FOX19 Investigates: Who might cash in on the streetcar?
OVER THE RHINE, OH (FOX19) - Property owners along the future route of Cincinnati's streetcar are already saying it's a selling point for potential buyers and renters. They hope it'll also translate into higher property values after streetcars begin moving along the streets outside their windows. Passenger service is supposed to begin in April 2016, according to the city's latest timetable.
"I mean, it's been a dream for people downtown for a long time that we would actually have something that, you know, you could hop on here at Music Hall and just run down to The Banks," said Holly Redmond of Coldwell Banker West Shell. She gave FOX19 an exclusive look inside a building next to Music Hall that potential buyers have yet to see. The condos feature kitchens with marble countertops and, outside their living rooms, balcony views of the famous building next door as well as revitalized Washington Park across Elm Street.
Condo prices in the building range from $290,000 to the upper $300,000's, according to Redmond's colleague, Stacy Rickert.
The real estate agents are selling units in the building for Grandin Properties, which partnered with 3CDC on the project. 3CDC is a controversial part of the real estate scene in Cincinnati because some developers say the nonprofit group acts almost like an arm of city government, favors some real estate developers over others, and is a direct competitor to those it doesn't do business with.
A FOX19 investigation into Hamilton County property records in the section of the streetcar route that will go through Over-the-Rhine shows that 3CDC controls at least 174 properties worth more than $8.3 million. Its subsidiary, OTR Holdings Inc., is listed as the owner.
3CDC did not grant our request for an interview, despite repeated phone calls.
Rickert points out, though, that projects like the one she's representing likely wouldn't happen without 3CDC getting government grants to help lower the cost for developers and potential homeowners.
"These cost us more to build than what we're selling them for," said Rickert. "You know, this couldn't happen without that partnership. So city and state tax credits and gap funding is provided so that we can offer prices like this and get the high-end finishes that you get in these developments."
She says a ribbon cutting is planned for Thursday to announce the rehab project in the building is complete.
Meanwhile, over on Main Street, the owners of the Hanke Building believe the street car is already giving them a boost. The Stough family spent about $5 million in the late 1990s remodeling the building after it was slated for demolition, according to marketing director Scott Stough.
The Hanke Building, which was once home to a spectacular toy store in its early days, is now office space for a range of companies --- from an HR firm to a US Bank branch. During the worst of the Great Recession, occupancy in the building fell to about 28%. With the improving economy and the streetcar looking like a reality, the Hanke Building is now 84% occupied and Stough believes it'll be full by the end of the year.
"There are a lot of businesses that like the idea of having their retail business right outside a streetcar stop," Stough said.
Homeowners along the route will also benefit if the streetcar is a success and boosts their property values.
To see who owns a particular piece of property near the streetcar route, go to the Hamilton County Auditor's Office's website. Click on "property search" in the upper left-hand corner. When that page opens, you may search by "street address" by clicking that option on the left-hand side of the screen.
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