Developer Floats Ideas for Major Clifton Project

A proposed mixed-use project on a 1.3 acre site in the heart of Clifton would be the first new development in the neighborhood's business district in decades.

click to enlarge Gaslight Properties is proposing a big mixed-use development on a 1.3 acre site on Howell and Ormond Aves. just south of Clifton's business district.
Gaslight Properties is proposing a big mixed-use development on a 1.3 acre site on Howell and Ormond Aves. just south of Clifton's business district.

A spot in the heart of one of Cincinnati’s most distinctive neighborhoods could see big redevelopment soon.

Gaslight Properties, Clifton Town Meeting and city of Cincinnati planning department employees held a community visioning session Nov. 7 to ask residents what they’d like to see in a prominent part of the neighborhood at the corner of Howell and Ormond avenues.

The developer has ideas for the 1.3 acre space: a mixed-use development featuring up to 130 studio to two bedroom apartments, 7,000 square feet of retail space and a garage featuring up to 300 parking spaces — 150 public spaces and another 150 for apartment residents.

That plan would require a zoning change from the city, a process that generally takes between four and six months. Currently, much of the property, which contains a large parking lot and a handful of houses, is zoned commercial or single-family residential.

The houses, which Gaslight Properties purchased earlier this year, would be torn down for the project. Gaslight also entered into a contract with the Clifton Business and Professional Association to buy the neighboring 90-space public parking lot in April.

“This is a very important property for Clifton that involves public use,” Clifton Town Meeting’s Christine Celsor said. Businesses, including Clifton Market next door, have in the past expressed concern about how parking will be dealt with in a redevelopment of the lot. Gaslight says it wants to work with the Market to make sure its garage is easily accessible to their customers.

Planners at the meeting said all ideas were preliminary.

“We’re at the very beginning of this process,” city of Cincinnati Senior Planner James Weaver told attendees. “A lot of new development in the city has taken flack for its size and design. We want to hear concerns now instead of in the planning commission or city council, when it’s almost too late.”

Jerry Atkins, who is working with Gaslight as a consultant, says the developer hasn’t hired an architect yet and is looking to do community engagement before drawing up plans.

Residents at the meeting shared a variety of feedback. Suggestions included increased green space for the area, expanding the public plaza abutting the development and facing Clifton Avenue, rooftop gardens for the potential building and hopes that larger, three- and four-bedroom apartments might be incorporated into the design.

One suggestion that came up often: that the development should include a gallery or home base for the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, which is looking for a new location after Cincinnati Public Schools decided to make a neighborhood school out of the building the CCAC was leasing from the district.

The development would be the first in decades in Clifton and could thus stir up strong feelings from residents who are very active in guarding the neighborhood’s aesthetic character and local business district.

City planners told attendees that next steps would involve taking feedback given at the meeting and disseminating it to others in the community. After that, electronic and perhaps paper surveys would be sent out to get input from those who couldn’t attend the meeting. When that feedback is collected, developers would draw up a draft plan for the potential development and present it at another public meeting early next year.

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