CINCINNATI — The message was loud and clear from Mayor John Cranley’s final state of the city address on Tuesday night: he upholds his efforts to continue development Downtown and in Over-the-Rhine as some of his most important work while in office.
"Let's remember, Over-the-Rhine and so many other neighborhoods were far worse places before our city's comeback," Cranley said. "Shootings were higher. Fear was ever-present and jobs were scarce. Those were not the good ole days."
However, residents and community leaders have a range of thoughts about Cranley’s speech and his performance in office. Some are critical; others a more moderate response.
Maurice Wagoner, the president of the Over-the-Rhine Community Council, agrees with the mayor that downtown and OTR have made great progress. But he criticized the mayor for not following through on his promise to create more affordable housing. He charges Cranley for having misplaced priorities and for alienating residents from the development of their neighborhoods.
"Most of the communities were not involved. Particularly Over-the-Rhine was not involved in how it was restructured," Wagoner said.
Danny Klingler, another OTR resident, also acknowledged the strides that Cincinnati's economy and development have made in recent years. But he felt there were larger factors at play outside of Cincinnati that also catalyzed the city’s growth that Cranley hasn’t acknowledged.
"The trend of economic development and new development has been happening all across the country due to demographic change and people moving back to cities," Klingler said. "Millennials want to be in more walkable neighborhoods, so I found [taking credit for that] a little disingenuous."
"The city has made a tremendous amount of strides since Mayor Cranley was elected,” said Darrick Dansby, the president-elect of the Greater Cincinnati Realtist Association. “He kind of just kept that wave going, which has been great for the city for a variety of neighborhoods and communities."
Still, he acknowledges the socioeconomic inequities that have worsened simultaneously with Cincinnati’s real estate and business development.
"The problem is that the wealth gap has gotten much larger as well," Dansby said. "You know, the price of housing has gone up exponentially, but wages have not increased at that same rate."
Darin Hall, the president and CEO of Civitas Development Group, says he feels the mayor had the right intentions, but couldn't satisfy everybody.
"You've got to remember what we're trying to unwind is 70 to 80 years of intentional discriminatory structures in how capital gets allocated,” Hall said. “That doesn't mean you can't fix it, but it takes a long time to unwind these things."
Monique John covers gentrification for WCPO 9. She is part of our Report For America donor-supported journalism program. Read more about RFA here.
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