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Vote could signal end for Clifton Heights landmark

Tana Weingartner

The path is now clear for demolition of a historic Clifton landmark.

A Cincinnati council committee is siding with the owners of Lenhardt's restaurant against a bid to designate it a historic building. The neighborhood group CUF sought the designation after the Windholtz family shuttered the restaurant in December and announced plans to sell to a developer who intends to tear it down.

CUF attorney Tim Mara says preserving the home is vital. "This property meets the criteria for historic designation because it was the home of John Goetz, a historically significant person, and because of the architecture of the building."

Proponents of preservation also cite the home's classic Queen Anne architeture. Community member Danny Klingler says CUF followed the city's procedures. "In this case, the right thing to do is stand up for the community process. It's not the easy thing, but I believe you have the courage to do it."

The home once belonged to beer baron John Goetz, but earlier this year the city's planning commission ruled it does not meet the standards for historic designation. That reiterated what the Windholtz family was told years earlier when they too asked about historic designation but were told no. With that in mind, the Windholtz's attorney, Tim Burke, says the family then began openly developing the property for sale with plans to use the proceeds to fund their retirement.

"Frankly," he says, "This has become a tool for the community in an effort to block this sale, and in an effort to block the development from taking place."

The Goetz House is more than a hundred years old and in need of major repairs. It sits at the end of Clifton's Uptown district that's seen numerous new developments, including the most recent USquare project.

Those opposed to the historic designation argue updates throughout the years have negated the home's historic features. They also argue the designation would have trumped the Windholtz's personal property rights.

"This is not courage to take this away," says George Brunneman. "This is robbery. This is a criminal behavior to go in and tell a family that has been working there for 50 years that what you have is not yours and you cannot profit from it."

Those who wanted to save the home say it could have been repaired and say once it's gone, there's no getting back that piece of history. They argue it's important to preserve Cincinnati's architecture and insist another buyer could have been found that would not tear down the house.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.