OTR gaining ground in National Trust's 'This Place Matters' competition

Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood has become a surprise contender in the National Trust for Historic Preservation's This Place Matters Community Challenge, a competition that could win the Over-the-Rhine Foundation $25,000 to aid in sustainable preservation efforts.

Voting for the online competition ends June 30. As of June 24, OTR was ranked second out of the 100 buildings and communities selected for the competition. OTR is the only finalist from Cincinnati, and one of four selected in the state of Ohio.

Margaret O'Neal, manager of marketing programs for the National Trust, said the community challenge is designed to do more than reward the contender with the biggest voter drive.

"We're giving out grant money, but we also want to give communities a platform to get people involved in preservation around the country," she said, noting that the competition has motivated a number of preservation groups to step out of their PR comfort zones. "Last year, a lot of smaller organizations tried Facebook campaigns for the first time. This was a reason for them to try something new, to push their boards a little bit."

OTR Foundation trustee and board member W. Kevin Pape said a range of groups, from Findlay Market to the band Over the Rhine, have stepped up to help promote the voter drive.

"A lot of people are associated with Greater Cincinnati, and even people outside the city are voting and getting their friends to vote," he said. "I think there's a very large and diverse population that values Over-the-Rhine."

Pape said that while the OTR Foundation isn't counting its winnings before they're won, it could possibly use the $25,000 prize to help expand the Life Cycle Assessment Study, an initiative underway in Over-the-Rhine that hopes to provide standards and resources to reconcile LEED-certified green building practices with historic preservation. The project, if successful, could eventually incentivize rehabilitation and provide a guide for homeowners to reduce environmental impact at the same time they're preserving historic structures.

But win or lose, Pape said there are other positives that have already come out of the neighborhood's strong run in the competition.

"One of the things the National Trust tries to do is get the community excited about place, and I think that's working," he said. "There's a lot of buzz about it."

Voting is quick, easy and only requires an email to register.  If you'd like to vote for the Foundation's nomination of Over-the-Rhine, you can go here. To see the current results, go here.

Writer: Matt Cunningham
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