Three years ago, New York City native Noah Smith purchased the Gerke Building, which he's calling Kool Cellar
, at 132 W. Court St. Because of the building’s unique characteristics, he envisions the building becoming a brewery or a restaurant.
The Gerke Building was designed and built by German immigrants in 1861, long before mechanical refrigeration. Instead, the building is fitted with a lager cellar, which was used to ferment beer that needed to be kept at cool temperatures. There are lots of buildings like the Gerke Building around town, but it has one of the deepest and most well-preserved lager cellars.
Beneath the 21-unit apartment building lies a 1,600-square-foot storefront that Smith says would make a great brewery or restaurant space. Below that is the upper cellar, which is 1,200 square feet and has an 11-foot ceiling. Then comes the lower cellar, which has an 18-foot ceiling and stays at 58.6 degrees, no matter the temperature outside.
Smith wants to rent out Kool Cellar, or part of it, for free because starting a business is an expensive venture. Another option for the space is a production facility for aging cheese, wine or even mushrooms—a less expensive option that would allow the storefront to be rented separately from the cellar.
Smith is a landlord and condo developer in New York City, and when the market went south, he began to look elsewhere for development opportunities. After looking at several buildings in places like Fort Dodge, Iowa, Smith came to Cincinnati. The city was in transition, and he wanted to be part of it.
“I really like what’s going on in Over-the-Rhine
,” Smith says. “There’s lot of energy here, and Cincinnati has the promise of becoming a destination city.”
The Gerke Building was the first one he purchased in Cincinnati, and he now owns the Thunderbird Apartments in East Walnut Hills
and the Manifest Gallery
building, along with a few others.
“There’s so much happening below Liberty Street in OTR, but above Liberty, not much is happening,” Smith says. “I want to see development happen there, and that’s where I’m starting.”
By Caitlin Koenig
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