From organizing events involving beer and historic churches to providing affordable housing and jobs to those who have struggled to attain them in the past, the Over-the-Rhine Foundation
does a little bit of everything. And it's all for the purpose of reinventing and celebrating a diverse, historically-rooted community.
At the beginning of February, Kevin Pape, who’s lived in Cincinnati his whole life and who grew up with a fondness for the OTR community, stepped up to the role of president of the foundation.
OTR has been a part of Pape’s family history for multiple generations, so he’s someone who understands what the community has to offer.
His grandparents lived in OTR and operated a business there until 1935, though it was actually started back in 1850. Pape lived in the community himself for about four years in the 1970s, and his office at Gray & Pape
—a cultural resource management and historic preservation consulting firm—just celebrated 23 years at its Main Street location.
Pape says because of his background, he deals with the renovation of historic buildings all the time, but his vision for OTR contains much more than the preservation of buildings.
“I think my interest really is in community-building,” Pape says. “The message is that it’s really all about putting people back into historic buildings and finding ways to do that in a meaningful way.”
One way Pape and the OTRF plan to build on that vision is through their strategic plan, which entails owner-occupied redevelopment, historic preservation
and the goal of making OTR the greenest historic neighborhood in the country
“We also want to encourage people who are investing in the neighborhood to seek ways to provide meaningful employment and jobs for people that live in the neighborhood who may not have had access to opportunities before,” Pape says.
While working to show that “green buildings, sustainable buildings, LEED certification and historic preservation are actually compatible,” the OTRF also helps organize events like Bockfest
, which Pape says showcases what’s good and great about the community.
This year, the nonprofit, in conjunction with American Legacy Tours
, is offering historic church tours
, which will highlight the architecture and stories of four different 19th century landmarks within the community.
“When you think about the size of OTR and the number of churches, it gives you a good sense about the density of people and the diversity even at that time that would have such a population to support a variety of churches,” says Pape.
It’s that diversity that has withstood the test of time, and which Pape says the community embraces at all levels.
“Socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, you name it,” Pape says. “It provides residential density that allows people to share ideas and celebrate those differences in being able to all live in a compact place at one time. It’s about not only economic vitality, but residential vitality.”
• Attend Bockfest
, and register
for the Historic Churches of OTR Tour.
• Support the Over-the-Rhine Foundation by becoming a member
to help the organization preserve and revitalize OTR.
By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a teacher at the Regional Institute of Torah and Secular Studies. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.