The demolition of two 1850s buildings earlier this month were the first signs that the $55 million Mercer Commons project is on its way. The most expensive project undertaken by non-profit development group 3CDC
will inject dozens of rental units, extensive commercial space, condominiums, townhomes and new construction into the Vine Street district of Over the Rhine.
The development will stretch from Vine street to Walnut street between 13th and 14th streets. It will cover nearly 3 acres with new construction, 19 renovated historic buildings, a 340-space parking garage and two green spaces. It will introduce 154 housing units and 17,600 square feet of commercial space to Over the Rhine.
The Mercer Commons project includes 30 units of affordable rental apartments for qualifying low-income residents. The units will be located in the same buildings, and have the same amenities, as 96 market rate rental units. To date, 3CDC has introduced 68 rental apartments to the neighborhood, so Mercer Commons will nearly triple that number.
The design features of a glass and metal structure to be built on Vine Street, and the demolitions, have drawn criticism from community groups.
Cincinnati's planning commission approved the project in December on the condition that the developer alter a few design features, mostly on the exterior of the large building on Vine Street. The changes are intended to bring the building in step with the "verticality and rhythm" of existing historic structures, 3CDC’s vice president of communications Anastasia Mileham said. The new design will mimic the appearance of several vertical buildings, rather than one wide building, to blend better with the row houses and other historic structures in the neighborhood, she said.
She said the new building’s design features are similar to other buildings constructed by 3CDC in the area.
“There are a lot of buildings in that surrounding area that mirror some of the design elements and materials that are used in [the new building on Vine Street],” Mileham said. “It’s a cool building and I think its going to make a statement.”
Mileham said the two historic buildings needed to be demolished so the project could “make sense financially” and still provide 30 units of low income housing. It will also allow the parking garage to be encapsulated within the interior of the development. She said there were major structural concerns with the buildings.
The first phase of construction on the project will begin in this quarter of 2012, with the third and final phase projected to be finished in the first quarter of 2013.
When it is finished, Mileham said the project will provide a vital link between the Vine Street neighborhood and the Main Street arts and entertainment district.
By Henry Sweets