Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cincinnati DBL Hearing July 29th

3301 Price Ave, the Price Hill Masonic lodge: Clearly historic Eligible
The city nuisance, or as we call it the "Historic death board" hearing will be hel July 29th at 9 am at 3300 Central Parkway in the main conference room. Comments regarding historic significance  should be directed to Larry Harris at  larry.harris@cincinnati-oh.gov or you can call him at 513 352-4848

the following are on this list:

4845 Glenway Ave
1645 State Ave
1627 State Ave
1737 Elm Street
3774 Hutton Street
933 Wells Street
1222 Rutledge
3301 Price
6001 Yosemite
741 Sedam

Friday, July 15, 2011

Urban Conservators Meeting CANCELLED. Preservationists plan next steps

At 1:36 Thursday and blanket email was sent from the Urban Conservator office:

Subject Meeting Cancellation Notice: The Urban Conervators hearing scheduled for July 15,2011 AM in the Martin Grisel Room has been cancelled.

No reason was given.

Preservationists breathed a sigh of relief but what's next?

Obviously this is not simply going away. Efforts to contact the Attorney General's office regarding the notification issue and hundreds of emails flooding the city council may have actually paid off. The bigger issue is how do we slow this process down further as this was likely the 'opening salvo' of the county land bank which seems less about banking property and more about demoing property.

Several issues have not gone away. First and foremost that these properties were already declared a nuisance without the benefit. of proper Section 106 review. That review was critical PRIOR to an actual nuisance declaration as under Federal Section 106 guidelines , in the event a property were determined historic the city is required to do a finding of adverse effect and the city is required to perform a further evaluation and explore the costs of stabilization rather than demo and that evaluation would have to be part of the actual nuisance hearing before a nuisance board.

The question now becomes are those properties ALREADY DECLARED a nuisance actually, "legally" a nuisance and given by the city request for these 106 hearings should the original declarations be invalidated and  new nuisance hearings convened.

I believe they should and that is why I intend to send a request to the city attorney asking for legal justification for these nuisance declaration to remain on these properties and ask the city how they expect to deal with a proper notification issue since these properties were declared a nuisance without the benefit of the proper 106 review in the first place.  The legal owners of these properties were 'denied' a process, in this case the opportunity to present evidence of historic eligibility and as a result the nuisance declaration is now part of an "illegal taking" of a property, with the use of Federal CDBG funds..

Based on that all property currently under a nuisance declaration MUST revert back to a condemn status.
Section 106 review process must occur BEFORE the nusiance declarations take place.There must also be waiting period as preservationists if they disagree with the Urban Conservators position  and choose to file a review request with OHPO. This, of course, ONLY applies to properties over 50 year old.

I will be curious to see their response

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Preservationists up stakes in Friday 106 hearing with AG complaints

This property on Moosewood, a turreted Queen Anne is viewed by experts as eligile and  candidate for restoaration (photo courtesy auditor)
Historic Preservationists are raising  the stakes in the Section 106 review process with complaints to the State Attorney General office, raising the issue of if the meeting called with only seven days notice and without notifications of property owners, neighborhod groups or Community Council Presidents violates the State of Ohio , open meeting laws.

More complaints will be filed today.

Knox Hill sent email to Michael Cervey, Ed Cunningham,  Larry Harris, Paula Boggs Muething and the mayors office advising them that Knox Hill neighborhood was filing a complaint with the AG's office amd  the meeting went on as planned that the neighborhood was preparing a  formal federal "Citizens Complaint" to the Department of Housing and Urban development (HUD) that administeres the CDBG (community Development Block Grant) program, specifically calling into question if the notice meets Federal guildines and if Mr Harris is properly performing his responsibilities under a programmatic agreement entered into between the City and OHPO.

This rare Shingle mansion was once home to Emery Barton,art dealer and noted author of two books on Art. Often an improperly trained Urban Conservator will determine a house just on architecture (and changes) and not perform a historical search which is why proper public input through section 106 is critical (photo courtesy CPA FB website)
The draft complaint may be revised to include the County if it is determined that these demolitions are connected to the county land banking program. As was noted yesterday in a Cincinnati Enquirer article the land bank is being modeled after one in Cuyohoga Country that has spent millions in acquisition and demolition but has yet to attract any real redevelopment. The Hamilton County plan pulls monies from several programs and many question if the county would have any sucess at actual 'development" or if the demolition of restorable Historic property would hinder many neighborhoods effors at turnaround by eliminating viable historic housing stock.

One Preservationist is getting ready to circulate a petition seeking the termination or reassignment of Larry Harris as the Urban Conservator.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cincinnati attempts to abuse Section 106 process Again! Hearing July 15th

2131Colerain (blue building) and the one right of it, are intact historic structures on an intact block, the demolition of these buildings would  have an adverse effect on the neighborhood. Amazingly neither structure has been deemed historic eligible by the Urban Conservator.
In a move to deliberately circumvent the public notification and engagement of the Preservation Community. Larry Harris, the city Urban Conservator, is holding a section 106 review hearing in a deliberate back door attempt to get over 100 properties already declared a public nuisance without the benefit of proper section 106 review, "reviewed". 
Also deemed , not eligible, by the conservator was this Italianate mansion

These properties, many of which are already put out for bid using Federal CDBG funds are the latest attempt by the City of Cincinnati to circumvent the Historic Preservation review process and presumabaly get as many set for demo using Federal dollars which in todays tough political climate, are funds that may be going away.

This 1860 Italianate cottage on beekman is part of a cluster of brick structures. We presume the reason for this being 'ineligible ' due to the window and door, The only non historic elements on an otherwise  time capsule structure
The 'public notice' sent by Mr Harris was emailed to exactly 22 people 2 of which were city employess Ed Cunningham and Al Taylor.

Suspiciously absent from this list were Community Council leaders, neighborhood groups and even Cincinnati Preservation Asociation which is the local consulting party for section 106 review.. The 'notice' was sent out on Friday and this 'sham hearing" is set for Friday July 15th at 10 am at the J. Martin Griesel Room. there are 134 properties on that list and of them only 6 have been determined to have any 'historic value acording to the Urban Conervator Larry Harris who holds an architecture degree but not a degree or training in Historic preservation. Those 'deemed elibible' should undergo an evaluation by city inspections to determine if stabilization should occur, that is if that part of the Section 106 review proces is even followed.

Ironically , many of these properties have changed hands and the owner of record appears to not have even been notified, raising the question if the city could face lawsuits  due to the lack of process.

The historic preservation community has been scrambling in an attempt to collect data and do research on this many properties. Many believe this process may violate state law due to the timing of the notice and the lack of widespread public notice. Additionally Knox Hill Neighborhood Association held a special board meeting and have authorized the filing of a new Federal citizens complaint with HUD . At  least two other community groups are considering a similar complaint and Knox Hill has already sent out emails to Congresional leaders Monday, currently reviewing HUD and CDBG funding abuse.

Larry Harris the Urban Conservator may be reached at 513-352-4848 FAX 513-352-4853 or by email at larry.harris@cincinnati-oh.gov

Please let him know how YOU feel about this latest attempt to abuse the section 106 review process.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Welcome to MPH: Making Preservation Happen

Welcome to MPH, Making Preservation Happen. Why here? why now? The answer is simple. Cincinnati preservation is at a critical stage. The Gamble House hangs in the balance, we have lost key properties in OTR due to the Cincinnati Public Schools, Euclid street is history. In the last 6 years the City of Cincinnati has demoed over 600 properties with thousands on a 'doomed list' with either a VBML (Vacant Building Maintenance License) or a condemn order on them.

Over 100 properties head for  'sham hearing' this Friday called by our Urban Conservator who has neither the qualifications or desire to advocate for real preservation. The South Fairmount business/residential district is in danger of demolition due to a glorified drainage ditch by MSD. Expansion by Universities, hospitals and private developers threaten our historic architecture. We have a city leadership that does not understand the value of historic preservation as an Economic Development tool. A city that sees CDBG funds, Community DEVELOPMENT block grant monies as Community DEMOLITION Block Grant Funds and payroll funding source.

Saying "please can we save this or that property",  does not work. the City of Cincinnati runs over history because they can. There is no real preservation advocacy or leadership as there is in other cities. Certainly CPA does what it can but with a staff of four, minimal budget and a focus on Preservation education we can not expect them to stand up for Preservation in a way that it is really needed.

At the same time we have small successes . The Gamble House stands, for the moment, because of people like Bob Prokop and the grass roots save the Gamble House group. Properties are getting into Preservation minded hand thanks to groups like OTRADOPT. Knox Hill is turning their neighborhood around through Preservation advocacy. Young people are entering Preservation everyday as there is a new Urbanist  Movement back downtown. All over town, people are restoring homes. We need MORE of that. New ideas and new energy!

However there is no connection between these groups and their is no solidarity when an issue hits one neighborhood, Cincinnati MPH is start at making that happen.

How? By acting as a preservation resource center. A place where local preservationists can share what they are doing in their neighborhood. I do not expect to write this blog single handed. What I expect is your help. Help with stories about what is going on in your neighborhood. What are you doing right and what are your obstacles. Who is making a difference in Preservation in your community? We will also cover news from other cities and see if we can learn from and adapt what they are doing to our city. We will regularly present Preservation opportunities, homes that need an advocate. We will partner with the business community and corporations locally to start "small focus" projects that will create interest in historic neighborhoods long forgotten. Our goal will be to bring people back to Cincinnati and use our Historic Architecture to make Cincinnati a real destination.

This blog, by itself, will not make preservation happen, however it can be a starting point. We need to start a real conversation among those of us who are actually doing something  about the direction of preservation in this city. Clearly we can identify obstacles like the VBML and our 'broken section 106 review system as key issues. We also must do a  better job of advocacy and education to the community and  to the city.

We also need to create some new systems for Preservation in this city. things like a Preservation Action Response Team (P.A.R.T) to get the word out when these preservation emergencies arise and coordinate a grass roots effort and coordinate with the media to raise public awarness  to put pressure on city leaders to stop demolition. We will need to form a coalition of urban historic neighborhoods  and block clubs to act as one voice for preservation, a unified voice.

Ultimately we need a take charge, take no prisoners, preservation group that will fight to save our history, not just 'pick and choose' which battles they think they can win. By fighting vigorously for preservation, as other cities do, we will make the city realize that if they choose to demo they will have fight EVERY TIME. Those fights take time and resources at the city and monies they do not have. Eventually the first choice of the city will not be the bulldozer.

Some short term goals, a website within 30 days, and  a facebook page. Longer term goals a Preservation based organization.that will make  a real difference and save our history before its in landfill and Cincinnati is just another faceless city

Initially this blog will not be a daily blog, how much content is here will depend in part of you. My other blog , Victorian Antiquities and Design will focus on its core restoration and period design. This blog will focus on providing a mechanism to Make Preservation Happen.

Your thoughts, your ideas, and your help, will make this happen, as always you can contact me direct at victiques@gmail.com.