Sale of iconic Downtown Cincinnati hotel clears way for redevelopment

The 18-story hotel on Sixth Street, renowned for its mid-century design, has been in disrepair for years.
The former Terrace Plaza Hotel was sold in late September to Indianapolis-based dveloper...
The former Terrace Plaza Hotel was sold in late September to Indianapolis-based dveloper Anthony Birkla for $9 million.(Sam Greene/The Enquirer)
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 6:12 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - Cincinnati’s iconic Terrace Plaza Hotel officially has a new owner after a four-year legal battle between the city and its former caretaker, according to our media partners at the Enquirer.

Anthony Birkla of Birkla Investment Group purchased the Sixth Street property last week through his affiliate company, Cincinnati Development III LLC, for $10 million.

Birkla has been trying to acquire it since 2018.

“The acquisition of this property has been a long and bumpy road for Birkla Investment Group,” said Doug Moormann, vice president of Development Strategies Group, which represents Birkla on the hotel. “They are thrilled to have gained control of the building and are eager to work to stabilize the property and provide for a safety environment for the public, but also to get to work on the renovation.”

The sale comes less than five months after Cincinnati City Council voted to deny the former Terrace Plaza Hotel local landmark designation. Preservationists had been pushing for landmark status for years, noting the building’s fame as one of the first high-rise commercial projects in the United States after World War II. Denying the building the local landmark status meant that its next owner − who is now Birkla − wouldn’t have to go through the city’s Historic Conservation Board to alter its controversial windowless façade known as the “brick box.”

AIready on the National Register of Historic Places, the Terrace Plaza Hotel was also listed in 2020 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the 11 most endangered properties in the country. Despite these acknowledgments, its original design from 1948 is not protected.

APRIL 1956: An aerial view of Cincinnati prominently shows the Central Trust Tower, Carew...
APRIL 1956: An aerial view of Cincinnati prominently shows the Central Trust Tower, Carew Tower, Terrace Plaza Hotel, Hotel Sinton and Dixie Terminal.(Cincinnati Enquirer)

Over the last five years, Birkla has made his plans for the 18-story building clear: He wants to renovate the ground-floor retail portion, turn floors one through seven into parking and the hotel tower into apartments.

Moorman said Birkla is considering conducting a market analysis to determine if the two top floors of the “brick box” may be used for a different purpose such as office space. The Terrace Plaza Hotel’s original Gourmet Room is going to be brought back to life, too, helmed by the restaurant group that operates downtown’s Prime Cincinnati.Cincinnati architecture firm Reztark Design Studio has been brought in on a conceptual design.

But before all these changes happen, Birkla has to stabilize the building.Vacant for 14 years, both the exterior and interior of the building have fallen into serious disrepair after the hotel’s last major tenant, Hilton, moved out.

A chunk of the facade fell onto a parked car in 2018, and a pipe burst the following year, causing significant water damage. Moormann said the drywall has molded and there have been high amounts of asbestos found through the block-long property.

Its previous owner, Cincinnati Terrace Associates LLC, a subsidiary of Brooklyn, New York-based JNY Capital, bought the building in 2018 for $9.5 million, but plans to redevelop quickly fell through.

The company then started racking up several code violations against the deteriorating condition of the building, leading the city to file a public nuisance lawsuit against the owner in 2019. This eventually led to the property nearly being sold at a Hamilton County Sheriff’s foreclosure auction in 2021, but the owner defaulted on the mortgage, filed for bankruptcy and later lost control of the building.

The Hamilton County Landbank temporarily held the property and recently transferred the deed to Birkla’s company.

One of the many issues surrounding the aged structure includes the instability of its Sixth Street awning, which is one of the city’s top priorities in ensuring pedestrian street safety. The city also wants Birkla to remove the metal cooling tower on top of the building. Moormann said the developer plans to address these issues before moving forward with the development plan.

Details on when interior demolition and remediation will begin are expected to be determined soon. The building’s current street-level tenants ‒ Batsakes Hat Shop, Wendel’s and H&D Beauty Supply ‒ will be relocated ahead of construction.

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