You know that a building that sells for $1 is going to be quite the fixer-upper.
When Walnut Hills – a once-thriving area of Cincinnati, Ohio in the 1850s – fell on tough times, the buildings were abandoned and began to crumble. Everyone had moved out to the suburbs.
What $1 buys you
But the old firehouse might have been in the worst shape of all. It had experienced a fire in 1977 – and after it was extinguished the building just sat there falling apart.
So when developer Kent Hardman bought the building from the city for $1, he might have overpaid.
“When I purchased this building there was no roof on the back end, there was also a tree growing on the first floor, so it was in pretty rough shape,” he said.
Luckily, he’s not in it to make a buck anyway – breaking even will be fine with him. The real reward will be helping to revitalize a neighborhood with real potential.
To that end, he’s also invested in the building next door as well as some vacant buildings across the street.
He went on to found HIVE513, an organization that renovated over 20 properties in the tri-state area. Hardman, his father, and his brother are committed to giving new life to aging structures that some considered unsalvageable.
“The house I grew up in really made me appreciate old architecture. I was fascinated by it,” he told WCPO News in 2017.
But he can’t do it alone. He needs to draw the community to the area to spend money.
Walnut Hills rises from the ashes
Hardman’s restoration of the firehouse cost a fortune, but he had built himself a luxury loft upstairs and turned the downstairs area into a pizzeria to bring people into the neighborhood.
He hopes the pizzeria will be a draw so that folks remember the area and see the potential in bringing it back to life.
“The idea of community and togetherness is key,” he said. “Seeing people enjoy themselves in a place that I helped bring back to life gives me so much joy and satisfaction.”
In a video viewed over 1 million times, Hardman gave a tour of his crown jewel at the time – the firehouse.
His beautiful apartment has 155-year-old exposed lumber – and he managed to retain quirky remnants of the old firehouse, such as the lockers (which are now utility closets).
It’s clear that he has a love for architecture and worked hard to keep the original character of the building as much as possible.
Moving into the building himself was the ultimate sign that he was committed to revitalizing the neighborhood – especially since his apartment overlooked the detritus left behind after the mass exodus.
He didn’t do it single-handedly, but his vision appears to be integral to the restoration of Walnut Hills as a viable neighborhood.
View this post on Instagram
The historic neighborhood now has its own Instagram account where you can see the latest developments. And while COVID certainly put the breaks on things, the recovery looks strong.
Be sure to scroll down to see Hardman give a tour of the restored firehouse.
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