When the Dennison Hotel on Main Street in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio closed in 2011, it marked the end of a hoteling era. The single room occupancy extended stay facility once competed with the Browne Hotel, Fort Washington Hotel, Fountain Square Hotel, and others — all of which have been long closed and demolished.
The iconic building, boasting 106 rooms and 60 baths, was once the home of the G. B. Schulte Sons’ Company, an iron and steel fabricator that manufactured springs, axles, carriage and wagon hardware, and hand tools for blacksmiths. The red brick structure was designed by the famed architectural firm Samuel Hannaford & Sons and constructed in 1891.
G. B. Schulte Sons’ remained in business until it closed in 1930. Afterward, the Globe Wernicks Service Company leased the first three floors, installing a new front facade and building a large mezzanine floor, reusing the first three floors to showcase office furnishings. The upper floors were renovated for the Main Hotel that opened in 1931.
After the Main Hotel declared bankruptcy in early 1932, it was taken over by the Dennison Hotel in 1933. The Dennison was founded at East Fifth and Main Streets in 1822, moving to Main Street only after the city condemned the building in 1931 for a street improvement project.
Not much changed with the Dennison Hotel in the ensuing decades. A facade renovation project was announced in October 1966, with the exterior brick to be covered with marble, glass, and stainless steel for a streamlined design, but the proposed changes were never carried out. By the dawn of the 21st century, it had become apparent that the Dennison Hotel was worn out. It offered few amenities for its residents and the building’s upkeep had been kept to a minimum.
In April 2010, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) entered into negotiations to purchase and redevelop the Dennison Hotel. 3CDC partnered with The Model Group to rehabilitate the Dennison into 63 affordable apartments for individuals with mental health and substance-abuse issues. The Model Group acquired the Dennison in September and partnered with the Talbert House to provide assistive services for future residents of the renovated building, tentatively called Ironworks Apartments.
The Model Group abandoned its pursuit of a renovation of the Dennison after various financing deals fell through. An affiliate of the Columbia Development Group purchased the building in August 2013.
Columbia had begun to acquire land around the Dennison Hotel in the 1960’s, razing multiple buildings totaling 1.3 acres for parking lots for a proposed office building that was never built.
Columbia sought permission from the city’s Historic Conservation Board to demolish the Dennison Hotel in March 2016, citing the infeasibility of rehabilitating the building for other uses and the “damaging effect” of supportive housing on their investments. Columbia proposed in its place a class A office building for a potential Fortune 500 company, although the rendering of the building was recycled from a proposal for the General Electric’s Global Operations Center. In the interim, Columbia requested a parking lot.
The Dennison, however, was within the Cincinnati East Manufacturing and Warehouse District, a National Register of Historic Places designated area, where any demolition proposal requires extensive review.
A four-hour Historic Conservation Board hearing on May 26 resulted in the meeting being adjourned due to its length and the need for board members to leave. A follow-up hearing was held on June 16, where Columbia reiterated that it could not rehabilitate the Dennison and that no one would be interested in purchasing the structure due to its condition. The meeting resulted in the rejection of the demolition application on grounds that Columbia did not actively seek any financing packages or tax credits towards a renovation of the Dennison, nor that it actively marketed the building for sale.
Columbia has appealed the decision to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
The fate of the Dennison may come in 2017. See what it’s like inside →