Developer Asks Historic Conservation Board to Delay Dennison Demolition Vote

Request comes as controversy swirls around proposed demolition

Attorneys for Columbia REI, LLC have asked the city's Historic Conservation Board to delay a vote on their request to demolish the Dennison building at 716 Main St. downtown.

The demolition request is on the board's upcoming Monday meeting agenda, but the developers have asked the board to table it and reschedule the vote.

That request comes after the city's Urban Conservator Beth Johnson issued a report yesterday that rejected the developer's claim thatit  cannot reuse the building and that restoring or preserving the building with result in a negative financial return.

Historic preservation advocates and affordable housing activists both have rallied around the building, which was designed by noted Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford's firm and, until five years ago, contained 114 units of single-room occupancy affordable housing. The Cincinnati Preservation Collective, the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, City Councilman Chris Seelbach and others held a press conference today outside the building decrying attempts to tear it down and calling for more affordable housing in the central business district.

The Dennison was the last of more than 20 downtown buildings containing such housing. The building was slated for redevelopment by Model Group for 63 units of permanent supportive housing to be operated by The Talbert House in 2013. However, that project fell through and the building was purchased by Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation affiliate CBD Holdings for $1.3 million that year. 3CDC then sold the building to Columbia, owned by the influential Joseph Automotive Group family, for $740,000 a month later. In filings to the Historic Conservation Board, attorneys for the Joseph family have indicated they purchased the property at least in part out of concern that supportive housing would devalue other properties it holds in the area.

It is unclear when the vote on the building will be rescheduled. Preservation activist Derek Bauman called the request by Columbia "shenanigans" and wondered if the vote would be rescheduled for a less-convenient time.

Columbia says the building is decrepit and unsafe, and says it would like to use the land it occupies as part of a large-scale development that would provide office space for an as-yet-undetermined Fortune 500 company.

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