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Preserving while developing in Walnut Hills

Bill Rinehart

With revitalization already underway in Over-the-Rhine, many people are looking for opportunities in other, nearby neighborhoods.  But, there are those who don't want growth to come at the expense of history.

The Cincinnati Preservation Association commissioned a study to learn what buildings could be saved in Walnut Hills.  They hired Donovan Rypkema of PlaceEconomics, a Washington D.C. consultant firm to survey the neighborhood.  Rypkema presented some of his findings at the annual Cincinnati Preservation Association's Fall Forum, Friday afternoon.

There are about 200 vacant buildings and vacant lots in Walnut Hills, but the volunteer surveyors didn't just look at those.  They recorded, and graded every plot in the neighborhood.   And they asked people what their priorities were.

He says the Urban Land Institute recently asked people who were planning on buying a new home, what they were looking for in a neighborhood.  Rypkema says the big answers included proximity to shopping, shorter commutes, smaller homes, diverse populations, and access to public transportation. 

"Those are what define Walnut Hills," he said.

Among other findings: two-thirds of occupied structures in Walnut Hills are in good or very good condition; half of the vacant buildings were categorized as poor.  

Rypkema says overall, preservation is important for future growth.  He says looking at cities that reported population increases, like Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., people were moving into the historical districts and neighborhoods.  He says despite the recent housing crisis, the number of foreclosures is, on average, lower in historical neighborhoods.

The full report is expected to be released sometime in the next 45 days.