Sunday, April 27, 2003

Is Cincinnati 'ready' to rehab?

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Steve Smith, president of development for Model Management, is an advocate of the Creative Class, as defined by economist Richard Florida.

Model Management holds strategically placed buildings in Over-the-Rhine, so close to the site of the planned Art Academy of Cincinnati at 12th and Jackson streets that "you could throw a stone - underhanded," says Smith.

The properties have, until now, been standard Section 8 housing.

These days Smith talks about "reinventing" and "repositioning" for artist housing and "the creative class we want, we have to attract that doesn't exist in Over-the-Rhine right now."

Cincinnati's arts movement, arts folk and their creative brethren is Over-the-Rhine's best chance. "It has to work," Smith says.

"All the initiatives are great," says Cincinnati Tomorrow's Nicholas Spencer, but notes, "The future of Over-the-Rhine is people willing to take a chance.

"In the most successful urban redevelopment projects, the investment doesn't come from City Hall, it's convincing people to believe in a neighborhood. Don't give up on the neighborhood."

"Things happening here now are very good," says Smith, "but it's analogous to a war. It's not 30 days or even a year.

"Cincinnati stubbed its toe in a big way in April 2001 (the date of the riots). There are impediments with crime and race relations. People need patience."

"We're unique in terms of urban fabric," says Over-the-Rhine resident Michael Uhlenhake, who also organizes North Main Street community get-togethers, including the Orchard Street Blossom Festival in mid-April.

Now, he says, it's time for Cincinnati to strive for "a perfect urban environment of low hassle and great amenities.

"People want to feel they live in a very special place, and it is. But it could be more so," Uhlenhake says.

"Is Cincinnati ready?" muses Spencer. "I think so."

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