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Permits for 2 parking lots were filed right before a ban on new surface lots took effect

1119 Main St
Becca Costello
/
WVXU
The lot at 1119 Main St used to hold the historic Davis Furniture Building. Now the owners want to turn it into a surface parking lot.

Over-the-Rhine and Downtown may each get a new parking lot despite a temporary ban on new surface parking.

Council voted unanimously Wednesday to halt new parking lots in the Downtown Development Zoning District, which includes part of Over-the-Rhine. But a developer requested a parking lot permit the day before the final vote, and another requested a permit Wednesday.

Council Member Mark Jeffreys proposed the ban and says he’s disappointed.

“We made our intentions known — this is what the process is going to be. We're going to file something, there'll be opportunity for everyone, including any property owner, to provide input,” Jeffreys said. “Somebody coming in under the wire, frankly, is disrespectful of that process. I think it's disrespectful of the people of Cincinnati. Certainly it's within their legal right, but I just think it's wrong.”

The permit filed Tuesday is for 1119 Main Street, a lot that previously held the historic Davis Furniture building. Part of the roof collapsed in June, forcing demolition of the vacant building.

The lot is owned by the Stough Group, which tried to demolish the building eight years ago, saying it was too expensive to renovate the structure. The city’s Historic Conservation Board denied the request.

By the time it was demolished this year, it had been vacant for nearly two decades. CEO Scott Stough declined to answer questions about the parking lot project Thursday, or to provide a statement.

The permit for a private parking lot has not been issued yet; it requires several review steps before it can move forward.

The permit requested Wednesday is for a 108 x 30-square foot lot at 112 W. Court Street, between Elm and Race. Ian Kanu, managing director of Parkin Pals, says he wants to add a public parking lot there.

"People don't want to parallel park on the street ... you can get sideswiped" Kanu said. "So saying that, 'Oh, there's all this available on-street parking,' that's irrelevant."

The changes don't apply to parking garages, just surface lots, which Kanu says isn't fair.

"Basically, if you've got a little more money than somebody else, you can still create a parking structure," he said.

Both 1119 Main and 112 W. Court are zoned so that only "accessory" parking is allowed, meaning parking restricted for a building within 200 feet of the lot. Kanu will have to ask for an exception to that rule in order to open a public parking lot.

Council approved the ordinance Wednesday afternoon and it became effective immediately; it's not yet clear if Kanu's application was filed before then.

An empty grass lot
Becca Costello
/
WVXU
The owner of 112 W Court St wants to turn it into a public parking lot.

Meanwhile, the temporary ban is in place for the next three months while city administration studies the idea of making it permanent. That process will include community engagement.

The “freeze” is an Interim Development Control overlay district. Without it, anyone can get a “by right” permit for a surface parking lot as long as they check all the right administrative boxes. The IDC adds a layer of review where the city’s Department of Planning and Engagement can deny a permit.

The IDC could be extended for another nine months with council approval. It doesn’t prevent changes to existing surface lots, like resurfacing, re-striping, or adding new fencing, lighting, or landscaping.

Jeffreys says he proposed the change because there are already 39,000 parking spaces Downtown, not including street parking, and utilization of street parking in the area averages about 37%, meaning more than half of all street parking Downtown is vacant, on average.

Jeffreys said Thursday he’s met with some residents and developers in the area and has seen positive reactions so far.

“I think they see what the vision is, which is we need to build a city that's vibrant in terms of people walking around Downtown, living, working, going to Downtown for entertainment," he says. "But then also economically vibrant — the city earns more from better use of that land than surface parking, both in earnings tax and property tax.”

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.