$7.6 million renovation project set to transform St. Michael's complex in Lower Price Hill

Since it was built in 1847, the St. Michael’s complex has been a cornerstone of the Lower Price Hill community. But in 1998, the church was vacated; in 2007, the Lower Price Hill Community School moved into St. Michael’s space and became tenants of the Archdiocese. Within the first month of occupancy, the Archdiocese decided they no longer wanted to be landlords, and they donated the entire complex to LPHCS.
 
On June 14, renovations will begin on the five-building complex, with the help of the 2011 Historic Preservation Tax Credit from the Ohio Department of Redevelopment. The total project will cost $7.6 million; LPHCS is working to raise $2.2 million to leverage the $5.4 million historic tax credit—they’re about halfway to their goal.
 
The project will create 50,000 square feet of community gathering space, performance venues, art studios and a sanctuary for at-risk individuals—the Center for Education and the Arts.
 
“We wanted to give the space originally built for the neighborhood back to them,” says Jen Walters, executive director of LPHCS.
 
LPHCS knew from the start that the complex was too large for them—they were only using one floor of one building. So they sought out a partner that could also utilize the complex and share the burden of upkeep with LPHCS. They found a few organizations that didn’t fit with the their mission or the neighborhood, but then Lower Price Hill’s community council president suggested LPHCS talk to BLOC Ministries, and a partnership was born.
 
“We felt called to go to Lower Price Hill,” says Dwight Young, BLOC’s executive director.” “We felt like we were supposed to be there.”
 
BLOC’s eight staff members live in BLOC-owned spaces in Lower Price Hill. BLOC will work toward LPHCS’s adult education mission and help the people of Lower Price Hill further their education, but not in the traditional way, Young says.
 
When LPHCS was first given the St. Michael’s complex and realized the cost of upkeep and repairs, the organization asked neighbors what services already existed, what services they used and what their vision for Price Hill was. The message was clear: the residents wanted them to stay.
 
“People come to us for legal services and housing assistance, not just for education reasons,” Walters says.
 
Neighbors also wanted more options for their kids. BLOC’s after-school program provides art and music programs that young people might otherwise not have access to.
 
There’s an artist on staff who oversees the Center’s pottery studio and T-shirt press. “We want to create rooms for artists who can do their business on property and teach kids in the area to do their trade,” Young says. BLOC is also working to develop a photography studio for the Center.
 
“The City of Cincinnati is going through an exciting time of positive growth,” Walters says. “This project will help change the landscape of the neighborhood and the city, but it doesn’t stop here. It continues—it’s a natural progression of positive things that are happening.”
 
A breakfast session on March 13 from 8 to 9 a.m. will provide information about the project and its vision to prospective donors and community leaders; it will include tours of the facility and time with the site plans. To RSVP, call 513-244-2214 ext. 202.   
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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