Could 'rotten odor' end neighborhood's progress?

Posted at 6:00 AM, Feb 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 12:32:47-05

CINCINNATI – New restaurants, apartment buildings and plans to redevelop a defunct incline might signal an impending revitalization for one West Side neighborhood.

The look of the Incline District in Price Hill is set to change in the coming months.

Next month, Price Avenue will welcome a new wine bar, next to the popular Bloc Coffee Company. A Mexican restaurant is slated to open later this month. New apartment lofts geared toward working artists will begin accepting tenants later this year.

None of those changes would be all that noteworthy for trendy Cincinnati neighborhoods such as Over-The-Rhine or Oakley.

But new restaurants and apartments are a big deal for the Price Hill area that, up until three years ago, didn’t offer a casual joint for residents to grab a beer.

“I sincerely believe there has been a sea of change in the community,” said Ken Smith, the executive director of Price Hill Will, which focuses on community revitalization in the neighborhood. “That’s not to say that everything’s all perfect. But, I honestly feel like Price Hill, for the first time in a couple of decades, is moving in the right direction.”

Smith said the neighborhood has been on the right track since the Incline Public House, an eatery that offers stunning views of the city, opened up in 2013. Last year, just across the street, The Warsaw Federal Incline Theater put on its first show and has sold out every production since then.

“We realize that it will take more than a year or two of people investing in the community before things are revitalized,” Smith said. “It’s a long-term process.”

Now, there’s also talk in the community of rehabilitating the hill, where incline cable cars once traveled to and from Price Hill. The incline system closed in 1943.

Developers are proposing everything from an outdoor lighting attraction to a new gondola system on the incline.

Proposals for the old incline include:

·      A park and trail system on the hillside (no cost estimate available)

·      Putting a new incline transportation system on the hill (no cost estimate available)

·      Building a gondola system throughout the city and on the hillside that would transport commuters and tourists (Estimated cost: $35 million to $84 million)

·      Removing trees and placing a series of lights on the hill, marking the spot where the incline once operated  (Estimated cost: $250,000)

Robert Grogan, a Price Hill native who proposed lighting the former incline site, said his idea might attract Cincinnatians to the district and be a nod to the neighborhood’s history.

“There’s nothing really showing where the (incline) was,” Grogan said. “My idea is to remove those trees, take what was left of the concrete and stone piers and light those up." 

Smith said Price Hill Will is considering the series of proposals and will decide which plan makes the most sense for the district.

The area also got a bit of good news last week when the city announced Lower Price Hill, which is near the Incline District, was selected for Cincinnati’s 90-day Neighborhood Enhancement Program. The city-run program works with the neighborhood to clean up graffiti and blight, enforce building codes and identify crime hot spots. Over-the-Rhine and Avondale have also participated in the program.

Still, the area faces challenges in luring businesses into the area.

Bill Burwinkel, a Price Hill business owner, has lobbied the city and county to fix the persistent odor problem that has plagued the area. The Metropolitan Sewer District’s Mill Creek wastewater treatment plant sits close to Price Hill and produces a smell that Burwinkel describes as “sporadic” but “rotten.”

Burwinkel recently spoke at a Hamilton County Commission meeting, where he urged commissioners to authorize projects – totaling an estimated $13 million – that would alleviate the smell issue form the sewer treatment plant.

The issue is a priority for the county and the sewer district to solve, said commission president Chris Monzel. But, Monzel isn’t confident that the sewer district has found a way to fix the odor issue.

“It’s been something we’re worried about and concerned about for years,” Monzel said. He said past attempts to fix the smell wafting from the sewer plant haven’t wholly worked. “We need to make sure that whatever is getting proposed is actually going to work this time.”

Burwinkel said getting rid of the sewer smells might make it easier to encourage businesses to relocate to the area.  If the smell lingers, it could hinder future development.

“It’s about the perception,” Burwinkel said. “It only takes one small thing to change that perception.”