1703 Elm St.

Address: 1703 Elm St., Over-the-RhineOwner: Smith Foundation Properties, LLCBuilt: 1886Value: $21,800Comments: 1600 through 1800 Elm St. is one of Cincinnati's most economically depressed are

Oct 29, 2003 at 2:06 pm

Address: 1703 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine

Owner: Smith Foundation Properties, LLC

Built: 1886

Value: $21,800

Comments: 1600 through 1800 Elm St. is one of Cincinnati's most economically depressed areas. The Smith Foundation recently purchased several buildings in Over-the-Rhine, four of which are vacant or condemned.

In June a hearing declared the buildings at 1701 and 1703 Elm St. public nuisances. Graffiti has tainted the plywood on the front of 1703 Elm, with phrases such as, "Post No Bills" and "RIP Nikka." The pungent smell of urine perfectly compliments the odor of stale beer, adding to the impoverished atmosphere.

Buildings are declared public nuisances when they are beyond repair and dangerous to the public. They are prime targets for arson and crime, creating hazards for firefighters and other public employees who sometimes must enter them.

But the damaging effect doesn't stay within the walls of the dilapidated structures.

"A public nuisance devalues property and keeps surrounding building owners from getting insurance," says William Langevin, director of the city of Cincinnati's Department of Buildings and Inspections.

The Smith Foundation bought this property from Northern Liberties Corp., which failed to comply with city orders to fix the properties.

The buildings are historic and under review by the Historic Conservation Board, which will determine whether the properties should be demolished or repaired.

"I try not to take down historic buildings unless they pose imminent danger to health and welfare of the public," Langevin says. "They are a unique resource to the city."

The owners couldn't be reached for comment.

BLIGHT OF THE WEEK is an effort to highlight the problem of abandoned buildings — and who's responsible for them.