Is gentrification inevitable in OTR?

So, is it? I tend to think that it is inevitable, but it does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. The word often comes with very negative connotations, especially when you throw race into the equation. This is exactly the issue in Over-the-Rhine, and it is also not a new one (see Buddy Gray).

Gentrification, by definition, is the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents. The key here is that gentrification often displaces poorer residents. An influx, of middle-class or affluent people, alone isn’t a bad thing. It is what usually comes with it that is bad – the displacement of poorer residents.

NW View over OTR by Randy Simes

So far gentrification has been taking place in/around the Gateway Quarter, but displacement hasn’t really occurred. Many of the buildings were vacant and there has been an effort, by 3CDC, to keep units at affordable levels. Some of the units have even been arranged to only accommodate individuals within certain income ranges.

As more and more new condos pop up and more new businesses arrive, the question seems only logical. How are we going to deal with the issue of gentrification in our city’s most infamous neighborhood? It is something that will take work and courage from our leaders, and dedication from the developers to do what is right.

The gentrification of OTR doesn’t have to be the divisive/negative aspect that it often is elsewhere. We know what we can do (inclusionary zoning techniques), and we know what we should do. The question really is whether the OTR power brokers will ultimately do the right thing and not displace those current residents just so they can fatten their wallets.

By Randy A. Simes

Randy is an award-winning urban planner who founded UrbanCincy in May 2007. He grew up on Cincinnati’s west side in Covedale, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s nationally acclaimed School of Planning in June 2009. In addition to maintaining ownership and serving as the managing editor for UrbanCincy, Randy has worked professionally as a planning consultant throughout the United States, Korea and the Middle East. After brief stints in Atlanta and Chicago, he currently lives in the Daechi neighborhood of Seoul’s Gangnam district.