Saturday, October 23, 2004

'Teardown' on the table for Blue Ash

Developer buying houses to build much bigger ones

By Sheila McLaughlin
Enquirer staff writer

BLUE ASH - A proposal to put up to 32 high-dollar homes on the fringes of downtown would be a welcome spur for the business district, city officials said.

It's also one of the most sweeping examples yet of the national "teardown" trend hitting Hamilton County's older suburbs.

The trend updates housing stock - often by replacing long-time homes with larger, more-expensive new houses - in popular established communities.

On Target Consulting LLC has been buying up small, older homes on the north side of Cooper Road, from Cooper Lane to Monroe Avenue, with a plan to demolish them for a 6.5-acre subdivision of homes that will sell for $600,000 to $900,000 apiece.

"It's certainly the beginning," Councilman James Sumner said. "This is one of the first projects that's come forward."

Assistant City Manager David Waltz said he believes "Paradiso on the Square" would be the largest residential redevelopment in the area.

Blue Ash, as well as Montgomery, Sycamore Township and Madeira, have seen teardown activity in the past year or so, but most involved small pocket subdivisions with up to four homes.

On Target's proposed project comes five months after council members set a vision for the revitalization of downtown.

Among the ideas presented was an entertainment district of restaurants with live music surrounded by pockets of high-density, high-brow housing.

Officials have said that said the downtown, which was redeveloped in the 1980s but virtually shuts down after dark, needs more people with discretionary income living there.

"It really is important that any city maintain a good supply of high quality housing stock, and I think that this is a project that is going to put some very high quality homes into our community," Mayor Rick Bryan said.

"It has to have a positive impact on the type of businesses which will be located in our downtown district."

Blue Ash officials have said they want their downtown to be something like Hyde Park Square, with a mix of houses and condominiums, specialty shops and restaurants.

So far, no one has approached the city about redeveloping commercial space downtown, and officials continue to try to acquire 3 acres at Kenwood and Cooper Roads for the entertainment area. The owner, who runs a long-time auto repair business there, has said he isn't interested.

The city planning commission this week recommended approval of a zone change that would allow the needed density - about five houses per acre - for the On Target development. A public hearing will be held by the end of the year prior to council's vote, Waltz said.

Sumner opposes the measure, although he expects councilwill endorse On Target's proposal because the project fits with the city's master plan for that area.

The proposed homes - at 4,000 to 6,000 square feet - are too big, too expensive and too close together, Sumner said.

"It is an interesting concept, but I personally don't think it's right for Blue Ash," he said. "I support our current zoning, which is a lower density for a more modestly priced home."

Developers Bob Davis and Larry Norris could not be reached Friday. Waltz said the neighborhood would be marketed to "upwardly mobile" couples and empty nesters, and would have few children because yards would be virtually nonexistent.

"The market is going to be people who don't want 10 acres in Indian Hill or something of a Madeira or something like that," Waltz said "They've got equity in their house, and they get a new product with less lot in a very exciting subdivision on the edge of downtown Blue Ash. I think it will be a signature project."


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