The buildings that comprise the Project are currently vacant historic buildings within the historic Over-The-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati. Over-The-Rhine (“OTR”) is one of the largest, most intact, nineteenth-century urban historic districts in the US and is believed to contain the nation’s largest contiguous collection of nineteenth century Italianate Architecture. While the specific details of the buildings in our Project aren’t fully known, most of OTR’s ornate brick buildings were originally built by German immigrants from 1865 to the 1880s.
The neighborhood has suffered from significant neglect both in terms of preserving the historic heritage of the community and in its economic condition. Since 1930, approximately half of OTR’s historic buildings have been destroyed and in 2006, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named OTR one of the eleven most endangered historic places in America. The lack of investment of any kind in this area has resulted in vacant and blighted buildings, as well as the levels of severe economic distress characterized by 56% poverty and income levels of 7.7% of the area median family income.
NTCIC identified the Project as significant due to the structural and economic benefits from historic rehabilitation in addition to the impressive breadth of experience that would be represented in the Project’s team. Developer, The Model Group (“TMG”) is one of the most experienced developers in Cincinnati, providing services that transform buildings, neighborhood blocks, and ultimately communities. These transformations become the catalysts for or the continued momentum of, broader neighborhood revitalization strategies. The General Contractor is an affiliate of TMG with 30 years of experience in the local market and has completed dozens of similar scale adaptive reuse projects in Cincinnati. The Property Manager manages nearly 2,000 units across 30 properties.
TMG acquired the properties over a two year period starting in 2014. TMG strongly believes in the neighborhood’s potential and is committed to positively transforming the community. The vision for neighborhood redevelopment is to create a Market District that is a vibrant, mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood anchored by Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest continually operated public market.
While South OTR is one of the hottest neighborhoods in Cincinnati, North OTR has yet to receive the type of investment seen in the South OTR. The success in South OTR has been in large part due to intense focus of resources and development activity. Although it has come a long way, the focus in that area continues so to ensure its complete revitalization and success. According to TMG, the broader market has just recently been in a strong enough position to support development expansion to the north, and the financing made available through NTCIC and the other financing parties were critical to enabling this new phase of development.
THE PROJECT & COMMUNITY IMPACTS
When complete, the Project will consist of eight mixed-use apartment buildings containing 68 units (of which 56 will be income-restricted units) and 22,687 square feet of commercial space inclusive of grade-level retail and one office building. The residential unit mix will include 22 studios, 32 one-bedrooms, 8 two-bedrooms, and 6 two-bedroom townhomes. The residential component is intended to provide housing for individuals and families at a mix of income levels; 30% of the units will be restricted to households earning 120% of area median income; 26% will be restricted to those earning 80% of area median income; and the remaining 44% will be market-rate. All units will provide high-quality amenities with features such as quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances, in-unit washers and dryers, exposed brick where it is an existing condition, hardwood floors, and secure entry. Some units/buildings have a common outdoor space and courtyard while some units will have roof decks where existing layout lends itself to this feature.
The commercial component will be a mix of retail and office space. The Jobs Café itself, part of the greater Jobs Café at Findlay Market project, is a social enterprise restaurant concept that will provide job training and placement for positions that pay a livable wage with benefits and offer advancement opportunity within the local restaurant industry. This program targets low-income persons and residents of the surrounding severely distressed low-income community. It is a new partnership between CityLink Center, an integrative social services nonprofit devoted to breaking the cycle of poverty in Cincinnati, and the Corporation for Findlay Market. The Jobs Café will train and place 75-100 individuals annually.
The Corporation for Findlay Market will master lease several retail storefront spaces and sublease back to graduates of their existing Findlay Kitchen incubator at below market rates as part of a small business development program. Findlay Kitchen is a non-profit organization that supports local new and existing food entrepreneurs by providing affordable access to commercial-grade kitchen equipment and ample storage space, all within a licensed kitchen facility adjacent to the Project. Findlay Kitchen partners with external programs and organizations to provide the necessary training, mentorship, and resources to aid business growth. Findlay Kitchen also serves as a conduit to wholesale and institutional customers, helping local entrepreneurs to get their products in more places.
Other retail tenants include local small businesses and a restaurant who will look to staff with graduates of the Jobs Café program. The office space will be leased in its entirety by a local architecture firm who is already located adjacent to the Project but it requires additional space to grow its business.