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Old 01-08-2013, 07:30 PM
 
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North Avondale properties just belie belief and although I am from Cincinnati I don't really know what happened to create these two pockets of extreme (at one time) affluence that also allowed the main thoroughfare/retail corridor to become so decrepit. Certainly turning mansions on Reading Rd. into SROs didn't help, but what were the precipitating events surrounding the decline? What happened to Reading Rd.?

Goyguy?
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Old 01-08-2013, 08:09 PM
 
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Basically what happened was the destruction of the West End. That displaced a huge poor African American population in the 1950s, and many of those people moved to Avondale, guided by unscrupulous real estate practices and illegal subdivision of once grand homes into low income apartments. Avondale was prior to 1950 about 85% white, with a majority Jewish population, but by the close of the 1950s, it was over 70% black (90% today). White flight occurred faster in Avondale than just about any other place I have heard of. Housing values plummeted as panic selling set in, and real estate speculators swooped in. Then, a couple of rounds of civil unrest in the 1960s, with Reading Rd at the center, saw lootings and burnings of businesses, synagogues, you name it, and Avondale went from being one of the most beautiful Cincinnati neighborhoods to one of its most troubled.

North Avondale residents stood firm against the block busting and the real estate speculators and the result is that the neighborhood remained largely intact, and today is a pretty racially balanced neighborhood.

That's the quick, nickel tour.
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Old 01-08-2013, 09:03 PM
 
Location: Mason, OH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SoFresh99 View Post
North Avondale properties just belie belief and although I am from Cincinnati I don't really know what happened to create these two pockets of extreme (at one time) affluence that also allowed the main thoroughfare/retail corridor to become so decrepit. Certainly turning mansions on Reading Rd. into SROs didn't help, but what were the precipitating events surrounding the decline? What happened to Reading Rd.?

Goyguy?
Really not too hard to analyze. Reading Rd or U.S. Route 42 was the primary north/south transport route through Cincinnati prior to the interstates. An irony is U.S. Route 42 was considered an East/West highway. But from Medina up in central Ohio south of Cleveland, it basically ran south down through Ohio and Cincinnati until it crossed the Ohio River.

Reading Rd in Cincinnati had much development along its length, bringing conjestion and slow traffic. When I-75 was built the central/northern suburbs had a faster route to just bypass Reading Rd. With the completion of I-71 even more fast moving traffic was diverted from Reading Rd. Reading Rd became a why would I want to go there situation unless you lived off it.

The construction of both I-75 and I-71 displaced a large number of lower economically positioned people in the City. Many of them moved up the hills and eventually to Avondale, an area of very large older homes many of which could be subdivided into cheap flats. The original inhabitants of Avondale simply sold and moved further out into the suburbs to escape the horde.

There is also something called human nature. Humans can appreciate and enjoy older environs with character, craftsmanship, etc. as long as they feel comfortable everyone surrounding them is doing the same. For awhile Avondale was exactly that, an older but beautiful neighorhood proud to live in. But maintaining and upgrading older property is expensive unless you have bought it for a song and are trying to bring it back. Avondale had a beautiful atmosphere until too many broke ranks and sold out. Then it was like rats deserting a sinking ship. Before you knew it the backbone of the community was broken and the scum-lords moved in to mop up the scraps. Like it or not that is exactly what happened.

Back in the 50s-60s I spent quite a bit of time in some magnificent homes in Avondale being remodeled by their owners. The exteriors were mostly in good shape. The big expenditures were on the interiors. The people acquiring them were not attracted by the dark, mostly varnished woodwork of the interiors, too drab and dingy. The wood itself was magnificent, they just did not like the dark surroundings. I spent more hours than I want to recall removing varnish with chemical removers. Then I would bleach the wood, yes plain old bleach applied with rubber gloves, to dull even more of the original varnish/stain.
Then my father would refinish the woodwork with what he called a pickling finish. It actually was a spray of variously tinted lacquer, ranging from an off-white tint to a light gray to whatever the customer desired. Many of the results were spectacular, especially rooms such as libraries with floor to ceiling woodwork. I have tears come to my eyes when I realize how many of those spectacular homes have been destroyed one way or the other.

To answer your original question, what happened to Reading Rd was the interstates coupled with the driving of economically depressed people out of the city's core into the inner suburbs. Kind of what is happening again today with OTR.
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Old 01-08-2013, 09:14 PM
 
Location: Cambridge, MA
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That summation was as good as one I could do, and about twelve paragraphs shorter.
Too young to remember the "before" and "after" of Avondale, I was aware enough to see what sleazy financial-industry and real-estate practices did to Bond Hill just up the road. Speculators seized on the opportunity to literally capitalize on the uneasiness of home owners in that neighborhood. During the early '70s there would be moving vans arriving every weekend, with streets turned into unbroken lines of "For Sale" signs (unintended rhyme.) Mirroring what occurred in North Avondale, enough people resisted the pressure to sell within the northwestern-most corner of the community that it remains a low-crime oasis with a diverse population.
Legal crackdowns on "blockbusting," along with a less nervous citizenry, helped the next part of town out Reading Rd (Roselawn) not undergo unnaturally swift demographic shifts. Although the racial numbers have changed significantly most of the area is a safe, inviting, and middle-class enclave still. (~1 person out of 6 living in Roselawn is Caucasian today, down from "97% Jewish and 3% assimilated" as the joke once went. But this has transpired across four decades rather than in four years or less.)
Displacement of low-income persons and families from the West End and Over-the-Rhine as public housing "developments" bite the dust and city blocks gentrify is having less of an impact than would've been the case in the mid-twentieth century. A great deal of the migration has been across the viaducts to Price Hill and Westwood, where it so happens that a lot of gone-to-seed apartment complexes were being converted to Section 8 properties (ditto in Mt Airy.) Once essentially all-White, other relatively affordable places such as Hartwell + Carthage + parts of Pleasant Ridge are also seeing an influx of "minority" and lower-income folks. Now, though, for every incumbent resident who bails out or curses the transition there's another who is perfectly OK with it. So instead of seeing percentages of one group steadily climb while another continually plummets you see a leveling off at some point. Community councils of varying size and clout help to maintain the quality of life and provide a sounding board (Go, Westwood; Go, Madisonville; Hello, Mt Airy, hello?)
As far as principal commercial districts' becoming "decrepit," that seems to be a widespread problem in city and suburb now. The contradiction between the appearance of any given neighborhood's main drag and its residential side streets is stark. Swifton, Tri-County, and other groupings of stores which foiretold "regional malls" and the latest variations on that theme were the beginning of the end of walkable shopping areas. Who among us remembers when you could stroll a couple of blocks to the friendly corner grocer who knew your name, to say nothing of a nearby independent pharmacy? I barely can. One of the most telling commercial slogans these days is, "Today's neighborhood drugstore...CVS." Their gray "outdoor" carpeting, emphasis on red, and pharmacists/techs from who knows where are fixtures throughout the country. And as ubiquitous as they and their mega-competitors are, they tend to cluster and be less convenient for many customers than the local druggists they squeeze out of business. It's also harder for an aspiring restaurant owner to become established and stay afloat in this era of Applebee's, McDonald's, Olive Garden, the list goes on. These chains also shun neighborhoods in favor of clustering - around malls or highway interchanges. Coupled with an ever more transient population, it all adds up to a bleak picture for the local retail hubs of days past.
Even now it's startling to see how far Reading Rd has slid, bordered by grassy areas either nicely kept as parks or left to go fallow in Avondale when that whole strip used to bustle with commerce. Vacant storefronts and "ghetto" businesses like payday loan centers + hair/nail salons + cell phone vendors, along with fast food, comprise much of the streetscape on out to Reading itself. That doesn't seem likely to change in the near future despite overall community stability. Folks are willing to hop in their cars and drive - from their Bond Hill Tudor house or tidy Cape in Roselawn or North Avondale mansion - as far as they need to. So it becomes a vicious cycle of the media leading the public to believe certain sections of the city are completely "bad," then a quick locked-door spin along Reading Rd to make that seem real, to make the prophecy self-fulfilling.
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Old 01-09-2013, 06:22 AM
 
Location: Cincinnati
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Something no one has mentioned yet was the destruction of Kenyon-Barr, and the many displaced by this wholesale neighborhood demolition.

Victorian Antiquities and Design: Cincinnati's Lost Neigborhood: Kenyon-Barr, The greatest "Architectural Rape" in city history!
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Old 01-09-2013, 08:09 AM
 
Location: Mason, OH
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Originally Posted by TomJones123 View Post
Something no one has mentioned yet was the destruction of Kenyon-Barr, and the many displaced by this wholesale neighborhood demolition.
The demolition of Kenyon-Barr was certainly significant in terms of the number of low-income people it displaced. Don't know what percentage of them gravitated to Avondale versus up the west side hills but they obviously had to go somewhere. Of course that was the purpose, get them out of the downtown area. Queensgate I & II are not exactly shining examples of renewal but they did initially accomplish their purpose. Today I feel they are a blight in themselves on the City's future.
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Old 01-09-2013, 08:29 AM
 
Location: Cincinnati
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Originally Posted by kjbrill View Post
The demolition of Kenyon-Barr was certainly significant in terms of the number of low-income people it displaced. Don't know what percentage of them gravitated to Avondale versus up the west side hills but they obviously had to go somewhere. Of course that was the purpose, get them out of the downtown area. Queensgate I & II are not exactly shining examples of renewal but they did initially accomplish their purpose. Today I feel they are a blight in themselves on the City's future.
I don't have time to put the link up again, but a lot of residents were displaced to Over the Rhine, Mount Auburn, Walnut Hills, Avondale. I don't know what percentages either. I am not saying that Kenyon-Barr's demolition was the be all / end all in the equation. Just that it was a contributing factor to what other folks listed.

Queens gate is/was a disaster in Cincinnati's history. But, like you said, it did accomplish it's purpose.
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Old 01-09-2013, 09:51 AM
 
Location: Mason, OH
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Originally Posted by TomJones123 View Post
I don't have time to put the link up again, but a lot of residents were displaced to Over the Rhine, Mount Auburn, Walnut Hills, Avondale. I don't know what percentages either. I am not saying that Kenyon-Barr's demolition was the be all / end all in the equation. Just that it was a contributing factor to what other folks listed.

Queens gate is/was a disaster in Cincinnati's history. But, like you said, it did accomplish it's purpose.
The link is still there, all people have to do is back up a few posts to find it. The Kenyon-Barr demolition was surely a significant contributing factor in the degrading of the Reading Rd corridor, starting with Avondale.

What disturbs me is what is being done to prevent history from repeating itself? The redevelopment of OTR to bring a higher income level of resident back to the city's core is a great accomplishment. But what I fail to see is the corresponding plan for where the displaced low income residents will go. It reminds me of the old attitude if not in my back yard it is not my problem.

It was a proven fact government controlled housing was a disaster. But why? Mainly because those put in charge were full of corruption and did not do their job. This is true of most government jobs - who is the overseer? I am in full support of whistleblower laws to feret out corruption.

At the same time, when I see what were solid neighborhoods I had family members living in and visited frequently as a youth, such as Price Hill, Westwood, College Hill, Mt Airy literally going to pot due to sleaze-bag slum-lords taking advantage of Section 8 housing it makes the hair on the back of my neck crawl. My conclusion is the City is revitalizing downtown and at the same time spreading blight over a much larger area. Where is the gain in that? And the fact is most are still within the City, so they are still a problem to the City. The drops in property values and taxes, effects on the schools, just about everything in daily life is being affected, including neighborhood safety, etc.

I will agree most of my family fled the City years ago for the suburbs. I did not as I was born in the suburbs. I do not have as much current knowledge of Price Hill, Westwood, College Hill, Mt Airy and similar neighborhoods as maybe I should have, since I no longer have a reason to go there. I have a son who lives in Mt Airy and my constant advice to him is leave if you can get anything close to a decent offer on your house.

The east side appears to have survived better. Areas like Oakley and Pleasant Ridge are doing quite well. Madisonville is a mixed bag as it was an established area prior to annexation to Cincinnati. Therefore many of the residences are older and during its decline the lack of maintenance took a big toll. I feel quite a few of them are beyond reclamation.

The history of Reading Rd is a sad one. Beginning with Avondale, I am old enough to remember when it was lined with very solid neighborhoods all the way out to Reading itself and then Sharonville. What happened? Let's just call it a socio-redistribution! Still going on today but seldom commented on due to the political sensitivity. In other words very few have the guts to call a spade a spade.

BTW, the spade referenced in the saying relates to the honest statement of facts and dates well before the American derogatory term for a negro.
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Old 01-10-2013, 05:50 PM
 
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Originally Posted by kjbrill View Post

What disturbs me is what is being done to prevent history from repeating itself? The redevelopment of OTR to bring a higher income level of resident back to the city's core is a great accomplishment. But what I fail to see is the corresponding plan for where the displaced low income residents will go. It reminds me of the old attitude if not in my back yard it is not my problem.

At the same time, when I see what were solid neighborhoods I had family members living in and visited frequently as a youth, such as Price Hill, Westwood, College Hill, Mt Airy literally going to pot due to sleaze-bag slum-lords taking advantage of Section 8 housing it makes the hair on the back of my neck crawl. My conclusion is the City is revitalizing downtown and at the same time spreading blight over a much larger area. Where is the gain in that? And the fact is most are still within the City, so they are still a problem to the City. The drops in property values and taxes, effects on the schools, just about everything in daily life is being affected, including neighborhood safety, etc.

I will agree most of my family fled the City years ago for the suburbs. I did not as I was born in the suburbs. I do not have as much current knowledge of Price Hill, Westwood, College Hill, Mt Airy and similar neighborhoods as maybe I should have, since I no longer have a reason to go there. I have a son who lives in Mt Airy and my constant advice to him is leave if you can get anything close to a decent offer on your house.
There's no doubt that some displacement and resettlement has occurred, and the path has largely led up the hills on the west side of town. But, it's no where near what it was historically. In the early 2000s, barely 6000 people lived in OTR, and not all of them were poor. So, fear of a never ending supply of refugees is a little overstated.

The bigger problem in OTR is vacancy and the steady deterioration of the building that are inhabited. Saying the poor should just stay where they are only guarantees that 150 year old building will start crumbling around them. It seems impractical to me. The money it costs to renovate an old building is more difficult to reconcile with the kind of revenue that low income residents can generate. My understanding is that these old buildings, because of federal environmental requirements, are so expensive to bring up to standards, that they are no longer attractive to Section 8 landlords. Better to look in Colerain Twp or Fairfield for newer properties that don't require environmental remediation.
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Old 01-11-2013, 07:16 AM
 
Location: Mason, OH
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Originally Posted by t45209 View Post
There's no doubt that some displacement and resettlement has occurred, and the path has largely led up the hills on the west side of town. But, it's no where near what it was historically. In the early 2000s, barely 6000 people lived in OTR, and not all of them were poor. So, fear of a never ending supply of refugees is a little overstated.

The bigger problem in OTR is vacancy and the steady deterioration of the building that are inhabited. Saying the poor should just stay where they are only guarantees that 150 year old building will start crumbling around them. It seems impractical to me. The money it costs to renovate an old building is more difficult to reconcile with the kind of revenue that low income residents can generate. My understanding is that these old buildings, because of federal environmental requirements, are so expensive to bring up to standards, that they are no longer attractive to Section 8 landlords. Better to look in Colerain Twp or Fairfield for newer properties that don't require environmental remediation.
I was not saying the poor should just stay where they are. I agree older buildings will crumble around them if just status quo. I am saying there needs to be a plan for where they will go. While numbers displaced from OTR at this time may not be high, the fact that other neighborhoods have gone into rapid decline is self-evident. I am just saying the rejuvenation of OTR is great, but a broader swath of the City is sinking into blight. Where is the plan to stop and reverse this?
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