When these row houses were built 126 years ago, Northside was called Cumminsville and had just been annexed by the city of Cincinnati. Legend has it workers for nearby garment factories once inhabited these five homes. It’s possible, given that the area hosted sizable manufacturing and commercial districts in the early 1900s, but they were “run down rental housing,” says listing agent Barbra Druffel, by the time Michael Berry and Chad Scholten of FORM Building Solutions started acquiring the homes in 2010. The pair began renovations in 2015; by late last year, the first two units were complete.
The design template for all five single-family homes includes hand-painted front transoms, exposed brick walls, and lighting fixtures by downtown’s Switch. Every floor plan includes a spacious kitchen (thanks to rear additions), two bedrooms, two and a half baths, a second-floor laundry room, and a third floor flex space, which can be used as either a family room or third bedroom. Private third floor decks in all five homes overlook a community garden.
Prices on the row houses range from $316,900 to $334,900—on the high end for Northside, but well below the cost of renovation/infill development in other city neighborhoods (at press time, one was under contract). Berry and Scholten feel confident the area’s real estate market can support the project; the pair has already tackled six other nearby redevelopment projects, most notably The Littlefield bourbon bar and restaurant building just up the street. They also own more soon-to-be-rehabbed structures nearby, and are partnering with Cincinnati Northside Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (CNCURC) to renovate others.
So, what attracted them to Northside? “It’s a great neighborhood surrounded by green space—an open and welcoming community,” says Berry, a founding member of the CNCURC. “We think it’s what people are looking for in terms of sustainable, walkable urban neighborhoods.”