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632 Race St.

By Doug Trapp · November 21st, 2002 · Blight of the Week
Doug Trapp

Address: 632 Race St., Downtown

Year Built: 1919

Owner: Fifth Third Bancorp (with a lease controlled by Hardee's restaurant)

Value: $560,500

Comments: It's been several years since anyone bought a burger inside this four-story building, which once housed a Hardee's restaurant and before that a Burger Chef. It's been many decades since anyone bought a piano in this building, which originally housed the Lyric Piano Company.

Pigeons have been the main tenants on this building's upper floors during the past few decades.

Brokers have spent several years looking for a tenant. Hardee's has a 99-year lease expiring in 2049 that charges the company $7,400 a year for rent, with an option to buy the building for $185,000.

Hardee's is asking $40,000 more to turn over the lease, for a total of $225,000. The additional money is to cover legal and other expenses, according to Casey Ward, a retail specialist for Midland Atlantic Properties.

"We would really like to get something done," Ward says.

There's been some interest in converting the building into condos or apartments, but no one has been able to make the deal feasible, Ward says.

That's partly because it will cost many thousands of dollars to rehab the building, which hasn't been maintained very well.

The roof and stairwell, for example, are in poor shape. Removing the kitchen vent Burger Chef installed through the upper floors, cleaning up after the pigeons and fixing the roof will also be expensive, according to Chuck Eilerman, a senior sales associate with ReMax Greater Cincinnati Commercial Group. He tried to market the building in the late 1990s.

It might make more sense to build something new behind the building's fa├žade, he suggests.

"It's a handsome building but it's just been let go to heck," he says.

The Hamilton County Auditor's Office lists Zenith Holding and Trading of Rowlett, Texas as the owner, but that is or was a subsidiary of Hardee's, Eilerman says. The real owner was the W. Lyman Case & Company, a mortgage banking company in Columbus, Ohio. Fifth Third Bank, which bought W. Lyman Case, didn't return a reporter's call.

The unusual 99-year lease originally began in 1919 for the Lyric Piano Company. The building housed a dress shop in the 1950s. The odd thing about the lease, besides its length, is that the rent never increases.

BLIGHT OF THE WEEK is an effort to highlight the problem of abandoned buildings -- and who's responsible for them.


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