Revitilization in Walnut Hills, Cincinnati

2 thoughts on “Revitilization in Walnut Hills, Cincinnati”

  1. He seems to be single-handedly trying to turn around this one corner of Cincinnati. Kudos! This is the best kind of development–restoring what already exists and creating a vibrant community where people can easily live a low-carbon emissions, low energy-consumption life style. (Next up a community vegetable garden? Civic ecology is also a great way to reclaim broken spaces and build community.) Even better that he lives there himself, walking the talk.

    Lucky for Walnut Hills and Cincinnati that he seems to have huge amounts of money to pour into this neighborhood? The area appears close to downtown–is there transit? Is it bikeable?

    Though he is not the proprietor of the pizza restaurant, I think the model of small business owners living above their shops is a good one that perhaps he can encourage. It weaves the business owners deeply into the fabric of the community and makes them care about the neighborhood beyond just being a cash cow for their business. In any event, I wish him the best of luck and hope someday (if I ever make it to Cincinnati again) I can see the results of his endeavors. Or you could make another video in a few years showing the progress!

    1. Karen – Kent is no dummy and he isn’t a touchy feely dreamer. He’s from a prominent local family and he sees which way the wind is blowing in terms of real estate development. A few years back he bought a lot of ridiculously cheap property in the neighborhood including several abandoned buildings like the fire house and many vacant lots. He’s working with other people and organizations in the area to use a few high profile projects to change the perception of the neighborhood. Walnut Hills was once one of the most expensive and exclusive neighborhoods in Cincinnati. Cincinnati itself was an exceptionally rich city. Then there was the Great Depression, the war, white flight to the suburbs, deindustrialization… By 1967 race riots put the last nail in the coffin. Now it’s poorly aging suburbs (the “Ferguson” syndrome) that are becoming the new slums and inner cities are on the rise. Cincinnati is rebuilding its streetcar system and property values all over the core are rising rapidly. If you want to see what Walnut Hills will look like in ten years check out Over-the-Rhine. (Blog posts coming.) Kent is a good capitalist and he’s going to do very well over time.

      This brings us to the question of gentrification and economic displacement. The current population is predominantly black and poor. There are many fair-to-middling black homeowners in the area and they will benefit greatly from the improvements that Kent and others are working on. And it’s going to take a while before Walnut Hills becomes so expensive that it drives out poor black renters. Or poor white renters for that matter. But that day is coming. I spend a lot of time asking people how the existing population can remain even after the economic transformation. “We’re working on it.” When I press for particulars there aren’t a lot of answers. At the end of the day it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate each of these old buildings. If you’re earning minimum wage you’re just not going to be a part of that transformation. Period. Personally, I’m not a big fan of government housing – and there’s no money or political appetite for than anyway. The usual arrangement I see all over the country is that a coalition of agencies and private developers builds relatively good quality senior housing for the low income black church ladies. Everyone loves them. Their seventeen year old grandsons? No one wants them around… I’m just sayin’.

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