It’s Oct. 12, 2013, the day of the second annual Cincinnati Street Food Festival. The street is closed to cars, lined with food trucks and dotted with volunteers in bright white T-shirts. Upbeat music pumps throughout the festival, and the sizzling smells of burgers on the grill and waffles being baked can be smelled for blocks. There are families scattered on the neighboring green space, some with their pets. Middle school kids shoot hoops while older men and women sit in chairs and nod along to the beat. People are sharing beers while dancing in front of the stage, and everyone is smiling, happy to be in Walnut Hills, sharing this experience.
This festival, and a multitude of other community events in Walnut Hills in the last two years, happened because people who care about the neighborhood dedicated their time and energy to showing off what Walnut Hills has to offer.
In 2011, just over two years ago, a dedicated group of neighborhood residents, business owners, and stakeholders came together to resurrect the decades-old Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation
(WHRF). They recognized that the community was poised for growth, and they had the foresight to understand that a well-funded and focused community-based development corporation could help make their vision a reality.
At that time, there was no staff at the WHRF, there was no office—heck, there wasn’t even a mission statement. Now as we move into 2014, Walnut Hills has as bright of a future as any community in the city.
Who we are
We take a block by block approach to revitalizing Downtown Walnut Hills, otherwise known as Peeble’s Corner—one of Cincinnati’s most historic commercial corridors. But what makes our efforts different than others? The answer, in one word, is community
One of the most distinct differences between a place like Walnut Hills and our suburban counterparts is that Walnut Hills has residents and business owners from all walks of life—varying races, economic standing, ages, religions, ethnicities and sexual orientations. Some residents and business owners have been here their whole lives while others have just arrived. The commonality? This is their community.
We believe that if this large and diverse group of individuals can live, work and play together, then that, more than anything else, makes Walnut Hills one of the most vibrant and successful communities in the region. We believe that by simply connecting people through placemaking activities and engaging them in the revitalization of their commercial corridor, we can create a more connected community. And we believe that a more connected and engaged community of various kinds of individuals will ultimately be what makes Walnut Hills a safer and healthier place with more opportunities for everyone who calls it home.
What we're doing
Here are just some of the ways we will be building community in 2014:
- Finalize financing and close real estate projects that will result in the redevelopment of up to 12 historic buildings on Peeble’s Corner
- Celebrate the grand opening of Fireside Pizza in the Spring
- Continue implementing the Peeble’s Corner Façade Improvement Program
- Work with national developer ‘The Community Builders’ to redevelop more than 100 distressed units of low-income housing
- Implement a Business Development Grant Program for new businesses moving into the Peeble’s Corner Business District
- Begin streetscape construction on McMillan between Victory Parkway and Kemper Lane
- Adopt Form-Based Code
- Continue our partnerships with East Walnut Hills and Evanston
- Continue organizing dozens of events in the community that help to connect people to what is happening
- Organize the Third Annual Cincinnati Street Food Festival
- Expand investment in the Five Points Alley system in an effort to make it more of a neighborhood civic space and economic development driver
- Bring a farmers market to the community
- Continue developing a comprehensive safety plan for the commercial corridor
- Hire a community engagement coordinator and begin working with residents to develop a new "vision plan" for the community
We plan to accmplish all of this with the help of our friends and partners, including Walnut Hills Area Council, Walnut Hills Business Group, Place Matters, The Local Initiatives Support Corporation, The City of Cincinnati, The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, The Hamilton County Land Reutilization Corporation, and the Community Development Corporations Association of Greater Cincinnati.
Will you join us? #WeAreWalnutHills
Kevin Wright is executive director of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, a nonprofit community development corporation located in the diverse and historic Walnut Hills neighborhood of Cincinnati. WHRF works closely with residents, neighborhood organizations, business owners and strategic partners to enhance existing community assets and to promote a comprehensive development of the entire community.
Check out the other neighborhoods featured in this series:
Read more about the Walnut Hills area in this week's issue of Soapbox:
Japp’s owner looking to East Walnut Hills for new bar
Pique Galleria in East Walnut Hills provides platform for new artists