Cincinnati’s iconic Terrace Plaza Hotel officially has a new owner after a four-year legal battle between the city and its former caretaker. Anthony Birkla of Birkla Investment Group bought the 74-year-old property at 15 W. Sixth St. last week through its affiliate, Cincinnati Development III LLC, for $10 million. The Indianapolis-based developer has been trying to acquire the 600,000-square-foot modernist structure 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 a safe environment for the public, but also to begin renovations.”
The sale comes less than five months after the Cincinnati City Council voted to deny the former Terrace Plaza Hotel local landmark. Preservationists had pushed for landmark status for years, noting the building’s fame as one of the first commercial high-rise projects in the United States after World War II. Denying the building local landmark status meant its next owner — who is now Birkla — didn’t have to go through the city’s historic preservation board to change its controversial, windowless facade known as the “brick box.” of historic sites, 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 accolades, its original 1948 design is not protected.
Over the past five years, Birkla has been preparing his plans for the 18-story building: He wants to renovate the retail section on the ground floor, convert one to seven floors into parking and the hotel tower into apartments.
Moorman said Birkla is considering conducting a market analysis to determine if the top two floors of the “brick box” could be used for another purpose, such as office space. The Terrace Plaza Hotel’s original Gourmet Room will also be brought back to life, managed by the restaurant group that operates downtown’s Prime Cincinnati. Cincinnati architecture firm Reztark Design Studio has been brought in for a conceptual design.
But before all these changes take place, Birkla must 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, the Hilton, moved out. Part 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 been cast and large amounts of asbestos have been found throughout the block-long property.
Its former 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 began racking up numerous code violations against the building’s deteriorating condition, which led to the city filing a 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.
Hamilton County Landbank temporarily held the property and recently transferred the deed to Birkla’s company. One of the many issues surrounding the old structure includes the instability of its Sixth Street awning, which is one of the city’s top priorities for ensuring pedestrian safety. The city also wants Birkla to remove the metal cooling tower on top of the building. Moormann said the developer plans to address those issues before moving forward with the development plan. Details of 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.
Sydney Franklin reports on the real estate business in Cincinnati. Follow her on Twitter @sydreyfrank_ and send story tips to [email protected]