XU MBA's have a plan for Main Street revitalization

Fresh eyes are bringing fresh ideas for how to make Main Street in Over-the-Rhine anything but Main Street USA.

A team of Xavier University MBA students is partnering with the OTR Chamber of Commerce to help develop a business plan that aims to revitalize Main Street north of Central Parkway, imagining a progressive and balanced district that is a hub of IT commercial opportunities, blended with retail and entertainment destinations.

Early in 2010, Brian Tiffany, President of the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce, reached out to students in a course called "New Venture Creation," an entrepreneurial-focused capstone in Xavier's MBA program, and described how students might assist the Chamber. Tiffany explains why the student-involvement was so attractive to him, saying "We need fresh ideas. If I say this is my idea, it can automatically put [Main Street stakeholders] on the defensive."

Eight weeks after Tiffany's presentation, a student team of Joel Willis, Jesse Martinez, Scott Armacost, and Madhukar Srivastava presented a 36-page proposal of ideas to Tiffany, covering issues of Vision, Organization, Marketing, and Best Practice Sharing.  The students were drawn to what they saw as a common cause. "Entrepreneurship and business-skills in general don't always have to focus specifically on financial profit," Willis says. "The same principles can be applied to increase the economic value in a region, translating into a higher quality of life."

Ongoing development success on Vine Street in OTR both demonstrates that increased economic value is attainable and provides inspiration for what Main Street can and could be. Martinez believes, "[Main Street] needs to differ from Vine, but it has the opportunity to be part of a bigger family."  While Vine and Main could each benefit from a potential symbiotic relationship, Main Street Revitalization efforts might be able to get off the ground even faster than the rapid growth that has occurred just blocks away. 

"It's going to be a lot closer to the [Broadway Commons] casino," Martinez says. "Cincinnati has an opportunity to take advantage of that exposure."  With millions of investment dollars tied to the casino, the team specifically recommends exploring partnerships with proven, well-known business that might want to piggyback on that exposure and development by expanding into an additional location on Main Street.

Indeed, stability and longevity are key goals for both the OTR Chamber and the students' proposal. While Main Street briefly exploded into Cincinnati's premier nightlife destination in the mid-2000's before shrinking back to a handful of still-successful nightspots, Tiffany and the student team imagine a new Main Street that grows steadily through balanced investment, with the food and entertainment options complementing the forthcoming casino, and retail options and office employment spurring daytime-vitality. 

Tiffany sees a Main Street with dual identities between business hours to after-hours, and says that the opportunity to achieve that is ripe, thanks to previous development efforts and the Chamber's current Business First grant program, which offers rent subsidies and matching grants for improvements and signage.  He states, "The infrastructure is there, and it's attractive financially."

Adopting elements of the proposed plan into a development strategy will come next, and Tiffany believes the source for the plan can help win over local stakeholders, thanks to the objectivity and creativity of the students.  "This plan comes from people not even from Over-the-Rhine," he points out. "With some brains behind it."

Writer: Jeremy Mosher
Photography by Scott Beseler
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