What do Cincinnati's 'forgotten neighborhoods' want to hear in Cranley's State of the City address?

Posted at 5:48 PM, Oct 03, 2017

CINCINNATI -- There's a good amount of work happening around Marilyn Evans' home in South Cumminsville. The projects are part of the city's Capital Acceleration Program, aimed at getting infrastructure fixed as quickly as possible.

"It's not moving as fast as we'd like it to be," said Evans, her neighborhood's community council president.

"But I guess for anything to be a success, it has to move slow."

Mayor John Cranley, up for reelection, is expected to highlight that kind of work Monday night during his State of the City Address at Memorial Hall.

SOUND OFF: Tell us how Cincinnati's doing

A yearslong renaissance continues in Cincinnati's urban core, with a Kroger store, new residential towers and the renovation of Music Hall.

Others want that kind of thing to happen where they live.

"I think its time for us to kind of take a look back and think of a larger-picture strategic vision of where we want all 52 neighborhoods to be," said Daniel Traicoff, who works for Mount Airy CURE, or Community Urban Redevelopment Enterprise.

Mount Airy is the Cincinnati neighborhood that has fallen the most over the last four decades, when measured by income, employment and other quality-of-life indicators, according to a long-term, in-depth study. Leaders in the central-north neighborhood want to capitalize on what they have -- the 1,400-acre forest and iconic water tower, for example -- and draw more mixed-use development, like a new project underway on Hamilton Avenue in adjacent neighborhood College Hill.

RELATED: Mount Airy looks to rebound from years of decline

In April, Mount Airy had a ribbon-cutting for a 20-space parking lot, the culmination of years of planning, negotiation, buying property, design and construction. Plans for the landscaped site include a mural, neighborhood grill-outs and music. It even has a name -- Mount Airy Commons.

The group also wants to upgrade the streetscape, maybe with plantings, bike racks and storefront improvements. Those might also help slow the traffic on Colerain Avenue, one of the region’s busiest thoroughfares. Traffic planners estimate that 30,000 cars a day pass through. That might seem like gold to a business owner’s eyes, but the problem is many of the cars zip through (way over the 25 mph speed limit) on their way to somewhere else.

Like Mount Airy, the people in Evans' neighborhood are persistent. South Cumminsville is one of the poorest neighborhoods, with a median household income of just under $18,000 -- half of what it is in the rest of Cincinnati. Its population has declined, until now only about 1,700 people live there. From 2007 to 2016, the city spent more than $300,000 to demolish houses in the neighborhood.

RELATED: It's a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps place

"We can't go back, we don't have a time machine," Evans said. "All we can do now is go forward, and make it better than you remember it."

Addressing crime is also a concern for many people, with Judy Miller saying it was the "top issue."

Cranley is expected to tout ShotSpotter, which uses sound waves to pinpoint gunfire. And shootings have declined in the city, too.

His speech Tuesday comes five weeks before Election Day. Cranley faces a challenge from Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who beat him in a three-way primary.

This story contains prior reporting from WCPO's Dave Holthaus.