$54M Mercer Commons Project Approved, Pending Design Change

By Adrian Maties, Associate Editor On Friday, Nov. 18, the Cincinnati Planning Commission unanimously approved the $53.5 million Mercer Commons development in Over-the-Rhine after a five-hour meeting. The approval came with one condition: The developer, Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (or [...]

On Friday, Nov. 18, the Cincinnati Planning Commission unanimously approved the $53.5 million Mercer Commons development in Over-the-Rhine after a five-hour meeting. The approval came with one condition: The developer, Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (or 3CDC), has to remake designs for a 12-unit condo building that spans most of the 1300 block of Vine Street. It is expected to present its changes to the commission on Dec. 2.

Mercer Commons is part of a broader initiative to redevelop the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood near downtown Cincinnati. It calls for the preservation and renovation of 19 historic buildings and 26 vacant parcels of land on a total of 2.67 acres between East 13th and 14th streets, as well as the construction of 126 rental units that include 30 affordable units, 28 condominiums, 17,600 square feet of commercial space and a 340-space parking garage, along with a 19-space parking lot on 14th Street. The approval allows 3CDC to break ground by the first quarter of 2012. 3CDC risked losing up to $9 million in federal and state financing for the project’s affordable apartments and parking garage, had plans not been approved.

The requested changes stem from the Historic Conservation Board’s concern that parts of the plan fail to meet guidelines for the Over-the-Rhine Historic District and therefore set a bad precedent. Over-the-Rhine has been named among the nation’s most endangered historic places and is home to the largest collection of 19th century Italianate architecture in the nation.

3CDC is a private, non-profit corporation based in Cincinnati. It was formed in 2003 by former mayor Charlie Luken, and has had much success renovating Over-the-Rhine’s aging buildings in the more than five years since it began remaking the area. Mercer Commons is the largest single development the non-profit has taken on since it began working in the neighborhood. It will be a vital link for enhancing the connections between Vine, Walnut and Main streets.