By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LOVELAND - A longtime canoe livery will stay afloat in a deal that also would add dozens of public parking spaces on the south side of the city's downtown historic district.
If Mark Bersani's offer to buy Bruce's Loveland Canoe Rental goes through later this month, he plans to sell two houses on the property to the city for $137,500.
Assistant City Manager Tom Carroll said the city wants to demolish the buildings, to make way for a public parking lot with at least 50 spaces in an area targeted for redevelopment when Nisbet Lumber & Hardware moves to Sharonville.
The Crutchfield family, which operated Bruce's for about 28 years, lived in the homes, which are off Broadway Street along the Little Miami River. The property as well as the business have been for sale for about two years.
It wasn't selling because potential buyers thought the canoe business wouldn't generate enough revenue to justify buying the houses, too, Carroll said. The city had approached Joan Crutchfield about buying the houses earlier, but she wanted to sell it as a package deal, he said.
"We see this property as potentially being strategic for the redevelopment of Nisbet," Carroll said. "Our principal concern is picking up space for public parking. But, to the extent that we can help (the canoe livery) flip and be redeveloped, we are supportive of that as well."
With more businesses opening downtown and with cycling and tourist season closing in, the city recently evaluated the need to expand parking there. City administrators recommended reconfiguring existing parking along the bike trail and behind city hall to add about 44 more parking spots.
D.C. Canada, who opened Bond Furniture Gallery downtown in 1965, said more parking is necessary to make the area a success. The city has pegged revitalization of downtown as a priority.
"I think we have a progressive city. If we are bringing people into the area, we've got to have a place for them to park or it's going to just die," Canada said.
Bersani said he could close on the property by month's end if council approves purchase of the houses. He would reopen the business on Memorial Day weekend.
Carroll said the deal with Bersani also calls for leasing a city-owned 13-acre tract that juts out into the river for $1 annually for 10 years.
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