By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer
CLIFTON - Archaeologist Marion Rawson did not envision a backyard filled with single-family homes when she left her 1880 Victorian on nearly 7 acres to the University of Cincinnati.
But that is exactly what will happen if a land contract UC officials signed recently with Clifton home builder Jack Brand is finalized a few months from now.
The amount Brand will pay for the Clifton Avenue property won't be public until the deal is completed, but the asking price was $1.695 million.
Brand, who owns a $650,000 home on Middleton Avenue abutting the Rawson estate, plans to develop the acreage behind the Rawson house. The yellow frame home, a familiar landmark in Clifton, will be refurbished and sold, Brand said.
"I'm going to do this right," said Brand, who has not yet decided how many single-family houses he will build on the Rawson property. "I'm particularly interested in doing this right because I'm going to be living right next door to it."
Brand is taking over what was once one of Clifton's most elegant homes, a 19th century mansion built by the Rawson family, which made its fortune in the pork-packing business.
The most recent resident was Marion Rawson, a pioneering woman archaeologist who was a member of UC's classics faculty from 1927 until her death in 1980.
Her will left the house and 5.5 acres surrounding it to the UC Foundation, along with a $180,000 endowment that was intended to be used to maintain the house. According to deed records, the only development of the land that would have been acceptable to Rawson was construction of a conference center, a guesthouse or a home for educational programs.
That never happened.
UC officials said the interest from the $180,000 endowment - about $7,200 a year - was not enough to properly maintain the house. In May, UC put the Rawson house and land up for sale.
Brand said that before he can complete his purchase, he must perform geo-technical studies on the property and an environmental audit and a study of where utility lines are located. A final deal is "a couple months" away, he said.
Brand, owner of the Arthur Brand Construction home-building firm, said he will present a plan for developing the property within the next few months to Clifton Town Meeting - the neighborhood community council - and to city officials, who must sign off on his plan.
Brand is a former president of Clifton Town Meeting. Its current president, Patrick Borders, said he believes neighbors of the Rawson property will be satisfied with building single-family housing on the site.
"I think it's good for Clifton," Borders said. "He's familiar with the neighborhood; I don't think he is going to come up with something that is not a good fit."
The Rawson property wraps around the Clifton School and adjacent Clifton Recreation Center. Its bucolic back lot is directly across from Rawson Bird Sanctuary in the upscale neighborhood.
Jerry Diers, whose Clifton Avenue home faces the mansion, said he is not concerned about Brand's plan to build behind the house.
"The only concern we have is what we can see," Diers said. "If the buildings are in the back lot, I don't think it will affect anybody."
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