Gentrification Occurring in More Than Cincinnati’s Center City Neighborhoods

Like many cities across the United States, the City of Cincinnati is gentrifying, but it is doing so at a faster rate than most of its Midwestern peers – ranking fourth only behind Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Louis. When compared with the primary city in each of the nation’s 55 most populated metropolitan areas, Cincinnati is in the middle of the pack. Those cities that are gentrifying most quickly are located in the Northeast and along the West Coast.

The information comes from a new report published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, which also dove into the financial implications of what is often generally considered a bad thing.

Gentrification is generally understood as the rise of home prices or rents in a particular neighborhood. In Cincinnati this has most vigorously been discussed as it relates to the transformation in Over-the-Rhine from what was one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, to now being one of its trendiest.

Clifton Heights
The Clifton Heights neighborhood, which continues to see a surge of private real estate investment, was found to be one of several Cincinnati neighborhoods that gentrified between 2000 and 2007. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

“Gentrification is sometimes viewed as a bad thing. People claim that it is detrimental to the original residents of the gentrifying neighborhood,” stated Daniel Hartley, a research economist focusing on urban and regional economics and labor economics for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. “However, a look at the data suggests that gentrification is actually beneficial to the financial health of the original residents.”

What Hartley’s research found is that credit scores for those living in a neighborhood that gentrified between 2000 and 2007 were about eight points higher than those people living in a low-price neighborhood that did not gentrify. He also discovered that delinquency rates, as represented by a share of people with an account 90 or more days past due, fell by two points in gentrifying neighborhoods relative to other low-price neighborhoods during the same period.

Some, however, caution against drawing conclusions about the data presented in Hartley’s report.

“I don’t see any reason why gentrification would affect the credit scores of existing residents – those who lived in the neighborhood prior to gentrification occurring,” commented Dr. David Varady, a professor specializing in housing policy at the University of Cincinnati’s School of Planning. “It was my impression that banks and other financial institutions were not supposed to take the neighborhood into account but rely on the family’s financial characteristics.”

The practice Dr. Varady describes of banks and financial institutions taking neighborhoods into account is called redlining. It is a practice that was rebuffed by the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, but some believe the practice persists in more abstract forms today.

One of the biggest concerns shared by those worried about the gentrification of neighborhoods is that it is particularly those that rent, rather than own, who are affected most. This too, however, is challenged by Hartley’s research.

“Mortgage-holding residents are associated with about the same increase in credit scores in gentrifying neighborhoods as non-mortgage-holding residents,” Hartley explained. “This result suggests that renters in gentrifying neighborhoods benefit by about the same degree as homeowners.”

Cincinnati Gentrification (2000-2007)
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland noted gentrification in a wide variety of Cincinnati neighborhoods between 2000 and 2007. Map produced by Nate Wessel for UrbanCincy.

What is even more intriguing about the report’s findings is that original residents who moved from the gentrifying neighborhood, who many would consider displaced residents, experienced a 1.5 point higher credit score improvement than those who did not move.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland provided UrbanCincy with the data broken out by Census tract for Cincinnati. Approximately 72% of the city’s 104 Census tracts are defined as low-price, and of those 75 Census tracts with home valuation data, nine were found to have gentrified between 2000 and 2007.

When examined more closely it becomes clear that the neighborhoods experiencing the biggest gains in home value and income in Cincinnati are those that are in the center city. Specifically, and perhaps not surprisingly, five of the nine are located in the neighborhoods of Clifton Heights, East Walnut Hills, Fairview, University Heights and the East End. Outside of the center city, Pleasant Ridge, Oakley, Columbia Tusculum and Mt. Airy also experienced gentrification over the past decade.

Community council leaders for these neighborhoods did not respond to multiple requests for comments from UrbanCincy.

Unfortunately, the two neighborhoods where many expect gentrification has occurred most – Downtown and Over-the-Rhine – did not have median home value data available for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland to study.

While the report has generally positive findings about the impacts of gentrification, Cincinnati is at a disadvantage when it comes to improving the financial health of its neighborhoods.

According to the report, the percentage of low-price Census tracts in Cincinnati beneath the median home value of the metropolitan area is 14 percentage points higher than the national average, and the rate at which Census tracts are gentrifying in the Great Lakes region is approximately 4.5 points lower than the national average.

“I don’t have a clue what Hartley meant by the phrase ‘neighborhoods with a potential for gentrification’ but the assertion that 95% do in Baltimore is rather ludicrous given the high rate of abandonment,” Dr. Varady scoffed. “Baltimore certainly can use more gentrification but how the city can promote this is an open question.”

With the nine identified neighborhoods in Cincinnati spread throughout a mix of expected and unexpected locations, it is probably safe to say that the Census tracts in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine also gentrified during this period, or have since 2007.

Change in cities is inevitable, but whether these changes sweeping Cincinnati are good, bad or indifferent is probably still open for spirited discussion among those most interested.

“In general I think that gentrification presents benefits and costs,” Dr. Varady concluded. “Anyone who says it is all bad or all good is not contributing to the debate.”

This story originally appeared in the December 20, 2013 print edition of the Cincinnati Business Courier. You can view that story online for additional comments and discussion. UrbanCincy readers can take advantage of an exclusive premium digital Business Courier subscription that includes access via the web, smart phone or tablet applications for just $49 per year.

Metro Seeking Public Feedback on Proposed City-Wide Bus Enhancements

Following a year of ridership growth, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) will roll out a series of improvements to its Metro bus service this year. Agency officials say that the improvements will be rolled out in two phases.

The first round will go into effect this August and will include significant service enhancements at the new Glenway Crossing Transit Center on the west side.

A new Route 32 will provide all-day service between Price Hill and Downtown, a modified Route 64 will connect Westwood with retail on Ferguson Road and the transit center, and new connections will be offered to Route 38X to Uptown and Route 77X to Delhi. Additional service will also be added to Route 19 along Colerain Avenue and Route 33 along Glenway Avenue.

Metro Plus Bus
New Metro*Plus buses were revealed to the public this week, and will be in operation by August. Image provided.

New direct crosstown services, from the Glenway Crossing Transit Center, will take riders to Oakley via the new Mercy Health West Hospital on Route 41, and to the new Uptown Transit District and onto Hyde Park via Route 51.

The transit agency will also begin operating the new pre-bus rapid transit (BRT) service, called Metro*Plus, between Kenwood and the Uptown Transit District this August.

Officials envision Metro*Plus as offering faster service through fewer stops and enhanced visibility through uniquely designed buses and more robust bus stops. The service will initially connect Uptown with the Kenwood area via Montgomery Road, but will be judged for consideration along another six corridors throughout the region.

Attend our free event this Friday from 5pm to 7:30pm at the Niehoff Studio in Corryville on bus rapid transit and bikeway planning that will include an expert panel discussion and open house.

The improvements are a result of SORTA’s 2012 planning efforts, and will be reviewed to determine whether or not the changes should stay in effect.

“Last year, we listened to the community’s suggestions and, as a result, are proposing a number of service changes to better meet our customers’ needs and attract new riders,” Terry Garcia Crews, Metro CEO, stated in a prepared release. “We’re ready to go forward with improvements that will make Metro more efficient, more convenient, and easier to ride.”

Potential Cincinnati BRT Corridors

Officials say that the second round of enhancements will be rolled out this December and will include added service to Route 20 along Winton Road, Route 78 along Vine Street, Route 31 crosstown service, Route 43 along Reading Road, and faster service on Route 1 between the Museum Center and Eden Park.

It is also expected that the four transit boarding areas, that form the $6.9 million Uptown Transit District, will also be complete by the end of the year, and taking on the additional service to the region’s second largest employment center, and one of the city’s fastest growing population centers.

SORTA officials emphasize that the changes are all short-term in nature, and that they would like public feedback on the adjustments. Officials also state that the improvements are being made within Metro’s 2013 operating budget, and will not require fare increases.

Metro will host a public meeting on Wednesday, May 1 from 8am to 5:30pm at the Duke Energy Convention Center (South Meeting Room 232). Officials say that visitors can come anytime during those hours, and that presentations will be offered every hour on the hour.

Comments can also be submitted online, by email at, fax at (513) 632-9202, or mail to 602 Main Street, Suite 1100, Cincinnati, OH 45202. The deadline for public comments is May 1, 2013.

Talib Kweli to celebrate Record Store Day in Cincinnati this Saturday

Saturday, April 16 is the 2011 version of the national celebration known as Record Store Day. This is the fifth annual day to celebrate all things great about locally owned and independent record stores around the country as there are specific qualifications for a store to participate.

Organizers say that for a shop to be included they must have a primary focus on a physical store location, whose product line consists of at least 50 percent music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70 percent located in the state of operation.

In Cincinnati, that means we have three participating shops including Mole’s Record Exchange uptown, Everybody’s Records in Pleasant Ridge and Shake It Records in Northside. On Saturday, each store will be celebrating music and trying to attract customers to their shops mainly through in-store performances and special limited edition vinyl releases that can only be found at certain stores throughout the country. Therefore record collectors and the curious shopper can find different releases at each store.

The in-store performance fun gets started at Everybody’s Records at noon and runs until 6pm with performances by Cletis T & the Poontingers, Quick Turns, and finally State Song. Uptown meanwhile, Mole’s Record Exchange will be focused primarily on special releases this year.

The biggest party will be at Shake It Records. National hip-hop recording artist Talib Kweli will be on hand at 1pm for an in-store performance and a signing of his newest release. Additionally local rockers Wussy will be playing at 7pm and another Cincy band heading for the big time, Foxy Shazam will play at 9pm.

Ben Harper says, “Independent record stores are much more than the name suggests. They are an international community and platform where music has an outlet and an opportunity to grow over the long term, in a way that sincerely connects with community and culture.”

This is totally true so take the time to get out and support three of Cincinnati’s contributions to this community. And here, we’ll leave you with a cut from Talib Kweli’s new album.

Community Entertainment District designation seen as model for future developments

[This story was originally published in the Cincinnati Business Courier print edition on December 31, 2010. Visit the original story for more comments, thoughts and opinions on Pleasant Ridge’s designation as a Community Entertainment District – Jennifer.]

The Pleasant Ridge Development Corporation recently announced that the neighborhood of Pleasant Ridge has been approved as a Community Entertainment District by Cincinnati City Council. It is the first designation for a neighborhood business district in Cincinnati, and the PRDC hopes the recognition will result in a revitalized district by bringing in new and unique restaurants to the area.

As defined by Ohio law, the designation will allow the State to issue up to five new liquor licenses that will bypass expensive broker fees. The designation does not change any qualification standards for license seekers, and the licenses will be an ongoing asset to the business district since they cannot be transferred outside of the district’s boundaries the way standard liquor licenses are able.

Pleasant Ridge community leaders believe that they already have a unique business district with several unique restaurants including Molly Malone’s, Ethopian restaurant Emanu, and vegan eatery Loving Cafe.  But they hope that by making it easier to obtain a liquor license, there will be more restaurants that will be willing to open in the area.

“I’m thrilled to help push forward a great idea, and I applaud the engaged Pleasant Ridge citizens for their vision and creativity,” said Cincinnati City Council member Laure Quinlivan.

Hamilton County currently has three CEDs: two at The Banks and one at Anderson Towne Center. The next closest CED is in Butler County on the property surrounding Jungle Jim’s in Fairfield. Quinlivan and other members of the Quality of Life committee passed the resolution approving Pleasant Ridge as an entertainment district, and other council members followed suit shortly after.  Alcohol distribution attorney Brad Thomas says that CEDs will become more prevalent for other areas of Cincinnati in the years to come.

“The Community Entertainment District is a great opportunity for neighborhoods that want to shape their entertainment options,” Thomas explained. “CEDs allow a neighborhood to draw the boundaries of where activity will take place so they can prevent late night entertainment in residential areas – if they so desire.”

Another positive outcome attributed to the entertainment districts is that specifically zoning the areas for liquor licenses ensure that the licenses will not be bought up and moved to a different neighborhood to keep up with the hot spots. This, Thomas says, is a problem that often afflicts the entertainment industry.

“CEDs are really a win-win situation for everyone involved,” says Thomas. “A neighborhood gets new activity, the city gets new jobs, and the state gets new revenues from the liquor permits issued.”

As The Banks continues to develop, a CED will be incorporatd into each of its phases in order to allow new bars and restaurants to quickly open without having to wait for expensive liquor licenses. Casino supporters have discussed applying for a CED in the Broadway Commons area to create, along with the Cincinnati Streetcar, an “activity bridge” of bars, restaurants and nightlife that will integrate the Casino with the rest of the downtown area.

Photography by UrbanCincy contributor Ronny Salerno.

This Week In Soapbox 10/13

This Week in Soapbox (TWIS) you can read about World Food Bar’s new Downtown eatery opening this November, the first public K-12 school in the state of Ohio to achieve LEED certification, Mt. Washington’s efforts to slow down traffic along Beechmont Avenue, new lending opportunities for green building strategies created by LISC, and the latest redevelopment plans for Covington’s Jacob Price housing project site.

If you’re interested in staying in touch with some of the latest development news in Cincinnati please check out this week’s stories and sign up for the weekly E-Zine sent out by Soapbox Cincinnati. Also be sure to become a fan of Soapbox on Facebook!

Also be sure to check out the fantastic feature article by Jeremy Mosher on what Cincinnati can learn from Portland’s transit network, and the piece by David Lyman on Cincinnati’s Twitter scene. Below watch this week’s feature video that takes you on a ride of Portland’s modern streetcar.

TWIS 10/13:

  • World Food Bar Restaurant Group opening Mayberry Downtown this Novemberfull article
  • Pleasant Ridge Montessori achieves LEED Silver certification – full article
  • Mt. Washington moving forward with potential traffic calming measures along Beechmont Avenuefull article
  • LISC creating new lending opportunity for green buildingfull article
  • Redevelopment plans continue to evolve for Jacob Price site in Covingtonfull article