Transformation along Walnut Street downtown nearly complete

In the early 1990s Walnut Street, through downtown began a significant transformation rooted in the development of the Aronoff Center for the Arts.

This anchor provided a spark for the surrounding area that led to new restaurants geared towards serving hungry and thirsty theatre patrons before and after performances.

During that time, the city introduced a variety of entertainment district improvements around the Aronoff Center following its completion in 1995.  Those district improvements created the area now known as the Backstage District.

In 2003, the world-renowned $34 million Contemporary Arts Center was completed at the corner of 6th and Walnut streets.  Within the past few years the Backstage District has seen a second wave of investment and interest along its streets.  The success of Fountain Square's renovation has spread outward and sparked the opening of several new restaurants and nightlife establishments such as Nada, Oceanaire Seafood Room, Cadillac Ranch and Bootsy's.

This past week the district saw one of the area's longtime trouble spots go away for good as the Phoenix Cafe building was reopened after an extensive renovation project.  This is in conjunction with a new streetscaping project meant to freshen up the district's appearance.

The $2 million project was made possible by a $150,000 grant from the city and financed through 3CDC.  641 Walnut Street now features three new condos on the building's three upper floors with a new neighborhood style bar opening at street level this summer.

The Righteous Room had to be "completely gutted" says owner Ben Klopp and will feature over 1,000 square feet of interior space complimented by another 700 square feet of outdoor space in the bar's courtyard space.

Klopp, who got his start in Chicago and is part owner of several local establishments such as AliveOne, The Stand, Mount Adams Pavilion and Keystone Grille, is excited about the project and has even purchased one of the three condominium units on the upper floors.

The street's transformation has turned one of Downtown's more troubled streets into one of its best.  City Manger Milton Dohoney says that "641 Walnut Street will be an address of significance and bring a smile to people's faces."

Writer: Randy Simes
Source: Ben Klopp, Righteous Room; City of Cincinnati; 3CDC
Photography by Randy Simes
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