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Last week I wrote the first installment of my miniseries about Cincinnati’s remarkable Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. As I wrote then (expanded post here), this distinct and historic quarter adjacent to Cincinnati’s downtown is full of promise but bears considerable scars from decades of disinvestment, having declined in population from over 40,000 at its peak to under 10,000 today.

One of the main reasons that I have much hope for Over-the-Rhine is that it has some tremendous neighborhood assets to build a recovery upon, starting not just with historic architecture but also with a resilient existing community of residents. My impression when visiting last month was that, poverty and problems notwithstanding, OTR feels like a real neighborhood and a real community. It will be critical that the neighborhood’s restoration includes these residents at every step.  And its physical assets are also considerable.

OTR findlay by KCgridlock via Skyscraper Page Forum

OTR on GE detailed w transparency

As I noted last week, the neighborhood sits right between the central business district and the uptown University district, the region’s two largest concentrations of employment. That’s a terrific location, one that all the current urban trends suggest is highly favorable to recovery. Moreover, the neighborhood’s 19th-century architectural scale, along with block sizes manageable for humans as well as for cars, make it ideal for walking.

In addition, the neighborhood’s striking physical assets include Ohio’s oldest public market (yellow marker above), a lovely neighborhood park (blue marker) that is being expanded, Cincinnati’s Music Hall (fuschia marker), a wealth of churches and soon, if all goes well, a streetcar (light blue lines).

It's a very rich story and on my NRDC blog today I’ve featured a somewhat lengthier discussion with a dozen or so photos. If you're interested in reading more, please visit and let me know what you think. Next, I’ll conclude the series with some thoughts about the progress so far and the prospects for making it green.

Kaid Benfield writes occasional "Village Green" commentary on this site and (almost) daily on NRDC's Switchboard site about community, development, and the environment.  For daily posts, see my Switchboard blog's home page.

Originally posted to Kaid at NRDC on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 11:13 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The reason I know about the Over The Rhine (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paul in Berkeley, sberel, borkitekt

    is the really tasty band of the same name.  

    "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." John Lennon

    by trashablanca on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 11:37:17 AM PDT

  •  The progress being made in Over-the-Rhine is (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, hazzcon, borkitekt, Living in Gin

    quite phenomenal, and there seems to be a genuine commitment by government, business and individuals to rescue, preserve and invigorate this incredible urban asset.

    I do believe that the new, $65 million K-12 School for the Creative and Performing Arts will inject much needed diversity and vitality into the neighborhood, and the multitude of new residential and commercial projects combined with extensive restorations and renovations of historic properties offer much promise.

    For decades, Over-the-Rhine was ignored, with city leaders content to allow it to serve as a repository for the poorest, most challenged citizens. I recall one Cincinnati councilman telling me during the 1970s that every city needs a ghetto where crime and poverty can be contained, and Over-the-Rhine served that purpose. Gratefully, more enlightened leaders now guide the city.

    "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." JFK - January 20, 1961

    by rontun on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 11:38:28 AM PDT

    •  Are the architects any good? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The building looks a bit boring.

      Listen to Noam Chomsky's Necessary Illusions. (mp3!)

      by borkitekt on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 12:21:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  photo I posted here was not of new development (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sberel, borkitekt

        Are you referring to the long, low-roofed building in the center of the aerial?  That's the roof of the 150-year-old Findlay Market, surrounded mostly by 19th-century buildings.  I haven't seen new architecture per se, but some of the rehabs are great.  They try to preserve the historic character.  I was able to post more photos over on my NRDC blog (follow the link), and will be posting some of the better ones in the final installment.

  •  The Forty-Eighters established Over-the-Rhine (4+ / 0-)

    The Forty-Eighters were Europeans who participated in or supported the revolutions of 1848 that swept Europe. In Germany, the Forty-Eighters favored unification of the country, a more democratic government, and guarantees of human rights...


    In the United States, many Forty-Eighters opposed nativism and slavery, in keeping with the liberal ideals that had led them to flee Germany. Several thousand enlisted in the Union Army, where they became prominent in the Civil War.


    More than 30,000 Forty-Eighters settled in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. There they helped define the distinct German culture of the neighborhood, but in some cases also brought a rebellious nature with them from Germany. During violent protests in 1853 and 1854, Forty-Eighters were responsible for the murders of two law enforcement officers.

    After the Civil War, Forty-Eighters supported improved labor laws and working conditions. They also advanced the country's cultural and intellectual development in such fields as education, the arts, medicine, journalism, and business.

    We spent many months browsing the Cinci neighborhoods.  The housing is unique, just gorgeous, but so much of it has rotted. Such a shame that a conservative culture overtook Cinci resulting in white flight and neglect that obliterated the historic preservation that should have occurred.  

    Cinci is much like San Francisco, hilly with the Italianate style homes.  The old homes are truly amazing and so cheap right now.

    <div style="color: #a00000;"> Our... constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. Thurgood Marshal

    by bronte17 on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 11:49:24 AM PDT

    •  thanks for the info on the 48ers (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Very interesting!

      •  It was... wasn't it? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I stumbled across it quite by accident one evening.

        I knew that Over-the-Rhine... like so much of Cincinnati... was established by German immigrants, but didn't know their background.

        It's so funny that these progressive Germans established such a strong foundation in Cincinnati and yet today their philosophy would be considered commi-socialist by many of Cincinnati's elite movers-and-shakers.

        But, I met some great people when we were looking at all these properties. And the city is incorporating the old with the new while retaining the richness of the past with the verve of the future.

        I love the Italianate houses in Cinci... would love-love-love to have one... but I don't like the hilly terrain and the houses are just way too close together for me.

        BTW, we would stop at the Hofbrauhaus in Newport on the way home. The food was just fantastic! And I'm a smooth jazz lover, but the polka dude was a lot of fun... he had a great sense of humor.

        <div style="color: #a00000;"> Our... constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. Thurgood Marshal

        by bronte17 on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 02:11:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The last time I wandered into OTR (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    (looking for a used bookstore), what I mostly noticed was the extremely high percentage of boarded-up, beaten-up buildings.

    I'd say any redevelopment work has its work cut out for it.

    Bah. Typoed during acct creation. It's Ezekiel 23:20

    by Ezekial 23 20 on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 12:58:32 PM PDT

  •  Cincy needs our help! (0+ / 0-)

    Teabaggers are trying to hold Cincy hostage, and you can help by heading over to Cincinnatians for Progress and showing them some love.

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." -- Sinclair Lewis, 1935

    by Living in Gin on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 01:20:54 PM PDT

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