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Opening Doors in Over-the-Rhine

By John Fox · June 10th, 2009 · Editorial


They say when one door closes another opens. I was reminded of that truism last week in Over-the-Rhine.

Kris Sommer took me on a walking tour of new housing projects along Vine, Main, Pleasant and Republic streets, many of them developed by the company he works for, Urban Sites. In a former life, Kris was an advertising sales rep here at CityBeat.

I wouldn’t say I’m that familiar with the streets of Overthe-Rhine, so I wasn’t prepared for the closeup glimpse Kris gave me into the burgeoning condo and apartment market in Over-the-Rhine. It’s amazing what you see when walking the streets with a guy who has keys to practically every other building.

You open a humble door on 14th Street, and you walk into a beautiful loft space with original wood floors and brick walls. You step around work crews on Main Street and see amazing two-story condos with huge open spaces and modern kitchens. You enter another building where the original tile hallway floors and wood staircases have been redone, and you find small apartments with brand new Rookwood Pottery details around the fireplace or kitchen walls.

I know the stories behind this activity from CityBeat coverage and other media coverage. 3CDC has bought up lots of abandoned and damaged buildings, turning over some to development partners and mothballing others to wait out the economic downturn.

As he pointed out construction sites while we walked, Kris rattled off names of the local companies doing the work: Model Group, Northpointe, B2B, Kimbler, Over-the- Rhine Community Housing and of course Urban Sites. And he mentioned a host of individuals working in the trenches, from landowners to nonprofit staff to real estate agents, too many to remember.

I couldn’t help but think back to CityBeat’s early days and our very first cover story in November 1994, “Toe to Toe in Over-the-Rhine.” The story’s subheadline summarized the struggles then: “Advocates for redevelopment and for lowincome housing face off on the future of Cincinnati’s oldest neighborhood, while city officials figure out their next move.”

Fifteen years later, that sentence still applies.

Tension remains between the redevelopment and lowincome camps, especially as the new School for Creative and Performing Arts rises across the street from the Drop Inn Center. 3CDC will soon break ground on its Washington Park expansion project, destined to create the perception that the homeless people now frequenting the park will be unwelcome in the future.

Plenty of doors have closed across Over-the-Rhine since 1994, and many new ones have opened. I stepped through a few last week.

The experience gave me hope that perhaps everyone interested in a vibrant, sustainable Over-the-Rhine finally can stand side by side instead of toe to toe.

CONTACT JOHN FOX: jfox@citybeat.com



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