Business Development News Politics

Inner-City Neighborhoods Center of Population, Economic Power in Cincinnati Region

The Cincinnati region has been one of the nation’s best economic performers over the past several years, and that has resulted in a 6.4% unemployment rate that is more than a point better the national average.

According to the U.S. Census, more than 968,000 jobs are scattered all over the region, but it is the City of Cincinnati that stands out as the dominant force for the 2.1 million person region.

As the numbers in the City of Cincinnati’s 2013/2014 Biennial Budget Report show, the financial standing of the central business district is critically important to the overall financial health of the entire city and county. According to the report, income taxes brought in $234 million last year – nearly 71% of the City’s total revenue in 2012.

Cincinnati Employment Density Cincinnati Employment/Population Share
While outlying suburban communities have seen an influx of jobs over the past 30 years, Downtown and Uptown remain the region’s preeminent job centers. Employment Density Map and Employment/Population Share Map by Nate Wessel for UrbanCincy.

In the Cincinnati Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), center city neighborhoods account for the highest concentration of jobs, with more than 22,000 jobs per square mile in Downtown’s 45202 zip code, and anywhere from 3,000 to 9,000 jobs per square mile in Uptown neighborhoods.

“Downtown and Uptown are the City’s largest employment centers and therefore they are very important to the City’s financial health,” said Lea Ericksen, Cincinnati’s Budget Director. “We want all our neighborhoods to improve tax earnings by increasing residents, jobs and overall economic vitality, but we are focused on the six GO Cincinnati strategy areas for redevelopment.”

Cincinnati’s 2.1% income tax largely goes to support the General Fund which pays for operating expenses like police officers and fire fighters. Smaller percentages also go to pay for public transit operated by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) and capital investments in City buildings and infrastructure.

Ericksen projects that while income taxes will remain the same, they will grow in value by approximately 2.6% annually over the next six years.

Income & Property Tax Earnings (2004-2016)
The City of Cincinnati has experienced steady growth in income tax revenues since 2004, but it has struggled to recover from the previous decade’s housing crash. Chart produced by UrbanCincy.

Property taxes are the next largest revenue generator for City Hall – accounting for $23.9 million in 2012. City officials expect this number remain stable over the next four years following an initial $7.8 million annual bump should the current property tax rollback be eliminated and set at 6.1 mils.

Like the clustering of jobs in the city’s urban core, the most heavily populated neighborhoods are also located within the center of the region.

“People are very interested in center cities, and we have an exceptionally attractive center city,” David Ginsburg, President/CEO of Downtown Cincinnati Inc. told UrbanCincy. “The architecture here and the geography that we have being in the valley. We just have a compact, spectacular downtown, and I think we have barely touched the surface of what the market can bear.”

Some of the most valuable residences are located along the central riverfront and eastside neighborhoods, with recent growth in northern communities in Butler and Warren Counties.

Cincinnati Population Density
Several neighborhoods boast densities of 7,000 or more people per square mile, and those neighborhoods are all centrally located. Population Density Map by Nate Wessel for UrbanCincy.

Uptown neighborhoods surrounding the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University, Downtown/Over-the-Rhine, and close-in neighborhoods on the westside and along the Northern Kentucky riverfront are the most densely populated in the region.

“We’ve seen quite a bit of where we rehab a home, the neighbor decides to rehab their home,” Ken Smith, Executive Director of Price Hill Will, said about the development corporation’s Buy-Improve-Sell program which has rehabilitated 52 thus far in 30,000-person neighborhood, on episode 14 of The UrbanCincy Podcast. “People are very impressed with the housing stock in the neighborhood, and they are often quite impressed.”

Not all is well, though, for city leaders as they attempt to recover from the housing crash that took place between 2006 and 2010. Neighborhoods like East and West Price Hill are aggressively working to improve their residential housing stock by getting rid of vacant units even by taking advantage of hundreds of demolitions planned throughout the city.

“We are working with the Hamilton County Land Bank to get these empty lots into hands of those next door, but there are going to be a few houses that I wish we could save, and in better times maybe we would have the money to save it, but in better times they may not have gotten to that point,” explained Price Hill Will’s Matt Strauss, Director of Marketing & Neighborhood Promotion at Price Hill Will. “The goal is not only to bolster owner occupancy, but to increase property values in the neighborhood.”

Listen to episode 14 of The UrbanCincy Podcast with the leaders at Price Hill Will to hear more about the work being done on the westside to recover from the housing crash, and episode 15 with David Ginsburg to get the latest insight on the region’s economic engine. You can stream our podcasts online or subscribe to our bi-weekly podcast on iTunes for free.

Business Development News Politics

Cincinnati spreads neighborhood investment in 2013 budget

Last week Cincinnati City Council approved its yearly budget for the coming fiscal year. The approved budget lays out several city priorities for funding redevelopment efforts in many of the city’s 52 neighborhoods.

“This budget prioritizes our neighborhoods and will improve our economic competitiveness, make the city safer and healthier, protect our citizens who are most in need, and support our world class parks and arts,” Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls (C) stated in a prepared release.

City officials say the increased funding will go towards two programs that are designed to maximize impacts on neighborhoods throughout the city.

Cincinnati’s new budget directs funding towards the city’s 52 neighborhoods and invests in walkable neighborhood districts like Calhoun/McMillan in Clifton Heights (above). Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

The first program creates a new fund called Focus 52, which will create a pool of $54 million designed to focus on neighborhood projects by utilizing strategies developed from the city’s successes in the urban core.

“This budget will take the lessons we’ve learned from our success in downtown and Over-the-Rhine redevelopment and give our neighborhoods the support to take that momentum into their communities,” Qualls continued.

The second program endorses 13 neighborhood enhancement projects in neighborhoods such as Avondale, Walnut Hills, Mt. Adams and Price Hill. The annual funding for these projects comes from the Neighborhood Business District Improvement Program (NBDIP), which was created in partnership between the City’s Economic Development Division and the Cincinnati Neighborhood Business Districts United.

“Thriving neighborhood business districts will not only provide a high quality of life for current residents – they’re also key to attracting new residents,” said Odis Jones, Cincinnati’s Economic Development Director. “The NBDIP process reaffirms our commitment to strategically investing in neighborhoods to grow the city and the local economy.”

This commitment to city neighborhoods was recently outlined in the city’s recently adopted comprehensive plan, Plan Cincinnati. Several of the goals outlined in the new plan focus heavily on the continued development of the city’s traditional walkable neighborhood centers. The plan outlines over 40 different centers outside of downtown and calls for the assessment of neighborhood needs and the rehabilitation of neighborhood centers by utilizing tools such as the city’s new form-based code.

Working to begin the implementation of this new plan Vice Mayor Qualls has directed staff to identify sources of capital funding to begin accomplishing some of the plans goals.

Plan Cincinnati includes strategies that for the first time put the focus on economic development in the city’s neighborhoods,” Qualls stated. “This budget will ensure that spending supports those strategies and translates into results in our neighborhoods.”

News Politics

Price Hill leaders to use citizen-directed budgeting process in new $40k challenge

Price Hill Will is taking community engagement to the next level. The neighborhood non-profit recently unveiled the $40K Challenge, an exciting and innovative new project designed to engage citizens in the neighborhood planning process.

As part of the challenge, $40,000 will be invested in East and West Price Hill, with the goal of empowering citizens to help create worthwhile community projects that make a broad impact on the neighborhood.

While Price Hill Will has utilized public participation in the past, this new project is trying something fairly new – a process called citizen-directed budgeting. This budgeting process calls for citizens to create the criteria for project proposals and ultimately decide where investments should be made.

“This type of public engagement is becoming increasingly important with the budget challenges everyone is facing,” explained Diana Vakharia, Director of Operations at Price Hill Will. “Citizens have to be involved in the weighing of the costs and benefits…when they’re in the room that’s when priorities emerge, and more importantly, that’s when we find creative solutions.”

Over the last month, a committee of Stewards, representing various groups in the neighborhood, has been meeting to ensure that the process reaches a large group of people and makes the greatest possible impact.

The $40K Challenge will be launched with a kickoff event open to the public from 9am to 11:30am Saturday, December 11, at Elder High School’s Schaeper Center (map). Taking part in the process will be Price Hill residents, community leaders, Price Hill Will, and an independent facilitator.

The meeting will take the themes created by the Stewards and allow the community to work together to refine these themes, possibly add to them, and make funding proposals that will be voted on by the entire community.

“We will measure success by how many residents not previously involved become engaged in community building,” added Vakharia. “We’re hoping this process reveals Price Hill’s goals for the community, while increasing the number of people working to achieve those goals.”