A months-long debate about this downtown Middletown building has been settled

Cincinnati State’s Board of Trustees has made its decision on the future ownership of the 2 N. Main St. building and the new owner is its former owner, the city of Middletown.

The decision ends several months of uncertainty about the building’s future. In July 2018, the college issued a nonbinding letter of intent to transfer the building to the Art Central Foundation. However, in January, Middletown officials objected and declared its desire to retake ownership of the building for future redevelopment.

The city’s objection surprised Cincinnati State officials, who put the transfer on hold to avoid jeopardizing their relationship with the city. The delay also derailed the Art Central Foundation’s redevelopment plans for the building.

On March 6, the city formally requested that the building titles for 2 N. Main St. and 1021 Central Ave. be returned to the city. The board’s action does not affect the 1021 Central Ave. building.

ACF, a local nonprofit, owns the building next door at 4 N. Main St., also known as the Thatcher Temple Arts Building. That was part of the Thatcher group of buildings and was transferred by the city to the Arts Central Foundation. Both were part of a group of several buildings that were purchased from the city of Middletown in October 2013.

At its May 28 meeting, Cincinnati State’s board approved the transfer of the downtown building back to the city of Middletown for $2 — the same “nominal value” amount paid to the city when it transferred the 47,000-square-foot building to the college, said spokesman Richard Curtis.

In the resolution to transfer the building, the board said the vacant building did contribute to the college’s mission, strategic plan, educational programs or fiscal sustainability, and the city requested return of the title. The resolution noted the city will continue to maintain the college’s signage on the building and have leasing opportunities upon development.

The resolution said the board determined that the city was best positioned to determine highest use of the property for community’s good.

Curtis said the transfer “can be a fairly lengthy process, likely several months and possibly more.”

As a state institution, the college notifies the State Auditor of the Cincinnati State Board of Trustees action approving transfer, along with documentation of having received an offer from the city, Curtis said. The Auditor does due diligence and then prepares a Governor’s Deed which is reviewed by the state Attorney General’s office before going to the Governor for signature, then back to the Auditor before sending the college the deed to transfer to the city.

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On April 2, ACF officials urged Middletown City Council to allow their organization to proceed with their agreement with the college to redevelop the building. Council took no action and met with ACF officials in executive session.

“We’re deeply disappointed with the decision,” said Sue Wittman, Art Central Foundation executive director. “We were not surprised by the decision based on the past few months and are not 100 percent in acceptance of this.”

Wittman said she believes Cincinnati State was “pressured” into a decision to transfer the building to the city.

“We are pleased that we will be getting the First National Bank building back for redevelopment,” said City Manager Doug Adkins. “As I understand Cincinnati State’s process, it may take a few months to complete the transfer.”

Adkins said city officials have not held or scheduled any meetings with Art Central to discuss future access or use.

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