Monday, September 15, 2003

Tour lets visitors imagine lifestyle of urban elegance


'Who wouldn't want to live here? It's like the Empire State Building, Cincinnati style.'

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DOWNTOWN - With one look at the towering windows, sky-high ceilings, hardwood floors, stainless steel kitchen and chic furnishings, Torgit Urton was hooked.

"I am in love with this one," said Urton, 33, as she walked through Kinsey Flats, a warehouse on Fourth Street transformed into loft apartments.

The Fort Wright resident was browsing downtown's newest and coolest places to live during Sunday's Downtown Tour of Living. The tour, in its fifth year, featured 17 buildings in the Central Business District and Over-the-Rhine that have been converted into apartments, townhouses and condominiums.

In Kinsey Flats at 331 W. Fourth St., 16 of the 25 units were already rented when the tour began - and construction is still going on.

"We are seeing a lot more interest this year," said Dino Pangallo, one of the owners of Middle Earth Developers, which is developing Kinsey Flats.

More people are making downtown and Over-the-Rhine their home. In the first seven months of this year, condo sales in the area increased 300 percent over all of last year, according to survey compiled for Downtown Cincinnati Inc.

The tour is designed to showcase the upside of urban living - cool spaces.

Exposed beams, exposed brick walls, fireplaces, wide-planked hardwood floors and exquisite views are elements in many of the renovated spaces.

"When you think about where you live now, it's so boring," said Urton, who is considering moving downtown. Her favorite feature in the $745-a- month Kinsey Flats unit was the open kitchen and raised bedroom.

"I love that feeling," she said.

Urton said she feels safe in the Central Business District, but not in Over-the-Rhine. She considered a building in Over-the-Rhine.

"It looked beautiful," she said. "But I wouldn't feel safe walking outside."

The stigma of the 2001 riots is beginning to fade from the area, but fears of crime and violence are still there.

"I feel a little safer," said Sean Simonson, 31, who used to live in Over-the-Rhine at Jackson and 12th St. "But I never really felt unsafe in Jackson Lofts."

After a stint in Chicago, he moved to Covington, but has decided to live downtown again. He moves into Kinsey Flats in November.

But Sunday, Simonson and his friend Christi Gretchko, 30, were checking out the 14th floor penthouse in the American Building on Central Avenue.

"This has the penthouse feeling," Simonson said, of the elevator that opens directly into the condo.

"Who wouldn't want to live here?" Gretchko said, peering off the 14th balcony. "It's like the Empire State Building Cincinnati style."

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Email bkelly@enquirer.com




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