Greenhills is moving forward with a housing redevelopment intended to provide single family homes that meet the demands of current-day home buyers. The Village has identified seven (7) Village-owned sites that could be redeveloped into approximately 29 new single family homes.
The Village has reviewed its plans with the National Park Service. During very recent discussions with the National Park Service, the Park Service indicated that “we’re a long way off from any concerns along the lines…” of revoking the National Historic Landmark designation.
There are many reasons for that. Greenhills has worked closely with Senhauser Architects – a well-known local architectural firm with a specialty in historic properties – to design new homes that achieve the balance of modern living requirements with the unique historic design qualities we want to preserve in Historic Greenhills. (John Senhauser is Cincinnati’s best Modernist architect and longtime chair of the Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board.) With this development, the Village is respecting the significance of the historic - and most defining - elements that led to its’ NHL designation – those being the historic layout of street and subdivision patterns in Greenhills, and taking advantage of the existing topography, as did original development in Greenhills.
The Village specifically asked Mr. Senhauser to design homes that incorporated elements of the Village’s original planning. He created a design that:
- preserves the footprint of structures previously located on the properties;
- takes advantage of the existing topography, as did original development in Greenhills;
- incorporates the appearance of a flat roof as did the original buildings;
- incorporates the unique “corner” windows that are in the original design of the buildings;
- maintains the original row housing concept; and
- maintains the original staggered setbacks for privacy.
The new designs are for 3-bedroom homes approximately 1,800 square feet in size with full basements of about another 1,500 square feet; 2-car garages; additional off street parking; open-concept kitchens, living rooms and dining rooms; and many other amenities.
The sites are scattered in the “C” and “D” blocks. All of the sites are located within the Village’s historic district recently designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. A few of the development sites require demolition of existing, vacant and obsolete structures. Though retaining structures in the District is preferable, in the case of these structures, the cost to rehab is extensive compared to the cost to build new.
These were not well-built structures in the first place. Back in August of 1936, when the Village was being constructed, the unit cost figures from the field indicated that construction costs would far exceed the preliminary estimates. The “A” and “B” blocks had been constructed with brick, slate roofs and full basements, but that was proving to be costly as funds were running low. The town’s architects responded by substituting S-type units in the form of multi-family row houses. He described them as being “inferior in layout, accommodations, construction and equipment” relative to the standard house, and “less convenient (although still livable).” He hoped that if the character of the town were well established before the S-houses were finished, the negative effect of their inferior design would be minimized. The S-houses, which had only four different plans as opposed to 31 plans for the previous houses, had to be built on flat ground. Designed without basements, porches, terraces or garages; the S-type houses would also have flat roofs and use less insulation.
These particular properties endured nearly 2 decades beyond their intended useful life. The buildings to be replaced were designed for a useful life of 60 years and are now approaching 80 years.
The Village advertised the properties for redevelopment for 3 years and received no promising offers for their redevelopment. Of concern to the Village was that an inexpensive and inadequate renovation of obsolete housing units would only result in cheap, poor quality housing and low rental rates and would not address the needed remediation or enhance and maintain the historic qualities of the existing structures.
Greenhills has also taken into consideration the need to supplement its existing housing stock with new housing in order to be an active player in today’s real estate market. Demolition of these sites presents a unique opportunity for Greenhills that will not detract from, but will instead perpetuate original concepts that went into the planning of Greenhills thanks to the carefully thought out plans developed by Mr. Senhauser!
The benefits to the community of adding newly-constructed single family homes are numerous! We feel the new homes will first and foremost maintain and preserve the integrity of the historic district by incorporating original design elements in new construction as opposed to rehab that, for example, substitutes the beautiful wrap windows with cheap vinyl replacement windows. The new homes will provide an attractive option for those wanting to live in an historic district, but not necessarily an older home. The new homes will replace rental units with single family homes and single family homes tend to attract owners who are committed to maintaining their homes and their neighborhood. The new homes will improve property values throughout the community by adding new housing stock that incorporate our historic qualities as well as today’s amenities. Finally, the new homes will attract new residents to the Village.
The Village will now be working to identify a developer for the homes. Anyone with an interest should contact the Municipal Manager, Evonne Kovach, at 513-825-2100.