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Cincinnati: Evolution and Changing Perceptions of Urban Neighborhoods

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Thanks Ryan.

 

Edale, yes I figured it was probably an anomaly, just seemed odd that someone that grew up around here didn't even know about Mt. Adams, and I wasn't sure if that was typical.

 

That said, I do have friends from IH that live in Mt. Adams area now and aren't like that at all.  I guess that was just a small sample, but was curious if that was typical.

 

I guess I was in a tough spot, just moved here and be questioned about an area that at that point I knew more about than they did.  I think after having been here for awhile now, I could better defend.

 

That said, I think the perception will change fairly quick.  Even my boss, who I took to Taste of Belgium on Vine, was really impressed with the area, he hadn't been down there in quite a long time.  Not that he had a negative feeling of the area, but more so hadn't realized how much work was done there and the scale of the work in general.

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People who aren't from Cincinnati tend to have a positive impression of OTR and Downtown when they see it for the first time. That's because they didn't grow up around people constantly telling them that the city was dangerous/dirty/full of drug dealers/whatever.

 

Long-time Cincinnatians are slowly discovering that OTR and Downtown are safe and full of fun things to do. And I mean very slowly. If I were to talk to an average resident of Milford or West Chester and mention that I live in OTR, I would still get blank stares or comments like, "Are you crazy?!" I recently overheard a group of UC students in Clifton talking about how they don't like to go downtown because they have to drive through OTR. LOL. Some of these people will never, ever have a positive opinion of downtown.

 

In my opinion, it is not very effective to try to change the general public's opinion en masse. The better way to change people's opinions is to share your positive experiences in the urban core. If you eat at a great restaurant in OTR or visit an event like Final Friday, post it on Facebook and Twitter. That's why I also share so much photography on Flickr and Instagram, and it's really the reason that I got into radio and podcasting. People who are curious and seek out information will find out about what's happening and decide to check it out for themselves. People who live sheltered lives will continue to think OTR is dangerous and never come downtown.

 

However, even with the slow rate that perceptions are changing, OTR is still growing about as fast as it can sustainably grow. I mean, new restaurants and bars continue to open and thrive (without hurting existing ones), new apartments and condos are built and immediately fill up. If things keep growing at the current rate, I think we're in good shape.

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I have definitely known lifelong Cincinnatians who have barely heard of and certainly have never seen Mt. Adams and many other areas of the city.  I've also known lifelong New Yorkers who have never seen Central Park.

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Some people will just never be bothered to really get to know and understand the place they live. And that's fine. These people aren't worth the effort trying to convince. The people who might be a little more adventurous and maybe, for one reason or another, just haven't made it Downtown or to OTR in a while are the best people to help lure into coming into the basin. These are the people who like trying new things and are less likely to hold onto an outdated opinion when they experience the changes for themselves. Then word of mouth spreads this good word and so on and so forth.

 

Though not in Cincinnati, my parents are a great example of people who have never bothered to explore where they live. We moved to the Cleveland area in 1997 and up until I brought them to the Euclid Arcade last summer they didn't even know it existed. My mom is far more interested in exploring urban stuff than my dad but their opinions of Cincinnati and OTR are almost entirely positive because I've made an effort to really get to know this city and show it off to them. The positive word of mouth from them speaking of my experiences and their experiences when they come down to visit me has led to my younger brother and a large group of his high school friends looking at and choosing UC over schools they were originally thinking about.

 

Basically what I'm getting at is creating positive experiences for these people who are most likely to talk to their friends, families, etc. about these experiences is the best way to change the perception of places like OTR.

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I do think that the brewery and church tours are making a big difference by bringing a few thousand people a year into the area who otherwise wouldn't for the past few years. 

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I know people who would never, ever dare step foot in OTR (in their minds, at least) who rave about that “cool new Senate place,” and don’t even realize they were in OTR.

 

The other day I saw someone probably looking for a parking spot for Kaze or Eagle or someplace end up on Vine north of Liberty. They got about a block in before trying to do a U-turn in the middle of the street. The couple had the most frightened looks on their face because they must have realized they were in “that” part of OTR.

 

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That's definitely true. Every time I see one of those tours that's clearly made up of people who don't frequent OTR and Downtown it makes me happy. The tours are a lot of fun, a good price, give a lot of great information, and are just all around a good time. They're a vital part of the efforts in OTR.

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I have definitely known lifelong Cincinnatians who have barely heard of and certainly have never seen Mt. Adams and many other areas of the city.  I've also known lifelong New Yorkers who have never seen Central Park.

I have only met a handful of locals who know the whole area.

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I have definitely known lifelong Cincinnatians who have barely heard of and certainly have never seen Mt. Adams and many other areas of the city.  I've also known lifelong New Yorkers who have never seen Central Park.

 

The good thing about downtown and OTR is that it is the absolute center of the region. So if someone from West Chester thinks, "I should check out something in the city," they are likely to visit downtown or OTR. Is is less likely that they will stumble into a neighborhood like Northside or Mt. Adams looking for something to do, unless they specifically know of a destination there.

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It is interesting that when i have friends visit from out of town or people visit who are not from Cincinnati and we get dinner or drinks in DT/OTR they absolutely love it and say how awesome and beautiful it is.  They appreciate how compact everything is. 

 

But, many who are from here brush it off and only assume DT/OTR is full of gangs, drugs etc etc.  But i think that is changing with more and more young people moving back to urban neighborhoods.  Different generations value different things.  I took my mid-50s parents to Bakersfield for lunch one weekend and when i told my mom where it was she freaked out... only to be pleasantly surprised. 

 

Seeing is believing, and the people who are constant haters do not want to give it a chance.    Talking bad about something you know nothing about is very easy to do and when all you listen to is 55krc/WLW it is easy to have a negative impression. 

 

I live in the CBD and it is like pulling teeth to get my parents to come down to visit.  To some going downtown is a hassle with no benefits. But the important thing is that change is happening.

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Met up with an old high school friend recently. She drives by Cincinnati for work a lot & hears the talk radio. She told me Cincinnati sounded like a pretty nasty place.

She stayed & the Netherlands & we had dinner at Arnolds.

She thought it was great.

Talk radio is a nemesis of downtown.

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Met up with an old high school friend recently. She drives by Cincinnati for work a lot & hears the talk radio. She told me Cincinnati sounded like a pretty nasty place.

She stayed & the Netherlands & we had dinner at Arnolds.

She thought it was great.

Talk radio is a nemesis of downtown.

 

Apparently Bill Cunningham and John Barrett were on 700 WLW today talking about how Downtown Cincinnati is so awesome and has so many great things happening. Then they said that the problem is basically PR -- that we don't do a good enough job of "shining a light" on all of the good stuff.

 

Never mind that Cunningham and his 700 WLW cohorts are the ones constantly trashing the city, saying it's a crime-ridden ghetto, saying that we're the next Detroit, etc. But, hey, you gotta talk up the city and make us look good since we're competing for the 2016 Republican National Convention!

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Met up with an old high school friend recently. She drives by Cincinnati for work a lot & hears the talk radio. She told me Cincinnati sounded like a pretty nasty place.

She stayed & the Netherlands & we had dinner at Arnolds.

She thought it was great.

Talk radio is a nemesis of downtown.

 

Bill Cunningham is the most influential living Cincinnatian.  He has done more to harm the perception this city's natives have of their own city than any other figure. 

 

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^I was at 1215 Vine Wine Bar last year and talked with Sean Donovan and Bill Cunningham and their wives.  I think it was a weekend morning and the windows were open and sunlight was coming in.  My wife and I were each having a Bloody Mary. It was a beautiful day and life was good in OTR.

 

Now, a year later on a similarly beautiful day, I am in Washington Park watching my kids play dodge/kickball and a woman with an English accent asks me if her son can join.  We all play and make small talk.  Beautiful day, all the kids playing and laughing etc.  Later I find out that it was Cate Blanchett and her son.  ...In OTR, just hanging out.

 

I meet people all the time now that tell me they are hoping to move to OTR.  In a few short years the perception of OtR has totally flipped from undesirable to desirable.  I mean totally.  In fact the issue now is affordability.  It is getting too expensive.

 

Think about this, Cranely won by whipping up jealousy in the suburban neighborhood against the urban core.  This couldn't happen unless people actually saw the urban core as flourishing.

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Cate Blanchett is Australian:). I wonder if she was in town filming a movie. Perhaps George Clooney mentioned nice things to her about OTR after his experience filming his movie in Cincy a couple years ago. Hometown boy, sort of.  When did you realize it was her?

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Cate Blanchett is Australian:). I wonder if she was in town filming a movie. Perhaps George Clooney mentioned nice things to her about OTR after his experience filming his movie in Cincy a couple years ago. Hometown boy, sort of.  When did you realize it was her?

 

Cate is in town filming the movie "Carol".

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10 people, probably all tourists, were shot on a shooting spree Bourbon St. in New Orleans this past weekend.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/06/30/bourbon-street-shooting/11805841/

 

Bourbon St. will bounce back as if nothing happened.  Imagine though if this happened in Cincinnati -- talk radio, etc., would go absolutely bonkers for years. 

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General question for you guys regarding the future for Over the Rhine.

 

What do you believe is OTR's future say 10-15 years from now? Personally, if the current trajectory is any indication that the current gentrification will only progress to the point where the core of OTR will be predominantly composed of young professionals, executives and CEO's. I know Bob Castellini mentioned a few days ago that he predicts OTR will feature Million dollar homes in the next 5-10 years and I think he may be right. Clearly the property value will only further increase, and the rehabilitation and revitalization of each historic block will only progress in the near future.

 

With all that said, knowing where OTR future is heading, what would you like OTR to become? A world class tourist destination that rivals New Orleans Bourbon Street? Or a neighborhood community that has entertainment elements, but never goes full on Las Vegas with the neighborhood losing it's identity become commercialized left and right..Or would you perhaps like to see a mixture, a blend of sorts. Half neighborhood community, half commercialized tourist trap.

 

Because if I know anything about locations when they start attracting tourists is that the destination begins to lose it's authentic feel, in place of gift shop after gift shop. Resturaunt after resturaunt. It doesn't become OTR, but rather a commercialized mall version of OTR.

 

So it's difficult. A part of me wants OTR to bloom and become this world class destination that rivals the likes of New Orleans and Bourbon Street. But at the same time, I don't want the neighborhood and community to lose it's authenticity of small working class/businesses americana either. But you can't have one, without the other...

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I think OTR is not currently at risk of becoming a tourist trap. The Italianate building stock is handsome but not a tourist spectacle in the way that the French Quarter is. I rather see OTR evolving as a kind of Charleston or Boston or San Francisco. Historic and pretty, but not necessarily low class. Cincinnati is also a rather conservative place that doesn't natively produce a lot of "party central" culture, although cultural trends change and nobody can predict the future. This also isn't a top-tier convention or winter destination, which cuts back significantly on "mindless tourism."

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I think OTR is not currently at risk of becoming a tourist trap. The Italianate building stock is handsome but not a tourist spectacle in the way that the French Quarter is. I rather see OTR evolving as a kind of Charleston or Boston or San Francisco. Historic and pretty, but not necessarily low class. Cincinnati is also a rather conservative place that doesn't natively produce a lot of "party central" culture, although cultural trends change and nobody can predict the future. This also isn't a top-tier convention or winter destination, which cuts back significantly on "mindless tourism."

 

The thing with places like the French Quarter though is that the historic district is typically pretty small. You can typically walk around the whole historic district in a matter of 20-30 minutes. To do the same for OTR, it would take quite a few hours. My point is, the sheer size of OTR and it's collection of buildings has practically vanished from America. OTR is a massive historic district, not just a few blocks, that can not be seen  in the span of 20-30 minutes. So just because of it's sheer size compared to most historic districts could be a huge draw for some touristis.

 

Regarding entertainment districts, just walk along main street, and the sheer amount of bars and clubs that have popped up are staggering. From Japps to Neons, to all these new resturaunts and bars that are popping up left and right. Every Friday and Saturday Night these places are packed to the brim with young adults. And I only envision this growing to the point where OTR will have it's own distinct entertainment/night life district.

 

Also I'll argue about the winter destination aspect as well. Decorate OTR from head to toe with christmas lights and decor and some light snow covering the ground, and the neighborhood would look straight out of Dickens a Christmas Carol.

 

Again, it might be just me, but I see a huge future for OTR in regards to tourism. But I'm not sure if I want that either.

 

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I think there is real danger that the middle class will be completely priced out of apartments and condos and new businesses won't be able to afford the storefront rents without family money or investors.  That said we won't see many chains since the storefront spaces tend to be too small and a ban on illuminated signage will discourage franchises that require them. 

 

 

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Also you will see many of these businesses disappear if the businesses don't own their respective buildings.  In New York City many of the longtime businesses remain because the families bought the buildings 50+ years ago. 

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Also you will see many of these businesses disappear if the businesses don't own their respective buildings.  In New York City many of the longtime businesses remain because the families bought the buildings 50+ years ago.

 

I truly see OTR becoming the next Indian Hill. A luxurious urban neighborhood for the Mega-Rich.

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General question for you guys regarding the future for Over the Rhine.

 

What do you believe is OTR's future say 10-15 years from now? Personally, if the current trajectory is any indication that the current gentrification will only progress to the point where the core of OTR will be predominantly composed of young professionals, executives and CEO's. I know Bob Castellini mentioned a few days ago that he predicts OTR will feature Million dollar homes in the next 5-10 years and I think he may be right. Clearly the property value will only further increase, and the rehabilitation and revitalization of each historic block will only progress in the near future.

 

With all that said, knowing where OTR future is heading, what would you like OTR to become? A world class tourist destination that rivals New Orleans Bourbon Street? Or a neighborhood community that has entertainment elements, but never goes full on Las Vegas with the neighborhood losing it's identity become commercialized left and right..Or would you perhaps like to see a mixture, a blend of sorts. Half neighborhood community, half commercialized tourist trap.

 

Because if I know anything about locations when they start attracting tourists is that the destination begins to lose it's authentic feel, in place of gift shop after gift shop. Resturaunt after resturaunt. It doesn't become OTR, but rather a commercialized mall version of OTR.

 

So it's difficult. A part of me wants OTR to bloom and become this world class destination that rivals the likes of New Orleans and Bourbon Street. But at the same time, I don't want the neighborhood and community to lose it's authenticity of small working class/businesses americana either. But you can't have one, without the other...

 

I think we will continue to see the current momentum continue, and even pick up as more conservative banks and developers are willing to take on projects in the neighborhood. As the pendulum continues to swing back towards urban living over the next several decades, that will not only the accelerate the development of OTR but the region's other walkable neighborhoods as well. It will be decades before all of the vacant buildings in OTR and the CBD are redeveloped and all of the surface lots are developed, so I don't anticipate prices getting too crazy any time soon. We are not too far off from "million dollar homes" though. That single-family home on Wade Street sold for a half million. A home with even higher-end finishes/in a more highly developed area of OTR/in a few years could go for much more.

 

I think OTR will remain "Cincinnati's playground" for the foreseeable future, but who knows what the next trendy neighborhood will be or when/why it will take over. As more residents move in, the number of resident-oriented businesses will increase (maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part). I can envision some new residents objecting to the party-like atmosphere seen on Vine and Main, and demanding that some parts of the neighborhood remain quieter. I think we are already starting to see this happen a little bit, with 3CDC not including retail in that new development on Race.

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Regarding entertainment districts, just walk along main street, and the sheer amount of bars and clubs that have popped up are staggering. From Japps to Neons, to all these new resturaunts and bars that are popping up left and right. Every Friday and Saturday Night these places are packed to the brim with young adults. And I only envision this growing to the point where OTR will have it's own distinct entertainment/night life district.

 

The activity on Main is pretty concentrated around 12th & Main, though. There are only a handful of restaurants and bars north of there. It just goes to show how huge the neighborhood is. With as many new restaurants that have opened on Vine and along 12th, there are as many vacant storefronts along Main, Walnut, and Race. It's going to take a long time before the neighborhood reaches its full potential.

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When do you guys believe we will see an influx of hotels being developed in the OTR area? I'm assuming it won't be another 5 years at the very least..but then I have a hard time imagining where a hotel could even be built that could house a large development space for a Hotel (at least 15 stories tall) in the OTR area.

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The activity on Main is pretty concentrated around 12th & Main, though. There are only a handful of restaurants and bars north of there. It just goes to show how huge the neighborhood is. With as many new restaurants that have opened on Vine and along 12th, there are as many vacant storefronts along Main, Walnut, and Race. It's going to take a long time before the neighborhood reaches its full potential.

 

Yes, but nothing suggests as the revitalization continues northward that this night life won't follow with. I see the area around Findly market as a huge potential area for Main Street-Part 2 in terms of influx of resturaunts and bars. But again, this is all just speculation. Who knows what even the next 2 years will bring. That said, it's exciting to speculate, but also worrying in a way.

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Also you will see many of these businesses disappear if the businesses don't own their respective buildings.  In New York City many of the longtime businesses remain because the families bought the buildings 50+ years ago.

 

I truly see OTR becoming the next Indian Hill. A luxurious urban neighborhood for the Mega-Rich.

 

Indian Hill is not really a neighborhood, that's the difference.  And Ugh, how many times do I have to fight this ignorant view - 30 % of all housing is affordable, that's a requirement.

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Indian Hill is not really a neighborhood, that's the difference.  And Ugh, how many times do I have to fight this ignorant view - 30 % of all housing is affordable, that's a requirement.

 

I meant more towards the ratio of wealthy residents who abide in Indian Hill will be similar, down the road, in OTR.

 

And I know, that said, I'm not sure how that will blend in well. You will have Half a Million to a Million (potentially) dollar  condos right next to affordable housing....? I don't see how these wealthy CEO's will feel about that.

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Indian Hill is not really a neighborhood, that's the difference.  And Ugh, how many times do I have to fight this ignorant view - 30 % of all housing is affordable, that's a requirement.

 

I meant more towards the ratio of wealthy residents who abide in Indian Hill will be similar, down the road, in OTR.

 

And I know, that said, I'm not sure how that will blend in well. You will have Half a Million to a Million (potentially) dollar  condos right next to affordable housing....? I don't see how these wealthy CEO's will feel about that.

 

Larger cities have this, there are affordable housing units in Wicker Park right next to multimillion dollar single family houses I used to live there, and that's what I saw, there were no issues from the section 8 housing.  On the whole it seems to be working as long as the poverty isn't concentrated.  One of the best examples of this working is in Charleston SC, where the idea of mixed housing was pioneered, I found a little bit of background here: http://fayettealliance.com/events/smart-growth-by-mayor-joseph-p-riley-charleston-sc/  (*I need to find a better article about this, I saw a video a long time ago with this mayor explaining what he did and why - I can't seem to find it).

 

One of the craziest areas though its too early to tell is the Tenderloin in San Francisco where they are trying to balance very expensive condos/apartments with SRO hotels: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/nevius/article/Gentrification-no-longer-a-dirty-word-4302093.php

 

Finally just because the single family houses are multimillion dollar homes, doesn't mean that professionals won't live in smaller condos, that's how such dense urban neighborhoods work, I know its a paradigm shift from what Cincinnati's been used to for the last 50 years or so, but its how it works in more developed urban real estate markets.

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It is way, way too early to worry that OTR is turning out this way or that way or to say that it is all this or all that. Take a walk north of Liberty on a Saturday morning sometime and check out all the abandoned buildings. Look down the back streets and alleys. Check out along the Parkway and McMicken and up the hillsides. The scale and variety of abandoned structures is mind boggling. South of Liberty, there are still multiple abandoned and underused buildings on every street, some of them huge and hulking. There are vacant lots waiting for infill development. Someday when we reduce our auto dependence and embrace transit there are many small surface parking lots waiting for infill as well.

 

If OTR ever got back up to a population of say, 30,000, there'd be no way you could describe the neighborhood as "only for tourists." There's be no way it would only be rich people either. If it was 30k rich folks all clustered together I'd say somehow the economy of our entire metro region got a lot better to allow that to happen and somehow our schools got a lot better too.

 

I'm a little frustrated (by things I've heard and seen away from this forum) that there seems to be a backlash brewing against redevelopment. The changes so far have been visibly dramatic but really modest in scale. Other cities have revitalized urban neighborhoods that sweep for blocks and blocks in all directions. We have a strip of good restaurants and some condos around Washington Park and people are wondering if the neighborhood is "built out" and saying OTR stands for "Only the Rich."

 

The dynamic we are seeing is, and I've described this before, is that it takes so much capital to renovate an abandoned building that of course the final product is going to be priced high. So, there's abandoned/soon to become uninhabitable and abandoned buildings, and newly renovated building stock that's expensive, plus a certain percentage of affordable housing mandated by council to get tax breaks. But there's hardly any semi-aged market-rate housing stock that we see in other neighborhoods that make up a "normal" real estate market. That's just the way it is. There's some of it in the form of apartments on Main Street that a blue collar twenty something can afford, but if we want to keep those that way the best thing to do would be let developers build as many upscale units as possible so the Main Street units aren't up converted to get higher rents.

 

That's the dynamic right now but things will even out over time as a wide variety of supply comes online and the newly built stuff ages. Also Downtown and the West End are there to make sure the market doesn't become too skewed. For example a new tower just across the Parkway in the CBD could be a relief valve for OTR prices.

 

I really think the worry should go in the other direction, that the Cincinnati metro population and economic growth won't be enough to completely "build out" Over the Rhine.


www.cincinnatiideas.com

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^-I also get the feeling that there are some people in Cincinnati who are happy with being unhappy and shaking that miserable little world is something they can't handle.

 

Its self-abusive loathing in the worst possible way, I hope that change continues to charge forward and leave that type of thinking behind.

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I really think the worry should go in the other direction, that the Cincinnati metro population and economic growth won't be enough to completely "build out" Over the Rhine.

 

I think that's way to early of a concern. I know Cincinnati's population is growing, albeit, slowly. And that OTR population is growing as well. Clearly rehabilitating buildings and blocks takes time, and of course money. That said, with the street car better connecting the city, and the GE center by the banks, one can only hope that more of these young professionals will take up residence in OTR who are employed by these companies.

 

 

I think a major stigma is it's name though. Can't even begin to mention how many people who live in the suburbs still associate current day OTR with 2001 protests and riots/the most dangerous ghetto in all of north america OTR. So many people acknowledge that they hear about the change, and want to potentially visit and explore OTR. But say, they are simply to afraid to put there lives and there family lives in danger. Even my younger, yuppie friends. They love to party down in OTR and go to neons and Japps. But when it comes to living down there, they are just simply to afraid to rent an apartment there, and this is the term my friend used so please don't blame me for being the messenger, because of the "black ghetto gangstas" that sprawl the streets.

 

Point is as bad as gentrification is, the white picket fence suburban people won't move down to OTR until it's completely rid of the, "black ghetto gangstas." And sadly gentrification is slowly but surely happening in OTR, regardless of the handful of affordable housing options that are being offered. Eventually it will be a predominantly white neighborhood, mostly consisting of young professionals and rich executives, and retirees. That's my 2 cents.

 

OTR will be built out. Only because gentrification (getting rid of the black gangstas) will allow it so. Everyone I know loves OTR. They think it's incredibly beautiful, and there's nothing else like it Cincinnati, let alone North America. It's a throwback to the olden days of actual urban neighborhoods that still exist in small pockets like in New York and Chicago. People WANT to live down there. But people don't want to live down there with the black gangstas that loom washington park and hang around the vine street kroger. It sounds racist, but you know it's true. They want to surround themselves with people like themselves. And that's truly sad, but just how society functions.

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Fortunately there are plenty of people who aren't blindly racist and who actually appreciate the diversity in the basin. Will racism keep a large segment of the population from moving to Over-the-Rhine? Absolutely. Will it prevent future growth?  I think not.

 

You have to remember that this is the largest mixed income development the country has ever seen. What's happening in Over-the-Rhine is not the unbridled developer-driven gentrification that's happened in places like San Francisco and New York. It's a highly controlled development that deliberately tries to include low income housing as much as possible. I actually struggle with calling it gentrification at all. It's something completely new and different.

 

On the topic of names and associated racism though,  there's a growing sentiment in the streets that calling the neighborhood "OTR" instead of "Over-the-Rhine" is a subtle but powerful whitewashing tactic.  Whether or not that's true, I do find the trend to abbreviate the name worrisome. Over-the-Rhine is a proud and unique neighborhood name, and it would be a shame for it to become lost in time.

 

 

 

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On the topic of names and associated racism though,  there's a growing sentiment in the streets that calling the neighborhood "OTR" instead of "Over-the-Rhine" is a subtle but powerful whitewashing tactic.  Whether or not that's true, I do find the trend to abbreviate the name worrisome. Over-the-Rhine is a proud and unique neighborhood name, and it would be a shame for it to become lost in time.

 

I agree with this. I know it's stupid but I absolutely cringe every time I hear someone say OTR instead of Over-the-Rhine.

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