Friday, September 30, 2011

Cincinnati: A downtown tour and observations

We had a meeting downtown yesterday and got in town early so we took the time to tour around downtown. Of course we see it through an "outsiders eye" and the things we notice are often lost on the long term residents. Architecturally its amazing and large areas of intact buildings dating from 1840-1930's. The thing that struck me was that at 11:30 on a nice bright sunny day, there was minimal foot traffic. I realized that was largely due to lack of retail shop mix that would bring people in.

A casket shop..I'm not kidding!
We went over to Court Street and there were a few people there (mostly local workers grabbing an early lunch). I was struck by the high number of empty shops both there and throughout downtown. Maybe coming from Indianapolis which has a very vibrant downtown and retail environment we were just struck by how empty it all was. Lots of 'for rent' signs. I contrast that with downtown Indy where the streets would be filled ( partially due to a steady convention business) but it didn't seem like an area people were "drawn to" and given size of the Metro area it doesn't seem like it has become a "destination" during the day. I'll admit at night it seems busy with restaurant traffic but that lack of activity during the day is puzzling. The only activity seemed to be the panhandlers which, having traveled a lot, I am adept at ignoring. The downtown does not have a 'vibe' like Indianapolis's, Chicago or Louisville. I can't put my finger on what is missing.

Incredible brick polychome with parapets. Note the "ghost' sign in the backgound building.
For architecture buffs it is worth a trip downtown during the week because it isn't busy. You can take a leisurely stroll and explore some great buildings and see a surprising number of elegant townhouses that for the most part seem to be either attorney offices or apartment conversions.Though a few exist as large single family homes.

Incredible stained glass
Who wouldn't want to own this ?
My takeaway is once again, that there is so much promise here for Cincinnati to be a Charleston, New Olreans or San Francisco. Its 'poised', but a strategy to get it there just hasn't materialized yet. I wish I had the answer. I saw a lot of great empty retail space that would be great for our design studio I just didn't see people.
The incised stone on this is amazing
The townhouses all have remarkable enty ways
If you have not been downtown in a while, I encourage you to visit, you would be amazed at what you see if you just take a look.


Byron said...

I like the corner of 8th & Plum. You have the Romanesque Revival City hall on one corner (whose inflation-adjusted construction cost is over $40 million), the 1845 St Peter in Chains Cathedral on the another corner, and the 1866 Plum Street temple on a third corner. Then on the same block as the temple there is the 1875 Presbyterian church.

All those architectural gems are not only within walking distance of one another, but can be all viewed by simply rotating your head.

Of course, the auto service place on the fourth corner of 8th and plum and the garage shoved between the temple and the presbyterian church do more than a little visual harm, but all-in-all, it is still a great little areaa.

Karen Anne said...

Paul, Any chance you can offer

some advice? She's in or near Cleveland, and has a lunatic local government going after her for restoring her house, such things as citing her for "peeling paint" after she removed vinyl siding and was stripping paint off. They are rolling right over her despite her photographs documenting the work she's done, etc.

Nina said...

Thanks Karen for referring me here. Paul, I would appreciate any help or suggestions. Thank you.

Neil said...

Downtown is shockingly empty and shockingly beautiful. I used to go on walks around it when I worked down there and was always in awe.

These days after traveling around a bit, I'm kind of angry when going there, that something as amazing as court street (sans the ugly 1980s office building someonone plopped on it) isn't buzzing with activity. Not only that but the obscenely large parking lots around Sx. X where the high school and college once stood should have never happened. Too many parking lots mar an exceptional downtown.

The architecture down there really is breathtaking. When I was in San Francisco I stayed in the tendernob, and there are tons of underutilized buildings that look nearly identical to those that are in that part of SF.

The good thing is that downtown was even more dead than it is now. When I come back into down I'm amazed at the number of people walking around and the amount of activity on the weekend evenings. There is way more stuff down there, and not just restaurants. Its also the only part of the city to see significant growth in the last census.

Hopefully people will start getting a clue and developing more businesses down there, the area is prime, and people needs to GASP actually take a risk and setup. Of course this is such a Cincinnati mentality, even if people demand something it won't happen till well after the last min when someone actually takes a risk and reaps a huge profit.