Cincinnati’s downtown skyline will be getting a fresh residential look with the renovation of the former Macy’s corporate headquarters on Seventh Street. At a cost of more than $70 million, the project consists of 338 market-rate rental units ranging from $1,350 for a studio apartment to $2,150 for a two-bedroom, with a 19,100 square-foot outdoor terrace on the eighth floor.
It’s one of the first properties to be submitted through the city’s new priorities rubric that was spearheaded by Councilman Greg Landsman. The checklist sets parameters for a developer to follow when planning a project in order to receive city benefits such as tax incentives. “It’s fair to say more and more projects will be aligned to this set of priorities,” he says.
The new development rubric consists of 11 categories: Balanced housing production; environmentally sustainable development; improvement of vacant, blighted, and/or underutilized properties; voluntary tax incentive contribution; inclusion; community outreach; living wages; job creation and retention; place-based investing; historic preservation; and whether it’s a transformative project.
The Macy’s project scores well on nine of the 11 categories, notably balanced housing production, says Landsman. Housing options that are more affordable for those making 80 percent of the area medium income will be available. Local workers will be directly employed to work on the renovation project at first, and eventually tenants will bring new activity.
This project also aligns with the Cincinnati Chamber’s Embracing Growth report that laid out principles for regional housing growth—specifically the need to ramp up housing production to catch up with peer regions, to build more densely in places near jobs and transit, and for the city core to lead the way. The report also makes clear that market rate housing development is not the enemy of affordability, because the production of new housing brings much-needed new supply to market.
Cincinnati continues to increase its reputation as a city with “big city” benefits such as a welcoming spot for entrepreneurs and startups, the home to several Fortune 500 companies, and a hub for innovation, the arts, universities, healthcare, and economic mobility. Providing a mix of housing is key for helping attract people to the region.
Census data shows that the city of Cincinnati grew for the first time in decades, adding more than 12,000 residents in the 2010s. But the city still lost 2,000 homes during the same period. “Projects like this help us provide enough housing to continue to grow our population while supporting the needs of current Cincinnatians,” says Brandon Rudd, director of the Chamber’s Center for Research & Data. “That’s a huge benefit when it comes to expanding our tax base and multiplying the successes of the last decade.”
For Landsman, the project adds a personal layer. His grandfather moved to Cincinnati to work for Federated Department Stores, the company that acquired Macy’s and used that brand name to update its various stores across the U.S. Landman’s father also worked for the department store giant. “Going to see my father and waiting until he was off work, that building is sort of a big part of my own personal history,” he says.
A representative from the project developer, Victrix LLC, declined to comment on specifics such as a development timeline and the status of funding.