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Residents Working to Save Two OTR Buildings

CINCINNATI (Joe Webb) -- Plans to tear down two old buildings on Walnut have mobilized Over-the-Rhine residents to save them. 

1606 and 1608 Walnut were built in 1880.  The Freestore Foodbank bought them in 2007 and originally planned to tear them down as part of the renovation and expansion of their Liberty Street facility. 

Cincinnati's Historic Conservation Board wouldn't allow that, so the Freestore Foodbank came back to them with a detailed plan to renovate the buildings.  That plan was approved.
"We've been working with various funders to try and get these renovated and rehabbed into 12 apartments,"  Freestore-Foodbank President and CEO Kurt Reiber told Local 12. "We just found out recently that it's going to cost us an extra $1.5-million to redevelop those buildings that we really don't have."
Reiber says prevailing wage restrictions placed on the renovation raised the cost well above his $700,000 budget.  So he went back to  Historic Conservation with a request to demolish the buildings.   That request was forwarded to the Over-the-Rhine Community Council and caught the eye of resident Ryan Messer.  Messer immediately phoned Reiber and reached out to the neighborhood via social media.

"I put a post on Facebook saying there were two buildings needing some attention and TLC in Over-the-Rhine that if we don't save them they could be torn down," Messer said Monday morning.  "Probably within the first hour, I had 20-30 responses."
Messer met with Reiber Monday afternoon.  He is convinced he can find a buyer or buyers for the old properties.  Reiber says he's not committed to demolishing the buildings.  He just wants to be a good steward of his charity's money.  

Hamilton County Auditor records show the Freestore Foodbank bought the buildings for $253,250.

"We're happy to talk to all comers," Reiber said.  "The bottom line is, that $200,000 means 600,000 meals that I could provide hungry people in Cincinnati.  I don't want to be a real estate developer.  That's not what our plan is."




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