Episode #14: Price Hill Will

380093280924On the fourteenth episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, we’re joined by Ken Smith and Matt Strauss of Price Hill Will.

We discuss Price Hill Will’s approach of using the neighborhood’s existing assets as the foundation for improvement. The organization’s efforts range from community action teams–which focus on the arts, the environment, and other community issues–to economic development and housing redevelopment initiatives.

We also discuss how the built environment of Cincinnati’s west side has changed over the years, and why former Price Hill residents often remain involved in the neighborhood.

Photo: View from Price Hill’s Mt. Echo Park, by Travis Estell for UrbanCincy.

  • Randy hit the nail on the head about how previous generations moved further and further west over time. It was kind of boom and bust herd mentality with no one to fill the void behind them. I’ve heard others suggest it’s because PH is too tight knit of a community which makes it harder for outsiders to come in, but I don’t buy that story. I think it’s because the German immigrants got wealthier and wealthier over time and therefore wanted nicer and nicer homes. There were no new infill developments to choose from (especially with PH’s high density from the start and it all being built at the exact same time) so they had to go farther out if they wanted new. From my own German family’s pattern we started in OTR (Mulberry), then to South Fairmont, then to near Oak Hills, then to past Visitation (sorry non-westsiders but that’s how we talk over here), and then who knows they’re building new homes in Cleves now… Bottom line is that some people just want new and that trumps other things like distance, and there wasn’t any option for both close and new back then.

    This housing recession and organizations like PHW are the best thing that could happen to these neighborhoods. An opportunity to recreate some infill lots to build new on again combined with rehabbing the old ones that get kept. And probably more importantly for the long-term health of the neighborhood is that once they start getting some new builds on the infill lots, then they’ll have more building stock diversity. Some old, some new, some to fix up, some newly rehabbed; but collectively there’ll be a wider variety of options for all types of homebuyer to choose from.

    The churches are as beautiful or more so than any other in the city, but the reason that I and many others attend St. Lawrence is the late mass time (7pm) and quick service (30min).

    From someone who drives down that stretch of Glenway every day, I can attest to the traffic bottleneck that it can become at certain times of day (and the buses further clog it). No easy answers there or to the retail mess.

    • If the old Price Hill residents had stayed and the former OTR folks had not been able to move to PH because they couldn’t afford it or there was to much push back from people who had too much to lose in PH in one way or another, I wonder how that would have effected the downtown/OTR renaissance. Without somewhere to go, would the poor and criminal classes that lived in and/or operated out of OTR have stayed and prevented 3CDCs success? Was in necessary to ‘clear’ a place for them elsewhere in order that room could be made for new investment in OTR? Or would it not have mattered. Would the OTRers have found somewhere else to go regardless. Is there more than enough room in Walnut Hills, Westwood, Fairmount, etc.?

    • I suspect that those residents using Section 8 vouchers would have just moved to a different neighborhood. The reason these individuals left the West End and Over-the-Rhine was due to the removal of government-owned/operated public housing. It was around that time that many conservatives pushed to get the government out of the housing business, so the Section 8 housing voucher program was created as a free-market solution.

      Those who qualify for Section 8 vouchers can go anywhere with them that accepts the vouchers. In the case of East/West/Lower Price Hill and Westwood, the housing prices had deteriorated enough to create a situation where landlords wanted to have guaranteed income from their properties, but couldn’t justify marketing and investments necessary to make them attractive housing units for market-rate tenants.

      Had these west side neighborhoods maintained their value, I suspect that there would have just been a greater concentration of Section 8 housing voucher recipients in other neighborhoods where housing values had depreciated. At the time, Over-the-Rhine was pretty saturated with Section 8 housing voucher recipients, and there was no where else to go in the West End.

    • With the voucher system, they’re not just being pushed to one new area of town. Westwood and PH are getting some, no doubt about that, but there are also some going as far out as Colerain and Forest Park. Ultimately it’s spreading the problem thin and hopefully making it easier for the ones that want to improve their lives to do so with out always being surrounded by the bad. But the bad ones have to go somewhere and even a few bad ones in neighborhoods that were once peaceful could start new problem areas. I think their hope is that by decentralizing the problem and allowing the good ones stuck in the system to get out that they can actually diminish the overall problem over time. It was pretty clear that the past solution wasn’t working and was trapping some people from birth into a life of crime, and at the very least it’s another experiment towards finding a solution to the overall problem. Here’s hoping it works but it’s definitely stirring the pot, and some people aren’t too happy about that.

      Back to my original comment, I think that the migration outward was driven both by advances in technology and black migration into the city after the civil war. Technology (cars, plumbing, electric, A/C) enabled and almost required new buildings farther away, and like I said there wasn’t much room left to build new with how dense they started. If you had the money, you’d buy new a little further away instead of retrofitting your old house. The black migration was a new immigrant class that naturally started at the bottom of the income ladder. Probably renting the german’s old homes as they moved out. The blacks that got wealthy enough moved outward to Bond Hill and other outer neighborhoods. And others got trapped in the poverty cycle until today when most of the building stock is questionably livable. And as the blacks trapped in the cycle were set free and prices got dirt cheap, someone realized ‘hey these are amazing buildings and right next to downtown’ and so the OTR Renascence was born.

      I’m going to write a book some day, I swear.