Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Over-the-Rhine: Renovated Kroger

A new look on an old place

There's a new grocery store in Over-the-Rhine.

Well, technically, it's the same store. But a $2.3 million renovation of the Kroger at 1420 Vine St. is like a brand new store to the neighborhood's residents.

And, as developers and community leaders hope, it may be another important step toward a brand new neighborhood.

After years of being home to mostly low-income housing, experts have said some market-rate housing must be available to truly revitalize the area. And a reliable, convenient grocery store is practically a must to draw new residents.

"For years, it's been a chicken-or-the-egg thing," said Christine Schoonover, a realtor who's marketing urban residential developments in the city. "People wouldn't move downtown because there was no grocery store."

It's not that there wasn't a grocery store in Over-the-Rhine. It was just that, like too many of Cincinnati's poorest communities, it was run-down, dusty and depressing. It was part of a community better at attracting drug dealers and gangs than it was families and healthy neighborhoods.

Not any more.

The store's completely remade, and even the construction was done in the spirit of community healing. The majority of the contracts awarded in the renovation went to minority-owned business.

It would have been easy for Kroger - the largest grocery store chain in the country - to treat Over-the-Rhine and its store as an afterthought, like generations of businessmen and politicians have. But the store's leaders recognized the value a location has close to downtown, both financially and socially.

As a result, the renovated store is fresh, new and inviting. It's another important step to making the rest of Over-the-Rhine the same way.

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