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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.