Low Hanging Fruit

15 thoughts on “Low Hanging Fruit”

  1. Revisited this blog post before our trip to Cincinnati. We like to visit urban neighborhoods such as this whenever we can. The weekly farmers market was in progress. We walked the business district, enjoyed a meal at Melt, and followed that up with a coffee Side Winder. Afterwards, we drove the neighborhood admiring the architecture of the surrounding homes. Despite some empty storefronts and varying levels of housing conditions, the vibrancy of the neighborhood was evident. Thanks.

    1. In the five years I’ve been exploring Cincinnati in general and Northside in particular it has transformed. In five more years it will be even better.

  2. I love this idea of low hanging fruit. Instead of multi-year battles to get a mixed use development in the burbs (where it’s totally out of context anyway), reclaim the Rust Belt, the faded older suburbs, etc.

    In historical context, this is always what happens anyway. 1980s artists didn’t go out looking for exposed brick loft space in Chelsea. It’s just that what was cheap and available. In the reverse direction, rural areas on the fringe are the path of least resistance for people to live out their McMansion dreams.

    1. The Rust Belt is absolutely the way to go. The old railroad & streetcar towns.

      We of upstate NY absolutely welcome you. 🙂 The same is true in much of Pennsylvania. You’ll find you get more pushback than you might expect in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, though Ohio and Michigan are coming ’round (Indiana’s gonna take a while).

  3. Northside isn’t so much a streetcar suburb as an absorbed independent railroad town (similar to farther away Madisonville and even Columbia-Tusculum, and not unlike Bellevue Kentucky). Being in the flat Mill Creek Valley it was on the original roads to Hamilton and the western hills, surrounded by farms, so it was already an established settlement in the early part of the 19th century. With the arrival of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad in the 1850s it finally achieved a faster connection with the center of Cincinnati, while a Spring Grove Avenue horsecar line opened up shortly thereafter to provide slower but more frequent and inexpensive transportation.

    By the time the electric streetcars arrived in the 1890s and 1900s Northside was already a pretty happening place, which a much larger commercial district and many more manufacturing enterprises than you see in other streetcar suburbs. Knowlton’s corner was historically the third busiest commercial area in the city behind downtown and Peeble’s Corner in Walnut Hills. Proximity to the steep wooded hillsides out of the reach of fast transportation, plus nearby Spring Grove Cemetery also led to the establishment of several greenhouses and other smaller scale food producing enterprises, some of which still remain to this day. Streetcar service certainly helped Northside fill in and densify, but its more independent roots show through compared to the predominantly residential hilltop streetcar suburbs like Hyde Park, Pleasant Ridge, Westwood, Price Hill, or College Hill.

  4. Lovely photographs and story, J.

    I have no desire to move back to the midwest (and certainly not to the soybeans and cornfields and Dan Quayle of my hometown in NE Indiana) but Cincinnati has some major appeal (as does Louisville down the river!)

    1. Partly Northside survived because it was overlooked by the usual suspects. Partly it survived because it was loved by the skeleton crew who continued to live there during the lean years. Northside was (and still is) a neighborhood where black and white folks just got along even through the rough patches. That was a rare exception in the region. Still is.

    2. Intentional community building, and a staunch refusal to be corporatized. Northside is (also) gritty and crime ridden, with a serious heroin trade and racial divide. Despite our highly booster-ized “urbanist chic”- that’s the other, equal reality of this community. Which I love- btw, because of the generosity of the authentic multi-generational neighbors who have poured mindful intention into creating and maintaining this city within the city. A working class neighborhood in danger of the juggernaut of gentrification-and the invasion of “hip” and the mindless pursuit of “cool” and the unintended consequences of unsustainable development. What’s the name of that community in N.California-past Sausalito- where the locals steal the road signage to keep tourists away? Oh, right. Paradise.

      1. Thank you for this comment. The reality of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods is what also keeps them from being overrun by people who don’t get it.

      2. Thanks for this reality check. If Northside keeps improving, it may be able to demand the kind of policing other more prosperous neighborhoods get.

      3. No the community is called Tiburon. The road is Paradise Drive. It’s not to keep the tourists away, tourists have money and we love them in the Bay Area. It’s so they don’t get jacked by the thugs coming over the bridge from Richmond.

  5. Northside looks like a wonderful small urban neighborhood.
    I really enjoy seeing the wonderful architecture shown in the photos of Cincinnati as well.
    Coming from the Montclair, NJ and now living in Minneapolis I miss the abundance of Pre-War architecture yet really appreciate the affordable urban pockets here that are not fully discovered yet.

    – Reeve
    Northeast Minneapolis

  6. I agree that streetcar suburbs should be the poster children for walkable urbanism. Too many people think smart growth/Strong Towns means dense high-rises, when mostly it means small towns or older suburbs like you demonstrate here. Nice job.

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