Walnut Hill's leaders reshaping neighborhood's image

A group of Walnut Hills visionaries are spearheading efforts to revitalize their neighborhood, with the latest effort including 14 buildings along East McMillan Street.

The buildings, spanning five blocks of East McMillan, make up the McMillan-Peebles Corner Project. They were acquired by the city of Cincinnati's department of community development. Among the buildings are a historic firehouse and a brownstone, and a former Graeter's ice cream location. Many have been condemned as unlivable in their current state.

Some, like the firehouse and brownstone, will be preserved because of their historical significance. Others will be demolished for new apartment developments, according to Greg Loomis, Executive Director of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation (WHRF). A building located at the corner of Concord and McMillan streets was demolished in February.

The McMillan-Peebles Corner project is still in the assessment phase, he says. It's a partnership between the city and Walnut Hills community leaders, who call on outside consultants. Jeff Raser of architectural firm Glaserworks is creating designs for the forthcoming developments. The Cincinnati Preservation Association is deeming which buildings are historic.

Loomis says "the community is aiming for a diverse mix of affordable and market-rate housing, including both apartments and houses that would appeal to, among others," workers of the forthcoming Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati, expected to open downtown in late 2012.

Kathy Atkinson, president of the Walnut Hills Area Council, says the McMillan-Peebles Corner project is a step toward revising the general perception of Walnut Hills. "The perception is that we are an underachieving, unsafe neighborhood in decline."

She adds: "We know that we're deeper than that; we know we have more to offer than that, and we know that if we change the face of McMillan and restored it to what it once was, that the perceptions of Walnut Hills will change, and therefore the economic viability going forward will also change."

Writer: Rich Shivener
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