325 East 8th Street · Cincinnati, Ohio · 45202
Our East 8 Lofts residential redevelopment breathed new life into an historic industrial building. But moreover, it brought a new wave of residents to an underused downtown Cincinnati neighborhood, stimulating its revitalization and starting the engine of a new boom that’s now activating the area, 24/7.
Downtown Cincinnati boasts a rich collection of intact historic buildings; turn-of-the-century structures that offer a visual nod to the river town’s legacy of commerce and industry. But it wasn’t long ago that many of these storied properties sat vacant. During the second half of the 20th century, Cincinnati—like many cities of America’s Rust Belt—was plagued by decades of decline as technology, and changes in economic trends and trade patterns, led to the deindustrialization of the region. By the 1990s the Queen City’s inner neighborhoods were marked by abandoned properties, poverty and crime: no live, no work, and no play to be found. At the time, NAP Partner Tony Hobson sat on a civic board of business leaders and city stakeholders searching for a way to reinvigorate the city’s declining neighborhoods. “Cincinnati is our hometown, so we knew we wanted to play a role in its revitalization,” says Hobson. The vision: Transform abandoned buildings into residential lofts and build a renewed residential base downtown.
We had a vision to bring life back to an important Cincinnati neighborhood.
Cincinnati is our home and we’re committed to its continued success. We said this needs to happen, so we made it happen.
In 1998, we purchased an early 1900s, six-story Chicago-style commercial building on East 8th Street, inside the central business district: the former home of the Schuster Electric Co. (Its name still marks the brick exterior.) The restoration would convert this space where electrical components were once manufactured into lofts with the amenities modern apartment dwellers desire—all while embracing the character of the space’s industrial beginnings. The stairways, structural system and elevator shafts would remain; new mechanical, electrical, plumbing and sprinkler systems were required. By August of 1999, the revitalized 67,000 square-foot property was ready to welcome tenants to 45 residential units with oversized windows and 20-foot ceilings. East 8 Lofts was fully rented within 60 days.
The demand for downtown housing in the neighborhood (dubbed St. Xavier Park for the St. Francis Xavier Church nearby) started slowly; East 8 Lofts’ success proved the potential of the area and plans for new residential developments nearby were also taking shape as a national trend toward city living grew. The riots of 2001 centered in nearby Over-the-Rhine brought momentum to a halt however, setting back initial progress. But they also led to extensive analysis of the social and economic state of the city, and an intense, renewed desire to restore its heart.
In 2002, we completed our second residential project, Sycamore Place, converting the former Krippendorf-Dittman Shoe Company factory into 105 residential units, and began plans for Seven at Broadway, a residential tower to sit atop a city-owned parking garage. Others began to take on historic rehabilitations in the area too, and the residential development efforts continued steadily, boosted by tax incentives and the creation of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC), in 2003. Additionally, the influx of residents prompted retailers and restaurateurs to take a chance on St. Xavier Park, and as empty facades turned into flourishing destinations, the goal of creating a vibrant, walkable residential downtown came to fruition.
St. Xavier Park’s transformation required someone to take a big first step. Others were inspired to follow. We knew coming in early with a residential project would be risky, but Cincinnati is our home, so the uncertainty was more than worth it. It was as simple as that—and it worked. The neighborhood has continued to flourish with new projects in development, and the revolution continues: We broke ground on our fourth property in the area, 8th & Sycamore, a 17-story mixed-use project, in 2016. And with that, a place that once served Cincy’s industrial heart has found a renewed, 24-hour beat.