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Revitalization through a Park

By Ezra Katz and Marianne Eppig

A Cincinnati neighborhood recently on a downward spiral is showing signs of revitalization. Over-the-Rhine, a historic district in Cincinnati famous for its Italianate architecture and proximity to the city center, recently re-opened its 150-year-old Washington Park after over a year and a half of renovations.

Over-the-Rhine, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been in a state of decline since WWII.  Anti-German sentiment following the war led city residents to “Americanize” the neighborhood’s German heritage, including German street names and organizations. The neighborhood attracted a lower-income demographic with its affordable housing and labor opportunities. With time the neighborhood went into decline, at one point becoming one of the poorest and most crime ridden neighborhoods in the country; the rate of poverty reached 58% and unemployment came just over 25%.

In 2003, the City of Cincinnati partnered with the city’s private sector to create the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) to help revitalize the area. 3CDC has focused on acquiring and leading the rehabilitation of abandoned properties within a 110 square block area of Over-the-Rhine. Among other initiatives, 3CDC, alongside the City of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Parks, helped to renovate Washington Park—an indication that Over-the-Rhine is making great strides toward revitalization.

The park has grown from 6 to 8 acres and includes some new amenities: a kids’ section, interactive water fountains, a dog park, updated restrooms, a concessions building, and a “civic lawn” that will host concerts and events. Neighborhood leaders are hopeful that Washington Park will serve as a civic center for Over-the-Rhine, fostering a sense of community and drawing people to public spaces that could attract future development for the district.

For more about the revitalization of Washington Park and Over-the-Rhine, visit these links:

The Park at the Forefront of Cincinnati’s Revitalization

Over-the-Rhine Blog

3CDC Website