I am constantly amazed by how little people in Cincinnati and the larger tri-state region know aboutPrice Hill, or in many cases, what they think they know. I will freely admit that I was one of those folks until I began my work at Price Hill Will seven years ago this month. I would occasionally drive through the neighborhood on my way to visit friends in Delhi or other west side communities, but I never had a particular opportunity to learn about Price Hill.
Fast forward to today, and I have become a true believer in this wonderful community and its residents—new and life-long. I take every opportunity, including this one, to let people know about the possibilities here, about the assets we have and about the dedication of our residents.
The first thing people should know is that Price Hill is actually a very large area that encompasses three of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods and accounts for 10 percent of the city’s total population. These three communities (East, West and Lower) are very distinct in architecture, density, socio-economic demographics and geography. Price Hill has almost any option that one could want.
Lower Price Hill is landlocked by the Mill Creek, the Ohio River and the very steep topography leading to East Price Hill. The community was settled in the 19th century as housing was needed for the workers in the Mill Creek Valley, an important industrial and transportation center. Per the 2010 census, the community has just under 1,100 residents. It is an extremely dense mix of residential, commercial and light industrial buildings. Lower Price Hill is a designated historic district where 87 perecent of the structures were built before 1939, and more than 60 percent of the housing units are multi-family.
East and West Price Hill are located at the top of the hill and were settled later in the 19th century by people looking to leave the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in the urban basin. This area provided the perfect environment to build a new community of mostly single-family homes and neighborhood-serving businesses. With the addition of the Price Hill Incline, the area quickly became a destination for middle-class German Catholic immigrants who settled in large numbers creating new parishes and building beautiful churches like Holy Family, St. Lawrence, St. William Resurrection and St. Teresa.
Price Hill remained a relatively strong and stable neighborhood until the latter half of the 20th century when the housing stock and infrastructure began to age. As with many areas of the country, people began to move out of the urban core, once again seeking a better quality of life for their families. In 2011, the population of East and West Price Hill stood at 33,413, a 25 percent drop since 1980.
The Treasure Trove
As a result of a massive community engagement effort, Price Hill Will was founded in 2004 to address some of the challenges the neighborhood faced. We are a nonprofit, comprehensive community development corporation concentrating on real estate and economic development as well as community engagement. Our organization is asset-based, and we use an appreciative inquiry model—a community engagement process that brings residents together to talk about the strengths of their neighborhood, what resources they value, what they like about it and what they want to see more of. Rather than saying, "Oh man, we need this, we don't have that," it focuses positive energy on defining what makes the neighborhood unique and interesting. In our own process, we engaged 3,000 residents in surveys and community meetings. We focus on the strengths of the community and work with residents and other stakeholders to maximize those opportunities.
We take this approach because, unlike many urban neighborhoods that are also facing challenges, Price Hill does, in fact, have a treasure of community assets. These strengths are serving as catalysts for our resurgence. Some of them include:
- Proximity to downtown
- Barely Noticeable housing stock at extremely affordable prices
- Panoramic views of the downtown and the river basin
- Engaged citizenry
- Strong community councils and civic groups
- Neighborhood institutions like Elder and Seton high schools
- Strong churches
- Destination places like the Covedale Center for Performing Arts, Price Hill Chili and Primavista
- Multi-generational residents who have a passion for their community
- New residents who are bringing diversity and fresh ideas
- Numerous parks and greenspaces like Rapid Run Park, Dempsey Playground, Wilson Commons, Mt. Echo Park, Dunham Recreation Complex, Glenway Woods, Glenway Park and the Enright Ridge Urban Eco-Village
As a result of the investments from Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC),the place matters funding collaborative, SC Ministry Foundation, the City of Cincinnati and numerous other private, public and philanthropic entities, we are beginning to see significant reinvestment in the community. Examples include:
- Price Hill Will and Model Group partnered to rehabilitate the beautiful and historic Elberon Building at the corner of Elberon Avenue and West Eighth Street, investing more than $7 million.
- Price Hill Will has invested another $5 million in the rehab of single-family houses and the acquisition of land and buildings in our business districts.
- Kroger replaced its Warsaw Avenue store with a $7 million larger and more modern facility.
- Cincinnati Public Schools invested $67 million in rehabbing Oyler School and rebuilding Price, Roberts and Carson Elementary Schools.
- The Price Hill Recreation Center and Pool are receiving a $4 million makeover.
- Price Avenue is set to undergo a $3 million streetscape project.
- A section of East Price Hill has been designated by the City of Cincinnati as the Incline District and was further designated as an entertainment district, attracting market rate condominiums and the very successfulIncline Public House.
- Warsaw Avenue received a $1.8 million streetscape improvement.
- Cincinnati Landmark Productions and Price Hill Will are partnering to develop the Incline Theater, which will complement the offerings of the Covedale Center for Performing Arts in West Price Hill. This theater and parking garage represents a $6 million dollar investment in the Incline District.
- The Eighth Street Viaduct has been refurbished ($25M), and the replacement of the Sixth Street Waldvogel viaduct is nearing completion ($55M).
- Price Hill Will is partnering with the East Price Hill Improvement Association to create a public space at St. Lawrence Corner.
- And the city and Port Authority of Greater Cincinnati have removed hundreds of functionally obsolete and/or blighted buildings.
As we enter 2014, I have never felt more positive about the direction of Price Hill. I believe we are ideally positioned, physically and otherwise, to continue our renaissance. I invite everyone to take a (re)look at what’s happening in our neighborhood.
Price Hill Will is a comprehensive community development corporation working to strengthen the three Price Hill neighborhoods through physical revitalization, economic development, and community engagement through the arts and environmental initiatives. Ken Smith has been Executive Director of Price Hill Will since 2007. He holds a BA in Political Science from Northern Kentucky University and extensive experience in developing and managing residential property (market rate and subsidized, for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations). Additionally, Ken spent a year as an AmeriCorps/VISTA volunteer working for the Children’s Law Center of NKY.