Over the past few months, Soapbox
has chronicled Walnut Hills through our 12-part On The Ground series
. We focused on the struggles and the victories of a richly historic neighborhood on the rise, tackling issues of history, development, education, health and wellness, community building and crime.
On The Ground showcased where Walnut Hills has been, how far it’s come and where it’s going, thanks to community, private and public development efforts. But while this segment of our coverage is ending, the neighborhood’s story is far from over.
To celebrate the people and places contributing to Walnut Hills' unmatched vitality, Soapbox
will host a community-wide event on March 23 at The Baldwin
, a $100 million redevelopment project from Neyer Properties
that sits at the entrance to Walnut Hills and Eden Park.
Rediscovering former elegance
Dwight Hamilton Baldwin started out as a music teacher, but his love of music eventually led him to open a piano store in 1862 in Cincinnati. That store grew into the Baldwin Piano Co., which began making pianos in Walnut Hills at the end of the 19th century.
By 1925, Baldwin had produced more than 11,000 pianos from its two plants, both of which were located on the same parcel of land near Eden Park. The seven-story building, known in the neighborhood as Grand Baldwin, was built in 1921 as the headquarters for Baldwin Piano until it exited in 1984.
It was then converted into office space by Corporex Cos. in 1987. Corporex built the adjacent 12-story office building in 1990, also known as Baldwin 200.
The Baldwin remained office space for about 30 years, until Neyer Properties purchased the site at auction in August 2014. Plans have been in the works for two years, and this summer, The Baldwin will reopen as 190 urban-reuse apartments, and Baldwin 200 has been renovated and will remain office space.
“Iconic buildings are important for the city and the region," says Dan Neyer, president and CEO of Neyer Properties. "We need to save them and keep them around for another 100 years. With the apartment conversion, we’re restoring The Baldwin back to its rightful place.”
The renovation process included exposing the original brick and ceilings, as well as opening up the original windows. Residents will be able to actually open their windows, which Neyer says is uncommon for a historical reuse project.
Apartment amenities will include stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, subway tile backsplashes, hardwood floors and large windows with views of Eden Park and the Cincinnati skyline.
The building will also feature a resort-style pool overlooking downtown, a community room with gaming tables, a 24-hour fitness center, self-storage units and an indoor dog wash.
Baldwin breaks ground, doubles down on Walnut Hills
Construction officially began
on The Baldwin in June, but demolition work actually began in 2015 in order to expose as many existing conditions as possible for the design and pricing phases, says Mike Grable, construction project manager for Neyer Properties.
The Baldwin is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so all exterior work had to be reviewed and approved by the State of Ohio and the National Parks Service. In July 2015, the project received over $4.8 million in state historic tax credits
A new roof and windows are currently being installed, and repairs to the brick and limestone will begin this spring.
When the building was converted to office space in the 1980s, much of the original interiors and equipment were likely removed. However, the original clock tower mechanism and some of its gears still sit in the clock tower.
“Even though the clock had been converted over to electric power, the mechanism is still there,” Grable says. “We also found handwritten notes on the concrete walls that appear to track piano legs and other parts.”
But Neyer Properties isn’t just working on the preservation of the Baldwin site. The project also includes renovating the adjacent 12-story office building for TriHealth (which plans to move its headquarters to Walnut Hills later this year) and renovating an existing parking garage. Neyer Properties is also in the early planning stages for a hotel at the site, but construction for that portion of the project is still a few years off.
Broad-scope plans are to create a complete campus at the entrance to the neighborhood in order to better serve residents and visitors.
Neyer is working with Cincinnati Parks to develop a new park at the intersection of Elsinore and Gilbert avenues; they’re also in talks with the Cincinnati Art Museum on long-term plans to create a new entrance to the museum off Eden Park Drive. A path would take guests on an “art loop” from Gilbert up to the museum.
“It would create a vibrant, interactive path into Walnut Hills, as well as transform the gateway to Walnut Hills, Eden Park and Mt. Adams,” Neyer says.
For Neyer, this project was a long time coming, both personally and professionally.
“I’ve been seeing this building for 50 years, since I was 7 years old,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to own it, and now I do. My goal is to make The Baldwin part of the community again.”
Neyer sees the Baldwin as a place for residents and the larger community
. It will play host to community events and could serve as a gathering point for the start of races. There are also plans to bring in artwork from CAM to showcase in the lobby.
Blues at The Baldwin, March 23
To recap the On The Ground series and celebrate everything Walnut Hills, Soapbox
's "Blues at The Baldwin" event will feature small bites from neighborhood favorite Just Q'in, craft beer provided by Listermann Brewing, wine and a mixture of blues, soul, R&B and gospel music from Walnut Hills native and accomplished pianist Fathead Davis.
The event is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and is free and open to the public. To register, click here
At 6 p.m., guests will hear from Neyer and CASTO, the developers of The Baldwin project; featured members of the community, including representatives from The Economics Center, which recently released its On The Ground Benchmark Study for Walnut Hills; and recognition of its STEP school 2017 recipient, Fredrick Douglass Elementary School.
Following our short program, visitors can join small group tours of three finished Baldwin apartments until 7:15 p.m.
On The Ground in Walnut Hills is underwritten by Place Matters partners LISC and United Way and the neighborhood nonprofit the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, who are collectively working together for community transformation. Additional support is provided by development partners Neyer Properties and CASTO. Data and analysis is provided by The Economics Center. Prestige AV and Creative Services is Soapbox’s official technology partner.
The event is being held in partnership with CASTO and Neyer Properties.