As difficult as it might be to imagine now, there was a time not long ago when almost nobody wanted to live downtown or in Over-the-Rhine.
And no single financial institution has been more responsible for changing that attitude than Cincinnati Development Fund, or CDF.
Years before the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. known as 3CDC even existed, CDF was making loans to developers to convert vacant office space into condos and apartments downtown and rehab decaying historic buildings in Over-the-Rhine.
While the downtown and Over-the-Rhine residential markets are thriving now, financing development there in the 1990s was not an easy sell, said Jeanne Golliher, CDF’s long-time CEO.
“The argument was, ‘Why would anybody want to live downtown? There’s nothing here.’ And there wasn’t,” she said. “The city sidewalks rolled up at 5 o’clock.”
But Golliher and executives at Downtown Cincinnati Inc. and the Cincinnati Business Committee worked to convince the city’s bankers and business leaders that investing in downtown would benefit the whole region. CDF raised $23 million for an urban living loan fund in 1998 that helped spark downtown’s residential rebirth.
“They go where banks won’t go – or minimize the risks,” said Kathy Schwab, executive director of the Local Initiatives Support Corp. of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and a long-time CDF board member. Schwab was the DCI staffer worked with Golliher to form the urban living loan fund.
Or as 3CDC Executive Vice President Chad Munitz put it: “They understand what it takes to get projects done.”
Lending where traditional banks won’t is the role of a community development financial institution such as CDF. Cincinnati area banks created the organization in 1988, primarily to finance affordable housing development.
Insiders can read more about the impact CDF has had during its 25-year existence and what makes the lender different from traditional banks.