Saturday, May 15, 2004

Clifton plans move forward

Developer still planning to tear down funeral home

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CLIFTON - Plans to develop a key parcel in this Cincinnati neighborhood's business district are creeping forward again after an initial upset when a developer proposed businesses with a drive-through.

That plan would have required the demolition of the Anderson, Baiter and Sahnd funeral home on Clifton Avenue, which some residents want to preserve.

Now, developer and Clifton resident Jack Brand still plans to tear the building down but wants to replace it with a four-story structure. There would be a restaurant with outdoor seating and retail shops on the first floor, and condominiums or apartments on the other three floors.

Brand, a custom builder and former president of Clifton Town Meeting, the neighborhood association, has a contract to buy the funeral home.

In April, he withdrew his previous plan for the businesses with a drive-through after some residents vowed to fight it.

Brand, residents and others have met at least twice since that time to discuss the site.

But Brand said this week he still intends to take the building down because it's not economically viable to keep it.

"The funeral home is closing. Somebody is going to buy it. I don't see anybody doing anything without knocking the building down," he said. "My hope is what we do will enhance the neighborhood and enhance the business district."

But some residents hope the community could partner with the city to purchase the funeral home and its 51-space parking lot. Or, if it must be developed, some prefer small businesses to large, national chains.

Clifton neighbors have fought for years to preserve uniqueness in their business district, which includes an art film house and an array of boutiques and restaurants..

"It's a real opportunity to look at what will strengthen Clifton as a neighborhood and support the Clifton business district to its future viability," longtime resident Marilyn Hyland said.

The funeral home building, she added, is 100 years old and serves as a transitional structure between the business district and residential neighborhoods.

"If it goes, the face of the transition between commercial and residential will be changed forever"

Other residents, however, approve of Brand's latest idea for the site, saying he is working to preserve Clifton's character and to meet the community's needs.

Clifton Town Meeting likely won't back efforts to preserve the existing building, said the neighborhood association's president, Patrick Borders.

"Jack has been a long-term supporter of the community and he obviously has a great interest in working with Clifton ... to develop the property," Borders said. "There are some loose cannons and they certainly have expressed their opinions, but I think that, overall, the community will be satisfied with what comes in."

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