For our August 2017 issue, we explored Cincinnati’s rebuilding boom.
Graphic designer Mike Fischer and pal Barrett McClish had both just moved back to Cincinnati in 2009 after career stints on opposite coasts. On a whim, the pair, along with then-business partner Tyler Zurick, purchased a neglected Northside home for $8,000 with the intent to flip it. (McClish has “a really strong mind for construction and mechanical things,” says Fischer). The group, who “had never done anything like it,” adds Fischer, spent a year gutting the place and rebuilding before selling it. “We made like $11 an hour for our troubles,” he says with a laugh. Still: “We decided to keep going.” 8K Construction, named for the price tag on that first house, was born.
Fast forward eight years. Fischer and McClish, who initially worked solely in Northside, are rehabbing their seventh project in OTR right now—“about our twentieth house” overall, says Fischer. They’ve also grown from house flippers into self-described specialists in historic renovations of residential buildings, including multi-family, mixed-use rental properties.
8K’s takeaway on demo versus renovation? “Anything is salvageable,” says Fischer. “We’ve had buildings literally collapse and we’ve re-built them”—including one that collapsed twice. When asked why he’d go to all that trouble for crumbling old structures, Fischer notes environmental concerns with demos and the “value in what was standard back then—the quality of craftsmanship and materials.” He also waxes philosophic, noting, “what we value as a culture is pretty evident in what we keep, what we decide to throw away.”
Fischer remembers a woman who once drove past an 8K job site looking for her childhood home, a neighboring structure that had been torn down. “Her family was in the car and it was just brutal. They couldn’t share that visual kind of feeling—This is where my mom grew up. It’s all gone, relegated to memory. And that’s going to slowly fade.”