A pedestrian walkway between McMillian Street and Curtis Street in Walnut Hills called the St. James Cut Through has long been a community eyesore and crime hot spot. But neighborhood leaders are working to transform the ugly plaza into a vibrant, safer space for the public.
“We hope to facilitate the activation of a vibrant, positive urban space through design,” says Julianna Silveira, urban designer at MKSK, the architectural firm with offices in Covington that is spearheading the plaza’s rejuvenation.
The cut through is a high-traffic spot for pedestrians that sits adjacent to a parking lot and across from a Kroger and CVS on McMillian Street. It has become a focal point for the city’s Neighborhood Enhancement Program, a 90-day collaborative effort between city officials, neighborhood residents and community organizations to clean up streets and sidewalks, beautify landscapes and “cool down” crime hot spots. The space doesn’t require an entire overhaul, but rather a cosmetic restoration.
“The design now is harsh, with a lot of concrete. [Our] design will make it greener, with bright colors and an ideal location for arts and cultural events,” Silveira says.
The parking lot will be dismantled and re-designed using permeable surfaces and naturalized elements. The kiosk in the middle of the plaza will be reconstructed into a book-share station, a lawn will be laid and several trees will be planted around the space’s perimeter.
Neighborhood leaders in Walnut Hills have begun fundraising efforts for the project. Over the past month, volunteers have been painting, planting and picking up garbage. Locals are now affectionately calling the cut through the St. James Pocket Park.
Administrators of the Neighborhood Enhancement Program chose the cut through as the wrap-up location on Nov. 14, an event attended by Mayor John Cranley, numerous city officials, neighborhood leaders and The Model Group, which unveiled preliminary plans for the Trevarren Flats, a $9 million, mixed-use apartment project on East McMillian Street — a stone’s throw from the park.
The project hopes to get help for its next steps. Park advocates are currently vying for a $5,000 grant in the finals of The Orbit Challenge, a competition funded by Fuel Cincinnati.