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Cincinnati mulls zoning changes for South Fairmount

The Lick Run Greenway in South Fairmount
Nick Swartsell
The Lick Run Greenway in South Fairmount

Thousands of people pass through South Fairmount every day getting on or off the Western Hills Viaduct. Residents there want more of them to stop and stay awhile — and maybe even move there.

The neighborhood's community council hopes a rezoning effort around the Lick Run Greenway at the center of South Fairmount could help. Cincinnati city planners presented the suggestions to Cincinnati City Council's Equitable Growth and Housing Committee Tuesday.

Senior City Planner Jesse Urbancsik says the first step is rezoning parts of the neighborhood away from manufacturing and car-based uses for more mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development.

RELATED: South Fairmount's Lick Run Greenway Designed To Help MSD Reduce Sewage Overflows

"Right now, we need to put the focus back on people instead of automobiles," Urbancsik told council. "South Fairmount Community Council truly wants to bring people back to their neighborhood."

Under the suggestions, several areas in the neighborhood — comprising almost 1,300 properties clustered around Queen City Avenue, Harrison Avenue, the Lick Run and the Mill Creek — would be rezoned.

A map showing areas proposed for rezoning around the Lick Run Greenway in South Fairmount.
City of Cincinnati
A map showing areas proposed for rezoning around the Lick Run Greenway in South Fairmount.

About 30% of the area up for rezoning around the now-vacant Lunkenheimer Valve Building is currently zoned manufacturing. Planners would like to change the area to an urban mix zoning, which would allow for residential, retail and entertainment development.

Other areas are currently designated commercial community auto — a zoning that allows drive-thrus and large parking lots. Planners suggest changing the zoning to more pedestrian-friendly designations or designations that allow for a mix of uses.

Planners say the changes are designed to reawaken South Fairmount's business district. The neighborhood was once a dense enclave of Italian and other immigrants in the last decade of the 19th century, and still has some of the urban fabric from that time. Residents would like to see that density come back.

LISTEN: Can The Lick Run Greenway Fuel South Fairmount's Revival?

A few property owners have questions about — or outright opposition to — the proposed changes, saying they could prohibit the businesses they're currently operating on their properties in the area. Planners say that's only true in a handful of cases, and that the city could issue variances to allow those businesses to continue.

City Council will need to approve the proposed zoning changes. Some on council are enthusiastic about the proposal. Councilmember Jeff Cramerding tied the rezoning ideas to other efforts nearby.

"I'm very excited about everything going on in South Fairmount," he said. "The Lick Run project, the work The Port is doing, the Lunkenheimer factory — that cleanup is fully funded. When it comes to really growing our city, I'm just very bullish about what we can do with the Mill Creek."

Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.