New year brings heightened expectations for 3CDC

The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) has helped spark a transformation of Cincinnati’s urban core in less than 10 years. To date, the non-profit development group has largely been defined by the success that has taken place on and around Fountain Square and the Gateway Quarter for which they are responsible.

Since their founding in 2003, 3CDC has invested more than $250 million into the center city. That investment has led to the renovation of scores of new restaurants and bars in the on and around Fountain Square, hundreds of new residential units and dozens of new businesses in Over-the-Rhine, and the renovation and expansion of Washington Park which is now underway. Even with all of that work to date, the development group says that they are only just now getting started.

“2010 was certainly a watershed year for us,” said Stephen Leeper, president and CEO of 3CDC. “Our development agenda has expanded to more complex real estate transactions. The physical assets we own, lease and/or manage continue to grow.”

In 2011 3CDC will get started on the long-anticipated, $51 million Mercer Commons development that will renovate 20 historic structures and infill 26 existing vacant lots in a two-block area of Over-the-Rhine. The group will also renovate a cluster of buildings along 6th Street into entertainment and office space, and a $48 million project will transform the former Metropole Apartments on Walnut Street nearby into a 21c Museum Hotel.

Some neighborhood residents and business owners do hope for additional neighborhood involvement on the part of 3CDC as they continue their efforts.

“I would like to see some sort of movement toward helping those being displaced obtain the skills or education to earn enough to be able to live in the new Over-the-Rhine,” said Original Thought Required owner James Marable. “I fear the area could become overdeveloped and lose the culture that makes OTR, OTR without them.”

With that said Marable welcomes the additional investment and see a bright future for the neighborhood he now calls home and operates his own small business.

“The amount of investment is a very good thing for the area. I’ve been in Cincinnati for ten years and the first five years of that I wouldn’t step foot in OTR,” Marable explained. “Now I am entrenched in the area and feel as much of a part of it as it is a part of me. I believe all the investment and hard work of the small business owners and development companies are paying off 10 fold and not only making OTR better but providing a shining light for the type of change the entire city should be working towards.”

The $48 million renovation and expansion of Washington Park is expected to be complete in 2012. And in addition to all of that, 3CDC is requesting $85 million in federal tax credits to keep the momentum rolling.

  • J

    I have to disagree with Mr. Marable. One of the main things holding the area back are the low income residents. People with money are not interested in carrying on a “culture” of selling drugs, theft, and violence. Nor a culture where people carry on a conversation by screaming at each other two blocks away. It’s annoying. Sorry, if you disagree.

    It’s easy to deny the problems that are in OTR, and I think that’s one of the problems with some OTR fans. They are unrealistically enthusiastic. The other is that the property is way overpriced. That’s really the only thing holding me back from buying a condo in OTR. The neighborhood is beautiful, but it’s still too underdeveloped, and there’s still way too much crime there to justify the prices they are posting. Case in point is that rough-looking bar on the corner of Race and 12th.

    So one of two things needs to happen in order for OTR to truly fulfill its potential.

    1. Move out most of the poor, thereby justifying the current market rate for Gateway Quarter housing.
    2. Lower the condo prices.

    The truth is, if they have money most people don’t want to live next to people who make literally 10 times less than them. People who are below the poverty line. There are major cultural, educational, and class differences. Easy to deny, easy to downplay, but it’s the elephant in the room. Sorry.

  • J:

    I disagree with the proposition you make that poor people must be moved out in order for OTR to be successful once again. There are many poor, law-abiding people living in Over-the-Rhine. Just because you may be poor does not mean that you are dealing drugs, shouting at others on the street or living a life of crime and violence. This is a stereotype that is just not true.

    I do agree that the criminal element in Over-the-Rhine needs to be removed. This is true for any neighborhood though. Fortunately for OTR this is happening as is evidenced by the double-digit crime decreases over the past five years.

    The real opportunity for OTR, in my opinion, is that as the neighborhood sees increases in land values, occupancy rates and economic activity that the existing low-income residents benefit from that. I see the low-income residents benefitting from the reduction in crime, access to new financial institutions, access to healthier foods, improved educational opportunities, and a generally good place to raise a family.

    Let’s not let a few rotten criminals ruin the reputation of good law abiding citizens who happen to have low-incomes.

  • Bbrown

    Wow, gentrification is not something to be advocated.

    I agree with Randy’s assessment. At Bockfest this past weekend my group of friends were talking about how they would have no interest in visting or living in OTR if it lost its diversity. Hopefully, the low income residents of OTR won’t be priced out of the neighborhood.

  • J

    I also did not say Over-the-Rhine could not be successful, I said it will not reach its full potential. I won’t even use the word “successful” because it’s ambiguous and could mean a million different things to different people. I know there are many poor, law abiding citizens. That is obvious. However, crime goes hand-in-hand with poor neighborhoods. Case in point is the pregnant woman who was shot in an attempted robbery just the other day on Main St. Who would pay $100K to $350K to live in that kind of neighborhood when across the river I could buy a mansion for that and live in a much safer neighborhood. That’s what I mean by OTR not reaching its full potential. I’m aware of the decrease in OTR’s crime. I’m also aware that even with this 50% decrease the rate of violent crime in OTR is still double the average everywhere else in the city.

    I’m sorry, but it does not seem easy to separate the “bad” poor with the “good” poor. If you figure out a way to do this let me know.

    Bbrown, I did not say move the African Americans out of OTR. I said move the poor out. They are the only deterrent to this neighborhood. It’s not the location, and it’s not the buildings themselves. If the poor were gone OTR would already be a success and this article would not need to be written. Sorry if you disagree. It’s not PC, but it’s what many Cincinnatians think but won’t say.

  • J

    By the way, I don’t mean every single poor person needs to leave. I mean there should be a large reduction in the percentage of poor in the neighborhood. Most neighborhoods have some poor, and that’s not a problem. Sorry for the confusion.

  • Zack

    Although I disagree with some of J’s commentary in terms of “potential” and how to get there, I do shake my head when I read quotes that people fear over commercialization of OTR and losing its “flavor”.

    Can we please identify this flavor? Is it the cool-factor behind going to bars where only 2 blocks away drug dealers do business? or 1 block away homeless people camp out?

    I luv going to MOTR and catching a band. Love the patio at Neon’s, Grabbing a bite at Senate, or just strolling through the galleries and shops on Main. Why cant these businesses exist without the “Flavor” that some seek? Will Fork heart Knife’s salad become less tasty? Will Coffee Emporium’s cups be colder? I dont understand.

  • J

    I actually said if the poor can’t be moved (and apparently they can’t due to the “PC Police”) then they need to lower the prices of the condos. They are simple too expensive for what you get. Just the other day some guy was shot in the head and killed close by to Main St/Gateway Quarter, and there was a second unrelated shooting shortly later. Only the most enthusiastic urbanites would buy into that at those prices. And this is coming from someone who lives downtown! I am actually a fan of the city, and this blog. I’m just not afraid to call a spade a spade.

    Zack, the over-commercialization of OTR is eminent. Look at the French Quarter, look at Savannah’s river walk. The only thing keeping the “grey hairs with deep pockets” out is the crime. There are forces fighting against that. One day there will be a Starbucks in OTR, one day there will be a McDonald’s. It will be disgusting. I don’t want to see OTR lose it’s young, innovative start ups either. We will have to wait and see, and enjoy OTR the best we can in the mean time.

  • J:

    I don’t think anyone here disagrees with your comments about ridding the neighborhood of its criminal element. The difference seems to be about the causation of that criminal element. You seem to draw a much stronger connection of the crime to the low-income residents that currently reside in the neighborhood than others.

    This is not a matter of being the “PC Police” but rather pointing out important distinctions. As OTR continues to be redeveloped, I hope to see the many low-income residents living there to benefit from the gains of the neighborhood, not be displaced by them.

  • I have tried typing out responses to answer some questions, but gentrification is such a difficult subject to analyze. I can only hope that more high end condos are constructed that do not interfere with the current residents, and existing cheap rentals continue to serve those who are truly low-income residents of the neighborhood. I think it would take some leadership from 3CDC to provide low-income residences, but I’m not sure what they are planning or if they want to do this at all.

  • J

    Randy, I (and many people, I think) accept there’s a pretty strong link between low-income neighborhoods and crime. The higher the concentration of low-income, the higher the concentration the crime. I think if OTR did not have any low-income residents at all it would be a very different neighborhood. I think most people would agree with that. If you’re poor and don’t have anything, then you have nothing to lose.

    However, my original point is that this goes beyond just crime, and into the cultural realm. People who are low-income just have a very different view of the world, different mores and social standards. For example, I’m in Walnut Hills nearly every day, which is also a low-income neighborhood. Not too long ago I saw a couple guys sitting in lawn chairs literally on a pile of trash. How can someone live like that and not feel like trash? I have a similar problem with OTR’s “the sloppy people,” as Jim Tarbell has called them. They are not criminals, per se, but that trash their own neighborhood. They might not have money to fix things up, but they apparently don’t live in a culture where your community expects you to not throw trash on the ground, or report a crime when you see it, or tell police when you witness a crime right in from of you. It’s just a completely different culture, one that I don’t see worth buying into at the prices 3CDC are selling. You can say what I’m saying is a “stereotype,” but I’m only commenting on the things I see when I am in OTR, not things that I assume are there. I am not some random tea bagger who lives a sheltered life in West Chester; I live downtown and feel as though I confidently know what I’m talking about.

    I know some people flinch when I say “the poor need to leave OTR,” as it legitimizes the blind idiocy of people like Buddy Gray and Josh Spring, but it’s a conclusion I have come to as a disillusioned OTR fan.

  • Ryan L


    I agree with your most recent comment until you repeat that “the poor need to leave OTR” and low-income residents have different morals and social standards. I don’t think that the poor need to leave, we just need to repopulate OTR with people besides the low-income residents. Over 50% of residents in OTR are under the poverty line. If there were more people on the street observing everything that goes on and people start to care for the neighborhood, things will change without moving all of the poor people out.

    When I was waiting for the bus at the corner of Main and 12th streets over the weekend, I saw two different people eating. Both threw their trash on the ground even though there was a trash can within three steps of them! It drives me crazy that people don’t care enough to take three steps forward to throw out their trash. I think that by having more people out and about and more people who truly care about their environment, we will have a cleaner, safer, more diverse OTR without moving anyone out. Now, does that mean that people won’t be displaced? Not necessarily.

    Simple things like store and restaurant owners sweeping the sidewalk in front of their building every once in a while will provide a huge difference for the community. Look at places where businesses are occupying the spaces (Main Street and the Gateway Quarter) compared to places with very high vacancies (Vine Street just North of Liberty) and there is a huge difference. Repopulate OTR and many problems will be greatly reduced. It doesn’t solve all of the problems, but it makes it a better place to live and visit.

  • J

    All I’m saying is if I’m murdered in front of my home in front of 30 witnesses, I expect at least one of them to come forward and put the murderer behind bars. You know? This scenario isn’t so far from the truth around OTR. In fact, it is a big problem there, but it’s part of the “low-income culture” there. Move the poor out, or lower the prices. One or the other. Do that and I believe you will see OTR repopulated–at least at a much faster rate.

  • Zachary Schunn


    Prices are set by supply and demand. The condos you are referring to are a small sample of the housing units in OTR, and they are primarily located in the south-central fringe of the neighborhood where crime has fallen considerably and higher-income residents are starting to move in.

    There are actually few neighborhoods in Cincinnati with lower property values than in OTR. Heck, OTR ADOPT is literally giving away properties. I have friends just out of college renting in OTR for practically nothing… and those are the repaired spaces. I haven’t even yet mentioned the plethora of vacant buildings.

    Don’t claim costs are too high when a couple high-end condos are more expensive than you would expect.

  • Marshal

    I think it’s kind of funny that you guys are debating what in my mind is a non-issue.

    J – What are you worried about exactly? Like Randy said, market prices reflect demand, and if it’s not there then your opinion will be vindicated, and if it is then that’s good for the neighborhood. It’s like a win-win for you, right? Are you trying to say that you really wish you could live in OTR, but you won’t live there until the poor people are moved out?

    Randy – Poverty is correlative AND causative for crime, at least to some extent, so that’s not up for debate. But further, by saying that bringing non-poor people into OTR will hopefully help improve poor people’s attitudes and habits about their own neighborhood, anre’t you basically agreeing with J?

    The only issue in the OTR debate that I stridently disagree with is the concept that poor renters have an inalienable claim to location in the same way that property owners do. There is just no constistency for this concept across the socio-economic spectrum. Market renters in Mason may at any time be given reasonable notice that their leases may not be renewed. They are subject to the same uncertainty and mobility that a poor renter would be in OTR.

  • Marshal:

    I did not say that bringing non-poor people into OTR would change the existing low-income residents’ attitudes or behaviors. I said that they could benefit from the increased wealth in the neighborhood.

    There are already signs that Kroger is carrying more healthy food options at their Vine Street location now. Stores in entirely poor neighborhoods tend to offer cheaper, less healthy foods. It is a positive thing to have the options presented. Whether behaviors will change is another item.

    The same is said with crime. As crime is driven out of the neighborhood that is a positive for all income levels living there. It is also a positive when the public schools in OTR see greater investment and attention. It may be wrong that this is what happens (attention follows wealth), but it is part of the American society. In the end the existing low-income residents of OTR should have the opportunity to benefit from the rising tide that includes better education, food and safety opportunities.

  • Marshal

    Randy – Oops, I meant to type *Ryan*

    However, while it wasn’t you who implied that bringing non-poor people into OTR would affect their attitudes or behaviors, what’s your opinion ? If you deny it, is it a question of ethics?

    Also, any data lately on food choice and health? Do the poor eat like the rich when it becomes more convenient? Or are there other barriers? Further, is a rich diet really a nutritious diet?

    More fundamentally, is the “culture of poverty” a legitimate culture, or something that got lost in translation in America? How much resistance to change stems from protecting a legitimate culture in OTR, and how much is just resistance to change? If there IS a legitimate culture among the poor of OTR, how do we define it and protect it?

  • Marshal:

    1) I do not believe that the mere presence of wealthier people will adjust behavioral patterns of poorer people. I also feel that the questioned is heavily weighted and makes an assumption that the behaviors of poorer people should or need to be changed.

    2) I do not have data readily available, but it may be something we dive into in the near future here at UrbanCincy. What I have read and studied in the past is food islands of sorts in inner cities. Typically grocery stores are more readily available in wealthier neighborhoods, and when comparing grocery stores in wealthier neighborhoods to poorer neighborhoods those in the more affluent area tend to have healthier food options. The presence of healthier food options will not necessarily mean that poorer people will select healthier food options, but the absence of them will guarantee the use of the alternative.

    3) This question is far too profound and intricate for me to give it justice in this comment board. It is probably more worth of an academic dissertation or professional study.

  • Marshal

    1) No assumptions. Maybe you meant “loaded” instead of “weighted.” I’ll accept guilt for that. The issue highlights that distinction between a Kunstler-urbanist (urbanity is good because it mixes poor and rich more intimiately and gives the poor a social role model) and a Jacobs urbanist (urbanity incubates unique and legitimate subcultures that are unto themselves a greater good.)

    I agree on point 3, but I had to throw out some food for thought because it comes up all the time in the gentrification debate, and especially in OTR. Even if it’s something that readers only casually consider in passing, it’s probably a good thought excersize for everyone to wonder “What do I really mean when I talk about ‘the poor?'”

  • Zack

    Findlay is still cheaper as a whole than Kroger’s when it comes to health food options. And probably cheaper than junk food options (10 apples for the price of a bag of fritos). Its more about personal decision.

    And there are PLENTY of affluent folks opting for the Fritos still.

    If anything, its very unique to find so many healthy and diverse options in an area that is mostly poor (but quickly changing).