Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Future Wine Cellar

This weekend, Reid and I attacked the last frontier of the property - the basement of the back building. From the last time we entered the basement, we remembered it being filled with trash to the point that the floor was not visible. There was a carcass at the foot of the stair and scary electrical boxes (that are disconnected of course) in the back.
Well, today the space wasn't too different from how we remembered it. The carcass was still at the foot of the stair and there was an old homeless person camp set up with multiple blankets and empty beer cans. we did find the floor though! It's dirt, so no wonder we didn't see it initially - it just blended in with all the other trash.
Four bags of recycling and 6 trash cans later, we've made a small dent in the amount of trash in the space. We'll be going back to clean this one out several times over the next couple weeks...
We did have one cool find old piece of glass with the words "WELCOME 1700"! I can only imagine that the accompanying window once said "TO VINE" on it...
Although the space is awful and terribly gross, someday it will have a proper entrance/stairwell and be transformed into an amazing wine cellar. It's nice to dream about when I'm down there shoveling someone else's garbage.

Monday, November 17, 2008

it's been a while, but we're still truckin'

I apologize for not writing in so long, but, after a brief vacation (that included a couple days on safari in Kenya), Reid and I are back to work!

Since my last post, the project plans have been approved by the historical conservation board. This has allowed us to apply for demolition & construction permits...and once we receive the permits we can begin work!
I have to admit, we're getting a little ancy- so we've already gotten roof and window estimates and are tossing aroung a couple new color schemes for the facade. It will really make a difference to have the windows replaced and the facade freshly painted! And a new roof will really move us forward, since we're still collecting the leaking water in a tarp! Before the new roof can be started, we'll have to frame out and build the roof deck. Afterward, our work will really be noticable!

Which color scheme do you like best? I'm leaning toward white brick and bringing out the details with reds, blues and greens. Here's a rough idea of what we're thinking about...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More on Streetcars

Check out the story that good friend and fellow demolitioner, Andy Smith, produced for the Channel 12 News.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Out with the old signage

This past week Reid and I ripped the old "Used Color TVs" sign off the front of the building! Reid unhooked the sign and tore it from the brick while I made sure noone walked underneath. The result was pretty loud and totally therapeutic. Time for another trip to the scrap yard...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Clang Clang Clang went the trolley...

Speaking of streetcars, had an interesting article in their newsletter today about the economic impact of streetcars on an area. Below is the article and it's URL.

Downtown - Proposed streetcar plan is economically worthwhile, economist reports
Cincinnati is on the right economic track in considering a streetcar system, says University of Cincinnati economist George Vredeveld. Vredeveld and his Economics Center for Education and Research scrutinized a study of potential streetcar benefits done by consulting firm HDR. The likely average net economic payoff of $315.8 million, as estimated by HDR over a 35-year period, is sound, as is HDR’s most conservative net economic payoff estimate of $186.8 million over 35 years. Even if this most conservative payoff comes to pass, “the proposed streetcar system is economically worthwhile," says Vredeveld.

The current proposal for a Cincinnati streetcar system calls for a four-mile looped system that travels from Cincinnati's riverfront, near the stadiums and the Banks project, through downtown north into Over-the-Rhine, with stops at Music Hall and Findlay Market, and then on to UC. The UC report says the proposed route is a plus because systems that link major activity centers (employment, shopping and recreation) generally experience higher levels of ridership.

Writer: David Holthaus
Source: M.B. Reilly, University of Cincinnati

Support the Cincinnati Streetcar

Cincinnati Streetcars

For all of you history buffs out there, the areas north of Liberty Street (which includes our building) used to be considered the outside of the city, and hence were free from taxes and public services like fire & police.
Over-the-Rhine was built long before automobiles (our building at 1700 Vine was built in 1870) and because of that, is very dense with many living spaces & people per square foot but very few parking spaces. This urban plan was perfect when travel relied solely on your own two feet and maybe a horse. However, attempting to retrofit this model with a car-centric design results in destruction of historical character and feel. Buildings are torn down and replaced with parking garages/lots and the walkability of the community is lost.
To prevent the destruction of Over-the-Rhine's charm, historical significance, and character, it is necessary to preserve walkability and density with compact contruction centered around a vibrant streetscape. To do this, people living in OTR need to be able to get around without cars.
The proposed streetcar will help preserve the walkability and character of OTR, allowing people to move around downtown, The Banks, OTR and Clifton with ease. It will also spur economic growth, as it has done in Portland, Little Rock, Tampa and Kenosha, Wisconsin, revitalizing the urban core.
Cincinnati is such a beautiful city. It's time to prepare it for the future by helping residents to consume less oil by design, promoting a convenient, green, walkable and lively lifestyle.

For your reading pleasure:
New York Times Article: Downtowns Across the US See Streetcars in their Future.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Speaking of falling through the floor...

Reid's foot went through the floor on Monday when we cleaned out the 3rd floor of the back building. But the good news is: Reid is ok AND the 3rd floor is cleaned & cleared out!
We ripped the wood paneling off the walls and some of the old wallpaper came falling down too. Behind the old, rotten wallpaper were many creepy crawly bugs running around all over the walls. After getting a couple bug bites and feeling totally grossed out, this experience has effectively ruined the potential for wallpaper to ever be a viable design option in my home. We'll be sticking with low VOC paint :)

More of the phantom stair

Since we discovered the stairway to nowhere, we realized that the only thing holding up the floor covering the stair is one single 2x4. This seemed a little unsafe, even though it has probably been like that for decades, so we ripped up the floor covering the stair. Now, everyone will see that it's a potential hazard and hopefully won't fall through the floor. Here is a picture from the top of the stair.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Stairway to nowhere...

While putzing around in the storefront, we ended up busting a panel out of a door that was disguised as part of the wall...and found a staircase behind it!
The stair looks as though it used to lead from the storefront up into the living space via the addition that we're planning to take down. The stair was disguised as part of the wall and didn't come all the way to the floor, requiring whomever was using it to jump out of the stairwell into the storefront. We suspect one of the previous owners wanted a discreet means of connecting his store to his living space.

No more drop ceilings!

We finally eradicated the property of its drop ceilings! We ripped the last of them out of the back building and took all of the metal to the scrap yard.
To date, we have diverted over 2 tons of scrap metal from a landfill and made over $450 doing it!

Clearing out the back building

This past week, Reid and I cleared everything out of the 4th floor of the back building. This floor is small - a one room attic space with sloped ceilings - but was PACKED with trash, construction debris, feces, and glass jars (who knows why!)
The windows have been missing for a long time and constant exposure to the elements has rotted the wood floors under the windows. The solid parts of the floor have been layered with 4 styles of linoleum over the years and as we began pulling up the layers, we found some old newspapers from 1955.
It's interesting how much newpaper ads have changed...
The articles in the 1955 paper advertised brand new buicks the size of boats and dedicated entire pages to horse racing results!
It feels good to have one floor cleaned out with the windows sealed in plastic and plywood laid over the holes in the floor. Total, we filled 6 trash cans, 10 trash bags and 4 recycling bins (with all those glass jars!)
We can't forget to celebrate the victories, no matter how small! one floor done, 4 to go - who hoo!

We have water!

This past week, Reid worked with the water company to resupply water to the property! Now we have a rudimentary faucet connected to a garden hose. And that means we can now mix mortar to tuckpoint the bricks and turn 2 doorways into windows!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Patching and Exposing a Brick Wall

Today Reid started tearing out a chimney in order to get some bricks that he can then use to "patch" a doorway. The doorway exited to the 1890's addition of the structure, the part of the structure that is condemned and that we're planning to tear down. The doorway will become a window in what is to become the 2nd bedroom.

I attempted to expose the brick on the interior of the same wall that Reid is patching.

The joy of demolition is not just getting covered in filth, but also realizing that everything takes longer than we think it will :) It's a good thing we're having fun!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More Clearing Required

Reid and I re-entered the back building of the property this past weekend to take pictures & begin clearing out the space. The back building is 4 stories tall but, at only 500-600 square feet per floor, is manageable in size. However, it is packed with furniture, mattresses, clothes, toys, appliances, and half-destroyed bathroom fixtures. A copy of Time magazine, dated from 2003, was sitting on a table on the second floor. It is probably safe to assume that noone has lived there (as a rent-paying tenant) since that time.
The building has water damage, some of the ceilings have fallen in from it, and some floorboards have popped up. There were even mushrooms growing on top of a mattress on the floor!
When Reid and I had first entered this space a couple of months ago (we had never entered the space prior to purchasing the property), we found it to be a rather depressing window into how those with mental illness live. With depakote (a medicine used for bipolar disorder) samples lying in an open, empty suitcase on the floor and a used syringe in the windowsill of the only window that wasn't boarded up, envisioning the space as something we could actually one day live in seemed impossible.

Entering the space this past weekend wasn't as overwhelming.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Green Preservation

Drawing up the plans for the space is not an easy task since there are two facets to the project: LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification and historic preservation. Combining these two design concepts has brought our building to the center of a broader national debate within the world of architecture - How can current LEED standards be adapted to better suit historic preservation?

The University of Cincinnati College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning (DAAP) is at the forefront of this broader discussion. Although "the greenest building . . . is the one that's already built," retrofitting an old building with new, energy-saving technologies can be difficult and limiting. To learn first hand the challenges involved, the DAAP program used four Over-the-Rhine buildings as green preservation prototypes for a classroom project that allowed architecture & design students to reenvision old buildings through a green lens.

Here are some of the designs that came from the project!
And, because the designs were so incredible and the students worked so hard on building a model of what 1700 Vine could become, we decided to put the plans on display for Final Friday in OTR at Cincinnati's Green General Store, Park & Vine.
The Cincinnati Enquirer even advertised the project on Saturday, June 21st, page F2.

Storefront Demolition

Although the building has a lot of potential, it's going to require a lot of work. After hauling out trash leftover from previous owners, we have begun to demolish unoriginal walls, drop ceilings, and linoleum floors in order to restore the building's original character. So far, we've filled 2 dumpsters, placed a countless number of trash cans on the street for city garbage pickup, taken 3,000 Lb of scrap metal to the scrapyard, and recycled an estimated 3 truckloads of recycling found inside. The following URL links to a video of some of the storefront demolition.
Thank God for great friends and family who are always willing to help bust things up, offer encouraging advice, and share our vision for this project!

Streetscape on Vine

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Our New Hobby

As many of you already know, Reid and I have decided to rehab an old building in Over-the-Rhine. The building is a beautiful example of Cincinnati's Italianate style, built in 1870, with rounded windows, ornate detailing along the roof, and an old-fashioned storefront, which we plan to keep commercial while designing the spaces above to become our home.
I'm not a person who would ordinarily start a blog, but this project is proving to be quite an adventure and we want our families and friends to be able to come along for the ride.