Next Role for 1929 UC Building: High-Tech Hub

The University of Cincinnati’s Campus Services Building is about to get a makeover. On February 24, the university’s Board of Trustees approved $16 million in funding to renovate the old facility at 2900 Reading Road. It will be transformed into a hub of entrepreneurial innovation, a future home for startup companies born of UC-developed technologies.

A makeover is in store for the University of Cincinnati’s venerable Campus Services Building. On Feb. 24, the university’s trustees approved a $16 million plan to transform the 86-year-old facility into a hub for startup companies born of technology developed at the university.

When it opened in 1929, the building at 2900 Reading Road was the city’s first Sears, Roebuck as well as the first major department store outside downtown. UC acquired the property in 1981 and housed several departments there for more than three decades. The 133,071-square-foot building has sat empty since early last year, when the departments moved to a former warehouse on Fishwick Drive.

Highlights of the makeover include creation of office space in a two-story tower that once housed a water tank for fire suppression. A 40,000-square-foot addition, built in 1945 on the building’s north end, will be razed and be replaced with green space. An 8,000-square-foot addition will provide space for an elevator and a stairway. Heating, ventilation, plumbing and fire safety systems will get upgrades, as will surface parking areas on the building’s east and south sides.

Beth McGrew, the university architect, said in a statement that replacing the building would cost significantly more than renovation. Debt funding will account for $14 million of the project’s budget, while local funds will make up the remaining $2 million. UC expects to fund much of the taxable debt service payment through revenue from leases.

The university will initially develop only one floor and will build out additional space to the specifications of future tenants. According to UC, the first tenant is likely to be the University of Cincinnati Research Institute, which could open its new offices within 18 months.