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 had been long closed and demolished. It boasted 106 rooms and 60 baths.
The building, designed by the famed architectural firm Samuel Hannaford & Sons and constructed in 1891, was 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.
G. B. Schulte Sons’ remained in business until 1930. The Globe Wernicks Service Company then leased the first three floors, installed a new front facade, built a large mezzanine floor, and reused its space to showcase its 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. The Dennison, founded at East Fifth and Main Streets in 1822, moved 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 proposed in 1966, which would have included covering the exterior brick with marble, glass, and stainless steel, but the changes were never carried out. By the dawn of the 21st century, the Dennison was worn out, having been minimally maintained for years.
In April 2010, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) entered into negotiations to purchase and redevelop the Dennison Hotel with the goal of rehabilitating the building into 63 affordable apartments for individuals with mental health and substance abuse issues. The Model Group acquired the Dennison in September and wanted to partner with the Talbert House to provide assistive services. 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 in the 1960s, 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 that the former hotel be demolished for a surface parking lot.
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 appealed the decision to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.