership, said he is awaiting the judge's written ruling before he decides whether to appeal.

        “This isn't over yet,” Mr. Mohar said.


        Steven M. Herppich

        The tract at the base of Mount Adams has sat idle for years. The city owns the land behind Adams Landing condos (left) and the Montgomery Inn Boathouse.


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