Saturday, June 26, 2004

Census prompts action

Efforts under way to give area a boost

By Ken Alltucker
Enquirer staff writer

Cincinnati continues to digest this week's U.S. Census report, which showed that people were still shifting out of the city in 2000-2003.

"The core question is, can you turn it around?" said John McIlwain, of Washington-based Urban Land Institute.

Population loss could create an economic crunch for Cincinnati and older municipalities if the people who leave pay more taxes and require less police, fire and other services than those who remain behind. That "fiscal imbalance" problem is shared by many aging cities in the Midwest and Northeast, McIlwain said.

But civic and business leaders point to initiatives now under way that are designed to attract people to the city and Hamilton County. Among the efforts:

• The city formed a private economic-development group, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., known as 3CDC, to revitalize the area, from the riverfront through Over-the-Rhine.

• The city also recently opened a one-stop permit center aimed at making it easier for developers to navigate City Hall's permit process.

• Hamilton County commissioners hired a team of economic-development consultants. The International Economic Development Council this week recommended the county consult business leaders, beef up the powers of the Hamilton County Development Co. and the regional port authority, and help Cincinnati revitalize Over-the-Rhine and the riverfront.

• Development on the riverfront is proceeding, anchored by two sports stadiums, the Banks multi-use development and the new Underground Railroad National Freedom Center.

•  3CDC on Monday will unveil its proposed Fountain Square redesign - an effort to remake downtown as a place where people want to meet and hang out or shop in surrounding blocks. The group also is seeking to revitalize Over-the-Rhine by cleaning up Washington Park and spurring housing development.

Housing as a citywide issue remains a key theme.

Norman Miller, director of the University of Cincinnati's real estate program, suggested the city needs 10,000 new homes, condos and apartment to make a true impact.

And the homes should be for all income levels and be built downtown as well as in neighborhoods such as Clifton Heights, Oakley and Mount Lookout, Miller said.

"You need density to support both retail and residential development to help the community regenerate itself," Miller said.

Builders are willing to invest in desirable neighborhoods, but those with safety challenges or underperforming schools are less attractive, said Dan Hendricks, director of governmental affairs for the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati.

"I go down to Vine Street a lot, and it's just deteriorating," said Sabrina Sharp, 26, a University of Cincinnati student who lives in Goshen. "If they don't clean up around UC, students and (others) won't want to live around here."


Staff writers Justin Fenton, Cliff Peale and Jeff McKinney contributed.

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