Business News

Downtown Cincinnati experiences strong progress during recession

If Cincinnati is our home, then downtown is akin to our city’s kitchen. Downtown is where we, as a community, watch television (Fountain Square), downtown is where we eat, and downtown is where we complete our financial transactions. This is the analogy Mayor Mark Mallory used at the 2010 State of Downtown meeting held this past Thursday, April 29th.

Mayor Mallory also likened downtown to an engine that is “hot and running well” at the Annual Member Meeting hosted by Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI). The positive 2009 report identified several positive indicators during one of the most difficult economic years the nation has seen including:

  • $116 million in completed construction and renovation project with another $1.6 billion in projects currently in progress
  • More than 445,000 square feet of office expansions, renewals and relocations in 2009
  • 30 new retail/restaurant/entertainment establishments opened in the central business district
  • 140 single family homes were sold, keeping population growth consistent with projections
  • $59 million economic impact of total room nights marked a record setting year for hotels
  • The Main Library, Cincinnati Museum Center, Krohn Conservatory and Fountain Square all posted record attendance years
  • Overall crime rate for the central business district/riverfront was down double digits in Part 1 and Part 2 offenses over the past decade, helping make Cincinnati the 7th safest city for pedestrians out of the nation’s 52 largest metro areas
  • DCI’s 3rd annual pedestrian count study showed a continued increase during peak weekday times (11am to 2pm), and a total increase of 20% in pedestrians during the evening hours
  • A partnership with the Hamilton County Department of Pretrial Services and the County Jail, University Hospital, Summit Behavioral Healthcare and others to identified the top 16 high risk panhandlers; placing 3 of the 16 cases in permanent housing to date

The meeting, which lasted for just a little over an hour, also included remarks from the Senior Regional Officer of the Cincinnati/Cleveland Branches of the Federal Reserve Bank Dr. LaVaughn Henry, Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney, and DCI president David Ginsburg.

The speakers focused on the importance of economic development in the greater downtown areas, each bringing a different viewpoint to the podium. Commissioner Hartmann spoke briefly about the importance of downtown to all of Hamilton County and the region, while using the casino development as a prime example of how to get the public excited and involved in the development process. Dr. LaVaughn Henry addressed the national economic recession and stated that while unemployment is still high here in Cincinnati and across the country, the rate of job loss is slowing and consumer confidence is on the rise.

Downtown Cincinnati’s population has experienced steady population growth since 2005, and is expected to double by 2012 with the continued renovation of Over-the-Rhine and the opening of The Banks.

City Manager Milton Dohoney stressed the importance of taking risks, while also being cautious in our approach. His remarks on economic development revolved around the creation of new jobs, smarter land use, and partnership and investment in our community.

“Big steps equal big gains,” Dohoney commented in regards to taking risks. “We must work on expanding our tax base, while also proving that we are an inclusive community.”

Following the meeting, UrbanCincy caught up with DCI President David Ginsburg where he discussed the importance of projects like The Banks and the Broadway Commons Casino ultimately not becoming a single destination. Ginsburg also brought up the importance of “zoning flexibility” when it comes to downtown vacancy issues.

“Our primary role is to enhance downtown’s potential as a vibrant, clean and communal place that attracts employers, art, music and the creative class,” Ginsburg stated. “We must continue to improve downtown’s perception by getting more people downtown to witness the improvements firsthand. You wouldn’t buy a new car until you test drove it, so we need to get more people to test drive downtown.”

News Politics

Just another statistic…

It has been just over a month (11/27) since I became a statistic. After going to the Know Theatre for a review of Sideways Stories from Wayside School I was walking back towards Fountain Square when my friend and I were robbed at gunpoint at the intersection of Vine and Court streets (map).

No one was hurt, although material possessions were taken along with our nerves that night. It was not so much the fear, but the state of shock took over our minds. There were lots of people around – about a half dozen at the bus stop a half block away, another dozen or so hanging outside of Hamburger Mary’s, cars moving along on Central Parkway, and we were right on Vine Street. We could not believe what was happening until it was all over.

The encouraging part was that someone at the bus stop called the police who responded within a few short minutes. Another gentleman expressed his condolences as we continued to make our way back into the Central Business District, but in the end, we have been added to the spreadsheets as victims of crime.

Looking back on things it appeared as though the individual who approached us had no intention on using the Western-style handgun of his that he was holding palm up, and it also appeared that it was all made possible by a dark Court Street area where he, and an accomplice, were able to hide. Since that time Court Street has seen additional lighting added to it in a move that I find non-coincidental.

Both my friend and I are avid city supporters and are not scared away easily. The next day I walked around historic Over-the-Rhine taking photographs of new development projects and architectural features throughout the beautiful neighborhood. But with that said, the incident gave me a reminder that we must always be aware of our surroundings no matter how comfortable we might be.

Additionally, as urban-advocates we must realize that crime, and the perception of it, must be addressed in a prioritized way that is thought out and well managed. Would surveillance cameras prevented this incident from occurring, or would it have just happened somewhere else where it was dark and without a camera? Would additional lighting have changed the situation? More police? More jail beds?

These are all complex issues that are very worth discussion as we continue to move forward with the redevelopment of our urban communities. We need a smart city in order to thrive in the future, and overlooking how to effectively manage crime would be a major mistake.

News Politics

"Intellectually dishonest" report claims OTR is nation’s most dangerous neighborhood

Crime and public safety is a tricky issue. Simply throwing more police is not always the solution, just as adding additional social service programs doesn’t always do the trick. What is generally accepted though is that economics tend to drive criminal behavior.

A “study” that came out yesterday reported that Cincinnati’s historic Over-the-Rhine is the most dangerous neighborhood in the country. That’s right, the most dangerous. Besides not even passing the smell test, this study fails in several regards: outdated data, selective boundary drawing and lack of human understanding of reality.

Data Inconsistencies:
The report’s methodology cites that: “Violent crimes included are the violent crimes from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, armed robbery, and aggravated assault. Based on multiple years of data, and predicted to the individual neighborhood level by NeighborhoodScout’s exclusive crime models, we list the top 25 most dangerous. The rating is based on the predicted number of violent crimes in the neighborhood per 1,000 population of the neighborhood.”

Using this methodology one can look at what they examined for the slice of Over-the-Rhine that they examined and extrapolated for the rest of the neighborhood. The study look at areas found within the 45210 and 45214 zip codes (part of northwest OTR and some of the West End) and they predicted an annual violent crime count of 457. They then created a violent crime rate (per 1,000) and came up with a 266.94 figure. Finally this all translates into what they claim is a 1 in 4 chance of being a victim in one year in Over-the-Rhine.

Here’s the problem with their analysis. In 2007 the crime statistics for Over-the-Rhine (full neighborhood) registered a total of 390 violent crimes. So if all of Over-the-Rhine had 390 violent crimes in 2007, why would they project 457 violent crimes in 1/4th of the neighborhood?

According to 2000 Census Over-the-Rhine has 6,497 people*. At 390 violent crimes in 2007, the violent rate per 1000 would be 60.02 (1/2 of the 25th Most Dangerous Neighborhood) and five times less than the report from this “study.”

Crime trends based on Cincinnati Police Department public records

The report is based on the FBI’s Unified Crime Reports. If you take a brief second or two out of your life you can read the clear warning on their site regarding the use of this data for comparison purposes.

“Each year when Crime in the United States is published, some entities use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region. Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction.

The data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of individual reporting units from cities, metropolitan areas, states, or colleges or universities solely on the basis of their population coverage or student enrollment. “Variables Affecting Crime” in Crime in the United States has more information on this topic.”

3CDC’s Response:
The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) is a group of local corporations in Cincinnati that have worked towards redeveloping Cincinnati’s center city into a vibrant, safe and livable area that is appealing to a diverse collection of people including the talent they are attempting to attract to Cincinnati.

3CDC’s Kelly Leon also stated that she spoke with Lt. Mark Briede from the Cincinnati Police Department today, and he informed her that crime stats for January-May 2009 compared to January-May 2005 indicates a 36% drop in violent crime in Over-the-Rhine. This is important, because the study that was released only examined data from 2005 to 2007 and ignored the most recent crime data available to the public.

3CDC has been intimately involved in Over-the-Rhine for several years now working on the area in Over-the-Rhine known as the Gateway Quarter where almost $100 million of private investment has occurred and resulted in hundreds of new residential units and dozens of new businesses. Below you can see the statement released by 3CDC in response to what they consider to be an “intellectually dishonest” report.

“The study released today regarding Over-the-Rhine (OTR) focuses on approximately 20 square blocks, some of them not even located in OTR and is based on data that is more than two and a half years old. In fact, reported crime through 2008 in the area of OTR south of Liberty Street, known as OTR Gateway, is down 37% since 2004.

“OTR is 110 square blocks and includes several neighborhood districts including OTR Gateway, centered at the corner of 12th and Vine streets. This area, and other OTR census tract areas, was not part of the study.

“It is unfortunate and intellectually dishonest that the entire neighborhood was labeled in such a negative way. The fact is, $84 million has been invested in OTR Gateway since 2004 and new home owners and business owners are investing in the neighborhood. This past Saturday, a 5K run and day-long Summer Celebration arts festival brought about 2,000 people to the corner of 12th and Vine to shop, eat and listen to music. The only problem was that some of our vendors didn’t anticipate such a large crowd and ran out of food.”

Area of Over-the-Rhine examined

Reality On The Ground:
Crunching the numbers only gets you so far, as you can often manipulate data to tell what ever story it is you want to tell. The reality is what is experienced on the ground, and my hunch is that this computer model never took a visit to Over-the-Rhine to meet the people, business owners and visitors that love the neighborhood.

Feeling safe in an area is often a subjective item. One person may feel more comfortable in an area than someone else. If I feel comfortable walking around Findlay Market’s nearby streets (which I do) and someone else does not, then who is right?

If you have never been to a place then how can you reasonably make an assumption on its safety as you would perceive it. I have often given tours to out-of-towners visiting Cincinnati and considering a move into a Downtown or Over-the-Rhine dwelling unit. Instead of telling them if the neighborhood is safe or not I take them for a walk through the neighborhood and let them decide for themselves. Often times after they see the single women, children playing outside and individuals walking dogs they get the feeling that the hype isn’t always true.

Officer Daniel O`Malley of the Cincinnati Police Department’s District 1 – photo by Ronny Salerno

Ronny Salerno did a great write up of his own on this very topic. He examined the study’s findings and compared them to his personal experiences of doing “ride-alongs” with District 1 police officers that patrol Over-the-Rhine.

Ronny also goes on to discuss his observations, of the neighborhood, from his exploration of the neighborhood’s architecture, abandoned buildings and newly renovated structures. Personal knowledge and experience seems to trump all, and those that know Over-the-Rhine know that this report is not only outdated, but it is flat out wrong and illustrates lazy research that is distanced from reality.

*UrbanCincy originally reported that Over-the-Rhine’s population was 7,638 with a violent crime rate of 51.6.  In fact, Over-the-Rhine’s actual population is 6,497 resulting in a violent crime rate of 60.02.  The error occurred due to the inclusion of Census Tract 11 which includes the Pendleton neighborhood immediately adjacent to Over-the-Rhine.


"Shadow Hare" protecting Cincinnatians?

This goes down as one of the strangest stories I’ve heard in a long time. There are so many things to comment on here from the names of these self-described “superheroes,” the “Allegiance of Heroes” that Shadow Hare is part of, the pitch of his voice, the fact that he’s 21 years old and from Milford or their costumes.

Just watch this great news piece from WLWT to see for yourself (be sure to notice the reaction of the Hamilton County Sheriff that Shadow Hare approaches in the video).


Six year reform effort a success for CPD

The most important role of government is public safety. Over the past few years this has become the primary concern for voters in Cincinnati as the city reeled from the results of the 2001 race riots. This civil disturbance led to a close examination of how the Cincinnati Police Department conducts its business.

This examination was done by a court-appointed monitor, Saul Green, who closely examined the police department’s actions and procedures for the past six years. The report has been released and the results are very encouraging.

The monitor’s report refers to Cincinnati’s police reform effort as “one of the most ambitious ever attempted – and one of the most successful.” He goes on to say that Cincinnati is now a national model for how these types of reforms should happen.

These efforts of reform have not come alone. They have been matched with aggressive and innovative police strategies to fundamentally reduce violent crime in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) is the primary program of note in this regard.

The CIRV is a long-term effort that focuses on reducing the actual desire for individuals to commit and live their lives through crime. The results aren’t necessarily seen right away, but luckily enough for Cincinnati the numbers are already improving. This is probably a combination of things from Operation Vortex, to a number of major gang busts (see Tot Lot Posse and Northside Taliban), to improved community relations.

The bottom line is that public safety in Cincinnati is improving. This year saw a slight uptick (2005 – 2008 saw 79, 85, 67, 75 homicides respectively) in the overall number of homicides, but was on pace to be even lower than last year’s improved number until the string of non-random homicides at the end of the year. The work must continue and these aggressive and innovative measures should continually be tweaked to be most successful. But at this point Cincinnati, its leaders, and citizens deserve some congratulations.

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