Working, living and playing in Greater Cincinnati seems to rock

Leaders, developers expect little change for 2017
Greater Cincy, it's just flat-out goin' on here
Greater Cincy, it's just flat-out goin' on here
Posted at 12:09 AM, Dec 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-19 12:25:03-05

CINCINNATI -- By all practical accounts, Cincinnati is a good place to be right now.

After a 2016 which saw successful Downtown growth and an attractive seller’s market not seen since pre-housing-bubble 2005, there’s even more good news: In terms of business, civic and residential real estate development, the positive momentum in Greater Cincinnati is set to continue into 2017.

Over-the-Rhine’s vibrant, rebooted scene lured more millennials into Downtown, leading Forbes magazine in July to name Cincinnati the No. 1 up-and-coming city in the nation for recent college grads. The Queen City received accolades for its parks and playgrounds and the League of American Bicyclists named its growth in bike commuting the third fastest in America.

More recently, last month luxury real estate specialists Christie’s International Real Estate named Cincinnati one of 10 “Cities to Watch in 2017,” one of only two U.S. cities on a list that includes Vienna, Panama City and Lisbon. Christie’s cited the city’s influx of young professionals, diverse neighborhoods, adjacency to Kentucky’s scenic bluegrass region and cultural and sports amenities as among the many reasons Cincinnati’s stage is set for a booming future.

Civic development continues Downtown

As renovated city projects breathe new life into Downtown, the refurbishments will likely also serve as driving forces to create a demand for more business and residential development in Downtown’s pocket neighborhoods as well.

Aqua on the Levee, part of a residential explosion in Newport, has 239 rental units.

Joe Rudemiller, communications manager for nonprofit development corporation 3CDC, said he expects the Elm Street arts district to take off with the renovation of Music Hall and the new Cincinnati Shakespeare Company theater coming online next year. 

Rudemiller believes that more arts options can only help to enhance the growing dining choices, retail shopping and Washington Park-based events that have fueled a resurgence in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

“It all moves together in concert, no pun intended,” Rudemiller said. “Now people who come down to see the opera or a show, instead of just going to Music Hall or Memorial Hall, can come down for a full day.

"Everything happening in the arts district should play off each other very nicely to expand on some of the great work that’s already been done there and that continues to progress.”

In addition to a growing arts district at Elm Street, Rudemiller thinks 3CDC’s $32 million renovation of Ziegler Park on the east side of OTR will help that neighborhood see a growth in interest as well.

The park will include an underground parking garage, playgrounds, a deep water swimming pool and new basketball courts.

“It’s a neighborhood park, but it could also be a great catalyst for the vacant, unutilized commercial spaces around the park,” Rudemiller said. “And with the new park we’ll probably see growth into a more active area, a catalytic effect similar to what we’ve seen happen with Washington Park.”

In return, these civic spaces serve to attract new residents to the heart of the city.

“The more people who come here to spend time, the more likely they may be to think about buying a home or moving down here,” Rudemiller said.

Residential growth across town stays strong

Patti Stehlin, president of the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors, said it's difficult to predict when markets will be strong. 

"...we’ve seen all our markets gaining this year over the past couple of years, so we continue to see an increase everywhere," Stehlin said. 

And it’s a strong sellers market, with average price of homes at record highs around the city and an active market that can drive the prices even higher.

Stehlin believes millennials, both new to town and returning home, are responsible for the stronger market.

“We’re seeing millennial growth everywhere because I think Greater Cincinnati is unique in that many of our children are returning to the townships where they grew up, but millennials coming in from out of town or being relocated to Cincinnati tend to prefer to be more centrally located,” Stehlin said.

A proposed rendering by the Cincinnati Recreation Commission of an approved east side recreation center.

Stehlin believes new construction, growth and expansion in the northern corridor -- Mason, Deerfield Township, Liberty Township and West Chester to name a few -- could see a strong 2017 in terms of development and residency as well.

“Wherever you see new development becomes an area which would see increase because you find people building homes as well as buying and selling to get what they want,” Stehlin said. 

Northern Kentucky is similarly experiencing a positive outlook across the board, according to Northern Kentucky Board of Realtors president Jim Simpson.

“With new construction on the upswing and population growth, quite frankly we are up and booming across the region right now in the Northern Kentucky marketplace,” Simpson said.  

He believes the northern counties as a whole are experiencing the positive effects of a stronger economy.

Simpson says that, in particular, Boone County’s growth and development along the riverfront in both Campbell and Kenton counties have led the way for a strong 2016 and a projected strong 2017 in Northern Kentucky.

“What makes the biggest difference in the real estate market in any area is jobs,” Simpson said. “The jobs in Northern Kentucky are here, they’re still coming, and that impacts trends more than anything.”

Momentum means continued growth

John Heeken, a principal at Cincinnati-based developer Source 3, said the city needs to maintain its momentum. 

"You have to realize the assets of our city -- we have a diverse business community and Fortune 500 companies, but we also have outstanding large universities near the city center with Xavier, UC and NKU, so you can never really settle," Heeken said. 

Source 3 is expected to begin work in 2017 on its $25 million Over-the-Rhine development project Freeport Row, which will create apartment living space, 16,000 square feet of retail space and expanded parking at the corner of Liberty and Elm near Findlay Market.

“Our idea is to follow 3CDC’s lead and the leadership of the business community to recruit people to move to Cincinnati for a good urban experience,” Heeken said.

Heeken also believes that the new Martin Luther King Drive exit from Interstate 71, expected to open in 2017, will spur growth in the Walnut Hills, Avondale and Clifton areas, which intersect near the ramp.

He also believes a refocusing on Newport’s Ovation project, new residential living in Mount Auburn and ongoing development in Oakley and Covington signal good things for the city’s future.

“We can’t ever think, ‘Now we’re done,’” Heeken said. “You have to grow and change as your population grows and changes. You have to make it a priority, you have to keep moving because this city will change with every new generation.”