Monday, June 04, 2001
Northside business district gets facelift
By Richelle Thompson
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Gwen Finegan has heard stories of a Hamilton Avenue so crowded with Saturday shoppers that people could barely fit on the sidewalk.
She doesn't expect a nearly $2 million investment by the city of Cincinnati to turn the Northside business district into a shopping mecca.
But Ms. Finegan is counting on new street lamps, trees and a renovated park to help revitalize the seven-block business district known for its eclectic mix of shops and restaurants.
I hope it will encourage people to dream a little bit, Ms. Finegan said. If we all have a collective belief the neighborhood is coming back, then it will happen.
City leaders and neighborhood advocates joined Friday to dedicate the updated Hoffner Park and streetscape improvements along Hamilton Avenue.
The Department of Economic Development, through its Neighborhood Business District Program, spent $1.4 million for sidewalks, historic street lights, decorative pavers and signs.
The Cincinnati Park Board put another $589,000 in renovating the two-acre Hoffner Park. A pavilion, playground and trees were added. The park was redesigned to make it look like an old-fashioned town green with a large lawn perfect for picnics or community festivals, said Steven Schuckman, superintendent of planning and design for the Cincinnati Park Board.
The park looks wonderful, said Judy Hoebbel, 43, of Northside. Before it was just a ball field and a couple of benches. ... (The renovations) make the whole area
look a lot better.
Ms. Hoebbel, a bookkeeper for Boca restaurant in the Northside business district, said she hopes the improvements encourage more people to visit or invest in the area.
Like many urban areas, Hamilton Avenue had started to look rundown and dirty before the improvements. Now, it's less scary for potential customers, she said. The streets are cleaner and more inviting.
The better it looks, the more likely (people) will want to purchase or rent a building, Ms. Hoebbel said.
When Ms. Finegan moved to Northside in 1984, she was looking for a community where she could walk to the grocery, post office and library. Over the years, she discovered Northside had a unique character borne from a strong sense of community with an urban twist.
In warm weather, you can't get any yard work done because everybody stops to talk, she said.
The librarians, pharmacist and mail carriers all know the resi dents by name.
It's like small-town America with all the advantages of being in the city, she said.
She wanted to preserve the community and encourage an economic renaissance. In the past decade, Ms. Finegan has written and received nearly $3 million in grant proposals. She started asking for city money for Hoffner Park and Hamilton Avenue in 1990.
I discovered the hard way that if you keep asking for the same things over and over again, eventually you'll get it, she said.
During Friday's event, three longtime residents were honored for their commitment to the community. Three sycamore trees were planted at Hoffner Park in honor of Inez Bail, Mary Jackson and Alma Voelckl.
Although pleased with the recognition, Mrs. Jackson, 83, said helping out a community should be an obligation for all residents.
When you live in a community, you should feel responsible, she said. Who else is going to do it for you, if you're not going to do it yourself?
Hamilton County losing two ways
Gunman shoots driver in carjacking attempt
Problems unresolved at stadium
RADEL: How to spend tax refund in one place
Girls face poisoning trial today
Gene research growing at UC
Group protests outside jail
'Drag Races' raise money for AIDS
AIDS resurgence angers activists
Concern rising over meningitis outbreak
Enquirer staffers receive awards
Judge seeks mental illness docket
Northside business district gets facelift
Service honors late activist
You Asked For It
Colerain backs conservation
Two charged in OxyContin death
Biker testifies against leader
Blacks rejected more often for mortgages
Group says blacks forced out
Group sues to prevent abuse of walking horses
Indiana railroad crossings among deadliest
Lake Erie islands see tourism as boon, bane
Med school investigated over railroad workers
Twister rips into London, Ky.; 4 hurt