Wednesday, April 10, 1996
If you lived here, you'd be home by now

BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Don Dorschner hates those rush-hour commutes. If he's stopped by a red light, it takes him four minutes - instead of his usual three - to walk to work.

Poor guy. Drivers on the Interstate 71 parking lot will cry salty tears for him.

Kevin Kellar lives in the same neighborhood. If he floors it, he can make it from home to work in six minutes flat.

Both men work and live downtown. From their apartments on Garfield Place, they can step into Piatt Park, an oasis of flowers, fountains, trees and statues in the heart of downtown's hottest residential corridor.

They've discovered there's life in downtown Cincinnati. And it's good, fun and easy - on the nerves and the wallet.

At the Gramercy, where Don lives, all 148 apartments and town houses are rented. The Greenwich, Kevin's home, opened across the street in December. Two-thirds of its 64 apartments are already leased.

One block east of the Gramercy, big, airy loft apartments will be added to the mix with the remodeled Groton Building. The 99-year-old structure, known to many as the old Globe Records Building, reopens at the end of the year. The Groton is the third phase of Towne Properties' plan to resurrect downtown as a community, where people live and work.

In this neighborhood, Don and Kevin are urban pioneers plowing new ground. But, instead of clodhoppers with mud on the soles, they wear loafers with tassels on top.

Kevin is an investment consultant at Gradison. He was the first tenant to spend the night in one of the Gramercy's apartments - which could double as a roomy suite in a luxury hotel - after the complex opened in 1992. On March 1, he moved to the Greenwich. His place overlooks the park and the equestrian statue of William Henry Harrison.

Don, area research manager at Federated Department Stores, returned to downtown in 1995 after making a run for the suburbs. He moved into the Gramercy in 1993 but left for Forest Park in 1994.

Before moving to Cincinnati, the native of Omaha, Neb., had lived and worked in downtown Minneapolis.

''The winters are so bad there everyone lives like a mole and travels the covered skywalk system. You don't go outside until spring.''

After finding Cincinnati's winters tropical by comparison, he moved to deepest suburbia.

Wrong move. Interstate 75 was under construction. His commute went from three minutes to 45.

''I was going nuts sitting in my car,'' he calmly recalls from his living room sofa. He goes to his balcony window and a view dominated by the Lazarus store's art-deco facade and the Gramercy's courtyard and swimming pool.

Don's suburban adventure lasted seven months. Then, it was back to the Gramercy and the three-minute commute.

''There was no point staying in suburbia,'' he says. ''The work on I-71 will have the interstates messed up for years. Besides, living downtown is nice and easy.''

He runs down a list of his favorite restaurants. They're all downtown.

He talks about working less and playing more. ''I used to arrive early at work and leave late to avoid the traffic. Now, I work less. And enjoy life more.''

He mentions walking to the Aronoff Center, Main Street's Over-the-Rhine entertainment district and Oktoberfest. Never once has he worried about finding a parking place.

For lunch, he can walk home. To peace and quiet. Street sounds are at a minimum - even in the middle of a busy weekday. Plus, he never has to tip the waiter.

Besides money, Don and Kevin save that most precious of commodities: time.

''Think about driving one hour a day to and from work,'' Kevin says. ''You spend 10 days a year in your car. In 10 years, that's 100 days. Think of what you could do with that time.''

He sits back and flashes the satisfied smile of a man who can walk home and kick off his loafers in the time it takes most downtown workers just to get their cars out of the parking garage.

So, while others sit for what feels like days on the traffic-jammed interstates, Don and Kevin are still downtown. But, they're home.

Cliff Radel's column appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax to 768-8340.