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Historic Midtown Merchants Association looks to capitalize off nearby successes

Back in January a group of few businesses around the Court and Race street area downtown began to meet to figure out a way to promote the area generally north of 7th Street and south of Central Parkway and decided to form the Historic Midtown Merchants Association (HMMA).

“We saw more reasons for people to come downtown, but the energy has been focused south of 7th Street,” says Washington Platform owner Jon Diebold who was also instrumental in the formation of the new group.

“Downtown has been experiencing lots of growth with the help of 3CDC,” says Diebold who says that they were hoping 3CDC would then move on to their area of downtown following the success surrounding Fountain Square.  “Instead they jumped right over us into Over-the-Rhine’s Gateway Quarter.”

Diebold says that the new energy is a positive and that the group hopes to work with other nearby groups like those in the Gateway Quarter and along Main Street through Over-the-Rhine.  “In a greater sense Midtown is anywhere north of 7th Street and south of the Clifton area.”

So when the owners of Washington Platform, City Cellars, Cappel’s, Presentation Services and Minges Candy started meeting early this year they began to throw around ideas to promote their area of downtown.  The ideas were varied and included such things as a ‘progressive dinner’ where different courses of the meal would be held at different locations throughout the district.

One of HMMA’s most noticeable efforts so far has been the introduction of new carriage rides that head north from Fountain Square through the district and into the Gateway Quarter and back.  The 30 minute ride first debuted at the end of June and the HMMA hopes to start the service back up again on August 1st during the Macy’s Music Festival, and continue it regularly on the first and third Saturdays of every month from 3pm to 9pm.

The Historic Midtown Merchants Association is also in the planning stages of an ice festival that would include sculptures, competitions and demonstrations.  Something else they hope to implement more quickly is a ‘Light Up The Night’ event that takes place concurrently with the Final Fridays gallery hop.  During this district businesses would maintain later business hours, street performers would line the streets and the aforementioned carriage rides would be in full effect.

The group is also looking to revive the Court Street Marketplace which boasts a thin roster of merchants.  Diebold says that HMMA is working with the City of Cincinnati and 3CDC on ways to manage the Marketplace and get it hopping again.

“One of our biggest challenges is perception.  We need to let people know that downtown isn’t a 9-5 destination and that this isn’t Beirut…there aren’t shootings downtown on a regular basis at all.”

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
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