Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cincinnati Naysayers? Don't let that door hit you on your way out of town!

I look at Cincinnati and often ask: what holds this city back? After much thought I've reached certain conclusions. Basically a few small groups and certain people ( some our own elected officials) hold this city back. They are people whom have always "lived here" and made their assumptions about Cincinnati's future based on a flawed belief that things are 'just the way they are" or "things will always be that way".

So for those who believe that let me debunk that view.

"Fresh rioting began at dusk Tuesday, when arsonists set fire to the Findlay Market, an open-air market in Over-the-Rhine" Cincinnati Enquirer

Welcome to ground zero in inner-city decline: the Over-the-Rhine district in Cincinnati, Ohio. Reason.com, November 2001

I did a little research one day I spent hours reading news accounts about the months after the riots. Everybody, EVERY major news outlet, EVERY reporter , EVERYONE interviewed thought the riots were the end of OTR and Findlay market. One interesting assessment I read was from a local who said at the time "The city should just bulldoze all of it and build an industrial park!"

Today, when I want to go down to Findlay Market to pick up a pound of Pastrami, I have to plan my trip. No, I'm not getting into a Humvee, or putting on a flak jacket. My major concern is "Will I find a place to park"? It is that busy! If you are at Findlay on a weekend , you are making your way through a crowded market, listening to the street musicians looking for that new and exciting food you haven't tried, or those fresh vegetables.
In fact, the first time I ever visited Findlay Market in early 2008, I was literally blown away by it. It was one of the things that 'Sealed the deal' on Cincinnati. We had a 'fact finding' trip, Cincinnati was a city we were considering moving to from Indianapolis. We talked about Findlay Market all the way home. "Do the people who live there realize what a Jewell they have"? We compared it to the Market in Charleston SC or New Orleans. To think that Cincinnati had something this cool, and the architecture, can you believe the architecture! More importantly we could see the future, the things that locals can't see yet. Carriage rides in the area, trendy galleries and antiques shops on Race and Elm. Historic walking tours leaving Findlay Market every hour taking people on trips through the narrow streets talking about the architecture.

"Crazy you say, Never gonna happen!" Then you must be from Cincinnati.

I knew in the back of my mind that there has been "some trouble" in Cincinnati years back, something in the news about that, but I was looking at what I saw and convinced this city is going places. Riots? What riots?

The facts are that people are moving to Cincinnati from all over the country. They either don't know about the riots or they don't care about the riots, or they were just kids. They don't care about how Cincinnati "used to be' or what store ' used' to be downtown, they take it as it is NOW. They see a new condo project coming on line every week, a new business coming to town, a new eatery opening up. They didn't grow up here and its not 'relevant' which side of town is better 30 -40 yrs ago, or who had the better football team, or what neighborhood was white or black. They are living in the PRESENT not the PAST.
That was then and this is NOW! Time has come to put the past behind us and get about the business of building the future.

People say "Nobody is going to come in and fix that, its in Avondale!", or "No one will invest in Westwood there is too much Section 8". "Price Hill is a poor white trash dump, are you crazy? or
"Fairmount, that a gang infested , Section 8 hellhole."

We have ALL heard it, the "naysayers', the "I've lived in Cincinnati all my life and let me tell you the way it is!" These are the same people who thought they should build that highway through Columbia Tusculum years ago because it was run down, or who thought people were 'Crazy" to build in Mt Adams? "Who would want to live in that place?" Or who still believe Mansion Hill across the river is still a bunch of tenements. These are people who have permanent "blinders' on. They can't see what is going on before their own eyes, they have NO CLUE. They populate the City Data Forum boards putting down Cincinnati Urban Neighborhoods to ANYONE who asks about moving to Cincinnati. It is time to stop wasting our time trying to convince them they are wrong.

Who holds Cincinnati back? Well I will tell you. Its groups like NAACP, still resentful about the riot that happened years ago. It is COAST, with its head in the sand, fearful of any change in status quo, and yes its some members of our own city council and government. Maybe a little ashamed about their old neighborhoods and they look the other way when the bulldozers tear down parts of Fairmount, Avondale , Westwood and other urban neighborhoods, while they collect their 70,000 a year salary for their part time job. They want "new and shiny"and resent that they are 'stuck' with that "Old City". Never mind that Cincinnati's "ace in the hole" is it's historic neighborhoods.

To those "Naysayers" I say this, If you don't like Cincinnati..... LEAVE! Don't let the door hit you in your Keaster on the way out! Lead, Follow or GET OUT OF THE WAY! Go to someplace like Detroit, bulldoze all you want, see what REAL decline looks like. I'll buy you a one way ticket!

I, and a lot of other people, have houses and neighborhoods to restore, businesses to build, and we no longer have time to waste arguing with people content to live in the past!


David Ben said...

As a 20-something who chose to live here from New York state, all I can say is: Amen. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Quim said...

One of the issues, I think, is a kind of unintended consequence of the city's identified neighborhoods. Cincinnatians tend to think that this neighborhood is for these people and that neighborhood is for those people.
That "Cincinnatians" are, to a great extent, not Cincinnati residents just makes the whole thing weirder.

Chris S said...

This nicely sums up my experience moving to Cincinnati from Boston. Lots of people who have formed their impressions and are not looking for any new information to change those preconceptions. Then again, if we were looking at this from a burden of evidence perspective, those with a lifetime here do have a heavy burden to overcome, so it doesn't really surprise me that those opinions are hard to change.

Living now requires you to forget the pain of then - this isn't easy, and all we can do is keep working for progress.

juliepfbk said...

About 70 percent of the people who live here were born here--we have the highest percentage of native-born residents of any decent-sized city. I think that's the problem, not that we can do anything about it. People grow up thinking of Madisonville or Avondale as a dangerous place, so that carries into adulthood. When I lived in Chicago no one I knew had grown up there, so they weren't worried about the reputation of a neighborhood--they only wanted to get in before the prices went beyond their means.

katybee44 said...

Cincinnati doesn't need everything to be shiny and new - one really cool hook with some little areas full of character (Findlay, for one) is enough to make this place great. I've heard some people float the idea of creating a brewery district. I think that would be great- taps into the German history, could do a lot for OTR, and would be a much cooler thing in the existing architecture that just needs some love.

5chw4r7z said...

Awesome post, this sums up my experience.
I moved downtown and all my heighbors downtown from Chicago and NY marveled at the place.
I still feel like I'm on paid vacation living in Cincinnati its that incredible.

Paul Wilham said...

I know what you mean about the paid vacation thing. I always have to laugh whenever a local tells me that property taxes are "too high'!

Our last house in Indy was 2 bedroom 2 1/2 bath cottage with garage, near downtown. Property taxes 3 grand a year and I know people who live in some of the larger restored houses downtown that pay 15-20000 a year! AND Indy doest have 10 or 15 year tax abatement programs.

Property is dirt cheap here by comparison to any other city in the Midwest with this quality of life. A friend of mine from San Franciso recently saw pictures of our ongoing Second Empire Cottage Restoration and commented that our house as "fixer' would easily cost 500-750,000 or more in the San Francisco bay area. He and his wife live in a small cottage in Saucilito they paid 1.5 million for (about 1100 square feet)and they are still working on it.

In a few years when things REALLY take off I see many locals moving because property values will rise to "real world' values, especially in urban neighborhoods.

Thats the thing, Cincinnati could easily solve its vacant housing problem by nationally advertising the historic homes in this city. So many people work from home via the net and can live anywhere they want to.

Chris S said...

To put the cost of living issue into starker relief, I moved here from Boston to go to law school. My wife and I were saving money for a downpayment on a house in Boston with the goal of having 20% of the median home price in the metro area available (median price at the time was just shy of $500K). When we moved to cincinnati, we bought our house outright with the funds we had saved for a downpayment on a house in Boston. Thats right folks, a house in Cincinnati comes for the price of the downpayment on a house on the east coast.

Julie said...

I'm a native and I love Cincinnati, but find it so disheartening when I hear other natives say, "You live WHERE?! Isn't it dangerous?" I live, of course, in Over-the-Rhine. I have traveled a lot, been to a bunch of fabulous cities, and love Cincinnati as both a "home base" (hello, central location!) and a place to actually *live*-- so much to do, so many exciting things.

We literally *today* had a contract accepted for a condo in OTR. I'm so excited-- the place is just bustling with positive energy. For those of my brethren who grew up here and stay in their insular bubbles-- leave 'em. Explore the city you "know" so well. It's a lot different than it was 20 years ago, and it's a great place to be.