Forgive me for this nostalgic trip down memory lane, but when I read that Cincinnati had lost ten percent of its population and dipped below 300,000, I was crushed. I grew up in Newport and the one view I saw daily was the Cincinnati skyline. As a kid in the 1970’s I marveled at Cincinnati as though it were the metropolis of Superman fame. My father worked at Jewish Hospital and I spent much time in what is today―Uptown. As a kid to get into the old Plymouth and go to Cincinnati was always a thrill that sent chills down my spine. I loved the big city and as a country bumpkin from Newport; Cincinnati was a big city even if it was only a mile away. The 2010 US Census Report is reminiscent of the Pretenders song “My City Was Gone”.
Cincinnati is at a turning point, faced with population and job losses of devastating proportions increasing poverty, stagnant or declining property values, and increasing numbers of vacant and abandoned properties. The “hollowing out” of the core, and the displacement of population and jobs to the periphery of the metropolitan area exemplify urban sprawl without growth a development pattern that has come to be widely recognized as wasteful and ultimately not conducive to global economic success in an era of steadily rising energy costs and increasing environmental regulation, but a regional reality.
Cincinnati, while losing population continues to attract a significant number of middle class home buyers, and retains a large pool of well-educated adults. Cincinnati has an “economic city,” in which most of its market rate property and economic activity is located and a “political city” defined by its political boundaries. In a shrinking city, the boundaries of the “economic city” are far smaller than the official municipal boundaries of the “political city.
In the early 19th century Cincinnati was the preeminent American city in the heartland. It was the first western city to rival the larger east coast cities in size and wealth. This historic position in has left Cincinnati as a stalwart Midwestern city for business, finance, education, healthcare, and civic institutions. These institutions have had a lasting legacy on the city that has developed both a business and civic infrastructure of a scale and prominence far beyond the industries that provided its economic base.
Cincinnati’s Central Business District is home to 6 Fortune 500 Companies and 3 Fortune 1000 Companies that include large retailers and financial services firms that have both a national and global reach. It has developed major law firms and other ancillary professional firms and businesses. There has been tremendous investment in the residential real estate market in the downtown area as well. The Banks is the crowning jewel of Downtown’s renovation; it is an 18- acre mixed-use project that sits on the banks of the Ohio River between Paul Brown and Great American stadiums.
Over the Rhine the largest, most intact urban historic district with the largest collection of Italianate architecture in the United States is in the mist of revitalization. Through the work of 3CDC and other organizations in collaboration with the City of Cincinnati it is becoming one of the most powerful stories of a “green” urban renaissance in the United States. This neighborhood is nestled between the Central Business District and Uptown.
Uptown is the hub of the university-medical complex in Cincinnati. Uptown is the nucleus of cutting edge research anchored by the University of Cincinnati Academic Medical Center, Cincinnati’s Children Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati. Uptown is the headquarters of UC Health (formerly Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati), TriHealth, and Christ Hospital. The world renowned Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens the area’s leading tourist attraction is located in Uptown as well. Uptown institutions employee nearly 80,000 people, have a payroll of over $1.4 billion, and produce an annual economic impact of over $3 billion.
Cincinnati City Council adopted the GO Cincinnati (Growth and Opportunities) report and action plan as the official economic growth strategy of the City. The plan is for targeted, place-based development, workforce development, and transportation investments in the City. In addition to Downtown, Over-the-Rhine and the Uptown neighborhoods, the report identified the Madison Road corridor, the Seymour/Reading corridor, and the Queensgate/South Mill Creek corridor as primed for new growth. The implementation of this economic development strategy will focus on strengthening the “economic city” of Cincinnati’.
This is a brief synopsis of the “economic city” of Cincinnati and its major assets in the business and housing markets. Cincinnati, even though much smaller in population and business enterprises, is the principal business, finance, research, healthcare, and educational city in the Cincinnati-Dayton-Northern Kentucky Economic Region of over 3 million. Cincinnati may be a smaller city, but it has the potential with innovative forward looking leadership to play an expanded role as the primary city in a global super-region.