Over-the-Rhine residents, property owners craft plan for blocks just south of Liberty Street

3CDC owns many buildings, lots in the area

CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. hasn’t talked much yet about its plans for an area of historic Over-the-Rhine near 15th and Race streets.

But others in the neighborhood already have decided what they want.

About 50 Over-the-Rhine residents, business owners, church leaders and developers spent the past year and a half crafting a vision for two blocks that flank Pleasant Street. The area sits between Race and Elm streets bordered by West 15th and West Liberty streets.

The “Pleasant Street Vision Study” was commissioned by Over-the-Rhine Community Housing and conducted by Schickel Design, an architecture firm located on 14th Street, just south of the study area.

The goal was to come up with a plan for properties along Pleasant and those that surround the street, which is a natural connector between Washington Park and Findlay Market, said Mary Burke Rivers, executive director of Over-the-Rhine Community Housing.

“We wanted to see a vision for the area that was somehow organic, rather than something imposed by the outside,” said Martha Schickel Dorff of Schickel Design.

Plan Calls For Preservation

The finished plan calls for preserving all the buildings that remain on the site and filling the empty lots there with new construction and parking.

It suggests a mix of single-family townhouses, senior housing and multi-family apartment and condominium buildings that includes affordable housing. In all, it would add 165 residential units to the area, which already has 43 residential units that are occupied.

The plan also includes the creation of a historic mural along with 13,500 square feet of office space and 16,000 square feet of commercial space. It also would add 338 more parking spaces to the area.

And it calls for making Pleasant Street into an easy-to-walk connection between Washington Park and Findlay Market.

While there’s no guarantee that property owners in the study area will follow the proposed plan, it provides a roadmap that shows the type of development the community and its residents would embrace, said Rivers, whose nonprofit develops affordable housing in the neighborhood.

It’s a roadmap that could save developers time, too, said Peter Hames, president of the Over-the-Rhine Community Council.

Dorff and Rivers will present the vision to the community council at an upcoming meeting. Hames was involved in the planning process and said he’s pleased with the final product.

“I wouldn’t expect everyone to agree with it,” Hames said of the plan. “But it could be a good basis for moving forward.”

Homeowners Value Area's Diversity

Over-the-Rhine homeowners who took part in the planning process said they were happy with the results, too.

“I was pleased to hear there was an overwhelming desire to maintain the diversity of income and race and culture,” said Dr. Mark Manley, who owns a renovated home on Race Street.

He and his family live in Loveland now. He and his wife, Annette Wick, plan to move to the Over-the-Rhine once their youngest graduates from high school in the spring.

“I was as much there to make sure I didn’t hear a bunch of folks wanted to create a new suburban neighborhood called Over-the-Rhine,” Manley said of the planning process. “We’ve been very happy in Loveland for the past 15 years. But we’re going to lead a different life from this point forward.”

Tim Mara, whose home also is in the study area, said he took part in the process because he thinks members of the community should have a say in how the neighborhood develops.

“It’s a matter of protecting one’s investment,” said Mara, a lawyer downtown. “With my experience in land use, when you see empty lots around, you have to worry a little about what’s going there.”

Mara said he was especially pleased that the plan calls for preserving all the historic buildings still left in the study area. And he thinks the new buildings that are proposed look like a good way to fill the empty lots.

“There’s a few missing teeth, and you restore (the neighborhood) by putting in buildings the same size and general character,” he said. “You really are restoring an old smile.”

Rivers said Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, which owns much of the east side of the 1500 block of Elm Street, will certainly use the study to guide its own redevelopment efforts. The nonprofit already is building housing for senior citizens on the 1500 block of Elm Street.

More than any other property owner, though, 3CDC will determine how much of the vision becomes a reality. The city has charged the nonprofit development organization with Over-the-Rhine’s revitalization. And 3CDC is the biggest property owner in the study area, Dorff said.

A 3CDC representative took part in the planning process, and the organization looks forward to studying the plan in detail, said Anastasia Mileham, 3CDC’s vice president for communications.

“We are always open to a variety of opinions, professional and non when it comes to areas that we’re looking at redeveloping,” Mileham said.

Now Dorff and Rivers will present the finished product to the Over-the-Rhine Community Council, members of City Council and those running for council and representatives of 3CDC to see what they think.

“We’re very proud of it,” Dorff said. “We think it’s a great vision for the neighborhood.”

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