Thursday, September 11, 2003

City rejects $20M condo project in E. Price Hill

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

EAST PRICE HILL - A developer wants to build a $20 million condo project in a struggling west-side neighborhood - but the city has rejected his development plans because the five-story building is deemed too big.

Developer Craig Hilsinger plans to build 55 luxury condos - ranging from $300,000 to $450,000 - on Mount Hope Avenue, with views of downtown Cincinnati and the Ohio River.

But in a 10-page decision last week, city architect Robert H. Richardson said the building was too large and would "exceed the equilibrium of the structure-vegetation relationship." Special zoning approval was necessary because the development is in a hillside district.

The city's decision has reignited the debate over hillside development in the city at a time when city officials are trying to turn back blight in East Price Hill.

It's not that the building would block other people's views of downtown, opponents argued in a hearing last month. It's that the building is so large that it is "out of balance" with its surroundings and would disturb views of Price Hill from downtown.

"I think that's crazy," said Councilman John Cranley, who lives on nearby Maryland Avenue. "We have to be mindful of aesthetic and architectural concerns, but with that view, we can create the kind of urban excitement of Mount Adams."

Hilsinger's lawyer, Joseph L. Trauth Jr., said he would appeal to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

"A $20 million project that would enhance East Price Hill tremendously was turned down because some subjective architectural criteria were not met," Trauth said. "This is why the city is losing population. This is why our homeownership is in decline. These are the kind of myopic decisions that are ruining our city."

But Cranley conceded his neighbors are split. Price Hill Civic Club president Pete Witte supports it. Frank Hollister, president of the East Price Hill Improvement Association, opposes it.

"Politically, it's not a clear-cut issue in Price Hill right now," Cranley said.


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