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Nine Hulks What's in store for faded gems?

STORY AND PHOTOS BY BOB DRIEHAUS

Hulk No. 1: The Crosley Building: Legendary Cincinnati radio pioneer, Reds owner and entrepreneur Powel Crosley built a radio factory and WLW radio broadcasting hub in Cincinnati's Camp Washington neighborhood in 1929, putting Cincinnati on the forefront of the world's newest medium.

Designed by Samuel Hannaford, the building was Crosley's manufacturing headquarters. Crosley left decades ago, but Core Redevelopment of Indianapolis has a $40 million plan to transform it into 180 apartments, most of which would be priced to be affordable for people making 60 percent of the Tri-State's median income.

Financing has been elusive since Core began the effort in 2014, but the project got a big boost this month when Cincinnati awarded it an $800,000 grant.

The Crosley Building

Hulk No. 2: The Hudepohl Brewery: During the 1970s and early '80s, this reporter used to accompany his dad to the the dark, dank, cold and pungent loading dock of Cincinnati's pride, the Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Co. Dad would back his Ford Granada or LTD up to the huge brick and rubber dock, and a burly worker would sling a quarter-barrel of Hudy 14-K into the trunk like it was a gallon of milk.

Hudepohl beer has a happy ending, having been acquired and revived by Cincinnati beer Baron Greg Hardman, who brews it in Over-the-Rhine. But its grand old Queensgate brewery, with its iconic smokestack, is on death row.

The Greater Cincinnati Redevelopment Authority, formerly the Port Authority, is razing the whole structure to make way for redevelopment. A chimney expert said the cost of saving the smokestack would have been nearly $1 million, a sum that exceeded officials' price for nostalgia.

Here lies the former keg dock at the Hudepohl Brewery. Photo by Bob Driehaus | WCPO

Hulk No. 3: Bavarian Brewery: Covington's hometown brewery has a happier, if not super exciting, future.

"It’s one of those iconic structures that everyone can relate to," Kenton County Administrator Joe Shriver said. "Everybody who is from the area has a relative who worked there or has some story about the brewery."

Kenton County is rehabilitating the castle portion of the brewery, tearing down less significant portions and building a new structure to house its administrators at a maximum cost of $26.9 million.

Old beams are on their way out.

But the facade, easily visible from Interstate 71/75 near the 12th Street exit, is about to be restored. "It’s the front door of all of Northern Kentucky, not just Kenton County," Shriver said.

The county hopes to open the complex for business in February 2019.

The bell tolls for Ron Burgundy.

Hulks Nos. 4, 5 & 6: West Newport's revival: Kentucky has shelled out millions to transform Ky. 9 from a cramped, littered city street into a sleek and wide connector between I-275 and the Taylor Southgate Bridge -- the one between the Purple People Bridge and the Roebling Suspension Bridge.

Newport and the region have high hopes that the new direct access will spur major development in West Newport and western Campbell County. The last $4.9 million phase of the project breaks ground this month.

The huge road upgrade has breathed new life into two grand old complexes and, developers hope, re-use of a quirky granary.

Two turn-of-the-20th Century maintenance facilities for the old Green Line streetcars buildings are being transformed by the New Riff Distillery with an $11 million project.

The buildings will house New Riff's distribution and marketing centers, administrative offices and 20,000 barrels of bourbon.

"It would have been a lot cheaper to go about 50 miles out (of Newport), but we wanted to be part of the renaissance of Northern Kentucky," Ken Lewis, New Riff president and owner, said.

Built in 1906, the Newport Car Barn is 100 feet wide but 375 feet long, stretching on forever.

The building was long vacant, but the improved access to downtown and I-275 spurred a moving and storage business to lease it in August.

Towering above its neighbors, the former Keller Hay and Grain feed mill was built 110 years ago to process grain and sell it in 50 and 100-pound bags, Co-owner Chris Jacobs said.

"They would bring in grain on railroad cars and on wagons, originally. Workers would haul it all the way to top of the tower and sift it into nine subdivided bins," he said.

Economics changed, and the granary closed. Previous owners used it for storage. Jacobs and his business partner, Jeff Ogden, bought it for a song 20 years ago.

"We took a about a ton of dead pigeons and pigeon excrement out and rebuilt the hay barn."

Before their kids' sports teams and the like took away some free time, they staged motorcycle meets inside the enormous wood structure.

Today, Jacobs and Ogden use it for a bit of storage and little else. It's held up well, but Jacobs estimates it would cost about $500,000 to properly insulate and prepare for a new business.

They've mulled plans to make it into a brewery, a distillery, a used book store and other proposals. Serious prospective buyers can get a tour and learn that the property is for sale for $750,000.

Jacobs learned his lesson about vetting callers after one told him he'd buy it if he won the lottery.

Hulk No. 7: Lunkenheimer Building: Masonry smokestacks, metal water towers, huge chutes and endless banks of paned windows encased in reinforced concrete. The sprawling Lunkenheimer factory is straight out central casting for a mighty early 20th Century manufacturing hub.

The Lunkenheimer Valve factory.

Built in 1908 by first-generation American Edmund Lunkenheimer, the foundry in Cincinnati's South Fairmount neighborhood was a highly successful valve producer, according to Clark Street Blog, even building parts for the plane that Charles Lindburgh flew on the first trans-Atlantic flight.

The factory closed in 1963, and it's undergone a few alternative uses, including artist studios. It's vacant now, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency committed this summer to remove foundry sand waste piles, PCB transformers, corrosive wastes, and "unknown drums and containers."

Hulk No. 8: Paramount Theater: Need money? See Will! For Cincinnati's Generation X-ers and older, billboards for Will's Pawn Shop, located at Gilbert Avenue and McMillan Street, were ubiquitous in the 1970s and '80s. Long before that, the grand masonry building was a movie theater in the days that Walnut Hills was a thriving business and residential center. Hard times for Walnut Hills meant the building couldn't even sustain a pawn shop, and it fell into disrepair.

The Paramount building isn't quite vacant, as the mama bird who built this nest would attest.

But Walnut Hills is on the rise, and so is the Paramount building. The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation bought the building for $750,000 in 2015, and Model Group has started a year-long, $10 million restoration project.

Demolition work has started.

Part of the larger Paramount Square project, it will eventually bear 22 market-rate apartments, six retail spaces, three office suites and off-street parking.

Hulk No. 9: Beekman grain silos: For much of the 20th Century, property along Beekman Street in Cincinnati's Millvale neighborhood was an ideal spot for transferring grain because it borders Mill Creek, the Queensgate rail yards and, later, Interstate 75.

The old silos overlook the Queensgate rail yards...

... Beekman Street ...

And the Mill Creek.

Economics changed, and Consolidated Grain closed the facility in 1993. Since then, it's changed hands four times. One of the owners began tearing it down but ran out of money.

Most of the towering concrete silos remain a highly visible landmark for people driving along Westwood Northern Boulevard and the Hopple Street Viaduct. What's to become of the hulk?

The grain mill's north face

We're stumped. The Greater Cincinnati Redevelopment Authority isn't involved, and the Cincinnati Community & Economic Development Department has no information about its fate.

A company called Solar Advantage LLC, with a Northbrook, Ill. address, bought the property in 2016 at auction for a mere $8,900. But Solar Advantage doesn't show up as an Illinois corporation on its secretary of state website, and the Hamilton County auditor doesn't have a phone number. The previous owner, Arman Muradyan of AVM Investment in Loveland, didn't know anything about the buyer.

Will it become a solar farm? Is it lost in the Twilight Zone? Stay tuned.

Created By
Bob Driehaus
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Bob Driehaus

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