The R2 development group is proposing to redevelop four properties (1009, 1011, 1013, and 1015 Delta Avenue), located along the west side of Delta just north of UDF, into a combination of rentable townhomes and one-and two-bedroom apartments. These properties are located within the Mt. Lookout Urban Design (UD) Overlay District which was established to preserve the character of the Mt. Lookout business district and allow our community to help guide physical and aesthetic development of the area (more information about the UD district is below). The redevelopment of these properties has been in discussion since 2019.
The development group submitted a proposal and application for relief from zoning code standards to the City in 2020. Following hearings held by the City’s Zoning Hearing Examiner (ZHE) and later, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), several of the developer’s requests for relief were denied for two reasons:
- The existing buildings on the properties do not meet UD standards for the demolition of buildings in an UD district.
- The developer’s proposed structure was not compatible nor consistent with the Mt. Lookout Square business district in terms of its bulk, shape, massing scale and architectural design.
In December 2020, the development group filed an administrative appeal with the State of Ohio, challenging the City’s ZHE and ZBA decisions which prevent them from proceeding with their development as proposed.
In late February 2021, they submitted a new proposal and zoning relief application to the City for review and approval. A hearing with the City’s Zoning Hearing Examiner to review the application was held on March 31, 2021. The MLCC testified in opposition to the application and on April 29, the Zoning Hearing Examiner issued a decision that approved all of the development group’s variance requests, effectively granting permission for the development to proceed as proposed. The Mt. Lookout Community Council is currently appealing that decision.
The 2020 Development Proposal
The development group’s 2020 proposal consisted of two phases. Phase A (the Delta development) was comprised of the four properties along the west side of Delta. Phase B would involve 3152 Linwood which includes the Mt. Lookout Shoe Repair building as well as the existing apartment building behind it. The plan submitted to the City focused only on Phase A, which included:
- Five townhouses (rentals) constructed at street level along Delta Avenue
- A two-story parking deck behind the townhouses for residents, plus some surface level parking for guests, creating a total of 54 spaces
- Three stories of one and two bedroom apartments (31 total) built on top of the parking deck, creating a five-story structure
- Overall height: 63.75 ft on the south end; 58.5 ft on the north end
- Overall length: 170 ft
In February 2020, the development group submitted an Application for Zoning Relief to the City. The application contained multiple variance requests, including relief from Urban Design District Overlay development standards. If approved, the variances would allow them to proceed with the project as proposed.
A Community Advisory Committee comprised of Mt. Lookout residents and business owners convened by the MLCC reviewed the application and submitted comments to the City for consideration. In general, the comments objected to the proposed development based on its bulk, shape, massing scale and architectural design. We argued that the proposed design is not consistent nor compatible with Mt. Lookout Square’s Urban Design Overlay District and that the proposed building would dominate the Square and irrevocably alter its character. Comments emphasized that the proposed complex should adhere to the development parameters prescribed for the Square outlined in the 1998 Mt. Lookout Urban Design Plan and the Mt. Lookout Urban Design Overlay District (Chapter 1437 of the City of Cincinnati’s Zoning Code).
Following a hearing held in May 2020, City’s Zoning Hearing Examiner (ZHE) agreed with the community’s assessment and denied the developer’s request for relief from the UD development standards. The developer appealed the decision and the case was brought to the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) in October 2020. Following testimony from the developer and members of the MLCC board, the ZBA affirmed the ZHE’s finding that the proposed design was not consistent with the character of the Mt. Lookout Urban Design Overlay District, and once again, the developer was not able to proceed with their project as proposed.
2021 Development Proposal
At the end of February 2021, the developer submitted to the City a new application for zoning relief based on new site and building specifications. Key proposal elements include:
- Five townhouse rental units fronting Delta Avenue;
- Twenty-two one- and two-bedroom apartments;
- One deck of parking containing 25 spaces; 13 additional spaces are provided in a surface lot behind the apartments
- Overall height: 57 ft on the south end; 50.5 ft on the north end;
- Overall length: roughly 160 ft (this measurement is estimated based on drawings provided; specific measurements of the building’s length were not listed in the application nor given to us).
The relevant application documents and conceptual renderings below:
- 2021 Application for Zoning Relief – Part 1
- 2021 Application for Zoning Relief – Part 2
- Site Plan
- Front Elevation
- Rear Elevation
- Front and South Side Perspectives
- Floor Plans
- Profile Comparisons of 2020 and 2021 Concepts
In the March 31 hearing with the Zoning Hearing Examiner (ZHE), MLCC representatives argued that the revised design continues to not be consistent nor compatible with the existing business district in terms of scale, bulk and massing. We also argued that the development group’s request for a use variance that would allow demolition of the existing buildings on the properties is a legislative request and cannot be approved by the ZHE. On April 29, the ZHE issued a decision that approved all of the development group’s requested variances. The MLCC is currently appealing that decision.
Urban Design Overlay District
Mt. Lookout Square is designated as an Urban Design (UD) Overlay District. This is an added layer of zoning that was requested by the community and approved by multiple City departments, the City Planning Commission and City Council, for the purpose of protecting and enhancing the physical character of our business district and ensuring that infill development does not adversely affect the physical character of the area. The standards of the UD district, as outlined in Chapter 1437 of the City of Cincinnati’s Zoning Code, enforce Mt. Lookout’s Urban Design Plan which was developed to allow our community to thoughtfully guide design issues and the physical development that occurs in the district.
Links to documents related to the this project are provided below.
2020 DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL
Development Concepts – 7/16/19
Community Meeting Notes – 7/16/19
Developer’s Application for Zoning Relief – 2/18/20
Exhibits 1 through 4 – 2/18/20
Exhibits 5 through 9 – 2/18/20
Exhibits 10 through 12 – 2/18/20
Revised Side Section, Additional Information – 3/18/20
Revised Site and Grading Plan – 3/18/20
Revised Side Section – 5/4/20
Revised Conceptual Design – 5/11/20
MLCC Letter to City of Cincinnati Buildings & Inspections – 3/24/20
Architectural Comparisons – 3/24/20
Buildings and Inspections Staff Report – 5/15/20
MLCC Special Community Meeting Presentation – 5/20/20
Developer’s Application Supplement – 5/21/20
MLCC Letter to the Zoning Hearing Examiner – 5/25/20
MLCC Presentation to the Zoning Hearing Examiner – 5/28/20
Zoning Hearing Examiner Decision – 7/22/20
Developer Appeal to Zoning Hearing Examiner Decision – 8/21/20
MLCC Letter of Opposition to Appeal – 10/15/20
MLCC Presentation to the ZBA – Opposition to Appeal – 10/15/20
Zoning Board of Appeals Decision – 12/7/20
2021 DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL
Developer’s Revised Application for Zoning Relief – 2/24/21
MLCC Letter of Opposition to Revised Application – 3/26/21
MLCC Presentation to the Zoning Hearing Examiner – 3/31/21
Zoning Hearing Examiner Decision – 4/29/21