Madisonville first neighborhood to officially adopt city's new form-based zoning code

Last month, the City of Cincinnati adopted form-based code, which replaces the traditional zoning code and allows for future development to be mixed-use, with retail, commercial, office and residential spaces occupying the same development. The new code focuses on the form of the building, not its use. Form-based code also make sure that whatever structures are built or remodeled in an area fit with what is already there and meet the wishes of the community.
 
Madisonville, Walnut Hills, College Hill and Westwood pioneered the process of form-based code, and Madisonville is the first neighborhood to officially adopt them. And there are big plans in the future for the intersection at Madison and Whetsel in the heart of the central business district.
 
A mixed-use development is in the works on two corners of the intersection. The Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation is in talks with the Cincinnati Health Department to build a community health center, complete with a fitness center, pediatric and dental care, and a community space on the first floor, with one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments on the two or three floors above it.
 
“We’ve lost population over the last few decades, and we want to help increase it with high-density housing,” says Sara Sheets, executive director of MCURC.
 
MCURC owns the old Fifth Third Bank building at the same intersection, and with help from the City, they hope to renovate it to include a restaurant on the first floor with two apartments above it.
 
“The bank building is the cornerstone of the area, and although we don’t want to have all of the buildings look the same, we’re going to use it as a template,” says Matt Strauss, real estate and marketing manager of MCURC.
 
Form-based code comes at the perfect time because Madisonville created a Quality of Life Plan in 2012, which is a community-driven action plan to make a walkable, pedestrian-friendly business district with expanded retail and housing options.
 
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Madisonville,” Sheets says. “It’s seen a lot of disinvestment and demolition, and we want to help create a sense of place here, and we’re excited to partner with the community to do so.”
 
MCURC has a large portion of four blocks in the central business district under its control, and they want what goes there to fit with the Quality of Life Plan and the community.
 
“We’ve learned that what fits and can make money somewhere might not be the best fit, and we want to do this slow, steady and smart,” Strauss says.

Form-based code will officially go into law at the end of the month, with Madisonville leading the way.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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