Saturday, March 8, 1997
No dampening East End revival
Newer condos spared brunt of high water

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Even in the midst of a disaster and even with her basement filled with water, Gloria Richards doesn't regret moving to Riverfront East in Cincinnati's East End.

The 21 $350,000-to-$450,000 townhouses now sit on top of the Ohio River. Their basements and garages are submerged. And their residents could fish from their back decks.

Yet Ms. Richards talks about the pleasure of watching the barges or ducks and muskrats - not the hassle of living only a few feet above a flood plain.

''There's something fascinating about being on the river,'' said Ms. Richards. ''That's why we all live here.''

The East End is slowly moving upscale. The neighborhood runs from Kemper Lane to Delta Avenue, south of Columbia Parkway.

The draw is the area's spectacular setting. But once every 30 or so years, that also can be a drawback.

David Imboden of Alumni Builders Inc., which developed Riverfront East, said the flooding may help the area.

''People aren't scared anymore,'' he said. ''Now they've seen what 65 feet of water will do.''

He acknowledged that he didn't expect the garages to flood in his lifetime. But the residents didn't lose utilities, and their finished living spaces didn't get wet.

He hopes to start construction this fall on a $10 million project with 64 condominiums across the street.

Others less optimistic

Only one resident left Riverfront East and moved out their belongings during the flood. Others were apparently unfazed.

''It's just really exciting to be right in the middle of it,'' said Judi Peck. But she added, ''I'm sure this won't be my attitude if it (the river) was up to the roof.''

That was nearly the case for some residents in older East End homes.

City ordinances require that the living space of any new structure be 1 foot above the 100-year flood plain. Those ordinances don't apply to older dwellings.

Charles Ross owns four buildings in the neighborhood. One now sits in 4 to 5 feet of water. And he is less optimistic about future development.

''I think they'll have second thoughts,'' he said, ''because this wasn't supposed to happen.''

Mr. Ross rents apartments in one building for $150 a month. Next door are two renovated, red-brick houses. The Riverfront East townhouses down the street rent for $2,200 to $3,500 a month.

The flooding won't affect the community-development plan, passed in 1992, for the neighborhood, said Patrick Ewing, a community development analyst for the Department of Neighborhood Services.

Proximity, views may win

Future development, of course, will hinge on how prospective residents react.

Jerome Imbus, a developer who hopes to build 10 single-family houses in the neighborhood, doesn't know how people will react to the flood. But he expects the neighborhood's proximity to downtown and its views will overcome worries about floods.

''I think the area will boom,'' he said.

Betty Burns, chairwoman of the East End Area Council, agrees.

The new development is coming, she said, and the flooding won't change that.

Ms. Richards, the Riverfront East resident, agrees - up to a point.

She loves living on the river, but she added, ''If it happened again, I don't know.''