CINCINNATI -- The former Walnut Hills Kroger has sat empty on East McMillan Street since March, presiding somewhat grimly over a neighborhood that has poured millions into an ongoing attempt at revitalization.
Although the grocery giant cited decades of consistent underperformance in its decision to close the store, its sudden absence meant "many of our most vulnerable residents now have limited access to quality food options," Kevin Wright of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation said in December 2016.
Kroger suggested former Walnut Hills customers simply patronize its new University Plaza location, but for low-income Cincinnatians with little access to reliable transportation, the milelong trip sometimes proved a hard-to-surmount barrier.
"I'm bike-dependent, or I walk most places I go," resident Sue Plummer said. "(My neighbors) go without fresh fruits and vegetables. They go without reasonable price on just basic items, and it's frustrating."
Relief is coming, Wright announced Monday. The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation plans to buy the vacant property and convert it to a mixed-use residential-retail hybrid, placing retail spaces below apartments, for around $50 million in total development costs.
The goal of the project, which Wright said he hoped to formally begin by 2019, is to help the neighborhood prosper while retaining its community-oriented spirit.
"We don't want Walnut Hills to stop being Walnut Hills," he said.