Thursday, October 17, 2002

Fire hits historic building



By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A Wednesday morning fire in a nearly century-old apartment building in Walnut Hills won't derail ongoing renovations for long.

Senior citizens should still be able to start moving into the Alexandra at Gilbert Avenue and William Howard Taft Road around March, a month later than hoped, rehabbers said.

About a third of the roof was destroyed Wednesday by the fire, apparently started by roofers using a torch, said Jim King, director of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Corp.

"It's bad," he said, "but it's not as bad as it could be."

The corporation is finishing a $12 million project to renovate the building after it stood empty for years because of a five-alarm fire in 1993.

This time, damage was estimated at $300,000, said fire District Chief Stephen Kluesener. More than 75 firefighters were needed to get inside the many "hidden voids" in the huge building, Chief Kluesener said.

The building will have 84 units. More than 130 people are on a list to become tenants.

Activists hope Peebles Corner redevelopment might follow if the Alexandra is successful.

The Alexandra, a massive example of American Colonial Revival style, was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997, then condemned the next year. When it was built in 1904, its 54 apartments made it the city's biggest apartment building.

E-mail jprendergast@enquirer.com



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