In 2008, Deanna Heil and Chantelle Noble came together to start City Studios. Rooting their studio in the heart of OTR, the partners hoped to play a role in the neighborhood’s revival by making the area’s buildings more livable. Six years later, the studio is doing just that. We’ve teamed up with this urban-focused studio on the redesign of our future home in the historic Globe Furniture Building. Last week, we chatted with Deanna and Chantelle for the second installation of our People’s Partner blog series.
Deanna Heil and Chantelle Noble, City Studios
PL: Why renovation and redevelopment centered architecture (in Cincinnati)?
CN: I think that more than renovation, it's city or urban [architecture], and right now, renovation is a big part of that. We wanted to participate in making this city come alive. When I first got to Cincinnati, it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. It’s getting to be that place now and keeps getting better and better.
PL: How were you introduced to the Globe Building and the People’s Liberty Team?
DH: We’ve been intrigued by the Globe Building for a long time; before People’s Liberty, City Studios was involved in evaluating the building for a variety of uses. As part of that we looked at relocating our office to the Globe because we loved the building and the location. After 3CDC bought the building, they hired us to prepare the documentation for the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit application. Once People’s Liberty was set to move in, we were hired to be the architect to design the space, prepare the construction documents, oversee the progress, as well as to continue to document for historic preservation tax credits.
PL: Can you talk to us a little bit more about the Historic tax credit documentation process and how it has affected construction?
CN: The historic application tells the story of the building—it describes the existing historic features, their condition and the scope of rehabilitation work. The State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service then assess the impact of the proposed rehabilitation work on the historic features to ensure the building’s exterior and interior historic character is maintained. Because we've received state preservation credits, we had to preserve the building's interior, not just exterior, which is all the national preservation tax credits require. We had to create a number of 3D drawings to show the reviewers what would be viewable from the street and how the contemporary interior and first-level addition would affect both building and neighborhood feel.
PL: How has your team preserved the building’s original character?
DH: The historic exterior and windows will all be restored. The inside of the building is not very ornamental, however—it was used as a furniture manufacturer and showroom—so a lot of the historic character has to do with the volume of the space. The wide-open rooms and high ceilings give it it's historic feel, not so much the fabric and details that other types of historic buildings in this neighborhood have.
PL: What’s been the hardest part of the construction process?
DH: The non-glamorous things. Like fitting in all the building system essentials (think ductwork, plumbing, sprinkler lines, and AC units), and making sure it’s done sensitively enough so that no one focuses on these elements when their inside. That’s hard.
PL: Do you feel like your work in the neighborhood has played a role in Over-the-Rhine’s recent renaissance?
CN: I think we have had a part...a lot of people have their hand in it. When we first got here there were people doing little things here and there, and you could see some change, but nothing like what’s happened recently. We were used to being the only ones walking down the street [in OTR]; everyone walks to lunch now.
DH: I love it when I come down here and have a hard time finding a place to park. You know it’s good when you can’t find a parking spot; it means there are lots of people participating. It didn’t use to be like that.