"Creative Campus" in East Price Hill moves forward with historic designation

Eight largely vacant buildings in East Price Hill will be transformed into a “creative campus” under a vision from planners and developers that is getting traction at City Hall and beyond.

The vision took a big step forward in December with the initial city approval of a historic district designation for the Warsaw Avenue Creative Campus.

Neighborhood group Price Hill Will has purchased eight properties along Warsaw Avenue as well as an old firehouse it had been renting for use as rehearsal and performance space for the MyCincinnati Youth Orchestra. The eight additional properties will build on the success of the youth orchestra at the firehouse, where more than 100 children arrive every day to learn and play music.

“The first-floor spaces will serve the needs of youth and families through arts and other creative pursuits,” says Rachel Hastings, Price Hill Will executive director.

It’s envisioned that the properties will become neighborhood homes for arts groups that already serve that community, such as ArtWorks, WordPlay, and Elementz, Hastings said.

Price Hill Will had been renting the old firehouse for the last five years as a space for the youth orchestra and eventually decided to try and purchase it. Over a couple of years, the organization raised money and secured financing to not only buy the firehouse but seven other buildings, giving rise to the vision of a creative campus.

The campus will extend to the old Masonic Lodge, another neighborhood mainstay that had fallen on hard times.

Last spring, ground was broken on a $10 million restoration of the 21,000 square foot building. Price Hill Will is partnering with The Model Group to co-develop the site, which was designed by Samuel Hannaford, the noted 19th century Cincinnati architect who designed Music Hall as well as other civic gems. The Masonic Lodge renovation is now more than halfway finished, and is expected to be completed by the fall.

The Model Group is also involved in developing the Warsaw Avenue project.

The Cincinnati Planning Commission gave its unanimous blessing for Warsaw Avenue historic designation and the issue will next go before the full City Council. The historic designation will allow developers to access tax credits, making rehabilitation of the properties more likely.

“These buildings are the civic heart of East Price Hill so they really deserve high quality renovation,” Hastings says.
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David Holthaus is an award-winning journalist and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading, or watching classic movies.