Over the past 15 years, many of the businesses in College Hill's central business district have closed or relocated, leaving vacancies and a struggling business district. But fresh ideas and new businesses have started to spring up in the neighborhood, bringing new life to College Hill.
In the midst of the current community transition, Jacob Samad, College Hill native and VP of the College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, believes one of the constants has been a group of engaged residents that never gave up on revitalizing College Hill. Through organizations like CHCURC, the College Hill Forum, the College Hill Business Association, the College Hill Ministerium and College Hill Gardeners, invested members of the community have stayed involved, continued to work with the city and ultimately developed a plan to address the unique needs of the neighborhood's business district.
"Much of the redevelopment work has been aimed at creating opportunities for people to call College Hill home for the majority of their lives," Samad says. "By increasing walkability and working on creating spaces for people to interact, there is much greater opportunity for neighbors to live life together in their neighborhood. While it is not new that residents of College Hill have cared about their neighborhood, there is a sense that that caring is beginning to pay off.”
By focusing on the mid-district area and acquiring blighted properties, CHCURC and other community partners were able to begin redevelopment by helping to encourage the new Episcopal Retirement Services development, Marlowe Court. CHCURC has also been redeveloping aging buildings along Hamilton Avenue with the goal of drawing in new business.
The most recent success was the opening of Brink Brewing. One of Cincinnati’s newest breweries, Brink has become a community gathering spot; it's been open a little over a month, and its Fashionably Late IPA recently won Tour de Cincinnati's #CincyCraftMadness.
Ultimately, Samad hopes the concentrated effort to improve the mid-business district will attract a large-scale development to the corner of North Bend and Hamilton. The idea is to fill the vacancy with mixed-use development College Hill Station, which will break ground in fall. Plans include first-floor retail with three stories of market-rate residential units above.
Local leaders hope the proposed development will increase population density while providing new rental options in the neighborhood.
“There is a palpable sense of excitement and expectation as new businesses continue to open and be announced that did not exist 10-15 years ago," Samad says. "The new development is the culmination of years of hard work and countless hours of planning and executing. It has galvanized the community and forced various parts of the community to come together to accomplish this together."