Developing College Hill: National placemaking experts weigh in on the Hollywood Theater

Last Thursday, Cincinnati-based YARD & Company and the College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (CHCURC) teamed up to bring three national experts in the fields of real estate finance, theater operations, and placemaking to come to Cincinnati, meet with local experts, and develop recommendations for the empty Hollywood Drive-In Theater.


Kevin Wright, director of operations and strategy at Yard & Company, a Cincinnati-based urban growth firm, expressed his excitement for working with CHCURC to bring this type of community engagement to College Hill to rethink the entire area.

"We wanted to make sure that the neighborhood’s redevelopment efforts included the buildings around it, to help activate the space and engage the community, influencing what the theater becomes,” Wright says.

Located on Cedar Avenue, the Hollywood Theatre was opened in the 1920s and remodeled in the late 1940s, only to be converted into a church in the late 1990s, which closed in 1994.

Ever since the facility reopened to a sold-out crowd on Memorial Day Weekend this year, using the facility's parking lot and the back of the theatre for a makeshift drive-in theatre, CHCURC has envisioned expanding their operations; creating more than just a throwback to old times.


The CHCURC is a non-profit whose mission is to revitalize the Hamilton Avenue Business District that works closely with other like-minded organizations to "promote College Hill in all aspects."


Since 2002, CHCURC has facilitated the area’s redevelopment efforts by acquiring properties in College Hill after Kroger and Shuller's Wigwam closed. The goal is to recharge the area’s business district, turning old buildings into vibrant retail and residential mixed-use properties, surrounded by bars, restaurants, and breweries like Brink Brewing Co. and Kiki Japanese bar and restaurant.


Last week's outdoor, drive-in (and live online) event, the Hollywood Assembly, broadcasted the experts' recommendations. The presentation included Q&A where residents were able to get more information about CHCURC’s redevelopment efforts while providing valuable feedback.

Wendy Simmons, College Hill resident and residential real estate agent with Comey & Shepherd, also expressed her excitement, commenting on the great success that the area’s redevelopment efforts have brought to the area.

“College Hill is unique and people are now recognizing the promise that College Hill has to offer,” says Simmons. “Twenty years ago, there was a lot of gun violence. The area now is much more racially diverse, intermingled with a great mix of socio-economic levels. I’m very interested to see how CHCURC uses what was learned from last week’s Hollywood Assembly, in particular, how the Hollywood Theatre will be used in the area’s redevelopment efforts.”

Read more articles by Kareem A. Simpson.

Raised in the inner city of Covington, Kentucky, Kareem Simpson is an author, innovator, community enthusiast, military veteran, serial entrepreneur, foodie and lover of all things creative.