Over-the-Rhine needs your help.

The Over-the-Rhine Foundation has been selected – one out of one hundred projects in the country deemed worthy enough – to potentially receive 25,000 dollars through The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s This Place Matters 2011 Community Challenge.

The contest kicked off June 1 at 8am and will end at 11:59pm, June 30. First, second and third places will win $25,000, $10,000 and $5,000, respectively. The Over-the-Rhine neighborhood is one of the most architecturally significant in the country, with the largest collection of Italianate architecture, rivaling similar but much smaller areas in Charleston, South Carolina; the French Quarter in New Orleans, Savannah, Georgia, and even Greenwich Village in New York City.

Votes are counted by email registration – a quick 30 seconds registers an address and enables you to vote one time. The small contest has quickly become a grassroots effort to rally votes and energize the neighborhood. Vote now!

Sean Rhiney, Vice President of the Foundation, described the contest as “a significant opportunity not just for Over-the-Rhine, our oldest and most beloved urban neighborhood, but for the entire City of Cincinnati.” He sees the contest as a chance for the city to shine nationally.

“We’re already proving OTR can be a national model for how older cities can recognize their significant architectural and community assets and let them guide and enhance preservation and development,” Rhiney explained. “The National Trust recognized this when they placed us on their endangered list in 2006 – that wasn’t a death sentence, that was a national organization shining a light on the beauty of what we have, and the limitless potential in saving and celebrating it.”

$25,000 could do a lot of good – the Foundation will enhance several programs already in place. The Over-the-Rhine Legal Defense Fund provides money for lawyers as preservationists battle the city, corporations, and private owners who wish to demolish historic structures.

Another program is the Green Historic Study – demonstrating the marraige between sustainable building and historic property. “Of course, saving structures on the city’s most endangered list in OTR remains a top priority as well identifying proactive ways to deal with infill and greenspace,” said Rhiney.

On June 9, OTR was in 84th place. The effort to win began in earnest the next day and has catapulted OTR into 2nd place. The standings as of 5:00AM, June 20 are as follows (votes alone determine which organization wins the challenge but Facebook “likes” are another, unofficial barometer):

  1. Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc.: 2,939 votes and 690 facebook “likes”
  2. Over-the-Rhine: 2,761 votes and 1,733 facebook “likes”
  3. Enterprise Hometown Improvement: 2,706 votes and 250 facebook “likes”
  4. The Preservation Society of Newport: 2,388 votes and 354 facebook “likes”
  5. Embankment Preservation Coalition: 1,981 votes and 271 facebook “likes”
  6. (had been 5th) Cleveland Urban Design Urban Collaborative & Kent State University: 1,630 votes and 1,008 facebook “likes”
As one can see from the current standings, Over-the-Rhine is within striking distance of 1st place but cannot win without the support of all of us. This neighborhood is significant and this is a chance to show the country that we are all behind it.
  • To vote, click here.
  • To attend the facebook event, click here.
  • To monitor the voting results, click here

    Please share all of this information with your friends and remember that you’re allowed to vote once for every email address you have. Vote at http://bit.ly/voteotr

    Seth Schott of OTR Matters contributed to this article.
    Photo credit: Chuck Eilerman.