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The future of the Kahn's facility in Camp Washington

It was just two years ago when Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati were discussing how to deal with the county’s jail capacity and crime management needs.  During this time, the county's need for a new jail facility came up time and time again and was the focus of the November 2007 referendum on a sales tax increase to pay for such a facility.

The 15-year tax increase would have raised Hamilton County’s sales tax 0.5 percent to 7 percent for eight years which would then fall back 0.25 percent for the next seven years costing the average county resident an extra 10 cents more per day in sales taxes.

The result would have been a host of new social programs geared towards keeping people out of jail long-term and a new 1,800 bed jail in Camp Washington.

The new $198 million jail was to be built on the land of the former Kahn’s plant owned by the Sara Lee Corporation.  The site operated as a meat-packing plant from 1883 (during the Porkopolis days of Cincinnati) until late 2006.

The 15-acre site was donated to Hamilton County during the time when political leaders were searching for a jail.  The donated land was estimated to save the county $7.5 million off the cost of a new jail, but still sits unused in the heart of Camp Washington and an area that was recommended for “green industrial” redevelopment in the Growth and Opportunities (GO) Study for Cincinnati.

The GO Study identified a potential of up to 9,000 NRA of office, 485,000 gross square feet of freestanding industrial, 30,000 square feet of Flex/R&D Industrial, and 12,000 square feet of local-serving retail for the Queensgate/South Mill Creek economic opportunity area.

The report goes on to stress the importance of “reclaiming older industrial buildings because of the unique market opportunity to catalyze the rehabilitation of the buildings in the Queensgate/South Mill Creek area.”  The report then suggests that the end use could be boutique R&D space that is often found in these types of spaces.

In February of this year, Schweitzer Enterprises offered Hamilton County $1 million for the Kahn’s facility that is valued at $7.5 million with the plans of demolishing about half of the buildings on the site and converting the rest into an indoor sorting facility that could process some 300,000 tons of construction material annually that would have otherwise been sent to a local landfill.

The future of the site is still to be determined, but if community leaders are to follow the GO Study's advice, then something that preserves the structures on the site and capitalizes the location's unique structures in what could become one of the nation’s largest “green” industrial districts is still yet to be identified.

Writer: Randy Simes
Source: Hamilton County; GO Study for Cincinnati
Image Source: Archives of the History of American Psychology, and E.C.Kropp Co
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