Friday, October 13, 2000

Housing district envisioned

Proposal aims at 8-block area north of P&G

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Private developers are targeting an eight-block area north of Procter & Gamble's headquarters for an ambitious plan of new housing and commercial and office space.

        The proposal — dubbed St. Xavier Park — aims to transform the patchwork of parking lots and abandoned industrial buildings into tree-lined streets of apartment lofts and small shops. The goal: Get more people to live and work downtown.

    Downtown Cincinnati Inc., the Over-The-Rhine Foundation and the Downtown Residents Council have organized a downtown housing tour for Sunday to let people know what type of housing is available. The tour also will include a peek at shops, restaurants and arts venues. The tour will start at 11:30 a.m. at the Emery Center Apartments, 100 E. Central Parkway, and will last until 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. For more information, call DCI at 421-4440, Ext. 113.

   Downtown Cincinnati Inc. envisions most of the financing for the two building renovations being made through a yet-to-be-created downtown loan pool. The pool would be created through a consortium of corporations and lenders, probably using federal Community Reinvestment Act credits. The act is designed to encourage banks to make loans in economically depressed areas.

Krippendorf Building
102 units; total cost: $13.8 million
   • First mortgage lender (loan pool) — $7.2 million, or 52 percent
   • Developer equity (including tax credits for renovating a historic building) — $2.1 million, or 16 percent
   • Subordinate lender (state and/or Cincinnati Equity Fund) — $2.5 million, or 18 percent
   • City of Cincinnati — $1 million, or 7 percent
   • Property owner — $1 million or 7 percent

Power Building
117 units; total cost: $15.7 million
   • First mortgage lender (loan pool) — $11 million, or 70 percent
   • Developer equity (including tax credits for renovating a historic building) — $2.2 million, or 14 percent
   • Subordinate lender (state and/or Cincinnati Equity Fund) — $1 million, or 6 percent
   • City of Cincinnati — $500,000, or 3 percent
   • Property owner — $1 million or 6 percent

    Prominent housing developments in downtown Cincinnati that are planned, under construction or recently completed:

    • The Emery Center Apartments, 100 E. Central Parkway. The former University of Cincinnati Applied Sciences building is undergoing a renovation to consist of 62 units, including lofts and one- and two-bedroom apartments. The renovation is scheduled to be complete by the end of March.
    • Shillito Lofts, Seventh Street between Race and Elm, has been converted into 97 loft and townhouse apartments. The building once was home to Shillito's department store.
    • Shillito Place, 107 Shillito Place (former Baker Shoe building), under construction, 18 units, will include luxury loft apartments, hardwood floors and wood-burning fireplaces.
    • 911 Race St. a four-unit condo project being developed by JFP Properties LPD is under construction. All four condos have sold, giving downtown housing advocates hope that Cincinnati's market can support for-purchase condos as well as rental lofts and apartments.
    • 410 Reading Road is being developed by architect Keven Speece. The project will include five, 1,550-square-foot units. Will include a new elevator, secure parking and a rooftop deck with citywide views.
    • Krippendorf building, a 102-unit loft project proposed by Al Neyer Inc. and North American Properties. At Seventh and Sycamore, the project is expected to cost $13 million, but financing has not been secured. It will be part of the St. Xavier Park neighborhood planned by private developers, downtown civic groups and city leaders.
    • Power Building, Eighth and Sycamore, will include more than 100 loft apartments. It will also have commercial space at street level. The developer, Capital Investment Group, has yet to secure financing.

        A decision is expected next week that could provide financing for one of the buildings that would anchor the neighborhood, a potential catalyst for other development in the area.

Huge demand

        “The demand for downtown housing is huge, and we are 100 percent full,” said Kathy Schwab, the housing coordinator for Downtown Cincinnati Inc., a downtown advocacy group that is spearheading the plan. “We are getting in at the early stages of something that will continue to grow.”

        DCI and city officials say a new housing district is urgently needed to keep pace with other downtown initiatives such as attracting upscale retailer Nordstrom and bridging the riverfront stadiums with an extensive riverfront retail/office development.

        The St. Xavier Park plan identifies eight blocks bordered by Main, Eggleston, Seventh and Ninth as a fledgling housing district to attract people to a downtown that has only 1,700 housing units, far fewer than similar-sized cities. DCI will appeal to Cincinnati leaders to adopt the St. Xavier Park neighborhood as part of its next comprehensive plan update.

Short supply

        “There are a lot of people looking for this kind of housing,” said Tony Hobson, vice president of North American Properties, which is teaming with Al Neyer Inc. to redevelop the old Krippendorf Building into 102 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom lofts. “In Cincinnati, we're just finding the market for this housing.”

        The $13.8 million Krippendorf project is the second housing development planned by Al Neyer Inc./North American Properties in the fledgling St. Xavier Park area, named for the church on Sycamore between Sixth and Seventh streets.

        The duo developed the 45-unit East Eighth St. lofts in 1998 for $4 million. The units leased within six weeks.

        DCI counted downtown Cincinnati's housing vacancy rate at 2 percent in 1998. Now, Ms. Schwab said her group is hard-pressed to find vacancies.

        Studies show the market can absorb 350 to 400 units a year, but only 151 units were added downtown last year. Another 152 units are expected this year.

        Before they can start the Krippendorf project, the developers must persuade lenders that enough people want this housing.

        The developers' option to purchase the Krippendorf expires at the end of the year, so the project is dead if they don't get a loan and complete the purchase or alter the purchase contract before then.

Subsidies sought

        And to complete the project at a profit, Al Neyer and North American are seeking subsidized funding. Those include historic tax credits, city parking subsidies and a low-interest loan from the Cincinnati Development Fund, a consortium of banks that helps fund projects downtown and in Over-the-Rhine.

        The development fund is expected to decide whether to fund the project when it meets next week, said Jeanne Golliher, the fund's director.

        “I think we are close to getting it,” she said.

        Another developer, Capital Investment Group, is seeking financing to renovate the Power Building at northwest corner of Eighth and Sycamore. The $15.7 million project calls for commercial space at street level, possibly a small grocery store with apartments on the upper floors. Ms. Schwab said the two projects are a critical start for the St. Xavier neighborhood, which could eventually include for-purchase condominiums.

"The market is ripe'

        Key city officials, including Planning Director Liz Blume, have discussed the St. Xavier plan as a strategy to increase downtown housing. Procter & Gamble, which owns part of a block designated for redevelopment, also joined in discussions.

        “It is an important key to the vitality of downtown. The market is ripe,” Mayor Charlie Luken said.

        “It (Krippendorf) also happens to be one of the ugliest buildings in Cincinnati,” he said.

        Because all 10 property owners who control land in St. Xavier Park support the concept of developing a residential area, Ms. Schwab doesn't expect to call on city leaders to acquire property through eminent domain.

        The city's involvement will more likely be sought on a case-by-case basis.

        Al Neyer and North American, for instance, sought and gained city approval for subsidized parking before developing the 45-unit East 8th St. project.

        Similarly, the two developers have had preliminary discussions with the Department of Neighborhood Services about getting parking subsidies for Krippendorf.

        Gerard Hyland, of the city's Department of Neighborhood Services, said the city is still negotiating possible parking subsidies with the Krippendorf developers. The city must strike a balance for the parking needs of those who live and work downtown.

        DCI's goal is to double downtown's 1,700 housing units to 3,400 by 2005 and 10,000 by 2010. Of those who live downtown, two-thirds are professional, 20 to 30 years old earning an average income of $49,000. The other third are adults whose children have grown and left home.

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