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King Records preservation effort likely to get $410k from Cincinnati

red brick building with historic marker sign and potted shrubs.
Wikimedia Commons
The King Records building in Evanston.

Cincinnati Council gave preliminary approval Monday for $410,000 for the King Records Legacy Foundation. If approved in a final council vote Wednesday, the foundation will use the funds to raise private dollars for preserving and renovating the historic building in Evanston.

Former Mayor John Cranley wanted to fund the project using federal stimulus from the American Rescue Plan Act, but federal rules made the project ineligible. A previous council approved $1 million for the project back in 2021, using leftover money from that fiscal year.

"Part of that million dollars is for capital, and part of it was general money so that we can seed ourselves into being at this stage right now," said Kent Butts, chair and executive director of the foundation. "It's been delayed because of COVID, administration changes, and things like that. So we're patient, but we've been working."

RELATED: What does a National Historic designation do for the King Records site?

King Records started with country music in 1943 before branching out into R&B and many other genres. Music superstars like James Brown, Bootsy Collins, and Otis Williams got their start at King Records. It shut down in the early 1970s and eventually became vacant.

"King Records is our Motown — King Records is our Stax," said Patti Collins, vice chair of the foundation and wife of Bootsy Collins. "It's a treasure, and it's up to us to make sure that we maintain that treasure by bringing the building back to life and also being able to restore the legacy."

The foundation hopes to turn the building into a community center and museum. It's not clear how much the overall project will cost; there's still about $500,000 of city money earmarked for the eventual renovation.

The group plans to use this initial $410,000 to hire a project manager, consulting and philanthropy companies to help with the fundraising effort, and hire lobbyists to pursue state and federal funding. A detailed budget will be determined through the usual city contracting process.

The effort to preserve the building dates back years. The city of Cincinnati passed local historic designation status in 2015, offering some protection from demolition. And in 2018, the city finalized a land swap with then-owners of the King site, Dynamic Industries, which had filed for a permit to tear the property down.

The site joined the National Register of Historic Places in late 2022.

Corrected: February 6, 2024 at 9:37 AM EST
A previous version of this story included a specific amount for the eventual project manager. The story has been updated to reflect those details have not been finalized yet.
Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.
Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.