CINCINNATI - Cincinnati's Pendleton neighborhood is undergoing an extreme makeover in part due to its new neighbor to the south, Horseshoe Casino.
Reading Road has been upgraded, streetscape improvements have been completed and a number of buildings have either been remodeled or will soon see new life.
"Most of these changes would have happened, but they would have happened a lot slower," said Pendleton Community Council President David White. "The transformation of Pendleton wouldn't have happened nearly as fast if the casino wasn't there."
The $400 million casino opens to the public March 4 and expects to draw 6 million visitors a year. That's quite a contrast to the population of Pendleton, which is 900 residents.
When the casino was being developed, officials promised leaders of the seven communities surrounding the facility that they'd be good neighbors.
White said that's exactly what happened with regular meeting to keep the community up-to-date. Casino leaders even took a walking tour of Pendleton, which is bounded by Sycamore Street, Reading Road and Liberty Street.
"They have been responsive," he said.
People walking or driving through the neighborhood can't help but notice the changes.
When John Mertz wanted to relocate his industrial design business from Colerain Township, he and wife, Amy, an artist, were drawn to Pendleton because it was an art district.
They bought a three-story building at the corner of 12th and Pendleton streets. Amy created the Mind's Eye Art Gallery on the first floor. Mertz Designs occupies the second and third levels.
"It was a good fit for both of us to expand our companies," said John.
John added moving from the suburbs was culturally exciting for his team and continued the trend toward city living.
"Five of my nine employee already live downtown or in Clifton," he said.
Amy's dream always had been to own her own gallery.
"Definitely, the Pendleton Arts Center was a big influence," she said.
However, Horseshoe Casino played a major role in their decision as well.
"We had seen a plan or vision for not only what they were doing, the involvement with he community and the street givebacks," he said. "We've really seen that come to life since we've been here in just a few months."
Added Amy, "We saw that as an up-and-coming revitalization for the area, increasing the property values and the people walking along the streets and enjoying what the city has to offer."
White said he hasn't seen a great deal of speculation on Pendleton buildings from absentee landlords. Instead, many transactions have involved local firms.
Cincinnati-based Model Management plans to turn buildings in the 1100 block of Broadway into 80 market rate and six subsidized apartments.
"There's only 900 residents in Pendleton, so 86 new housing units, developed housing units, is huge for our neighborhood," said White.
There's one exception.
An Indianapolis firm, CORE Redevelopment plans to convert the former Woodward High School and School for Creative and Performing Arts building into apartments.
The new projects have produced worries about gentrification that could price some residents out of the community.
White said he's among them.
"I, myself, am a renter and worry about being pushed out of the neighborhood or rents being so high," he said. "So, I really do care about seeing that there remains a balance of affordable housing as well as market rate."
John Mertz said the casino and the new development should promote a good diversity of people from all economic backgrounds along with small businesses and residents.
"I think the more progress you can bring to an area, the good it will be for all of them -- even for the residents who have been here for a long time," he said. "They'll see the good development around it and that it's not there to displace them, but for them to enhance their community even more."
Another issue is parking. Since the casino will charge for parking on weekdays, White fears some people will try to park on Pendleton streets, which he said are already crowded.
"It's such a dense neighborhood and a lot of people don't have off-street parking," he said. "That's definitely a big concern for our residents."
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