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Cincinnati purchasing former Saks building for $3 million

Saks Fifth Ave Cincinnati store closing
Bill Rinehart
The Saks Fifth Avenue department store closed permanently at the end of 2022.

The city of Cincinnati will spend $3 million to purchase the now-empty location of the former Saks Fifth Avenue Downtown. The department store permanently closed at the end of last year.

It’s a key spot for Downtown development, located a block west of Fountain Square. It's also a block away from the Duke Energy Convention Center and within the area slated to be a "convention district" in the future.

"This is a really an anchor property for that district," said Mayor Aftab Pureval. "Paired with whatever is going to happen with Terrace Plaza, this is a really exciting time for our business district."

Officials say there are no immediate plans to redevelop the property.

"We always hate to see a business close," said Council Member Jeff Cramerding. "But with so much exciting things going on in that section of Downtown, I think it's important that the city does retain site control. And I think that whatever goes in there is going to be, frankly, a better fit than Saks was and add more vitality and energy in that critical block."

"I know we don't know what's going to happen with it, but I'm hoping it'll definitely include mixed income housing so that we can have some affordable housing included with it," said Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney.

The city owns the land and was leasing it to Saks, but it doesn't own the building. The purchase is for "improvements" to the lot, meaning the building. Agreements for other parts of the building will remain, like the Hyatt Regency ballroom.

The city's estimate for fair market value of the building is $2,595,000. Instead of entering a binding arbitration process with Saks over the market value, the city offered the $3 million purchase price.

The funds come from the Downtown South/Riverfront TIF District fund, which holds property tax revenue from within the district to be spent on projects that benefit the public in the same area.

Cincinnati Council unanimously approved the deal Wednesday.

Updated: January 25, 2023 at 4:26 PM EST
Corrected: January 24, 2023 at 4:03 PM EST
A previous version of this article had the incorrect location of the building from Fountain Square. It has been corrected.
Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.