State of Downtown report shows continuous improvement

Last week Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI) released their annual State of Downtown Report. The report contains graphs and numbers relating to the development of Downtown. This years report suggests that Downtown Cincinnati has seen a large increase in the number of people enjoying the array of restaurants and arts in the center city.

Arlene Koth, executive president and Chief Operating Officer of DCI, said that when they looked back at the numbers in 2010, there were a few things that really jumped out to them. One such item was the amount of development happening downtown; not just the number of projects that have been completed, but also the amount of investment that has gone into the projects downtown.

According to the report, $1.4 billion in development took place in 2010. DCI says that they expect an additional $1.8 million worth of development to follow on that 2010 investment, and be completed in the next 18 to 24 months. Of those investments, cultural projects represent approximately 31 percent. Mixed-use development makes up another 23 percent. Residential (18%), office (15%) and transportation (13%)  investments then make up the rest.

DCI says that activity attendance downtown has saw a rather constant decrease from 2006 until 2009, but showed an increase in 2010. This recent increase goes follows the pattern seen recently with encouraging gains in new restaurants and residential buildings.

Downtown and its outlying neighborhoods, Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton, experienced a 35 percent population increase overall, with the majority coming in the outlying neighborhoods of the greater downtown area.

Businesses owners are trending towards buying the building in which they locate their businesses over leasing the spaces. Thus the newly renovated buildings stay intact and add value to downtown.  Koth acknowledges “though some building [renovations and leases] have stalled, other developments have helped to spark more desire in potential residents and help pull the buildings through the darkness and into the light.”

DCI is also responsible for all the people walking and biking the streets in bright orange t-shirts or electric blue jackets depending on weather conditions. These Downtown Ambassadors are employed to help keep downtown clean and safe by doing everything from walking people home to giving people directions out of downtown.

Though the increase in development and activities in downtown have affected downtown Cincinnati’s economy positively, there have been numerous battles in getting business offices sold or rented and in keeping crime low. The number of crimes has steadily decreased until 2008 when they increased by 21% from 1,153 to 1,402 in 2009. Compared to the 2001 crime rate of 2,013, the rate has decreased significantly.

Overall, downtown is blooming with even more new businesses and events that keep the core bustling and alive with activity.

Fountain Square picture for UrbanCincy by Thadd Fiala.

  • J

    I’ve lived downtown for several years now. The change since I moved here has been substantial. I used to never see other people in my apartment building, but now I see people all the time. Same with parking in my garage, it used to be much easier. Also, the nightlife that’s popped up on 6th St has been impressive. While there’s been a lot of talk about the streetcar I believe it is part of a larger, long term project. The ace in Cincinnati’s hole, to me, is clearly The Banks. It’s going to draw a lot of tax payers. It’s new and isolated enough that it won’t carry the crime stigma that’s slowed potential growth in OTR. Capping Ft. Washington Way is the next big urban project that needs to happen downtown.

  • Robert

    J–thanks for such a positive observation the Cincy DT. Just one question–anyone know when FWWay might be capped?

  • Joe

    The Fort Washington Way Cap may not get done until the fiscal picture brightens for the city. It was seriously discussed at a few planning commission meetings a few years ago but I have not heard anything about the project being revived in the near future.

    Wouldn’t it be great if the city was able to cap Fort Washington Way and add additional residential and retail space to the Banks in this reclaimed real estate. This would help reconnect downtown to the riverfront and would make the area more attractive to pedestrians while adding to the tax base unlike another park.

    On downtown as a whole I’m cautiously optimistic seeing the many new restaurants, retail, and hotels but think that much more must be done before we can celebrate the residential numbers. A 35% increase may look good on paper but we still have to take into account how few residential buildings there are currently in downtown and that a 35% increase may only comprise a few thousand residents. Downtown’s office base is also not as rosy with a large amounts of vacant office space available, especially since Great American consolidated their operations in the Queen City Square Building. It will take many years for all that older space that may not even be Class A anymore to be leased. Today around 90,000 people work in downtown and that is a slight decrease over the past decade as several major companies have left the CBD for Governor’s Hill, Clermont County, NKY,and etc.

  • Robert

    It would be a dream come true to see such a massive project finalized and our city become even more revitalized. I’m willing to hold my breath just a little longer, but maybe I should just click my heel three times for reassurance. Thank you, Joe, for such a timely comment on FWWay.

  • The caps over FWW do not really seem to be a high capital priority for the city or county. And to be honest, I’m not sure they should be given the capital project competition they’re up against (Cincinnati Streetcar, Eastern Corridor, Cincinnati Riverfront Park, Music Hall renovation, Washington Park, Brent Spence Bridge, I-75 rebuild, Union Terminal renovation, remainder of infrastructure for The Banks).

    Futhermore, the caps will not be built unless the feds or state comes in and writes a check to make it happen. With Kasich in office you can be sure Cincinnati won’t see a dime for any kind of urban investment for the next 3.5 years. And with the GOP deadlocking most all urban investments at the federal level you can count that as a hard sell as well.

  • @Joe:

    I would fully expect the office vacancy rate to plummet in the near future once those moves are made. Basically what is happening is office users are upgrading their spaces. This is a natural cycle, and a positive one at that. What needs to happen though is that the older Class C office spaces in the CBD need to be converted into residential uses, or some other non-office use.

    The historic Enquirer Building, Bartlett Building and others are all awful office buildings for modern day office users, but they would all make fabulous living spaces. The Enquirer Building has been thiiiis close to having the necessary funding in place to covert its square footage over to apartments, and the others are lining up now.

    Downtown Cincinnati is getting rid of its old office space and replacing it with newer office space and prime residential offerings in its existing footprint. That’s a very positive solution if you ask me.

  • J

    I know people talk a lot about connecting the river to the core, but to me the caps would serve a more important purpose: to reduce noise and fumes from FWW, and give Cincinnati a unique feature–a highway that “tunnels” directly under a major portion of the city. The Banks with the Transit Center, parks, robust night life, and outrageous amount of parking is basically future proof.

    Randy is right, the caps won’t happen for a while. Someday, though.

    The Enquirer Building is an overlooked jewel. Shame on the Enquirer for leaving such a great building and moving into a box with zero personality.

  • tom mcgill

    There is 1 public restroom which located on fountain square. It is open 11:30am – 2:30 pm. That is really sad. Try going into a business and not spending $10.