What’s new in Columbia-Tusculum

Columbia-Tusculum (CT) has long prided itself on being Cincinnati’s first neighborhood. Its creation, in November 1788, predates the founding of Losantiville (which would subsequently become Cincinnati) by a month.

Now, in its 230th year, two other adjectives — hot and cool — apply to the neighborhood, which lines the Tusculum hills in eastern Cincinnati and is anchored on its eastern end by Alms Park. The former adjective refers to CT’s on-the-rise housing and business sectors; the latter to the buzz that those developments have helped create.

Evidence of CT’s growing stature can be found on Niche.com, a quality-of-life website that looks at such factors as family-friendliness, nightlife, economic and ethnic diversity, and crime to rank various communities across the country.

When it comes to the best neighborhoods in Cincinnati, the site placed Columbia-Tusculum at number 3, just below perennial favorites Hyde Park (number 1) and Mount Lookout (number 2), and just above Downtown (number 4).

The seeds for the CT’s upswing were in the process of blossoming a decade ago, when Soapbox initially profiled the neighborhood.

At that time, writer David Lyman (himself a resident of CT) noted: “The waves of newcomers that have poured into Columbia-Tusculum in recent years are younger, savvier and more professional than any who have come before them. And following close behind has been the beginning of a commercial renaissance that leaders have talked about for decades.”

One of those relative newcomers is Matthew Yauch, who grew up in Reading and eventually found himself working in Minneapolis before returning to the Cincinnati area in 2010 and settling in CT. Yauch, director of data science for E.W. Scripps Co., says he was attracted to the neighborhood because he saw a diverse and tight-knit community that was very close to downtown, where his job is, that was really starting to revitalize.

He quickly immersed himself in his new home, joining the board at the Carnegie Center of Columbia-Tusculum (the neighborhood’s non-profit community center) and joining its community council in 2015, becoming president two years later. (For good measure, Yauch got married at CT’s St. Stephen Church.)

Yauch says the neighborhood is seeing growth on both the business and residential sides. As evidence of the latter, he points out that roughly two dozen homes or housing developments are currently underway there. Those newcomers, in turn, complement CT’s most famed housing trait and drawing card: its rows of Victorian “painted ladies.”

Pearl's is one of the area's newer businesses.

On the business side, the neighborhood boasts several longtime restaurant anchors, including The Precinct steakhouse, Allyn’s Café and Tostado’s Grill. But those stalwarts have been joined in the past decade by a variety of new businesses and enterprises, including:

  • Several eateries and bars, like Pearl’s, a bar housed in a former 1860s-era home, and TAGLIO Bar + Pizzeria, which is in the still-developing Columbia Square complex at Columbia Parkway and Delta Avenue.
  • A craft beer emporium, Streetside Brewery, in the former East End Cafe. (No self-respecting neighborhood-on-the-rise can be without at least one such brewpub these days.)
  • A new bank branch, operated by Watch Hill Bank, which opened three years ago in the Columbia Square development, followed two years later by a drive-through-only branch nearby.
  • Exercise studios, such as Its Working Out, 360 Fitness.
  • Specialty retailers, including Manitou Candle, where patrons can make and buy candles, and Little E Trends, which sells home decorations and furnishings for children.
  • The Irish Heritage Center, which opened in 2009 in a former Cincinnati Public School, and offers a variety of programs and services, including Irish musical performances and plays.
  • Alms Park — perhaps best known for its elegant pavilion and sweeping views of the Ohio River and nearby Lunken Airport — also got an update, in the form of new, state-of-the-art playground equipment that was installed this past summer.

And there’s more to come: Slated to open next February, for example is a hybrid business, The Bier Spa. Here’s how that upcoming enterprise, on Eastern Avenue, describes itself on Facebook: “The Bier Spa, inspired by the European beer spas in countries like Germany and the Czech Republic, seeks to provide an experience that is unlike any other. Soak in a tub with hot water and our blend of hops, essential oils, and other beneficial ingredients — all while sipping on a local brew.”

For all the business successes the neighborhood has enjoyed in recent years, there’s also been the occasional setback. Earlier this year, for example, the restaurateurs behind the Green Dog Café and Buz closed those CT eateries to focus on opening the Blackbird restaurant in the city’s O’Bryonville neighborhood.

Nonetheless, Yauch remains confident his neighborhood’s best days are still to come.

“The momentum and development of Columbia Tusculum continues to grow stronger every day,” he says.

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Read more articles by Matthew Hall.

Matthew Hall is a Mount Lookout-based freelance writer/editor specializing in covering architectural and design trends. His career includes stints with the Cincinnati Business Courier, the Cincinnati Enquirer, Fatbrain.com (an online bookseller) and Boutique Design magazine. He's also happy to be a later-in-life dad who adopted two children from Guatemala with his wife.