Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Does Cincinnati have plans for the 'Gentrification' of South Fairmount?

Most people think of South Fairmount as a "dumping ground" for section 8 refugees from Over-the-Rhine and recently many have speculated that the remainders of that demographic and the homeless would be shuffling off to South Fairmount based on the new Urban friendly Washington Park project proposed by 3CDC and the City Of Cincinnati, that trades basketball courts for dog parks.

HOWEVER, it appears the city may have other plans for South Fairmount. The Cincinnati MSD is under a federal mandate to manage storm , rainwater runoff and deal with the separation of the combined sewer system. Cincinnati is just one of hundreds of cities facing this issue. Cincinnati's proposal seems to not only address the watershed issues but also have an economic development component that would , if successful, result in what appears to be a new "gentrified" South Fairmount.
This is how the MSD views Queen City Blvd near the intersection of Queen City and Harrison. Currently a stretch of check cashing stores, empty storefronts and section 8 tenements the city plan looks more like Hyde Park, with Victorian street lighting, bike lanes and upscale retail with a park on the left. This illustration is from the Human nature website which apparently is a consultant for MSD. More info here:

In addition to may "rain garden" projects to deal with runoff, the most ambitious part of this project is the "day lighting" of Lick Run creek. Many years ago Lick Run ran through the valley and the area routinely flooded. The city in effect "buried" Lick Run below ground and that eliminated the flooding problem. According to the map I saw at a the Westside Preservation summit it would appear this would be the area from Grand to Harrison between Queen City and Western Hills. A 1200 foot stretch. I have, based on their map, came up with a closer look at the area which now is a city park and a largely industrial area (outlined in red) . I was initially concerned about a loss of historic fabric but it appears that has been gone for many years. I would imagine, much like Washington Park, the pool and baseball diamond would be replaced with dog parks and other "upscale friendly' development. Essentially the proposal would open up the creek and it would be surrounded by a large pedestrian friendly park.

This kind of development in other cities has almost always resulted in the wholesale gentrification of the area around it. South Fairmount has the housing stock to make this possible. This entire development is overlooked by streets of houses all with the valley view. In fact Knox Hill "overlooks' this area. Personally the idea of overlooking an upscale "green park witha creek" certainly adds to my property value. It is not difficult to imaging that a development of this scale with this view will bring in developers to quickly fill vacant lots along Queen city and Westwood with upscale housing and retail. The existing houses will sprout rooftop decks to take in the views. It all makes sense that the city wants to turn the area around when you also look at other projects, like Mill Creek and a proposal offered by some to turn the Viaduct into a Green Park.

In fact one need only look to Indianapolis where the canal restoration project transformed a once
blighted mosquito infested area into some of the most exclusive housing in the city to see the possibilities for S.Fairmount
But if this illustration is any indication of what South Fairmount could look like, then I'm in favor of it. How the city justifies the inevitable uprooting again of the poor that they shuffled off to Fairmount when OTR was cleared out for development remains to be seen. But a upscale ,crime free South Fairmont is something I could definitely appreciate.


Keith said...

I'm sorry I missed the Summit last weekend. The MSD plan is interesting. I live further up the watershed - near some of the other proposed bioretention projects along QC. Daylighting the Lick Run could be interesting indeed.....

Paul Wilham said...

Keith,I agree. This is an example of the city 'spending smart". You are mandated by law to correct the sewer problem. To be able to do that and at the same time foster positive economic development would be good thing.

The city needs to start understanding that these "shot in the arm" projects can turn around a neighbohood rather than previous approaches that have been "if we do this,the entire city will benefit.

Localized development always works better than "global projects".

VisuaLingual said...

Not everyone agrees that the Canal area of Indianapolis is a success; check out this essay by Aaron Renn.

Paul Wilham said...

Visual, you are kidding? Seriously, I grew up in indy, that was a weed infested no mans land devoid of development. I really dont care that most people can't afford it, most people wouldn't want to live there( I wouldnt want to live there) , the facts are that people do live there. The canal generaltes MILLIONS of dollars in tax revenue. It made expansion further west possible to fayette place. In terms of visitors it beings in hundreds of thusands of people a year. it fostered the White river state park, a MAJOR venue.

There is no denying its a MAJOR sucess in terms of urban and economic development. It was Never designed to be a neighborhood, a commerce district. It was designed to be a "destination".

Attract investment and foster greater turnaround economically in the areas surronding it. the fact that people,live there is really secondary. In urban planning terms its a destination. people who want neighborhoods live in Lockerbie,Holy cross, or Old northside.

Not every development is a neighborhood, sometimes it is what is is , an economic development tool and by ANY urban planners measure, wildly sucessfull.

I dont really care if the fairmount proper greenspace is a neighborhood in the traditional sense, if,it results in an attutude change, in a demographic shift, it has done its job. If you want to overlook a slum fine, I dont.

If the MSD daylighting project accomplishes half what canal did ? We are so much better off! than we are now!

St Charles said...

Paul is right. Most commercial areas have about 50 percent vacancy. It has cleaned up Indy. They are even advertising for tourists which was unheard of just a few short years ago. Cincy has the architectural potential to be 100 times Indy or any other midwestern city. Its victorian architecture is unsurpassed anywhere in the world.

VisuaLingual said...

Sheesh, I wasn't trying to pick a fight or choose a side; I simply thought you might find a different perspective interesting in light of your own thoughts on the subject.

Rick said...

bring it. about time the area gets some positive development attenton from the city