Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cincinnati's Over The Rhine: Why It's sometimes best to do nothing has a nice story and photo essay on Cincinnati's Over The Rhine neighborhood, long considered one of the largest semi intact collections of historic buildings in the country.

Just a few years before, none of this would have been possible.

Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine area, just north of downtown, had become a wasteland, a desolate, scary place that most residents -- let alone tourists -- had no reason to visit except for occasional trips to Findlay Market and Music Hall.
Not familiar with the full story, but year after year, as the place suffered from decline and disinvestment, I'm sure many thought the city should "just do something", tear it down, build a new stadium or indoor mall or change the street grid or add lots of parking garages-- like we so often have done in Pittsburgh.
Over the second half of the 20th century, the neighborhood grew increasingly abandoned, was a magnet for illegal activity and became home to hundreds of vacant buildings. In 2000, the neighborhood was prominently featured in "Traffic," a movie about the failing war on drugs, as the place where the daughter of Michael Douglas' character, the national drug czar, goes to get high.
Easy to see now, that such a classic set of buildings and block grid so close to the downtown was an above average attraction but in the 50's, 60's and 70's most, "smart people", thought just the opposite. Sadly, Allegheny City's Central market area had many of the same attributes as OTR.
Buffeted by the urban problems common to most American cities after World War II, the renamed "North Side" was deemed blighted despite much evidence to the contrary, leaving it vulnerable to the gargantuan renewal schemes of the 1960s. A new highway thickened the isolation belt of the railroad, and north of this wall, in the old heart of downtown Allegheny City, the bulldozers arrived in batallions. With the smashing of the beloved Market House on the Diamond, and the raising of a massive and mediocre suburban mall, it was as if the soul of the city itself had finally been extinguished
Sometimes the best "plan" is to value what you have and just wait to see what happens.

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