Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Shootouts and The Rebirth of Seymour Plaza



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Seymour Plaza looked like any other mid 60's shopping center: a long strip of storefronts lining a large parking lot. Through the years it hosted various businesses from auto repair to discount furniture. At the center of its 115,000 square feet of space - the infamous nightclub where a shootout involving rapper and record producer "T.I." began.



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- Storefront that once belonged to a barber shop in Seymour Plaza.

It's a windy, cold December day in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Roselawn. The sun is setting on Seymour Plaza both literally and metaphorically as myself and members of the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority begin touring the shuttered shopping center. The Port Authority has purchased the property and begun redeveloping it along with a few surrounding buildings. It's part of a larger plan to bring new businesses and development into once blighted properties. These photographs, made in conjunction with the Port Authority, are to serve as documentation of what was at the site prior to its intended redevelopment.

The plaza has seen better days in the past and will hopefully again in the future. Its impending demolition is to make way for light industrial manufacturing jobs. The complex sits behind more recent developments and busy roadways just off the interstate. Checkered floors and faded paint mark the first abandoned section our group steps into - a former barber shop.

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The barber shop sat next to a small business. What was recently there can't be derived from what's left standing, although an image of a man lifting weights on the outside of the building hints that it may have once been a gym.

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Then there was the former bingo hall...

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...followed by the discount furniture outlet...

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...and the auto repair shop at the end of the building.

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At the center of the complex, there were once two night clubs. "Club Elements" was a self described "reggae music lounge."

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- Inside the former "Club Elemets."

While next door: "Ritz," was probably a little bit more well known.

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- The dance floor and booths at the former Club Ritz (later known as Oasis and Aqua).

The Roselawn nightclub opened in 1997. Originally dubbed the "World Famous Club Ritz," it was known for hosting the official after parties of rap artists who would tour through Cincinnati. Ludacris, Young Jeezy and Trey Songz were some of the big names in early 2000's hip-hop that stopped by after shows to party at The Ritz. The name that brought the club into the spotlight though was T.I.

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- Entrance to Club Ritz/Oasis/Aqua.

Clifford Joseph Harris Jr. of Atlanta's Bankhead neighborhood debuted his first full length record in 2001 as "T.I." By 2006, T.I.'s single "What You Know" had debuted at the top of the Billboard charts while the rap artist also starred in the lead role of the film "ATL." On May 2nd, 2006, T.I.'s tour brought him through Cincinnati, performing a show at Bogarts. After the show, he made an appearance in the VIP section of Ritz. According to MTV News, an altercation broke out at the club when several club goers were offended by a member of T.I.'s entourage throwing money from the stage. As tensions increased, T.I. and his crew left the venue but were pursued and a shootout began on Interstate 75. By the end, four members of T.I.'s entourage were shot. One of them, Philant Johnson, died from his wounds.

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- A section of the former nightclub.

While testifying at a Hamilton County Court in 2008, T.I. denied throwing money at the crowd, an incident which allegedly started the altercation. He told the court:
"You see, you make it rain in strip clubs around beautiful women taking their clothes off, not in packed holes in the walls. You don't throw money in there. That's not part of the celebration."
T.I. also claimed that he believed the bullets were meant for him - he escaped the incident unscathed. The shootout had major repercussions for the club which already had a reputation for fights, shootings in the parking lot, and car-jackings. On December 7th, 2009, 21 year old Dexter Burroughs was fatally shot inside The Ritz after becoming involved in an altercation. His death prompted a protest lead by his family who tried to have the club's liquor license revoked in hopes of shutting the establishment down. The club managed to stay open though, rebranding as "Oasis" and later "Club Aqua." A friend of mine who went there once in 2010, described it as an "experience" She stated that it had "nice red, circular booths and a mirror so everyone could watch themselves 'twerk.'" She also added that she would've never advised anyone to have used the restrooms. 
It seems the club finally shut down for good sometime in 2011 leaving behind its tiled bar, disco balls, VIP booths and checkered past.
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- The main bar within the nightclub.

At present, the plaza has been demolished and efforts are underway to begin construction on facilities that the Port Authority estimates could bring as many as 200 jobs to the area.

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- Behind Seymour Plaza.

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3 comments:

  1. Wasn't this the commercial development that was catty-corner from the old Swifton Shopping Center? When I was a kid (late 1970's), it was anchored by a Zayre's store. We used to stop there on the way back from my orthodontist, who was farther down Reading Road.

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  2. This is amazing. Growing up I always heard about The Ritz but it was a place I never actually dared to go because of all the shootings. I'd always wondered what it looked like on the inside. I can almost picture it now through these photos...

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  3. Its sad that this plaza has been demolished. I think the zayre location should have become a tjmaxx or burlington. Instead of being torn down it looked like a nice building.

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