An unassuming downtown building is in the spotlight this week, after a set of images revealing a glimpse of history hidden behind a brick façade from Greater Cincinnati-based photographer Scott Beseler went locally viral on Facebook.
The building, formerly owned by Chong Inc., is being redeveloped by the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC).
Joe Rudemiller, 3CDC's vice president of marketing and communications, tells CityBeat that the corporation hired Digging Cincinnati History's Ann Senefeld to learn more about the building and its past.
Senefeld's research uncovers that since the building was first constructed between 1887 and 1891, several department and furniture stores have inhabited the space, as well as a Kroger store from 1960-1969.
But Senefeld's most fascinating discovery is that in 1951, the building went through a massive renovation, removing the 5th and 6th floors and covering the exterior with a new brick façade.
Research on the building's history continues, and Rudemiller welcomes additional information.
This renovation was made visually apparent this week as construction crews worked to remove the brick.
Beseler, who also owns arts incubator The Lodge in Dayton, Kentucky, says he was tipped off about the construction by his friend Sara Bedinghaus who works at 3CDC and knows of his interest in architecture as well as in the Chong Inc. retail shop.
Rudemiller says this step is just one part of 3CDC's redevelopment plan, and while the goal is to restore the exterior, they don't know what condition it is currently in.
"We aren’t sure what we will find or what condition it will be in, but we are really excited about the prospect of restoring the building back to some of its original detail, and we hope this will help attract an exciting tenant or end-user," Rudemiller says.
3CDC purchased the building from Chong Inc., owners Chong Nung Kim and Kil Jin Kim in May after they closed their retail space last March to retire. Rudemiller says the remaining inventory — worth an estimated $300,000 — was donated to Goodwill.
In addition to the exterior getting a facelift, which will take around 4-6 weeks, 3CDC plans to extend the building's front and back outdoor spaces, if possible. Rudemiller says that while nothing has been decided yet, their plans also likely will include street-level retail with office or residential space above.
"We’re excited about the possibilities for this property and this entire area of town," Rudemiller says. "There are two new hotels at 7th and Race, some great dining and entertainment options on the ground floor of 84.51°, we’re nearly finished with our 4th & Race mixed-use development, and we’re actively working on The Foundry (formerly Fountain Place) just a block south."