Regional Economic Hopes and Concerns Shifting As Cities Recover From Great Recession

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s annual survey of its district, jobs and the economy overall continue to remain the top concern for local leaders.

Each year, seeking to gauge ground-level concerns and needs, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland – which includes all of Ohio, Eastern Kentucky, Western Pennsylvania, and the West Virginia Panhandle – conducts a survey of community leaders to assess local challenges around the Fourth District.

In their 2015 survey, jobs remained the number one concern and priority for local leaders throughout region. Skyrocketing to the second place position was a preoccupation with access to quality and affordable housing; while vacant and abandoned properties were third.

While public officials acknowledge that jobs are indeed being created, the concern is about the type of job creation that is occurring in their communities. Part-time jobs, low wages, lack of benefits, and high turnover mean that being able to support a family is out of reach for many of those working in these newly created positions.

There is also growing concern about continued vacancy in high-wage, high-skilled positions where a skills gap is keeping many of those looking for work from filling these positions.

New in this report is the growing concern over affordable housing. While low-wage and part-time jobs continues to grow, new housing options are limited and those that are being developed are often either at the high or low end of the market. Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland say this is the first time the issue has registered as a top concern.

Continued in-migration to central cities, like what is being experienced in Cincinnati, is exasperating this problem throughout the Fourth District. Of course, this in-migration is seen by many as a net positive, even though the housing market has yet to catch up.

“The remarkable resurgence happening in core neighborhoods will have a very positive effect on those neighborhoods, and on the City of Cincinnati overall,” explained a professor at the University of Cincinnati in response to this survey.

A social services organization CEO in Pittsburgh also sees increasing migration to urban centers positively, but worries about the possibility of rising property driving historic residents from their neighborhoods. The concern over affordable housing is, as the Cleveland Fed puts it, “respondents grappling with the good and bad elements of revitalization occurring in their urban centers.”

While less relevant in the Cincinnati region, the Fourth District’s shale gas boom has also caused affordable housing problems in parts of West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania, as oil workers move in and are able to pay more in rent than other, longer-term residents.

Although the economic recovery is in full swing and most cities are seeing migration to their urban centers, many neighborhoods are still suffering from blight and disinvestment. According to the survey, abandoned properties were the third most-cited concern among respondents. Many cities in the region, particularly those in northern Ohio, are still saddled with significant amounts of abandoned and vacant properties, many of which left over from the housing crisis.

These properties not only require tax revenue to maintain and produce no tax revenues in return, but they are also most typically found in low-income, minority neighborhoods, exasperating already-difficult economic conditions for many of these communities.

At the end of the survey, the Cleveland Fed attempted to gauge emerging issues, both positive and negative. The biggest negative issue cited by almost all respondents was how to deal with an aging infrastructure that needs to be replaced. Budget cuts at all levels of government have lead to increased deferral of basic maintenance and improvements, especially in older municipalities that dominate the Fourth District.

While on the positive side, most respondents cited the continued migration of residents to the inner-city as having the most potential to positively impact economic recovery throughout the region.

Respondents also specifically mentioned the activation of the National Housing Trust Fund, which will provide federal support to help areas construct, preserve, and rehabilitate buildings for affordable housing. The National Low Income Housing Coalition predicts that Ohio and Pennsylvania will be some of the largest recipients of these funds, and thus have the most to gain or lose by its status.

Cincy Stories returns on Tuesday, May 5

Cincy Stories on May 5, 2015The organizers of the Cincy Stories event series will be presenting their second installment on Tuesday, May 5 at MOTR Pub. This time, the event will feature five speakers:

“Cincy Stories is about intimately connecting to our neighbors and just sharing stories like people do in their living rooms or around their dining room tables,” event co-founder Shawn Braley told UrbanCincy in January.

Due to the large crowd attending the first Cincy Stories event, tomorrow’s event has been moved to the main stage at MOTR Pub. The event will begin at 7 p.m. and will also feature live music from The Part-Time Gentlemen.

The first event took place in February and two stories from the event were released on The UrbanCincy Podcast.

Episode #50: Burnet Woods

On the 50th episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, we bring you a recording of a panel discussion on Burnet Woods held at the University of Cincinnati’s Niehoff Studio. The discussion was moderated by UrbanCincy‘s John Yung and featured Chris Manning from Human Nature, Ken Stapleton from Ken Stapleton & Associates, and Christy Samad from Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC).

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PHOTOS: The Vertical Expansion and Rebirth of Uptown

Last week we profiled a number of large-scale building projects uptown that illustrate the expanding reach of development occurring in the area. These projects, of course, are not at all exhaustive of the number of projects recently completed, underway or in pre-development right now.

In addition to those, there is the $86 million renovation and expansion of UC’s historic Nippert Stadium, 190-unit apartment midrise in Clifton Heights, the $35 million rebuild of Scioto Hall, and the $45 million rebuild of UC’s Teachers College; and while not technically a part of uptown, the nearby $9 million Trevarren Flats is moving along in Walnut Hills as well.

In addition to all that, the transformation of Short Vine continues with several historic building renovation projects underway.

EDITORIAL NOTE: All 16 photographs in this gallery were taken by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy in April 2015.

PHOTOS: Uptown’s Building Boom Spreading Outward to New Neighborhoods

While an incredible amount of construction is taking place in Over-the-Rhine and the central business district, uptown neighborhoods like Corryville and Clifton Heights have been experiencing a building boom of their own.

Nearing completion in Corryville is the $30 million VP3 residential development. Catty-corner from that project land has been cleared for yet another apartment project; and just a block away demolition is proceeding on University Plaza, which will be completely rebuilt.

A few blocks over Mt. Auburn is starting to see the investment spread there. At the southwest corner of McMillan and Auburn a church has been demolished in order to make way for a $35 million medical office building.

The building boom has been so great that it recently led to the recommendation for an interim development control overlay district so that City Hall can study the changes sweeping through the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Cincinnati.

EDITORIAL NOTE: All 13 photographs in this gallery were taken by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy in April 2015.