EDITORIAL: Don’t Cancel Homearama, Relocate It

The past ten days have been interesting. A week ago I spoke with Keith Schneider from the New York Times about the booming residential property values in Cincinnati’s center city. Then, just one day later, the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati announced that they would be cancelling this year’s Homearama event in Clermont County.

The annual suburban home show has been going since 1962, and was cancelled this year due to, “increased activity in other segments of the housing market.” One of the builders that has traditionally participated in those over-the-top suburban home shows is Great Traditions, which recently expressed a growing interest in developing urban properties.

Great Traditions is not the only one. Greiwe Development has also said that they would like to start building homes along the Cincinnati Streetcar starter line, John Hueber Homes made the same transition to Over-the-Rhine, and Ashley Builders appears to just be getting started on their work in the center city.

So while homebuilders are struggling in the region’s outlying suburbs, they seem to be thriving in a manner that is pulsating outward from Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

It seems more than likely that Homearama will return in the not-so-distant future, but should it? With all the demographic and economic trends pointing in the opposite direction, perhaps the energy and money put into the 53-year-old suburban home show should be shifted elsewhere. I could think of some very nice places to do urban home shows in Pleasant Ridge, Walnut Hills, Avondale, West End, Price Hill, East End, and College Hill. And that is not even considering the possibilities in Northern Kentucky’s river cities.

Yes, there is CiTiRAMA, but that annual home show is often limited in its scale and tends to leave much to be desired.

The writing appears to be on the wall, which makes the outlandish Fischer Homes Expressway proposal look all the more desperate. Why keep up the fight? There are plenty of opportunities in our region’s first-ring suburbs, and the city governments overseeing those sites will assuredly be more than happy to cooperate.

Don’t believe me? Just ask those developers that had been defined by their suburban subdivisions for decades how they are liking life in neighborhoods like East Walnut Hills, O’Bryonville, Northside, Clifton and Over-the-Rhine where condos are virtually sold-out.

I hope the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati decides to not cancel this year’s Homearama after all. I just hope they relocate it to the inner-city where the residential housing market is hot.

  • Mark Christol

    Kind of sounds like the Hamilton County Fair & how they just don’t want to evolve along with the society they are in.

  • matimal

    Why do you think it is likely that it will return in the future? I very much doubt that it will.

    • matimal

      Homerama was an advertisement for a particular business model. One in which nowhere fields and forests were made desirable locations. It was WHERE it was located that mattered more than the houses themselves. It was selling the dream of escape from supposed urban horrors that Homerama sold, not luxury houses. It was the creation of what the Urbanophile calls an ‘aspirational suburb.’ Urban development is an entirely different game. It wouldn’t work in central areas. Urban developments actually have to pay their way, they can’t be built on cheap land where developers can wait years to sell. Urban deals have to get done as quickly as possible because they actually have to accept market forces. I think that 3CDC has shown this to be true.

    • Because there is still money to be made. Whether it will return with $700-800k homes, return to Clermont County, or something else is what I don’t know. But I am certain the Home Builder’s Association will want this show back on the schedule sooner rather than later.

    • matimal

      Builders may want it, but does anyone else? I don’t think they do anymore.

    • Jordan Bennett Arnold

      Sales remain strong in Mason and Deerfield Township. Putting the event in Cleremont Co. Was misguided, it does better where the schools are better established

    • BillCollins45227

      Jordan: excellent point. The numbers show that the numbers of jobs are down in Clermont County. [For example, the Ford transmission plant in Batavia is gone, and 3M Precision Optics near Amelia — which employed 1500 workers 12 years ago — has disappeared.]

      Part of the reason that the elites locally in the FIRE sector (finance, insurance and real estate) keep pushing the Eastern Corridor road proposal is that they want to revive the tract-housing market in Clermont County by making it easier and faster for people who now live in the City to move out. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s white families *poured* out of Kennedy Heights, Pleasant Ridge, Madisonville and Oakley to tract-housing communities in Clermont County — in paticular to Miami Township in the Milford School District.

      For the last 15-20 years, that out-migration from the east side to Clermont County has slowed, largely I would argue because the new generation of young white home buyers is not as affected by racism as their parents were. But, still, the bankers and homebuilders want to push people out of the East Side and into Clermont County.

      This time, I see no evidence that their efforts will succeed.

    • matimal

      The fact that you think the suburban-industrial complex needs defending is the issue here, not the fact that it doesn’t work any,ore as a source of economic growth.. You don’t come to the defense of something unless you think it needs it. I guess no one is taking it for granted anymore.

    • Jordan Bennett Arnold

      I’m not sure anyone knows what you’re talking about…

    • matimal
    • charles ross

      Another factor I see happening is that the Edge Cities near where suburban settlement has sprawled alongside the freeways and near corporate campuses/Generica are now generating their own urbanity. See Union Centre (you know, where IKEA is) and The Greene along I-75. And even the resurgence of Hamilton promoted in “these pages.”

      It’s a novelty to synthesize a “city center” that is walkable and has no dirty old buildings or po’ folks in it. Perhaps if the boosters of east hills development can figure a new quasi-urban center near I-275 to attract more sophisticated people, it will conjure up their hoped-for corridor highway. Maybe they might get smart and get a usable train line working…

    • BillCollins45227

      Hamilton is not an Edge City. Hamilton is an older, established industrial City, which is very different thing. As an established City, Hamilton has its own suburbs, like West Chester Township, Liberty Township and Fairfield Township.

      Edge cities are new, built-from-the-ground-up prosperous suburbs that essentially did not exist 50 years ago or were insignificant little burgs 50 years ago. Examples would be Irvine, California or Dublin, Ohio. Hamilton has a long history as a City, so it’s not an Edge City.

    • charles ross

      Yeah I read the Garreau book – I did not mean to imply H-ton is an Edge city – it’s just nearby. Hamilton is rust belt like Middletown. On the other hand, Mason – that one’s a hybrid – old small town morphing into an Edge City known as “FieldsErtel”, especially since P&G built there.

  • Guest

    It’s not like subdivisions are dead, there’s actually been quite a rebound in the past two years since the end of the recession. And don’t forget outside of Hamilton Co. is still building, maybe they should just move it there.

    • matimal

      They look pretty dead to me from this graph.

      http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CINC139BP1FH

    • Guest

      In Hamilton County, over 800 lots have been approved or platted since 2013.
      Sprawl isn’t dead

    • matimal

      How many have been built on? Sprawl has been greatly weakened and will continue to be in the decades ahead.

    • Guest

      Let me know when people stop buying in the suburbs

    • matimal

      You’re taking objection to data from the Federal Reserve? Wow…..

  • matimal

    Randy, on a PR note, why don’t we all start calling it something like ‘central city’ or ‘central neighborhoods’ or just ‘the center’ instead of “inner-city.” For generations “inner-city” was a euphemism for concentrated poverty and since this is increasingly not true, we need to use new language to describe a new reality. What do you think?

    • We often use the term “urban core”, and in fact, that term is part of this site’s slogan. But I feel like “inner city” has lost much of the negative connotations that used to come along with it. (As opposed to terms like “urban renewal” which still have a very specific negative association.)

    • matimal

      “Urban core” sounds promising to me. I still think the word “inner” has too many negative connections for Americans.

    • Interestingly enough, when we started this site about 8 years ago the word “urban” also had its negative connotations. Over time this has changed, and now the word “urban” has moved into mainstream lexicon.

    • BillCollins45227

      I agree completely. “Inner city” is one of those pejorative terms like “Negro” and “drug addict” and “bastard” that needs to be retired.

    • It is often used that way…that’s why it’s important to reclaim it from those who have turned it into a slur.

    • BillCollins45227

      When language is racialized, that’s when I am always reluctant to use or reclaim that language. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but the term “inner city” did not exist prior to the 1960s/1970s, and when the term was created, it was essentially a polite way of saying “n—-r town” or “colored town.”

      At Dictionary.com, the definition that is listed is, ” An older part of a city, densely populated and usually deteriorating, inhabited mainly by poor, often minority, groups.”

      Because there are better terms to refer to the center areas of cities, I would suggest that we use those terms, and stay away from ones that are racially loaded. Nobody talks about “colored town” any more, as they did all the time when I was a child. So now I think we need to leave the term “inner city” behind.

    • charles ross

      Inner and Urban are classic words that used to have clear meanings, so I love to see them being reclaimed. Inner city is simply a description of a location, marvin gaye not withstanding.

  • charles ross

    I am hoping we see more interest in rehabbing the second-ring suburbs. There’s a lot of stuff built mid-century that needs some Suburban Renewal.

    • What kind of second-ring suburbs are you talking about?

    • charles ross

      I may not have my terms correct, but I mean stuff built up in the 40’s thru the 60’s, before the circle freeway, like Roselawn, Springdale, Greenhills, Forest Park, North College Hill, Mt Healthy, and of course Westwood. I might mean East Westwood (best name ever!). Westwood Northern Blvd recently got repaved and the ride is smooth now, but there’s a lot of mid-century modern buildings that are in bad shape along there. And Colerain Avenue north of Mt Airy – the humanity!

  • BillCollins45227

    Excellent point. I live in Madisonville. I won’t name any names, but I have always thought it interesting that one of the most successful and innovative of the suburban homebuilders actually lives here in Madisonville in a custom-built home which she built near by Little Duck Creek Greenway.

    Thanks, Randy, for pointing specifically to the homebuilders who are turning their attention to in-town locations. The opportunities for builders and rehabbers in the older industrial cities and towns in our area like the City of Cincinnati, Norwood, Hamilton, Middletown, Bellevue, Newport, Covington, Ludlow and Dayton, Kentucky are tremendous. As you said, that presents a huge opportunity for them to do future Home-A-Ramas in these established cities and towns.

  • Julie Irwin Zimmerman
  • TimSchirmang

    Isn’t CitiRama supposed to be as close in concept to homearama as is possible in the city? It is modest in scale because there’s just no way to do a homerama scale in the city unless it’s underground or floats in the sky. It would be great if the benefits of walkable neighborhoods could be bundled and shared in a ‘show’, I just don’t see how to do it practically.

    • There are definitely some locations where this could work on that scale. But beyond that, why must it be at such a scale? The reason Homearamas take up so much land in the suburbs is because they have mansions placed on estate-type lots. Obviously that is not what should be built in the city, but you can still build large and luxury homes in an urban setting.

    • TimSchirmang

      Large lots aren’t really important but the houses need to accommodate various construction technologies and amenities (and square footage helps here) and the show itself needs to offer enough properties so that people will attend. Its that combo that becomes tough to place in a built up area. Plus the location needs to accommodate the visitors, including their cars of course. I think citirama does the best it can.

  • JP

    The difficulty with Home-a-rama being sponsored by the HBA is that the foundation of the organization is on new homes. I would love to see a Rehab Addict mixed with Property Brothers style home show which gave people the ideas of how to renovate all of the beautiful old houses that our city has. NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) puts on a tour of homes but they are spread out. It would be great to pick a community and have 5 to 10 houses restored there. Problem is getting a buyer willing to put forth the faith in that community.

    • charles ross

      I like! But what the heck is Rehab Addict and Property Brothers? Is that from video games or TV or something? More terms like “Hamsterdam” I am learning about on this site!

      But Rehab-o-Rama would be a major step forward in human evolution. So far, the closest thing to it locally is the “City Living” (can’t recall the exact brand name) real estate tours, which, personally, gave me and my wife an entree into the city market. From the consumer “user experience” perspective the 2 concepts are not that far apart – it is real estate tourism, but Home-a-rama is a mall/cruise ship package whereas the City Living style tours are a sort of partially guided itinerary. From the vendor side of course they are apples and oranges.

    • Mark Christol

      A number of neighborhoods have house tours in Cincinnati. OTR, Northside, Clifton, College Hill. I think College Hill has a garden tour, too.
      I know Northside’s the best & it features restoration, remodeling, repurposing & new housing. The only common ‘developer’ is CNCURC/NEST, tho.