BY PERRY BROTHERS
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Who the retail tenant will be is anyone's guess, but a new demolition date (spring 1999) and completion date (fall 2000) have been set for the Fifth & Race Tower - Parkade project downtown. City Economic Development Director Andi Udris, who was unavailable for comment, submitted a letter to Cincinnati City Council in response to a letter sent by a neighboring retailer, Bromwell's owner Gary B. Gerwe.
Mr. Gerwe was concerned about lack of parking if the city tears down the Parkade Garage, next to the Fifth & Race Tower. Mr. Udris wrote in the letter, the "city will not proceed with demolition of the Garage until it is ready to proceed with construction of a new garage on the site."
The city and Fifth & Race developer, Western-Southern Life Insurance Co. subsidiary Eagle Realty Group, have faced challenge after challenge trying to put a retail tenant on the site. The plan was to build a new home for a department store and a 700-space, or larger, parking garage. The project also would include a pad atop that could accommodate an office tower.
The deal to put a 138,000-square-foot Maison Blanche department store in the space collapsed this year when the store's parent company, Mercantile Stores Co. Inc. was acquired by Dillard's Inc. Dillard's has not picked up Mercantile's non-binding agreement to put a store at Fifth & Race, and the hunt is on for other retail tenants. "We have not reached an agreement with a retailer yet," said Herb Brown, spokesman for Western-Southern. "We're still talking to a number of possible department stores."
Mr. Brown said multiple retail tenants would be considered, if no single department store took the space.
Another delay to the project is the relocation of Walgreens drugstore, the last remaining tenant in the Fifth & Race Tower. The store's lease requires satisfactory relocation in the event of condemnation or else the owner of the property (for now Western-Southern, but the city plans to buy, then lease it to Eagle) will have to pay relocation and the equivalent of the store's annual net profits, an estimated $1 million-plus.
Walgreens, coincidentally, wanted the same site -- a block north at Sixth and Race streets -- selected by its chief Ohio competitor, CVS (Revco) Drug Co. The city has threatened to use eminent domain proceedings to take the property for Walgreens, and the property owner has threatened to fight city hall for the site. Rookwood Properties, the property's owner, has turned down the city's offers to buy the property, but no suit has been filed.
Thus, with the fourth anticipated completion date for the project set, the city and the Western-Southern's quest continues for resolution to the potpourri of prickly problems plaguing the development of that block of Race Street.
KZF, Graves to team for museum upgrade
Cincinnati architecture firm KZF Inc., in association with internationally known Princeton, N.J.-based architect, Michael Graves, have been chosen to create a master plan for the renovation and development of the Cincinnati Art Museum in Eden Park.
The art museum will announce the selection in a ceremony todayin the museum's lecture hall.
Mr. Graves and KZF have collaborated on other Tristate projects, including the University of Cincinnati Engineering Research Center.
Mr. Graves other regional projects include Cincinnati's Riverbend Music Center and the Humana Building in downtown Louisville.
Mary Hemmer starts real estate company
Mary Hemmer has launched a residential real estate concern of her own with a Crestview Hills development, Mansion Place II condominiums.
The move strikes an independent chord for Mrs. Hemmer, wife of Tristate developer Paul Hemmer Jr., who started her 10-year development career with IDI Inc. in Erlanger before becoming a managing partner with Mr. Hemmer's firm, Paul Hemmer Cos.
The new company, Hemmer Communities, expects the nine-unit Mansion Place II to be ready for occupancy early next year. Huff Realty will handle leasing.
Pinger to expand in 708 Walnut St.
Dan Pinger Public Relations Inc. has signed for another floor in the 708 Walnut St. building downtown. The 35-employee firm will occupy 18,000 square feet, up from 13,500 square feet. Tenant-finish construction will begin next week on the fifth floor. The new space will include a nursery and lounge for the children of the firm's working parents.
Citing steady growth and the desire to be downtown, the firm moved to the building from Gilbert Avenue in October.
The expansion will give Dan Pinger four contiguous floors in the eight-story office building.
Culture subject of AIA's September session
American Institute of Architects Cincinnati chapter will examine how culture is being presented in architecture at its Sept. 29 meeting.
Included in the evening discussion will be: Mabel O. Wilson of Princeton University's school of architecture; Karla Goldman, Hebrew Union College; Wallis Miller, University of Kentucky's college of architecture; Carl Westmoreland, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center; and William W. Taylor, University of Cincinnati school of Architecture and Interior design.
The reception starts at 5:30 p.m., with dinner is at 6, followed by the presentation at 7. The cost is $20 to AIA members; $30 for non-members. To reserve a seat by Sept. 25, contact AIA Cincinnati at 421-4661.