Monday, March 19, 2018

The Terrace Plaza | Part 3 - The Future?

The Dennison Hotel building wasn’t anywhere near as grand or as historically significant as the Terrace Plaza. Nevertheless, it was a historic structure designed by a prominent person and located within a protected historic district. I wrote about the place briefly back in 2016, but the building eventually came crumbling down amongst political controversy that saw preservation guidelines ignored and nothing new rise up in its place. I was sad to see it go. Others took it a lot harder, which is understandable. The loss of historic buildings tears away at the fabric of what gives a city its unique identity. Cincinnati hasn’t always been the best at respecting that or even realizing it. Phil Armstrong certainly understands it, he aided in the effort to try and save The Dennison and he's the person introduced in Part 1 of this story. Ultimately, certain political elements of the city were able to force the demolition through, shrugging the building off as not much of a loss. I’ll get into more detail about the Dennison with a new post in the near future, but all this is to say that there are people like Phil who want to see historic structures saved, who realize their importance, and value their existence. That’s what drew him to the Terrace Plaza. He sees this as a chance for the community to not make another mistake, to get things right, and preserve something historic. His photographs are helping to make that case, reminding us of what the Terrace Plaza once was and could be again.

- Ornate tile work in the Terrace Plaza's upper lobby.

This section of the Terrace Plaza series will take a look at a potential, recently proposed renovation. Part 1 highlighted the building's history and Part 2 provides a more in depth look at the interior.

I can’t recommend Phil’s work enough and I encourage you to follow his efforts on his blog, through his work, and via social media. Phil’s ongoing documentation of the Terrace Plaza will hopefully help raise awareness of its potential. Various redevelopment plans have been floated over the years, but nothing of substance ever really came forward. Perhaps the latest proposal is also the strongest.

EDIT: To see a rendering of the proposed renovation, check out the Cincinnati Business Courier's August 2017 exclusive.

The recently discussed plan highlighted in the Cincinnati Business Courier would greatly transform the massive brick structure that lines the block. Much of the brick would be removed, allowing for windows that are more modern. While this would greatly affect the building’s traditional appearance, it makes the former department store space vastly more appealing to potential tenants. The ground level retail areas would also be refreshed and brought in line with the building’s new appearance.

- A current street level retailer as seen from within the building.

The tower, which housed the former hotel, could then be renovated into either a new hotel or residential units. As the above rendering shows, this proposal would transform the former bold, modernist brick-based structure into a wall of glass and light with a contemporary appearance.

- Interior of the Terrace Plaza Hotel.

The Gourmet Room would seemingly be preserved along with the terrace. To my untrained eye, this new exterior design wouldn’t clash with the hotel’s interior decorations too much (assuming those would be restored or not changed to a great degree), but could affect the building's inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places (it was added in 2017).

- One of the hotel's former rooms.

This plan was presented to the Cincinnati Business Courier in August 2017. It was developed by Anderson Birkla Partners, who just recently converted the former 580 Building into “@580,” which now combines retail, restaurants, office space, and luxury apartments. The Indianapolis-based firm has a proven track record in Cincinnati and is also renovating the Second National Bank Building. They could soon be the firm to finally revive the Terrace Plaza. Developer Anthony Birkla hasn’t pursued purchasing the building itself yet, but has shown a lot of interest, telling the Cincinnati Business Courier, “we have a lot of work to do.”

- Written in marker below the crack in the left side of a hotel window is a handwritten log tracking how the crack has spread.

Birkla’s plan would give the building a new appearance and allow for several new uses. While it would radically change the outward appearance, it also gives the building better chance of attracting and landing tenants. “It’s going to be new again,” Birkla told the Courier, stating that an updated facade would be reminiscent of how dramatically different the building was for time time period in which it debuted.

- The terrace.
- Former landscaping on the terrace.

As Birkla’s investment team navigates potential and weighs options, one thing they’ll have to consider is the building’s physical status. Although structurally sound, the building has been looted time and time again for anything of value and suffers from a lot of water damage gathered over the years.

- The view from the hotel.

- The view from the hotel.

In the meantime, people like Phil and groups such as the Cincinnati Preservation Association and the Cincinnati Preservation Collective are helping to keep the dream of resorting the Terrace Plaza alive, preserving not just a building but also a key piece of Cincinnati history. You can find links to their work at the conclusion of this piece.

- The former Terrace Plaza, awaiting a fate.

Having seen it for myself, I can't stress the importance of saving this building enough. Preserving what's left of the incredible, modern interior along with a proper revitalization would restore an iconic structure in the heart of the city. I'd love to enjoy a cold beer on the terrace, surrounded by skyscrapers, or take in the views from below The Gourmet Room while dining. The interior and setting are radically different from anything Cincinnati has currently and would harken back to a bold chapter in our history. In a city that's often been viewed as too conservative in taste and one that has a checkered history of preservation, the Terrace Plaza presents a chance for change, a new direction that complements our current urban renaissance.

Part 1 of the Terrace Plaza series highlighted the building's history. 
Part 2 took a more in depth look inside.



  1. My parent used to stay at the Terrace Hotel when I first moved to Cincinnati and it was already in sad shape. Hopefully someone brings it back to life.

  2. Great series. In my memory, the one meal I had in The Gourmet Room was in 1968-69 and the place was a 5-star at the time. The linked Lisa Murtha article says the 5 stars came in 1970 so some part of my memory is obviously wrong. I'm starting to get used to that.

    1. It could depend on where the 5-star rating was coming from. Gourmet Room had a Mobil 5-Star, which is good, but not AS good as Michelin. They could've had someone else's 5-star in 68/69.