Alumni Lofts—School for Creative and Performing Arts

Every project has a story. The Alumni Lofts development, located within Cincinnati’s early-1900s School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA), highlights the unique challenges inherent to an ambitious historic re-purposing project and showcases the power of keeping the story front and center.

As one of the city’s most recognizable and esteemed historic landmarks, the original SCPA building is more than merely a structure to many Cincinnatians. It is a monument to the Queen City’s rich artistic heritage and a symbol of the community’s ongoing commitment to nurturing the creativity and talent of its youth. The SCPA building also showcases the area’s proud architectural history, inspired by the distinctive craftsmanship of the city’s original settlers from Germany, Italy, England, Ireland, and beyond.

When SCPA relocated to a new home in 2010, EBS was tasked with formulating a facility-engineering plan that enabled developers to convert the structure for up-scale residential rental use. The project required EBS to completely update the structure’s key mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, which presented significant code-compliance and budget challenges, and to do so without compromising the building’s aesthetic and historic charm. The key to success was approaching the project, not as just a building, but as an evolving narrative.

From planning to completion, every decision was guided by the story. Could EBS integrate updated electrical features without compromising the integrity of a magnificent stained-glass window dating to the 1850s? How could mechanical systems be upgraded with sensitivity to the old school’s lofty ceilings, storied 100-year-old slate chalkboards, and gorgeous Rookwood Pottery water fountains? As a project, the work could have been daunting. As a story, however, the emergence of Alumni Lofts as a remarkable contemporary-use space made perfect sense. The results? Full code-compliance. On time. Within budget. And the story of one of Cincinnati’s most beloved landmarks gains a proud new chapter.