8 Cincinnati area buildings are coming back to life

This is the first installment of a new Soapbox series that focuses on building redevelopment. Follow writer Caitlin Koenig as she dives into Greater Cincinnati’s past and gives you a look at what older buildings are blossoming into.
 
If you know of a rehabilitated space with a story to tell, send an email to feedback@soapboxmedia.com
 

Where many people see empty shells covered with graffiti and laden with broken windows, visionary developers see the potential for new businesses and homes. Some of the city’s most unique buildings have been the home of numerous businesses, were redeveloped and now operate as something entirely different.
 
One of the most iconic of these buildings is Union Terminal, which opened in 1933 as a train station. As passenger rail transportation began to decline in the 1960s, officials had to decide what to do with the building. It housed the Cincinnati Science Center, an Amtrak station and a mall before opening in 1990 as the Cincinnati Museum Center we know today.
 
Soapbox rounded up some of Greater Cincinnati’s up-and-coming redevelopment projects, and from the looks of it Over-the-Rhine is the place to be.

 
OTR
Cintrifuse, 1313 Vine St.
Over the years, the building located at 1313 Vine St. has been a brewery, beer hall, union hall, speakeasy and the Warehouse nightclub. Currently, CORE Resources is renovating the 40,000-square-foot space into the new home for Cintrifuse. The $10-million project will yield a café, restaurant and workspace for the incubator’s startups and mentors. Cintrifuse is currently in a temporary space on Sixth Street and will move into OTR as soon the building is complete.
 
“We hope that these projects will continue the momentum that has already started,” says Paul Kitzmiller, partner at CORE. “Cintrifuse is the last remaining large parcel to be renovated between the 1300 and 1400 block, and it’s going to be occupied by a young incubator system. It will continue to help the neighborhood thrive.”
 
Pabst Bedding Company building, 1201 Walnut St.
Ever heard of the boy band 98 Degrees? Bandmates, brothers and Cincinnati natives Drew and Nick Lachey have partnered with 4EG and 3CDC to renovate the former Pabst Bedding Company building into a bar that will be featured in a reality show on the A&E cable channel in March.
 
The building, built in 1930, has been abandoned since the early 2000s. After Pabst Bedding left, it was occupied by Society National Bank and Fifth Third Bank; the Art Academy of Cincinnati purchased the property in 2007 when it relocated to OTR but never used it. 3CDC purchased the building in early 2014.

Lachey’s Bar will be in a 4,000-square-foot space on the ground floor. 3CDC and two other commercial tenants will occupy the rest of the building.
 
St. Paul’s, 1429 Race St.
If you’re a Cincinnati native, you or your family may have attended St. Paul’s German Evangelical Protestant Church, which was built in 1850. It remained an active church until the ‘80s and, like many buildings in OTR, eventually fell into disrepair. The city then purchased it and made a number of temporary repairs, but it sat vacant until 2010. At that time, the city reached an agreement with 3CDC to stabilize the building.
 
It's now being transformed into Taft’s Ale House, a brewery and brewpub that's slated to open early next year. The first floor of the church, which has a separate entrance from the street, will be called Big Billy’s Basement and feature 12 handcrafted beers, including three house staples, eight rotating house taps and one rotating tap for other local breweries. Above that will be the brewhouse floor, and on the third level, which was the church’s mezzanine, a more private space to overlook the brewhouse.  
 
219 and 221 Wade St.
Wade Street, which is a one-block stretch just south of Liberty Street, was previously unoccupied. Urban Expansion wants to change that and is currently redeveloping 219 Wade into a four bedroom, single-family home with three full bathrooms and two half baths. They’re also working on 221 Wade, which will most likely be a four bedroom, single-family home with two and a half bathrooms.

Both properties will be LEED Silver certified, which means they are built to be healthier and safer by providing cleaner indoor air. They will use less energy and water, which will lead to savings on utilities, and will help maintain their value over time.
 
Both properties were built in about 1900 and have unique aspects that you don’t find many places — 219 Wade still has the original staircase — and there will be a rooftop wet bar.
 
“Someone has to be a little visionary to move here,” says Casey Coston of Urban Expansion. “All you have to do is look at how much OTR changes in a span of months. Places you thought no one would live are now occupied.”
 
Woodward Theater, 1404 Main St.
The Woodward first opened over 100 years ago (June 18, 1913) as a movie and vaudeville theater. It operated as such until the 1930s and since then has been used for everything from a used car lot to a furniture store to a Kroger. Most recently, it served as an antiques warehouse.

In mid-November, the owners of MOTR Pub reopened The Woodward as a music venue and event space.
 

Covington
Coppins Building, 638 Madison Ave.
Most recently home to Covington City Hall, the Coppins Building will soon become a 100-room boutique hotel called Hotel Covington. The $28 million hotel project is being developed by Salyers Group and will be operated by Chicago-based Aparium Hospitality.
 
The building, across the street from the Mutual Building, was built in 1909 and originally housed Coppins Department Store; it's also been home to the Covington Industrial Club. Salyers purchased the building from the city in 2013, at which time city hall moved to a rented, renovated building on Pike Street.
 
Mutual Building, 619-629 Madison Ave.
Built in 1921, the Mutual Building was originally home to the Covington Industrial Club, which was the city’s precursor to the Chamber of Commerce. Over the years, it's held offices for Mutual Insurance Company and has been home to a number of restaurants, but the building has been vacant and in need of repairs for over 20 years. The City of Covington purchased it in 2012, and Ashley Commercial Group then purchased it at auction in June 2013. The developer’s renovation plans include creating 15 one-bedroom market-rate apartments, which will occupy the upper two floors, and 11,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor.
 

Madisonville
Fifth Third Bank building, 5900 Madison Road
The Fifth Third Bank building, which is at the center of the neighborhood’s business district, was built in 1927. Many of the historic buildings in the area have been demolished, and it’s one of the remaining pieces of historic architecture. The Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation is just beginning to remodel the building, which will feature two apartments on the second floor and restaurant space on the first floor. Once renovated, the building will serve as the center of Madisonville’s Community Entertainment District.
 
“Our hope is to get a variety of restaurants, bars and clubs that reflect the personality of the neighborhood,” says Matt Strauss, real estate and marketing manager for MCURC. “When we did the Quality of Life Plan, people said they wanted to go out on a date in their own community, and that’s our goal. Being surrounded by some of the wealthier neighborhoods, people have assumed that we’re looking to capitalize on that and cater to them. We do want their business, but we plan on putting our own personality into all of our development. And we know that, no matter where you live, you’ll like Madisonville for who we are.”

Read more articles by Caitlin Koenig.

Caitlin Koenig is a Cincinnati transplant and 2012 grad of the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. She's the department editor for Soapbox Media and currently lives in Northside with her husband, Andrew, and their three furry children. Follow Caitlin on Twitter at @caite_13.  
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