CINCINNATI — As it stands, the section of Central Parkway between Findlay Market and the bend just south of 12th Street is pretty drab. Commuters use it mainly as a major artery for cars passing through the city. But a group of concerned residents and business owners think it can be so much more than that. That’s why they have formed a task force to renovate the area, transforming the parkway into a grand boulevard that connects the city’s landmarks.
Organizers from the task force see it in part as a way to follow through on the city’s original vision for the parkway: a sprawling street with features like gardens and fountains that rivaled the most beautiful European cities.
“It was meant to be a grand street, connecting from the river through Downtown and Over-the-Rhine and up to the universities and to the neighborhoods along the Mill Creek,” according to Chris Manning of Human Nature. Human Nature is on the task force’s design arm for the project.
Ever since the canal that was once here was filled up, the area’s scenic beauty faded over time.
The task force feels revamping this section of the parkway can enrich the architectural character of the city.
Michael Williams, the owner of Wooden Nickel Antiques, has run his store on the parkway for over 40 years, and is one of the originators of the renovation project.
“It's going to be beautiful. It needs to be beautiful, or people won't be here,” Williams said. “It needs to be a tourist attraction. People will want to come here, but also it is about development. It will tie in Downtown to Findlay Market.”
Organizers say they want to create a more cohesive, attractive space that connects the West End with Over-the-Rhine while also making the street safer for pedestrians. They also want to make the parkway more practical for everyday use. Both the West End and Over-the-Rhine Community Councils have endorsed the project. The city also pledged $1 million to advance the project.
However, some prominent community figures object to this, arguing there are other issues to tend to that are more deserving of this money.
“I feel like that million dollars that they're putting into beautifying the street could have gone to affordable housing development,” said Mary B. Rivers, the executive director of Over-the-Rhine Community Housing.
“I thought it was unnecessary and sort of tone deaf in terms of the greater needs in the community of Over-the-Rhine in the city of Cincinnati that we would spend $18 million of our public dollars for a streetscape project of a couple of blocks.”
Manning acknowledges those other needs but stresses this is a big opportunity.
“We don't see other needs as being opponents or competition for what we're trying to do. We have a lot of respect for everybody who's working to make the community better.”
Next steps for the task force include refining designs, cost estimates and holding more community engagement. It's projected the renovations could cost around $20 million dollars.
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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