Friday, July 6th, 2012

Cincinnati vs. Cincinnati

In a post on Cincinnati called “A Midwest Conundrum” I noted the apparent disconnect between a place that has probably the best collection of assets of any city/region its size in America, and the long term stagnation the region has experienced.

What’s caused that? The reasons are complex, but something that I’ve long noticed is that Cincinnati is one of the most socially fragmented cities I’ve seen, and among other things has one of the worst city-suburb divides in America. I’ve rarely seen a place where suburbanites so openly brag about how they never come into the city like they do in Cincinnati.

We see this “Cincinnati vs. Cincinnati” dynamic playing out in the debate over a new $95 million streetcar system downtown. Transit proposals always sharply divide people along philosophical fault lines and are very controversial. And honestly, I’m not 100% sold on the Cincinnati streetcar itself. Nevertheless, the city government decided to move forward with it using a mixture of local, state, and federal money. The state approved its share under the previous administration. The feds had likewise approved a large grant.

Opponents of the streetcar have done everything possible to derail it. A local organization called COAST – Citizens Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes – took the lead. They brought a long string of successes in using ballot initiatives to defeat various things they didn’t like. They tried twice with the streetcar. The first time was a charter amendment that would prohibit the city from spending any money on streetcars. After that overly broad amendment failed, a second initiative narrowly focused on the streetcar also failed.

The benefit of this for streetcar supporters is that the project had now passed the test of clear democratic legitimacy. Put directly to the voters of the city of Cincinnati – twice – they endorsed it both times.

Democracy, however, is apparently not good enough for some people, particularly of the Tea Party Republican variety. In a curious move, US Rep. Steve Chabot inserted language into the House version of the transportation re-authorization bill that would prohibit any federal funds from being spent on any fixed guideway system. His target was the streetcar. This was not something done in the dead of night, but rather something he openly bragged about on his web site:

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) authored an amendment to prohibit any federal transportation dollars from being used for the Cincinnati streetcar project….The amendment itself is only 25 words and would stop in its tracks the federal grant money sought by the city of Cincinnati for the streetcar project. The primary funding for this project came in the form of an Urban Circulator Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for $25 million. Then, earlier this year, city of Cincinnati officials were on Capitol Hill seeking even more federal assistance.

As we’ll see in a moment, Steve Chabot is actually the representative for downtown Cincinnati. This is a curious reversal. Where in the past Congressmen would do everything possible to secure earmarks to bring home the bacon for their district, Chabot has decided instead to produce an “anti-earmark,” preventing the federal government from spending money in his district. What a novel concept.

Chabot claims his move is about priorities, saying that highway projects like the Brent Spence Bridge are more important. It’s interesting that even noted transit skeptic Wendell Cox has suggested that Cincinnati is over-freewayed, reporting that “Few American urban areas have better transport infrastructure and fewer still have as much potential for expansion. And few urban areas of 1.5 million have so many miles of 8-lane freeway. Except for part of the Ronald Reagan Cross County Highway and portions of the I-275 ring, virtually all freeway that is not eight lanes is six lanes.” Regardless, Chabot clearly knows that cancelling the streetcar won’t have any impact on any highway project in the region.

Chabot has hardly been the only political enemy of the streetcar who is nominally supposed to be representing the interests of Cincinnati. Republican Gov. John Kasich, after taking office last year, rewrote the state’s transport funding list and deleted all the funding the state was going to commit to the streetcar. Not satisfied with that, Kasich then had a provision inserted into the state budget by State Rep. Shannon Faulkner Jones (from far north suburban Cincinnati) that would prohibit the state from even administering federal grants on behalf of the Cincinnati streetcar system. (I’m not certain if this provision was adopted in the final budget).

Here we have three conservative Republican officials, the governor, a suburban state legislator, and the actual US representative for downtown Cincinnati, all attempting to kill this one streetcar project, one that passed two local votes and that is not even expensive compared to most other rail transit projects around the nation on a total price tag basis.

I hope this explodes the notion that the Republican party has any true interest in decentralizing government power. They love to rant and rave about Washington and states rights, but as I’ve noted before, when they run state governments, they gleefully set about micro-managing local governments. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that dis-empowering local governments, particularly big city governments they see as likely to be forever Democrat controlled, is a core political objective of the Republican Party. The fact that they are happy to run roughshod over the voters of Cincinnati to do so shows how little these Republicans at least respect local democracy. (Not that the Democrats are any better. They’ll happily cheer any one of their policies getting mandated by the Supreme Court if they can get it. But the Republicans like to pretend that they care about democracy and liberty more. In reality, both parties have agendas that they view as self-evidently correct and which should be imposed regardless of what the people think).

In any event, this sort of in-fighting is a classic example of why it is so difficult to do almost anything in Cincinnati and why it struggles so badly demographically and economically. The culture is broken. I was in downtown Cincinnati recently and it is really doing great, but with things like this it’s hard to get too excited about the city and region’s prospects. It’s not that I suggest a streetcar is critical to the future – as I said, I’m not even sure it’s a slam dunk project myself – but that the streetcar shows what you have to do through to get almost anything done there.

I’d like to end this with a map that shows part of what is going re:Chabot. It’s map of his newly gerrymandered district:

As you can see, his district takes in downtown and the west side of the city, then snakes around to include heavily Republican Warren County. I haven’t studied congressional maps that closely, but from what I’ve seen, generally cities tend to get to put into one district. This both helps create minority districts, but also keeps the city together as a community of interest. Especially in a place like Cincinnati, the people downtown and those in Warren County, while they should view themselves as sharing a region in common, often express outright hostility to each other. They certainly have very different outlooks and concerns. If the map was drawn to favor affluent suburban Republicans, then its effect is really to try to neutralize the voters of much of the city of Cincinnati. Maybe good electoral politics for Washington purposes, but bad policy in terms of making local regions thrive.

Contrast Cincinnati with the 7th Congressional district in Indianapolis.

That district outlines the city-county boundary except on the north, because the city is too big to fit into one district. Note that the affluent northern tier of the city is included with a Warren County analog to the north where it has a lot of commonalities.

In any event, when your own US and state representatives are trying to actively undermine the policy of the city government – regardless of policy or party – that’s a recipe for regional trouble. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Alas, that seems to describe Cincinnati all too well.

80 Comments
Topics: Transportation
Cities: Cincinnati

80 Responses to “Cincinnati vs. Cincinnati”

  1. Josh Lapp says:

    I find it ironic and funny the level of animosity between the 3C’s in Ohio. Having three very different and successful cities so close to each other in one state should be an asset but in my observations the cities remain relativity disconnected, focusing on fighting each other rather than working together. This moves beyond just a municipal level into the citizenry themselves.

    Just from my observations I see rather constant criticism coming from Cinci and Cleve directed at Columbus (usually something like Cowtown with no culture, generic, propped up by OSU/State Government). From Columbus towards Cleve (dying city, no jobs, no young people, rust belt relic) and Cinci (Crazy conservatives, very dangerous). I don’t know that Cinci or Cleve know the other is even in the same state.

    The State of Ohio is in such a unique position to have the 3C’s.

  2. Chris Barnett says:

    Matthew, you don’t have to believe it, but it’s far from absurd to suggest Columbus is the exurban fringe of the Indianapolis metro today. It is two counties out from Indianapolis-Marion County, and easily commutable in less than an hour either way. (It’s less than 45 minutes from the center of downtown Indy to Columbus.) Everything one county out is in the MSA and those county seats are now considered suburbs.

    More than 20 years ago I and many others I knew commuted to jobs in manufacturing companies in Columbus (and Bloomington, Kokomo, Lafayette, and Anderson) from Indianapolis city and suburban residences. I don’t know if Indiana’s Department of Revenue releases its gross cross-county commute numbers or not (they track county of work and county of residence for allocation of local income taxes they collect), but they would certainly be definitive rather than anecdotal.

    When Honda-Greensburg opened, the State and Honda set up a “mandatory hire” list of counties as part of the big economic development incentives. Marion County (Indianapolis) is on that list, and Greensburg is only about a 35 minute drive from my house on the near SW side (which is only 5 miles out from the center of the city in a 1920’s streetcar suburb). I would probably place that just outside the fringe in that direction, because it’s mostly farm field from the edge of Indianapolis. But US 31, the “historical” connection to Columbus, is mostly built up today.

    Similarly, the state of Ohio upgraded US 33 to Marysville, and it’s about 40 minutes from downtown Columbus to Honda. Delaware, Granville, and Lancaster are all within that same commute radius along upgraded highways. Canal Winchester, a former outlying farm town, is definitely a suburb of Columbus. Likewise Pickerington and New Albany.

    In most places the exurban fringe is in the range of 40 minutes to an hour’s commute out from the center of the city. Not everybody will drive or ride that far to work, but they will most definitely drive that far for advanced healthcare, cultural destinations, sporting events and shopping. Not coincidentally, around Indianapolis and Columbus, the smaller cities and adjoining small MSAs are part of the core city’s CSA. And proposing that the basis is numerous quality-of-life links is entirely reasonable.

    My argument is that a CSA pretty well defines the “home region” within which the major city is the center of economic gravity. Just because the Census bureau can’t or doesn’t capture those ecomomic stats doesn’t mean the construct isn’t real…only that it’s difficult to measure with any precision. They were late to the party with metro stats, too.

    “Tradition” is how Midwestern counties got sized so that people could ride a horse to the county seat and back in a day. Horse-and-buggy government boundaries and history don’t define modern economic activity or social and economic ties. Historically, Indianapolis’ current “county-seat” suburbs were far-out towns. That doesn’t make them towns today…most of them are now cities of 30-50,000 people and growing relatively fast.

    Historically, Cincinnati vs. Indy CITY comparisons are probably valid no later than about 1960 when Cincinnati started losing population and Indy hadn’t yet combined with the county. So in 1960, Cincinnati proper had 503,000 and “historic” Indy 476,000. That’s about a 5% difference in the “historical core”.

    I submit that it’s absurd to make the argument that Cincinnati’s “metro” is something other than directly conmparable in size and economic mass to Indy or Columbus, and that it lags both significantly in population growth over a stretch of decades. Even if Indy and Cbus are poster children for sprawl, it does not make the growth any less real.


    I’ll stand corrected with Springfield. It is too much of a stretch to include it in Columbus’ exurbs. I was thinking mostly of Marysville, Delaware, Lancaster, Granville, etc.

  3. Matthew Hall says:

    Chris Barnett, this is all to suggest that metro economies don’t really exist at all. If no economic activity can occur outside of a metro area, then the very concept of ‘metro’ is dissolved into nothing. All growth is growth, whereever it occurs, but if all growth is ‘assigned’ to its closest metro, then everyone and all economic activity occurs in metros and we can dispense with MSAs, CMAs, and any other such measures all together.

  4. Matthew Hall says:

    Josh, in response to your suggestion that Cincinnati is criticized as dangerous, metro columbus has higher rates of property and personal crime than metro cincinnati. So we can set that issue aside.

  5. EJ says:

    @Matthew Hall,

    Maybe “tradition” was a poor word choice. “Gravity” might be more appropriate. Springfield is definitely in Dayton’s gravity. A survey of the largely undeveloped I-70 corridor between Columbus and Springfield, and then the substantially more developed corridor between Springfield to Dayton makes this quite evident. Also compare this with the burgeoning I-75 corridor between Dayton and Cincinnati. Much of Columbus’ outward growth and regional orientation has been north and east, toward outlying Delaware, Marysville, Newark, and Lancaster, as opposed to south and west, toward Circleville or London. Columbus likely won’t grow west to any meaningful degree in the near future because of the Big Darby Accord that protects the river watershed along the city-region’s far western edge.

  6. Chris Barnett says:

    I think you have it backward. Because urban agglomerations grow, they do not have fixed geographic boundaries like legal city borders. Metro areas do grow physically as they grow in economic activity and population, and they capture outlying burgs over time.

    Especially in the sprawling flat Midwest, greenfield industrial and commercial development pretty rapidly fills in the gaps between towns as development happens at the edges There aren’t significant unbuildable slopes or huge rivers in Indy or Cbus like Cinti (or Pgh).

  7. Matthew Hall says:

    But they do have some boundaries by some defintion at a given point in time, otherwise they couldn’t really be said to exist in any meaningful way. We can’t transcend time and space in this discussion anymore than we can in our existence. MSAs are an attempt to establish a meaningful definition of local economic connections within local boundaries. If those boundaries do not represent something meaningful then they are meaningless. Urban areas do many things. It is much more than a simple story of growth or decline. Every aspect of development can change within a given boundary. Two MSAs with some similiar economic measures can be very different in other measures while two metros with different measures in some ways can be largely the same in others. The relationship of those changes within MSA boundaries are what MSA stats show us. You seem to reject the concept of limits all together.

  8. jbcmh81 says:

    Matt, the “bottom” in reference is the low point reached in the total number of metro non-farm jobs vs. where the number was before the recession began to chip it away. It’s not a made up or subjective number. Cincinnati simply lost more jobs and has regained a smaller percentage back. Again, this is not a knock on Cincinnati’s recovery or economy. The metro unemployment is now well below the national rate (along with every other Ohio metro, which is great) and it’s seeing generally seeing the largest month-to-month gains in jobs. But the simple reality remains that, to reach the level where it was before the recession, it has further to go than Columbus does. Both conditions can and do exist at the same time. And I haven’t even mentioned wages or real estate in this thread for either place. For your other posts, it shows that you are the kind of poster that perfectly exemplifies Mr. Renn’s point: that any suggestion that Cincinnati is not the absolute most awesome city in the US is met with outrage. I wasn’t bashing Cincinnati, just showing how your point about jobs could easily be shown in a different light. Your rant about how much you think Columbus sucks, while not new material for you, is unwarranted.

  9. jbcmh81 says:

    Also, my point about Dayton was to show that it’s possible for long declining cities to turn around population trends. Dayton has managed to do what I think few people deemed possible anytime soon. No matter how small that growth is now, it’s something that hasn’t existed in decades, and that is significant even if the actual numbers are not. Cincinnati, by all accounts, is a superior city to Dayton in every conceivable way, so the only thing that seems to be holding back that growth is Cincinnati itself. In terms of attracting immigrants, Cincinnati has done an awful job, and I’ve actually had quite a few Cincinnati residents suggest that the last thing the city needed was immigrants. This seems very short-sighted and I hope it’s not a widespread mindset.

  10. jbcmh81 says:

    Matt, if you are referring to crime rates, that’s not actually true. According to the FBI, in 2011, Cincinnati had the highest property crime rate of the 3-Cs. Columbus was 3rd. Not sure what you mean by “personal” crime, but if you are referring to violent crimes with a physical victim, Columbus has the lowest rate of all 7 of Ohio’s largest metros. Cleveland was #1 and Cincinnati #2.

  11. Chris Barnett says:

    Matthew, you seem to be saying that the physical boundaries of a “metro” remain fixed and immutable.

    They’re not, especially if the metro is growing in population and economic activity. How many rings of counties are in the very largest metros (excluding LA where the counties are the size of New England states)?

    It just doesn’t seem arguable that midsized Midwestern metros successively outgrow the home county, then the first ring, and grow into the second ring. MSP, Cbus, Indy have all done this.

    No doubt, this does make comparison over time more difficult. But I don’t get your resistance to understanding the physical geographical differences that lead to certain metro attributes like sprawl.

    You certainly don’t have to LIKE sprawling metros (or state capitals) to acknowledge that they exist, that their economic and development-pattern characteristics are affected by their location, economic functions, and surrounding terrain, and that they often have big commute-sheds and big regional-service fields.

    Perhaps simple geography makes MSP, Cbus, and Indy not directly comparable to Cincinnati. But the same geography makes Pittsburgh, Louisville, Evansville, and St. Louis comparable.

  12. I hate to wade into this discussion, but I’d like to point out a few things.

    1. Metro area definitions are based on commuting flows. But the catchment area for various aspects of a city varies. Cincinnati has a somewhat large metro population than some other nearby cities, but it’s economic trade area (as measured by the Bureau of Economic Analysis), is not much bigger than its MSA. That’s why Indy has a bigger TV market than Cincinnati, for example -> it’s catchment area for that is bigger. However, while Cincinnati’s catchment areas are smaller for many things, they are bigger for others. I grew up in Southern Indiana near Lousisville as as Reds fan, for example. For historical and geographical regions, Cincinnati is also a draw for over 150 miles in each direction for certain super-regional attractions like King’s Island or IKEA. It’s advantageous to locate these in Cincinnati’s northern burbs.

    2. Cincinnati’s population growth to where it can claim to the “largest MSA in Ohio” really just came because lots of counties were added to the MSA – 15 in all. Some of these are small counties in Indiana and Kentucky, but the land area of Cincinnati’s MSA is 4,392 sq mi. By contrast, Cleveland is the second smallest in the Midwest among major cities, at only 1,997 sq mi. If you added 4,392 sq mi in adjacent territory to Cleveland, I’m quite confident it would be bigger than Cincinnati.

  13. Chris Barnett says:

    Aaron, I’ve been trying to make that “economic trade area” argument.

    I agree on baseball and amusement parks…Cincinnati is the regional draw. But as you point out, amusement parks have far wider catchment basins than just a metro area. Baseball’s an anomaly since teams typically do align well with metros…but Indy doesn’t have MLB.

    CSAs align pretty well with catchment areas for things like newspapers, TV, commuting, regional healthcare facilities, regional malls (including outlets), car-dealer reach, local food and beverage distribution…things that really define a “local economy”.

  14. jbcmh81 says:

    Aaron, one way to look at metro populations is not necessarily how bit it is physically, but how much of the metro population lives in the core city/county. I think that would be one way to show how important the core city/county would be to the metro, overall.

    For Cincinnati, 37.6% of the metro population lives in Hamilton County, with 13.9% of the metro population living in Cincinati proper. To compare with the other 3-Cs, Cuyahoga County has 61.6% and the city of Cleveland contains 19.1% of the metro population. Franklin County has 63.3% and the city of Columbus has 42.9% of the metro population.

  15. Matthew Hall says:

    Any suggestion that Columbus, Ohio is not unquestionably and utterly unique in everyway is met with apoplectic rage by JBCMH, though no one else seems to care at all.

    Every dollar of economic activity and every person either counts or doesn’t count for any given phenomenon whether MSA, CMSA, commuter, tourist, etc. If a border is not fixed at a moment and for a purpose it doesn’t exist.

    What do TV and newspaper “catchment areas” matter in the age of the internet? I watch video and read newspapers from places I’ve barely even heard of everyday.

    One third of metro cincinnati’s population lives in another state from the rest. A ten minute walk from the heart of downtown Cincinnati (which is throbbing with activity this week) takes you outside of Hamilton county and into very old dense areas in northern kentucky that are ‘urban’ and ‘core’ in every conceivable sense. A comparison of Hamilton and Franklin counties is thus misguided. A comparison of Franklin county, Ohio to Hamilton county along with Kenton and Campbell counties in Kentucky would be more apt for a comparison to Franklin County, Ohio.

    I’ve never seen 2011 violent crime stats by MSA, but 2010 stats indicate that Columbus, Ohio had 369 violent crimes per 100,000 while Cincinnati had 314 per 100,000. http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/table-6. If anyone has a reference for other MSA crime stats, they would be greatly appreciated.

    Whether Cincinnati ‘wants’ immigrants or not, and I don’t know how we’d stop them even if we wanted to, it is doing better than Cleveland, St. Louis and even Pittsburgh demographically despite their supposedly superior embrace of international immigrants. Everyone and every dollar counts, even if they HAVEN’T come halfway around the world.

  16. Chris Barnett says:

    Matthew, you just aren’t going to give, are you? I’ll just take Aaron’s best argument: Indy’s CSA is 15 counties, and Cincinnati’s MSA is 15 counties.

    Brown County in each metro fits the same description: a good example of far-exurban metro territory with lots of woodland and lake residences (second or retirement homes), where nonetheless some residents commute daily into the urban area. In Indiana, Brown is the next county west of Columbus, the same distance south of downtown and on worse (undeveloped rural) roads; the road to Columbus is almost all built up. Brown County Indiana is in the MSA but Bartholomew County (Columbus) isn’t? Wacky and wrong.

    Because Indy’s metro has been growing in population and sprawl for decades, especially 2000-2010, the MSA boundary needs to be adjusted. The fair comparison basis for Indy to Cincinnati is CSA. Yes, that limits the various data aggregations that can be compared…but one can always look at core counties.

    Core comparison of modern Cincinnati and modern Indy is not that hard. I’ll agree with your argument that Covington and Newport are “core urban”. If one takes all three of those home counties as “core”, more than half the Cincinnati MSA and CSA population is in there, which is higher in percentage and in number than Indy…exactly the result I’d expect in comparing a slow-growing terrain-bound river city with a faster-growing, sprawling metro on a plain.

  17. Matthew Hall says:

    And apparently, neither are you, Chris. I remain unconvinced that CMAs are valid or meaningful. I actually think the metropolitcan economy of Cincinnati is significantly larger that that of Indy or columbus, Ohio based on its MSA.

  18. Matthew Hall says:

    One man’s ‘fairness’ is another’s blatant bias. This isn’t about fairness, it’s about the value of economic activity and where it happens.

  19. Cincinnati is the least deserving of the 3 Cs to have an article devoted to being at odds with itself. The streetcar situation is just an increasingly fervent and vocal anti-rail agenda nationwide that I don’t think can be attributed to Cincinnati being the helpless victim of anti-urban regional and state politics. In any case, Cincinnati is the only Ohio city set to break ground on a new rail line. Look at how much progress Cincinnati made in Northside and OTR in the 00s without state and regional meddling and compare that to what revitalized neighborhoods Columbus and Cleveland were able to come up with in the 00s: the latter two were too busy stroking their egos over neighborhoods that had already improved while not working on more: the Short North and Ohio City-Tremont respectively are what I’m referring to. Cincinnati’s 2009 NYT article http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/travel/19hour.html refers to the “recent” revitalization of Northside (“Where Hipsters Roam”) and the “rebirth” of OTR thanks to tens of millions being invested to bring back businesses and residents. Similar articles on Columbus and Cleveland that touch on popular neighborhoods do not carry such keyword descriptions indicating newly revitalized neighborhoods and you can see this in Cleveland’s case where Tremont has “remained steady” as a nightspot destination per their NYT writeup. http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/travel/20hours.html

    To summarize, Cincinnati added dozens of new businesses to two areas that were economic losers and are now economic assets: Columbus and Cleveland have not and has lost out on could-be assets. cincinnati is spending money on urban revitalization and just as importantly they know how to spend it. I only have passing knowledge of Minneapolis’ neighborhood revitalization program, but it started in the 80s and in order for any of the Cs to compare to the number of healthy commercial districts/nodes/neighborhoods here today that benefited from this program they could only compete if combined: it’s no wonder that Minneapolis ranked in Walkscore’s Top Ten while the rest of the Midwest (save Chicago obviously for you nitpickers) trail well behind. Cincinnati’s balanced approach of investing money to turn empty business districts into thriving ones while adding residents mirrors most closely out of the 3Cs what Minneapolis did and that’s why they’re seeing more results.

    For a Cleveland vs. Cleveland article you could post about how the city is too downtown-centric at the expense of another neighborhood that *should* be relatively revitalized by now (North Collinwood, Cudell, and/or Old Brooklyn which is pretty huge with a population of 32,000), and how Clevelanders are too busy retorting that they have the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and an Iron Chef.

    Columbus vs. Columbus is easy for me since I lived there. Its problem isn’t that it doesn’t have money issues that Cleveland does to spend on revitalization efforts, but that it comically spends it in the most frustratingly confusing ways. $5 million is being spent to rebuilt the American Addition neighborhood: a place no one would visit and spend money in because it’s solely residential save for a bar that has the most 911 calls in recent years. It’s also isolated by railroad tracks, surrounded by depressed neighborhoods and when the wind blows south you get some chemical scents from nearby industrial uses, but they think that’s sufficient to attract residents to 150 new homes. And then when they invest in an area anchored by a somewhat dense commercial district that has seen better days they’re going to rehab 50 homes and build 50 new ones. What is the cruddy business district that they sit next to going to receive? $0. And then there was over $300,000 spent on bike parking: 10 shelters each able to accommodate a dozen bikes. On-street bike corrals cost 1/10 that much easy and handle as many bikes: 120 bikes vs. 1200 bikes and Columbus would have been the only serious competition for Portland in this regard. But I digress.

    Speaking of which, Cincinnati is also ahead of the other Cs in installing on-street bike corrals (two, count ‘em: two) and unlike them has the stated goal of having at least one in every business district (or was it every neighborhood?). If you expect to attract young people you better have results and Cincinnati with its growing number of revitalized business districts, a new streetcar, and just edging out ahead on bike infrastructure, is doing the most out of any city in Ohio. Still, they’ve got work to do, but Cincinnati is moving forward at a faster clip while the other Cs are too reliant on boosterism: appreciate what you have, but don’t be content with that. That is something that the other Cs need to learn fast if the potential of three mid-sized cities so close to each other is ever to be realized again.

  20. Neil says:

    “the Short North and Ohio City-Tremont respectively are what I’m referring to. Cincinnati’s 2009 NYT article http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/travel/19hour.html refers to the “recent” revitalization of Northside (“Where Hipsters Roam”) and the “rebirth” of OTR thanks to tens of millions being invested to bring back businesses and residents. Similar articles on Columbus and Cleveland that touch on popular neighborhoods do not carry such keyword descriptions indicating newly revitalized neighborhoods and you can see this in Cleveland’s case where Tremont has “remained steady” as a nightspot destination per their NYT writeup. http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/travel/20hours.html

    I can’t vouch for Cleveland, but I used to visit Columbus quite a bit during College during the 00s when I lived in Cincy, and my observations are that Columbus is light years ahead of Cincinnati in terms of urban revitalization. It has way less to work with but has done way more along the High Street corridor and in a few connected areas like Grandview and the Victorian Village. When I’m on High Street it honestly has the vibe of a main drag in Chicago, but with worse architecture – people walking everywhere, taxis that are easy to fetch at all times, good bus service, tons of bicyclists (though its kind of treacherous given how high street is designed). Not only that but Columbus is shockingly international, there are strip malls full of ethnic places and a very large Ethiopian population that gives the city way more cosmopolitanism than it deserves.

    I was jealous of Columbus for just generally being a more friendly place for young people, if Vine Street from Downtown to Avondale through OTR and past the University was like High Street from Short North to Old North Columbus past its University, we’d be talking about a city that would be receiving national attention for how cool it is.

    Did I also mention that the infill in Columbus in this area is way better than in Cincy? Its weird because the infill is better than the mediocre old architecture, whereas in Cincy its the opposite way around… compare the Hampton inn by the convention center in Columbus to the new Hampton inn in Coryville:

    Hampton Inn: http://i36.photobucket.com/albums/e33/UncleRando/Cincinnati/Corryville/IMG_2756.jpg

    Columbus Hampton Inn:

    http://hamptoninn.hilton.com/en/hotels/content/CMHHSHX/media/images/photo_gallery/CMHHSHX_Hampton_Inn_and_Suites_Columbus-Downtown_gallery_welcome.jpg

    There were elegant apartments like the one you see in the background torn down for the Hampton Inn for Corryville, the one in Columbus incorporated the old building and added a relatively well designed addition to it. Try asking that to happen in Cincinnnati.

  21. @Neil — You might consider revisiting Cincinnati. In just the last few years, the Gateway Quarter here has established an outstanding retail/restaurant/bar district. The quality is there (one example is gourmet hot dog pub Senate, lauded by HuffPo among others — http://senatepub.com/press) as well as density and diversity. It reminds me slightly of Denver’s Larimer Square, only with the character that comes from being built on the bones of original buildings in a historically significant neighborhood. It may not quite feel like Chicago, but then, I’ve always found Chicago’s “main drags” to feel a bit overly-commercial and soulless.

    Morevoer, that’s just one small district here; the brand-new waterfront “Banks” is thriving and unlike anything I’ve seen in Columbus, thanks to a mix of riverview greenspace existing shoulder-to-shoulder with restaurants and bars. A few blocks north, the Walnut Street corridor that is home to the Zaha Hadid-designed Contemporary Arts Center and Aronoff Center for Performing Arts (Broadway tour shows and Cincinnati Ballet, among others) has seen steady investment in the last several years, with a 21c Museum Hotel set to open in 2012 and work being done on a 7,500 sq foot restaurant/bar complex across the street. (Oh, and that 21c project is utilizing and old apartment building much like your example from Columbus. So, yeah, that IS happening in Cincinnati.) Up near our Music Hall, Washington Park and the area around it reportedly has the highest dollar-per-square-mile rate of investment of any development project in America. I’m not looking to get into a pissing contest because I like a lot of aspects of Columbus; I’m only stating that Cincinnati has changed a great, great deal even in just the last 3-5 years, and will look even more different (and wonderful) by 2015.

    @minneapolissite — I think it’s interesting that Cincinnati has made such striking progress on a number of fronts you described, because the city-v-suburbs bitterness that Aaron describes is very much present. I think we’ve managed to accomplish great things, in *spite* of that divide, largely by circumventing it in a few ways. For instance, on the biking front, we have very committed cycling advocates “on the inside,” so to speak (ie. working in the City’s Department of Transportation and Engineering), who have helped translate the will of the cycling constituency into plans/actions that can actually get done. Moreover, my sense has been that a lot of these cycling projects have such a low cost (relatively speaking) that they are barely a blip on the radar, and meet little public resistance.

    Much of the Over-the-Rhine revitalization has been driven by a public-private partnership that I believe is rather unique, and is able to attract private equity while having the advantages of working as a direct partner with the City. In this case, private equity = less boat-rocking from groups such as C.O.A.S.T., and no foothold for Chabot or Kasich to grandstand at the expense of project funding.

    I am genuinely perplexed about why one continues to hear folks from Blue Ash, or Mason, or other outlying suburbs demonstrate such pride in having no connection to the city that gives their own community a reason for being (other than their trip down for that occasional Reds game). Perhaps they feel intimidated by the parallel parking and needing to walk a block or two to their destination? Perhaps they feel left out of the party and aren’t sure how to get in? I really wish I knew the answers because that divide is really the only thing left that bums me about about Cincinnati.

  22. Neil says:

    ^-I am very impressed by the progress being made, no doubt about it. What I was getting at is that Columbus was doing far more with far less, making an attractively urban young person friendly part of town in the last 15-20 years, where as Cincinnati is behind the curve.

    I’m hoping that someday Cincy will realize its full potential, and I’m cheering on the progress, hoping to visit again soon actually for that purpose (well and for family ;) ).

  23. Matthew Hall says:

    What columbus is doing isn’t ‘urban revitalization’. You have to have something urban to revitalize it. Columbus is building new things. That is fine, but it is a different thing from revitalizing old things. Where this idea that Columbus is ‘younger’ than Cincinnat come from, I don’t know. The average of Columbusers is only slightly younger than that of Cincinnatians. Remember, relatively few of those OSU students are counted as true local residents and often spend their summers and holidays elsewhere. They are often not counted as official residents of Columbus.

    Suburbanites are using cincinnati to express a sense of class and ethnic identity. It has nothing to do with actual experiences or interests. They are reminded of what they aren’t because it is different from where they are otherwise. This is the essence of “urbanity” and ironically supports downtown’s uniqueness. They dislike downtown BECAUSE it is successful and supports economic activities that their areas don’t. If it wasn’t they might feel sorry for it but they wouldn’t feel threatened by it. Their proclamations of disinterest are a sign that they have to take it seriously and that it offers alternatives they don’t otherwise have access to. It’s an ironic sign of success.

    Columbusers don’t react to downtown Columbus in a distinct way, because downtown columbus isn’t distinct from the rest of its metro. It does not offer choices or activities that aren’t available in other areas of columbus. It’s more of the same, just at a higher density.

    This is all generational, too. Those over 40 view the world is such starkly different ways from the younger generations. Big changes are afoot in America generally, but there are real differences between metros. These changes may not benefit all equally and in the ways we expect.

  24. Josh Lapp says:

    @Matthew Hall: I can’t say that I am entirely familiar with Cincinnati or Cleveland for that matter but all the people I know from both cities (and I know quite a few who are students at Ohio State and therefor have perspectives of both cities) agree that Columbus “feels younger.” Whether or not the demographics agree or not may be one thing but its hard to ignore the 80,000 students who attend classes (many of whom who also live) near the downtown area.

    Columbusites (correction) most likely don’t react the same way as Cincinnatians to their respective downtowns because there is little stigma associated with downtown neighborhoods. German Village, the Arena District, the Short North neighborhoods, and Campus are all areas that people are accustomed to going to and have been for many years.

    As I alluded to I think the real difference between the two cities is probably perception differences more than actual differences, but you tell me? I think geography has an effect too. Columbus looks concentric on a map, while Cincinnati looks more “top heavy,” so perhaps access is an issue.

  25. Matthew hall says:

    OSU has 80,000 students enrolled on it’s Columbus campus? are you sure?

    Are short north and German village really “downtown”?

    Columbus is more top heavy than Cincinnati. cincinnati’s southern suburbs are more extensive than columbus’.

    There is no stigma associated with downtown Columbus because there is no association of any kind with downtown columbus. it is just another area, not the clear economic and cultural center of it’s metro that downtown Cincinnati is. People don’t resent things that aren’t important, they resent things that are important.

  26. Josh Lapp says:

    OSU: 56,867
    Capitol Law: 210
    Columbus State (CSCC): 30,513
    CCAD: 1,300
    Franklin: 7,942

    Total:96832. I would be willing to say that the number is slightly inflated with many older students attending Franklin and the availability of some online classes at CSCC.

    Are Over-the-Rhine or Mt. Adams in downtown Cincinnati? It all depends on where one lives, but I would venture to guess that they are as much in downtown Cinci as German Village and the Short North are in downtown Cbus for the majority of the population of the region.

    Looking at the maps I think you are right that Cinci has a much greater southern presence than Cbus. Cinci’s metro is much more expansive then Cbus’ too. I would assume that a majority of Cbus population lives closer to downtown Cbus than the case is in Cinci but that may be untrue.

    I fail to understand how you can espouse that the Short North or Downtown or German Village offer nothing culturally different than the suburbs of Columbus. I personally like Cinci and believe it has a lot going for it, in fact architecturally and otherwise Cinci has a much stronger foundation than Columbus.

    Its ironic that I mentioned the propensity of the inhabitants of the 3C to attack and degrade one another to make up for their own shortcomings. Its OK to acknowledge the success of Columbus while still maintaining that Cinci is awesome in its own right.

    As I said earlier all 3Cs are extremely different and all have strengths and weaknesses. To degrade Cbus by saying its downtown area is not unique or important is to not acknowledge reality. The vast majority of cultural and sporting events happen in the downtown area. Come to downtown any weekend, especially during the summer, and you will be greeted by throngs of people. Thats not to say the same is not true for Cinci.

    I think this all boils down to jealously. IMO Cinci and Cleveland boosters alike cringe when they see positive stories about Columbus because they feel it hurts their own cause. I don’t understand that notion though because its not a zero sum game. What helps Cinci, helps Ohio, and what helps Ohio helps us all. Anyway I am planning a trip to Cinci in August and I look forward to exploring the city even more than I have in the past.

  27. Matthew hall says:

    that’s 56,000 then.

    I wonder how many students
    UC, UC\hamilton, UC/clermont, Xavier, NKU, Miami Hamilton, mount st. Joseph, the Cincinnati art institute, Thomas Moore, and Cincinnati state have enrolled.

  28. Joshua Lapp says:

    The difference is that besides OSU the other schools I meantioned are all actually in downtown Columbus. That’s not all the universities in the region.

  29. Matthew Hall says:

    But how often are they actually in downtown Columbus? A few hours a week in many cases. They drive from Hilliard, Morse Road or Whitehall, use downtowns ample parking, walk to their class and reverse the process once or twice a week. Do these people have any relevance for our discussion of downtown cincinnati versus downtown columbus?

  30. Neil says:

    ” I personally like Cinci and believe it has a lot going for it, in fact architecturally and otherwise Cinci has a much stronger foundation than Columbus.”

    It does have stronger foundations, agreed completely. Its just slow to make the leap to utilizing those foundations, and oftentimes (as this article title suggests) works against itself to undermine the strength of those foundations.

    What’s going on now in OTR/Downtown though is nothing short of a miracle. I hope the momentum gets to the point when transit opposition will be so overwhelmed by it that they will be forced to serve the stronger core.

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