Here’s what 3CDC found hidden at the Chong

Here’s What 3CDC found hidden at the Chong

While Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) doesn’t know exactly what it will do with the former Chong building at 616 Race St., the nonprofit developer wanted to dig deeper into the building’s history.

Joe Rudemiller, spokesman for 3CDC, said as the organization was working to understand the history of the building, they realized its original façade was still there. 3CDC hired O’Rourke Wrecking Co. to demolish the existing brick façade, which was put up in the 1950s, to see the condition of the original façade.

“It helps us in a number of ways to understand the condition it’s in and the related expense to restoring and retaining that,” Rudemiller told me.

3CDC worked with Ann Senefeld of Digging Cincinnati History to determine the history of the building, which was originally constructed in roughly 1887.

According to 3CDC and Senefeld’s research, the building was built between 1887 and 1891. It is a six-story, brick structure. In about 1900, it became Mitchell Furniture Store. From about 1936 to 1949, the building was home to Newberry Co.

In about 1951, the building was renovated with a new façade, removing the fifth and sixth stories for Butler Brothers Department Store. In 1955, it became Shott’s Department Store, and then Friedman Furniture in 1957.

In 1960, Kroger opened a grocery store in the building, only to close about nine years later in 1969.

Rudemiller said 3CDC believes the building will be more marketable to potential users with its historic architecture.

Aside from finding out the building’s original façade was still intact, 3CDC also discovered the building is actually two buildings that were combined at some point. Rudemiller said they don’t know exactly how that came to be, but it is clear by looking at the rear of the building(s) that they were separate at one time.

Rudemiller said that makes sense because people have said the Chong building has stairwells that lead to nowhere.

The demolition of the front façade is expected to take about four to six weeks. 3CDC does not have a timeline for what it will do next with the property.

“We have to figure that out and how much work is related to that,” Rudemiller said.

As part of 3CDC’s work on the building, the developer hopes to expand its outdoor space in the front and potentially behind the building, where there is an alleyway. The building likely will have street-level retail space, topped by office or residential above.

“This is an area of town we are really excited about,” Rudemiller said.