CINCINNATI - Eight months after the violence of April 2001, the documentary"Visions of Vine Street " forced Cincinnati to examine its past,present, and future.
In the last ten years, one of the biggest changes in Over-theRhine is in the quality of life. It's becoming a place where peoplewant to live and work.
Which is exactly the "vision" I-Team reporter Laure Quinlivantalked about in her award-winning documentary, "Visions of VineStreet."
Today Quinlivan is a city council member who takes pride in Vinestreet, and the transformation her documentary helped create.
"That started things," she told me, when we met up at 13th andVine. "One month later, Charlie Luken made Vine Street his numberone priority."
Quinlivan remembers Vine Street then, and now.
"When you stand here, what do you see? what has changed?" Iasked
"I see beautiful historic buildings, restored," she said."Lovely streetscapes with lights. I see activity, life, newrestaurants, I know people who live here. I see a neighborhoodthat's coming back to life."
D. Lynn Myers, who Quinlivan interviewed ten years ago, haswatched the neighborhood come back to life. The Producing ArtisticDirector of the Ensemble Theater remembers that first night ofviolence.
"I was walking back from a project we were working on at theWise Temple, and it was amazing to feel the temperature of theneighborhood change, the closer you got back to our doors."
"Was it frightening?" I asked.
"It was and a storm was gathering and you could feel it in theair, something was going to explode."
Now with a new play opening, Meyers says attendance has growndramatically, partly because of improved safety.
Quinlivan says, "When we first came down here, it was scary, wewere scared sometimes to be here. But violent crime in thisneighborhood is down about 50 percent since 2005."
"It's a much safer place to be. Unfortunately some people wholive in the suburbs don't believe it, because they haven't beenhere in five years."
In "Visions" Quinlivan suggested street improvements. Now shecan point to the differences made.
"With some help from city money, as they redid the buildings,they buried the power lines. They redid the sidewalks. So there areno overhead wires. Simple things make a world of difference."
An Artworks mural of Jim Tarbell presides over Vine Street andCentral. Ten years ago, he guided Quinlivan through the history andarchitecture of Over-the Rhine.
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The then city councilman told Quinlivan Cincinnati has thelargest collection of Italianate architecture, elaborate cornices,window trim and bay windows.
Since then, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation,3CDC, has worked to revitalize the neighborhood, while preservinghistoric structures.
"How good a job has 3CDC done?" I asked Quinlivan.
" A great job. They came in, they took the cornerbuildings...and went block by block."
Quinlivan says when 3CDC bought up the corner buildings itsolved a lot of problems because those were the locations drugdealers and users would hang out.
Now Quinlivan points out new restaurants joining successfulones. "A Tavila is brand new, a group of young guys, opening nextto The Senate, which is doing so well it's expanding.
So we checked out the new restaurant in progress. Bill Draznicksays he and his partners hope to open "A Tavila" by the first ofApril and plan to serve wood-fired pizzas and salads.
Bill showed me around the new place, which is still underconstruction.
"This is the kitchen, it's completely open, you'll be able tohang out,and talk to the chef. This is the oven, imported fromNaples."
Restaurants like this become part of the fabric and attractionof the community. Lynn Meyers says all this development has beengreat for her theater.
"It used to be you really had to love ETC and want to go see aplay to come to 12th and Vine. Now, you can love ETC and have adrink before and dessert afterward, and shop, and that makes abetter community!"
So what does Quinlivan envision now? She's thinking about thiscity's image, as we prepare to welcome visitors to the World ChoirGames, and the new casino.
"The German heritage and excellence in the arts, everything wehave starts down here. It should be part of the story we tell tothe rest of the world."
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