PHOTOS: Building Boom Changing the Face of Uptown Neighborhoods

While the construction activities taking place in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown often grab the most headlines, it is actually the city’s uptown neighborhoods where some of the most dramatic construction progress is taking place.

Numerous projects are underway that are adding four- to six-story structures all over Clifton Heights, Corryville, University Heights, Clifton, and Mt. Auburn.

The $15 million, 115-room Fairfield Inn & Suites is now topped out and filling in the remaining piece of the U Square at The Loop block along W. McMillan Street. Once this portion of the development is complete, attention will turn to developing the planned office building along Jefferson Avenue in between W. McMillan Street and Calhoun Street.

Just down the street from the hotel project site is The Verge – 178-unit residential development – which is also now topped out. This project has stirred controversy due to its demolition of two historic structures that were once on the site. In addition to that, the project is replacing a large surface parking lot and several small homes.

In Corryville, the finishing touches are being put on the $30 million, 147-unit VP3 residential development that, like The Verge, is targeting students studying at the University of Cincinnati. Likewise, the $25 million 101 E. Corry project is bringing an additional 123 apartments and eight townhomes to the historic neighborhood.

Nearby, and on the border of Clifton Heights and Corryville, is the University Plaza site, which has now been fully demolished of its previous structures. While the new development footprint will not differ significantly from what was there before, a new Walgreens is already nearing completion, and a new Kroger grocery store, twice the size of the previous store, will also soon begin construction as part of a $24 million redevelopment effort.

Finally, the $17 million, 117-unit Gaslight Manor residential development in Clifton is on-pace to be completed later this year. This project is replacing a less dense apartment complex that previously occupied the hilly site immediately northwest of Good Samaritan Hospital.

EDITORIAL NOTE: All 17 photographs were taken by Eric Anspach in February 2016.

  • matimal

    I suppose it is a “boom” by Cincinnati standards, but it’s just the normal pace of development in many American metros.

    • I would not at all agree that this is the nor for many American metros. In Ohio, only Columbus is seeing this amount of construction in its city limits, but that also coincides with Columbus having one of the nation’s strongest economies and being recognized as one of the fastest growing in America.

      And to your point about the power lines, I couldn’t agree more. It is silly that we still have so many of these power lines strewn about our city. It is even more crazy to think that City Hall isn’t forcing the issue for their burial when new developments come in and rebuild the block, or when City crews come in and rebuild the street and sidewalk.

    • Brian Boland

      The development itself is good, if the architecture leaves much to be desired. The developers and/or the Uptown Consortium seem to be afraid to build things that weave into the neighborhood fabric. Instead we have buildings that surround or dwarf their neighbors. The 101 E Cory project could have blended nicely with the building that already existed, instead it makes that building look small and alien.

      As for the utilities, we’re all in agreement on that. What a great missed opportunity to move them underground or behind.

    • An interesting story is that Jake Mecklenborg and I first met debating the issue of the future of Uptown’s neighborhoods. In on online forum I made the argument that eventually much of Uptown will be demolished and replaced with 4-6 story structures of this variety.

      Jake, on the other hand, hated the idea of that. We eventually realized that we were in agreement about the importance of historic preservation. But the point was that this change you are noticing is something that I think was largely inevitable given Uptown’s location and importance in the region.

    • Neil Clingerman

      Even if it is inevitable, I wish that there was at the very least some kind of architectural standard. The look of most of these project is appaling (though they are at least functionally urban), and right up the road in Columbus much better quality projects are being built.

    • ED

      Columbus’ elected officials codified that everything in the arena district would be true brick and they’ve stuck by it. Here, city hall generally knows what’s good architecture and bad, but it stops there. There is no overarching design voice and there are complaints after the fact but nothing is done.

    • matimal

      Columbus isn’t in the same league as Austin, Denver, Nashville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Dallas, etc. Take a look at the Metro Monitor at to see it’s moderate growth in a national context. It’s only in comparison to the nearby rustbelt that Columbus appears so different. Cincinnati’s recent growth is necessary for the metro to sustain its regional economy, but it’s very modest in comparison genuine growth in places like Nashville.

    • ED

      We’re not growing in population like those other cities and therefore don’t have as much building. But I wouldn’t trade Cincinnati for Nashville, Dallas or any NC city. Growth for growth’s sake isn’t the bottom line.

    • matimal

      Neither is Columbus growing like Nashville or Dallas. My point is that Columbus’ moderate growth is causing it’s moderate scale of development. The pace of population growth and thus real estate development in Austin, Denver, and Nashville is far beyond that in Columbus. Cincinnati and Columbus are experiencing similar economic dynamics even if Columbus is doing so at a somewhat faster rate due to it’s flat, open geography, relatively young infrastructure, and the stabilizing presence of state government and OSU.

    • matimal

      Metro Cincinnati adds about 11 or 12 thousand people per year. That’s more than 100,000 over a decade. It’s NOT declining. Cincinnati IS growing in population.

    • Jesse

      Most of the cities mentioned above are new-growth cities. Those places did not have to recover from the kind of decline Cincinnati went through. On top of that they have physical room for growth. Cincinnati will have to go through a turnaround process that looks more like what happened in Boston and New York.

      It is also worth noting that Denver and Nashville are growing because people are moving there from outside their metro areas. Cincinnati is just now getting to the point where we can hope to attract new residents from our own suburbs and from smaller cities in our region.

      None of that is intended to dampen enthusiasm for what is happening here. We are just in a different phase of the process than Nashville. I think Cincinnati is just getting started. There will be a point when Cincinnati has redeveloped enough of it’s urban areas that the city starts to resemble its younger self. Once that happens we will be in a better position to use our fantastic historic, cultural and natural assets to compete nationally.

      Looking far into the future, I don’t see Columbus and Indianapolis becoming regional power houses. I see more potential in the sparks of new life we are seeing in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

      I’d choose Cincinnati over Columbus now. After 10 more years of renewal in Cincinnati and cheap cornfield-to-condo growth in Columbus the two places won’t be in the same league.

    • matimal

      They ARE young cities, but metro Cincinnati never had actual decline. It’s population, economy, etc. never actually shrank. Cleveland, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and of course Detroit, DID have actual decline. If Cleveland had had the same percentage changes in population as Cincinnati in the last 20 years, Cleveland would have 250,000 more people today than it actually has. That’s a profound difference. We need to stop thinking of Cincinnati as being in that league of rustbelt towns. In terms of economic structure and demographics it isn’t.

    • Jesse

      That’s true for metro Cincinnati but you can’t deny the city of Cincinnati has declined. We lost over 40 percent of our population since the 50s. Those people may not have moved far but the damage was no less dramatic. Pictures of OTR circa 1990 show what that looked like. The cultural and physical damage was devastating.

      Denver, Nashvile and Columbus never went through anything like that. Where they have empty land and and quiet working class neighborhoods to work with we have true blight.

      At least for me, metro area population and economic growth don’t mean anything unless they are contributing to a healthy urban core. I grew up in the northern suburbs as they boomed while the city hemorrhaged population and money. It didn’t feel like growth or stability. It felt like steep decline.

    • matimal

      MOST American cities declined in the postwar era. MANHATTAN declined in the 60s and 70s. So did Columbus. Nashville and Denver are another story. Lumping Columbus in with Nashville and Denver is a mistake.

    • Jesse

      I know most cities declined in the post war period. However, there were very clear winners and losers. What happened in Seattle was not the same thing that happened in Cleveland. Seattle was a winner and Cleveland was a loser. Cincinnati may not have fell as hard as Cleveland but we fell pretty hard. The numbers may not look too bad on a metro area level but you see the signs of decay and neglect all over the place in the central city.
      My only point is that some cities have to overcome a huge amount of blight before they can attract positive attention on a national level. Redevelopment is harder and slower than new development. That means places that need to redevelop are at a disadvantage to places that were less dramatically affected by the post war decline or have lots of room to grow into annexable spaces.
      Comparing Cincinnati to Dallas is not all that helpful. We need to look to Boston, New York and other older cities that were able to spark new growth in old areas.
      And I’m not all that interested in a Nashville vs. Columbus argument. They are both growing fast so they both work for me in comparing new growth vs redevelopment efforts in places like Cincinnati.

    • matimal

      I think you have the relative trajectories of metros wrong. Cincinnati didn’t “fall” at all. Cleveland, Buffalo, and even Pittsburgh did, but Cincinnati’s metro economy and population never “declined.” It’s an important difference between rust belt cities and Cincinnati.

    • I have come to realize how much more aesthetic it is to have trees lining the street and no overhead wires. That alone can transform the space. However, that issue came up a few years back after a major snow storm hit DC. There was a moderate push to bury the city’s remaining power lines (about 50% of the city was already buried) to avoid the major power outages associated with falling trees during significant storms. The utility came back and reported the cost would have easily exceeded a billion dollars to do about half of DC’s less than 100 sq. miles which would have significantly raised everyone’s tax bill. The push died immediately. Pushing for it to be done during major new development would be a smarter approach.

    • In Over-the-Rhine, power lines tend to be buried with each new phase of development. Most recently, when the new streetscape was put in on Walnut (between Central Parkway and 14th), utilities were buried and crews have been slowly but steadily removing the overhead utilities since then.

      In Uptown, utilities are being buried on Short Vine, but I am pretty shocked that they remain above ground on McMillan through the Clifton Heights business district. You’d think that they would have buried them when they redid the streetscape a few years ago. I always find it bizarre when areas get a new streetscape and have fancy gaslight-looking street lights, but still have telephone poles with cobrahead lighting on them.

    • ED

      Walnut before

    • Jules Michael Rosen

      Short Vine is not burying the lines. They are moving them to one side of the street, instead of both. Frankly, the work they’ve done there has made the street feel less inviting. I’ve never understood how removing mature trees is supposed to make a streetscape better.

    • Hmm, interesting. I know that they have had problems on Short Vine getting all of the property owners to agree to the streetscaping and the utility work, and that if even one property owner doesn’t sign off on utility burial, it can prevent it from happening for the entire block.

    • Jules Michael Rosen

      I assumed it was a cost-cutting measure.

    • Jonathan Hay

      Uptown is very unlikely to be flooded. We are all in trouble if the Ohio river floods up the hill.

    • I agree. It was actually a snow storm with high winds that toppled trees and knocked out significant power in this case.

    • matimal

      What’s your point?

    • Jonathan Hay

      I talked w/ a developer who didn’t want the power lines to be visible. He told me he offered to do the work free of cost for the city in on the street of his development and he was told no because then other streets would want this and the city has no plans to remove them from the surrounding streets.

    • matimal

      Amazing… will take a concerted outside effort to get power lines underground just as it took one to seal the deal on streetcars.

    • charles ross

      heh hehe heheh. how ya gonna keep em down on the farm….

  • charles ross

    Woah- so many new units happening around the Corryville area I totally missed that new Gaslight project. While we’re looking over there on the west bank of Uptown – anyone know what’s in store for the revamped MLK hill that hangs over “The Colony” – are any of the old demo’d dwellings from the north side of MLK being replaced with new development?

    • That’s a great question. In fact, I was wondering the same thing when I drove through the area last month. I have not heard of any proposed projects as of yet.

      The whole project seemed a bit odd to me…and actually seemed like more of a way to demolish those older four-family structures that once lined the north side of the street. I think the power players in Uptown wanted those gone. If they are replaced with something else remains to be seen.

      Already we have seen that the realignment of Dixmyth Avenue has paved the way for an expansion of Good Samaritan Hospital and also made this Gaslight Manor project more viable. Will we see more development there along the west side of Dixmyth? Who knows…but I suspect these road “realignments” are often much more strategic than simply straightening out the alignment.

    • ED

      The Whitfield Apts (Gaslight Manor) project is a good one: oversized courtyard apt on underutilized land inserted nicely into a historic neighborhood, and they installed a hand-laid stone foundation. Some Clifton NIMBYs fought against it unsuccessfully because of a concern over a lack of parking…

    • matimal

      You don’t need to just suspect. Roads have been openly used as ways to control development in America for centuries. The battles about where to put expressway exits in the 60s and 70s made, and lost, millions for property speculators.

    • Rob T

      Randy, as far as I know there will not be any new development on MLK. MLK is supposed to be widened and the hill is to be shored up. I think I may have read something about bike lanes being apart of the new MLK. you can take a look here:

    • Right. This is what I remember studying as well. My point in bringing up the Dixmyth realignment is that it was pitched in a similar manner, but in the end it appears to have been a project that was two-fold due to all of the development that has occurred in its wake.

  • ED

    Is The Verge still going to have liner townhomes on Lyon St? Doesn’t look like they left much space

    • Yes they will, but I don’t believe they will look like this.

  • Robert Boylson

    While I love adding density, I’m also a bit saddened by how uninspired and lifeless the architecture is. Especially for the UC area. I get that college kids don’t necessarily care what the buildings look like, but I fear that we’ll look back in 30 years and ask, “what were we thinking?”

    • Jesse

      It’s too bad the Uptown Consortium is not more concerned with aesthetics. They seem to be much more concerned with the speed of development. Out with the old and in with…well pretty much anything apparently.

      At least it looks better than the horrible suburban style mess the city allowed to grow in the area centered around Oakley station. Uptown deserves better.

    • Noibn48

      Just hideous. The lack of imagination and regulations requiring at least some semblance of aesthetic integration that reflects the character of the neighborhood is almost unbelievable.

      Why can more upscale projects do that as we see in Mariemont and Oakley but not places like OTR?

  • Jonathan Hay

    I hear the concern about the architecture, but I think regulations should be left to a minimal. A larger issue is speeding the approval process in city hall this would make a huge difference on small scale/ infill projects.

  • matimal

    I’ve stayed in wood framed hotels and I could hear and feel all sorts of sounds and vibrations. Doors slamming, people coughing, loud water pipe; sometimes in recently built buildings. I can usually tell from a good exterior photo and always avoid woodframe hotels when I travel. I’d never live in a wood frame apartment or condo building. Any reports about what it’s like living in these wood frames?

  • charles ross
  • matt

    You guys should do a special on the tax rates faced by multifamily operators within Urban Cincinnati. The tax code has been blatantly out of sorts for MF residential, dictating on paper a far higher level of tax per unit than other competitive cities on the same scale. On average the amount of tax as percentage of gross income stemming from a unit nationwide accounts for 14-18% of income. In Cinci this variable is more often in the low 20-25%s, far higher than the queen city’s peers (raleigh, charlotte, nashville etc.). This causes many MF players to take one look at cincy and then look elsewhere. The truth of the matter is that each successful MF building has some level of city offered tax abatement. The rookwood tower in mount adams was built in 1968 for christs sake and is still receiving abatements to the normal level of tax (14%) almost literally FIFTY YEARS LATER. This broken system not only discourages investment, but gives the city immense power with their sole leniency to issue and re-issue these abatements. Operate slightly outside their per-view? they will sink your deal next tax negotiation. Something needs to change and ASAP. Those conditions are so nebulous no right-minded investor will accept them.

    Also did anyone else realize VP3 got paid big bucks to deliver (200 spaces) parking? 6mil for 207 spaces means a little over 30k per space. Construcion costs with overhead easily allow structured spaces in market to be built for 16k-20k. By the way not all the spaces given to the city were in fact covered, many were surface lots with a far lower cost. Ultimately thanks to leverage and adding in a developer fee/a bulk of the architectural fee these guys came across like bandits. See link for full analysis: | till cinci fixes the obvious hemorrage of unfair and preferential treatment allowed & facilitated by her government, she will continue to be overlooked by investment $$$.

    It has nothing to do with whether or not cinci is a growth city. It is in fact growing. You are all debating the wrong aspects.