Is East Walnut Hills the next big thing in Cincinnati neighborhoods?

Over the past several decades Cincinnati has seen its core neighborhoods change. Some of these changes have been negative while others have been very positive. The positives started with neighborhoods like Clifton and Mt. Adams, continued on to Northside and Oakley, and then onto Downtown and Over-the-Rhine (twice).

While progress continues to be made in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown, the question remains: Which inner-city neighborhood might be next on the revival block? Some business and property owners in East Walnut Hills believe their beloved neighborhood is indeed the next one in line. This could be true for several reasons. The first being, location, location, location.


DeSales Corner in East Walnut Hills

East Walnut Hill’s DeSales Corner was historically Cincinnati’s second most prominent business district outside of the Central Business District downtown. The neighborhood’s central and nearby location to downtown made that true historically. In addition to these still relevant truths, the addition of I-71, one of the city’s most prominent east/west bike routes, and the prospect of a modern streetcar line running through its heart make the neighborhood’s location even better today as people and business return to cities.

One such business owner is Chef Josh Campbell who knows World Food Bar in Over-the-Rhine, Mayberry and Mayberry Foodstuffs in Downtown, and the recently opened Skinny Pig restaurant in East Walnut Hills.

“In this area you have Blue Cross Blue Shield, St. Ursula Academy with students who can go off campus for lunch, and several doctor’s offices filled with people looking for healthy, flavorful food options,” Campbell explained to UrbanCincy in April 2011.

In addition to businesses and students, East Walnut Hills also is situated between investment expanding east from Uptown and west from Hyde Park and Oakley.

Campbell’s not the only one thinking East Walnut Hills is the next big thing when it comes to Cincinnati neighborhoods though. In April 2011 Cincy Coworks tripled its size and relocated to 2400 Gilbert Avenue nearby in Walnut Hills based on its location and affordability.

There are also hundreds of new residents living at The Residences at DeSales Plaza and the recently completed DeSales Flats development. Within the past year the City of Cincinnati has also invested in new streetscaping to clean up the business district and hopefully spur additional investment in the area.

While East Walnut Hills appears to be sitting pretty, it certainly is not the only neighborhood poised and ready for a renaissance. Other contenders include Mt. Auburn, Clifton Heights, North Avondale, East End, Pendleton, Corryville and West Price Hill. Which of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods do you think will become the next big thing?

  • nicker66

    I think it is definitely the next Oakley, for lack of a better way to describe it.

    - Beautiful central area (what to call it? The Corner?)
    - New streetscape
    - Relatively new condos/apts right on the corner.
    - Surrounding streets seem to still have a decent amount of residents who care by keeping a nice house.
    - “Hyde Park Near”

  • Schmiez

    I’ll throw my hat in for Mt. Auburn, albeit a slower, drawn out renaissance;

    - What to ‘Nati’ans want? Houses. And MT-A/Lberty Hill still has alot of nice ones.
    - Access to downtown (as gas rises, more options dt and OTR, jobs there, streetcar)
    - UC will start to grow towards CBD (if they know whats good for them)
    - it survived the last 50 years of sprawl pretty well

    Short term i’d say Coreyville. 30K students daily at UC. Throw a few apartment complexes up, a UDF and Chipotle, and a decent bar, and the area will take off. We see it all the time at any city college. Plus the med campus impact will continue south.

  • AdamCO

    Unlike with Oakley, Hyde Park could easily become the poor man’s East Walnut Hills, if you know what I mean. The location is better, the architecture is better, and there are already a lot of very well-to-do people in the area.

    East End is going to be stalled out for a while, I think. Construction there is very expensive because of the flood plain – you get river views, but you have to pay a premium – and many people don’t have that extra money right now.

  • leif

    I’ve lived in East Walnut Hills for the past 4 years and sadly don’t envision a renaissance anytime soon. The entire shopping area is basically one intersection that nothing really seems to be going into. And consider Lucky John–incredible concept with no support! But as i said before, if someone was smart, they’d grab that bank location on the corner! I love that building. If anyone needs business ideas for that building, you let me know.

  • http://www.cincycoworks.com gerard

    Thanks for the nod to Cincy Coworks, Randy. Personally, I think East Walnut Hills has potential and is making progress. Progress is gut-wrenchingly slow at times, but it is progress. The opening of La Bon Vivant, The Skinny Pig, and other potential businesses are proof of that. I believe Lucky John’s was a little too far up the street, and then their entryway was obscured by construction for 6 months, which finished them off.

    But the potential for Peebles Corner and Walnut Hills proper is WAY higher (and so is the work). As someone mentioned, East Walnut Hills “business district” is really only 1 intersection. Walnut Hills corridor runs along McMillan from I-71 all the way to Victory Pkwy, and then also up and down Gilbert Ave from Taft to Andy’s Mediterranean. Throw in all the side streets.

    Imagine a streetcar line that goes up Gilbert from downtown, and a finished casino (if Kasich ever removes his head from his ass). With Eden Park, you’d have a neighborhood where you could live, work, and play, that has everything Hyde Park has but closer to downtown. That’s the vision of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, and something we support at Cincy Coworks.

  • Jake Mecklenborg

    Surprised that the displaced Grammer’s hipsters haven’t discovered the Greenwhich Tavern or Brew Haus yet. Although I do think the Grenadier Club is safe from their childishness.

  • chuck

    I’m thinking this is really about the DeSales Corner business district. East Walnut is already chock full of millionaires and they may not care whether the DeSales BD takes off or not. But potential for YPs in the smaller houses around DeSales is great. It certainly would be great to see more renewal radiating out from DeSales to Victory. Beautiful houses waiting to get their makeovers are just up Woodburn. I think some sort of calming for MLK as it runs across I-71 to DeSales would help.

  • Neil Clingerman

    Of course much of Walnut Hills proper is being demolished. I hope that what is going to go in comes anywhere near what is being lost.

  • http://www.urbancincy.com/author/taestell Travis Estell

    @Schmiez — my concern about Corryville is the massive amount of demolitions taking place. Sure there is new development, but mega-complexes are replacing all of the historic buildings. If the neighborhood doesn’t start to get the picture, there is no chance it will re-develop into a neighborhood with the character of OTR of East Walnut Hills. It will instead have the character of Beechmont Avenue.

  • Jon White

    I think E. Walnut Hills has great great potential, but it has such a huge concentration of section 8 and public housing. That should be a bit of a barrier to redevelopment efforts.

  • Jeff

    East Walnut Hills has great potential. But I feel I have to at least mention Madisonville. Madisonville has many beautiful streets with extremely well-maintained old homes, mature trees, and a real neighborhood feel. I imagine it would be very appealing to those looking for a “garden urb” type of environment. The bike trail is a nice feature and connects to Mariemont. Immediately off of the bike trail there is a house with a double lot that is an outstanding example of what can be accomplished with urban gardening. (This place seriously looks like a real farm). The Route 69 Bus runs right down Erie Avenue near Arnsby and Hyde Park and Oakley are accessible by bike. There is a business district on Madison Avenue which is within walking distance. To my knowledge, there are no coffee shops or top notch restaurants or bars in the immediate area (no offense to Bramble Patch), but I can envision this area taking off someday. For those with mad renovation skills, there are several homes there that are very affordable.

  • Jon

    Streetcar??? This article talks about a proposed streetcar going through DeSales corner… There is no proposed streetcar for De Sales corner- Hell, even the full version of the Riverfront to Zoo streetcar is probably 8-10 years from full completion. Was that a typo in the article?

  • Schmiez

    @ Travis Estell-

    I hear ya. And i recall your comments before on Coreyville. I was just weighing in on my opine of which are likely experiences a renaissance first (or rather quickest).

    @Jeff- those are fair comments, but i question what madisonville would be “renaisasanc-ing” to; the 60′s?

  • Aaron Watkins

    I truly hope that there continues to be a growing interest in the areas between UCs campus, and Obryonville. There is some amazing potential here for some very cool and unique inner city neighborhoods and business districts. I feel that these, I’ll call them “disconnects” are some of the reasons why a lot of people I know in Cincy tend to stay in the areas they are comfortable with.

    Also

    @ Jake Mecklenborg

    Childish? Way to sound like a turd.

  • WamBam

    East Walnut Hills has great potential if only because it is close to Walnut Hills High School. All of the other existing or planned neighborhood amenities are a bonus. Even young professionals with no children are still going to view the school system as an overall reflection of the entire neighborhood.

    Having said that, this statement is going to baffle you; if I had to pick one Cincinnati neighborhood “sleeper pick” I would go with South Fairmount.

  • Aaron

    I’ve been an EWH resident for about three years now (house owner). We eyed it as a potential up-comer, but actually the longer I’ve lived here the less likely it’s starting to feel. DeSales corner just really seems to struggle to pull in business. We wanted a walkable, historic-feel neighborhood, but something more affordable and closer to downtown than Oakley. We looked at Northside but the crime rate was a deterrent (no offense guys, I still love the neighborhood!)

    Well, EWH is a great neighborhood for walking. We walk the dogs down to LeBlond park or up to Eden Park regularly. We occasionally walk down to O’Bryonville or to the coffee shop at DeSales. I’ve even walked to Schullhoff to rent a pipe tapping tool!. However, the restaurant pickings are slim (going to try out the Skinny Pig this weekend!), and don’t even think about walking to the Walnut Hills Kroger in the evening or if you’re a woman, as my wife was harassed and followed whenever she ventured there (not to mention the lousiest food selection of any Kroger I’ve been to).

    Of Course, I’m pulling for this place–I live here and have good neighbors. However, it’s those long-time resident neighbors that shared a joke with me: EWH has been labeled and up-and-coming neighborhood since the 1980s.

  • Ian

    East Walnut Hills was “up-and-coming” 6-7 years ago when they built that new development at DeSales corner that has the coffee shop in it. I was actually working in the area at the time (Park Ave) and considered moving to a place on Woodburn – but there just wasn’t enough there back then, and there still isn’t. From my view, not much has actually changed in the past 6 years.

    Peebles’ Corner has 10x the potential, given its direct access to both Downtown and the UC area. It was historically a huge business area, served by streetcars from Downtown, and you can tell from all the remaining commercial structures and unused retail frontage there. This is where development money should go, but this area has been neglected for as long as I’ve lived here. It was in poor shape when I would ride past it on the 31 7 years ago and it seems like it’s only gotten worse. Someone should really step in and recognize the potential of Walnut Hills proper.

  • http://www.UrbanCincy.com/ Randy A. Simes

    I’m loving this discussion!

    @WamBam: I am not baffled by your South Fairmount pick, but I am curious as to why you think it is one of Cincinnati’s sleeper neighborhoods. What are your reasons?

  • Matt Jacob

    I’d agree that South Fairmount is a good “sleeper pick” but it all hinges on the MSD project and what they actually decide to do. It’s mostly up in the air still. Either way we won’t really see much until 2018+.

    SF as a community suffers from the high traffic that surrounds them, but if they consolidate the traffic to a two-way Westwood Ave it may give the slower Queen City Ave half of the neighborhood a chance to flourish with a park buffer. It’s a shame that many beautiful historic buildings between the two street will be casualties, but in the end I think this project has a chance to really help this neighborhood while retaining the great buildings on the perimeter. This could end up as a very diverse area eventually with historic buildings on one side of the street and modern buildings on the other.

  • WamBam

    Matt hit the nail on the head for the South Fairmount sleeper pick; the infrastructure investments along the Mill Creek Corridor. If you get a chance to read the Revive I-75 report and the GO Cincinnati report you can see that there are big plans that actually have legs to them. The restructuring of I-75, the Mill Creek Bike Trails, the restructuring of the Western Hills Corridor, and of course the green infrastructure investments of MSD. These are real and significant projects valued in the billions that will propel the entire Mill Creek corridor forward. But as Matt also mentioned, these changes will happen slowly over the next 20 years.

    East Walnut Hills however, I don’t know that there are such major infrastructure projects and the streetcar in this area is pure speculation at this point. What is the catalyst for redevelopment in East Walnut Hills?

  • WamBam

    Food for thought, East Walnut Hills and Pleasant Ridge have very similar urban fabric, the housing is pretty similar in age and while East Walnut Hills is most certainly a low income black neighborhood, Pleasant Ridge is more diverse than most people think. In the last ten years, Pleasant Ridge’s home values have skyrocketed, causing more home improvement efforts, and there has been a postive spillover effect and increasing diversity in Silverton and Kennedy Heights which are middle class black neighborhoods.

    How can East Walnut Hills replicate this and achieve more racial and income diversity? My thoughts, Pleasant Ridge has been working towards a more cohesive neighborhood business district and has a new LEED certified Montessori School, all which adds up to a great identity. It’s also helps to be close to Kenwood Shopping Center. Sometimes it’s all about the neighborhood amenities and the perception of the neighborohod that they create. East Walnut Hills needs to work harder to capitalize on thier existing amenities and to develop more that will attract middle income residents, and give the image of a safe neighborhood to raise kids.

  • http://homepage.mac.com/jjakucyk/ Jeffrey Jakucyk

    DeSales Corner was never the second busiest commercial district outside downtown, that was Peeble’s Corner, and third was Knowlton’s Corner in Northside.

    East Walnut Hills is an interesting assortment of highly urban and highly suburban/estate development, sometimes within just a block or two of each other. That gives it appeal to a wider audience. There’s no shortage of old money in the estate area along Madison (think Keys Crescent, Baker, Beech Crest, etc.) but crime is a problem. Nighttime break-ins, burglaries, etc. are a real concern. There’s plenty of people with kids, but they lock up tight after dark, especially north of Madison Road. Still, that makes those huge mansions very cheap (not quite North Avondale cheap, but close to it), and the short drive to Uptown makes it an attractive place for doctors to live. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out, but the crime and inability to attract many commercial tenants to DeSales Corner is a tough one.

  • Robert

    The potential of a revitalized Peebles Corner business district has been mentioned several times, but what are Kroger’s plans for their aging Walnut Hills store there? Both the store security and its produce are questionable–and, if I’m not mistaken, wasn’t this store (like the already defunct Bond Hill store) scheduled to be closed? If so, the nearest big food stores would be Kroger Corryville to the west, Kroger Norwood to the north, and Kroger Hyde Park to the east. (not a great shopping picture)

  • http://theoriginalfeed.com/ Steve Ramos

    My family and I are East Walnut Hills home owners going back close to 20 years. While I understand the frustration of newer residents wanting faster development along Woodburn Ave. and DeSales Corner, I can attest that a lot of good has happened over that time and the future looks bright.
    Reading all the posts, I see other home owners and business owners who have dropped anchor in one of the city’s “on-the-cusp” neighborhoods and share similar goals. We understand that better mass transportation and increased home ownership is essential for further development. We want an increased police presence, perhaps bicycle cops, to push out criminal activity as well as financial support for the next wave of independent business owners looking to invest in our up-and-coming neighborhoods. In these posts, I see people who understand that a vibrant, future Cincinnati needs more attractive neighborhoods than just Hyde Park, Mount Lookout and Oakley. With the fall city council election coming up, I encourage everyone to talk to the candidates. Ask them where they live. Find out their stance on the street car and other essential public works projects. Listen to the ideas on how to help East Walnut Hills, Mount Auburn, Walnut Hills, Northside and other neighborhoods continue to develop.

  • Aaron

    RE: Peebles Corner That are has gotten worse over the last 5-10 years. When I was in college, that beautiful round building on the corner was at least a Jewelry Pawn shop, but now it’s completely vacant, iirc. I wonder if its proximity to the new casino will help increase its appeal.

    Back to EWH: I heard a while back that the city was planning to make McMillan and Taft into two-way roads, at least through Walnut Hills, I’m told. If this would include making Woodburn two-way all the way to McMillan, that could be great for businesses along that stretch. I agree with others that the lack of local businesses is the main thing limiting the success of the area. It has wonderful city views, great old houses (or nice condos if you prefer), and is half the distance to downtown versus Oakley. Statistically, EWH is just as safe as Hyde Park or Oakley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_Cincinnati).

  • Lovin’ EWH

    We have lived in EWH for the past 6 years.

    We have always loved the general location (close to HP, UC, XU, Eden Park, River).

    We bought an old Victorian that we have been rehabbing as well (very fun!).

    The business district is poised to take off.

    We need the same grass roots enthusiasm that we see building in OTR.

    The housing stock is affordable and it is a quick bus ride to Fountain Square.

    The crime is a mystery to me. In six years, we have never experienced the crime stated
    in earlier posts.

    “Diversity” includes mixed incomes, in the twenty years I’ve lived in Cincinnati, I have yet to see a successful, sustained mixed income neighborhood.

    Can anyone give me an example?

  • Robert

    Isn’t Kennedy Heights considered such a sustained, diverse neighborhood? Or, if not, wasn’t KH regarded as such for many decades? (beginning in the late ’50s) Way back then it was even featured in “Newsweek” as a model neighborhood of diversity and toleration; although I grew up there in the ’50s/’60s, I haven’t been back for years and therefore can’t comment on its success (or demise).

  • WamBam

    Good point McLovin, I don’t think that you can purposely design a mixed income neighborhood, because if you could, City West wouldn’t be going bankrupt. The best you can hope for is a market based and appropriately zoned, mix of housing types that allows young and old, rich and poor to be able to spend thier entire life in one community.

    When you look at Hyde Park you think it is expensive because it has single family homes starting at 220K. But it also has a lot of rental units that allow young adults and elderly to live there. I am not saying that Hyde Park caters to the poor, but the right mix of single family to rental units is close to 70/30 according to many. I guess everyone wants their neighborhoods to feel rich and EWH doesn’t exude this character as well as Hyde Park. Just taking care of trash on the streets, maintaining properties, and having an appealing streetscape is a good place to start.

  • Marvin1915

    I’d like to second the comment that DeSales Corner was not the business hub portrayed in the article. Historically, that was Peeble’s Corner.

    A recent article in the Enquirer said that Kroger was contemplating closing the Walnut Hills location. That would be a real shame, because once it’s gone, it would be next to impossible to get back. The trouble is, that so much riff raff hangs out around it and the inventory is so poor that most Walnut Hills residents who have a choice wouldn’t venture to even go there. For many in Walnut Hills, the closest (desirable) Kroger is actually the one in Newport. If the scene around that Peeble’s Corner Kroger could be cleaned up, the convenience quotient of Walnut Hills would skyrocket and so would the desirability of the neighborhood.

    I for one was terribly disappointed with the new construction on DeSales Corner. It was like giving the middle finger to the surrounding historic streetscape. From DeSales to Peeble’s, historic character is something that could really differentiate Walnut Hills from most other neighborhoods. Oakley has thrived with some of the most exceedingly average houses and streetscape…just imagine what Walnut Hills could be.

  • Jake

    In my ever-ending journey to continually discover Cincinnati this Kentucky boy must ask some seemingly dumb questions… I’m sorry but where exactly is East Walnut Hills?

    Also, in regards to this post I hope that the West End and North Side continue to develop. Everything west of I-75 is my favorite. The still-present industry, the incredible industrial buildings. I think, more than a lot of other neighborhoods, the West End truly exemplifies what Cincinnati is – a hard-working, middle-class, Midwestern city. So I guess I’m hoping for the Price Hill areas but also all around Union Terminal all the way up to St. Bernard and over into Norwood. I love those areas. I’m sure a lot of people disagree though. I’m kind of biased because I’m sort of an industrial nerd, I guess.

    Have a good day everyone!

  • http://zacharyschunn.blogspot.com Zachary Schunn

    Jumping into the discussion rather late…

    In addition to OTR/Downtown, Corryville has already taken off, but it’s very different development. It’s all cheap student housing. The new development will not be sustained unless developers (and the city, hopefully) address the ever-growing traffic around UC… and plans to widen roads and place more car-oriented development in the area do not help. The streetcar and walkable sidewalks and plazas (think, Ludlow Avenue) will. We shall see…

    I agree that EWH looks promising, though maybe not at the speed OTR has developed. After all, hasn’t EWH already improved some, albeit slowly? It will get there over time, and possibly keep spreading north towards Avondale (especially if the streetcar is ever built). That’s kind of what I argued as a “corridor” of development in my op-ed back in November.

    I like what someone said about Mt. Auburn, and it looks promising given location. But it and other residential neighborhoods (like CUF) have a ways to go just because of the state of the residential markets right now.

    Here’s one for you though: Randy, you stated in the article that Northside has already seen a renaissance, but doesn’t it still have a ways to go? It’s quite far from downtown and doesn’t have much in terms of its own jobs base, but next to OTR it’s probably the “hippest” neighborhood in Cincinnati. Yuppies are moving there, and I don’t see why the trend would stop any time soon. Just look at the new apartments going in the American Can building as proof of developer interest.

    On a completely different note – @Jake M – are you talking about the Brew House at McMillan and Park? I’ve been there… it’s nothing but a restaurant with a bar. Not anything like the Grammers’ scene. All the Grammer-ites have likely gone to Lackman, the Drinkery, or Below Zero. (I know that the Drinkery and Below Zero have both taken on some of Grammers’ old dance parties.)

  • Jake

    I kind of agree with Zachary. I haven’t been to the Northside a ton or hung out over there like I have in Over the Rhine but it definitely seems like it has a long way to go and a LOT more could be done there. Just my two cents.

  • Joe

    Behind OTR, Uptown, and Mt. Auburn I believe that Mt. Adams has the most potential,

    Mt. Adams continues to have a lot of potential with its great views of downtown and its proximity. There has been several new apartment complexes & townhomes built and with the casino going up nearby there might be potential for more entertainment uses in Mt. Adams, especially if some sort of incline or aerial tramway is built to make the connection better.

  • chuck

    I really think the key to East Walnut’s resurgence is to renew the area of Walniut Hills between UC and EWH, such as MLK, Taft and East Mcmillan. That’s where I think the momentum is, with all kindsa renewal in the UC/Uptown zone underway, and I have heard talk about the reworking of MLK at Jefferson to connect UC Medical with the main campus so a person could actually *walk* across there without doging vehics. There needs to be a pedestrian and car slow-down reconnection thru Walnut Hills. I already notice a bit more bike and scooter traffic thataway. How many people actually visit the HB Stowe House?

    And on a completely different note, but in the same geo area, there is talk of adding an I-71 interchange at MLK. That has great potential for boon and disaster, all at once. I’m thinking positive.

  • Ceil

    Ok, guys…coming from a transitional neighborhood wanting to move to another one running parallel with Victory Pkwy, about in the middle between DeSales and Taft. Loving the idea of renting half the house or establishing a small upscale B&B.

    1-2-3~~~~~~~INPUT!!! Constructive and non-constructive thoughts wanted and appreciated.

  • parkperson

    Obviously the person who wrote this lives in—EWH? You couldn’t pay me to buy a house over there. Not only is it on the fringe of crackhouses, but it isn’t close to anything–grocery/fast food/retail…Every person that I know that has lived (note–’lived’) in EWH are the most pretentious people on the planet. Yeah, they got tired of having their car or house broken into and figured out why they got a huge house for a good price……I’d much rather have a house (half the size) in either Hyde Park or Mt. Lookout for the same price and not worry about having my electronics stolen or being killed in my house late at night…

    • http://travisestell.com/ Travis

      No, I’m pretty sure Randy does not, nor has he ever, lived in East Walnut Hills.

    • http://www.UrbanCincy.com/ Randy A. Simes

      Some people think I’m Korean and live in Atlanta.

  • http://zacharyschunn.blogspot.com Zachary Schunn

    LOL @ Randy living in EWH…