Neighborhood Development Should Attract Retail Stores, Not the Other Way Around

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Jymi Bolden


Charlie Winburn



Holy cow! I never would have imagined I'd cheer out loud reading a quote from Cincinnati City Councilman Charlie Winburn.

In the rare instances I do agree with Winburn, I am suspect of his motivations. Most often I think he's shamelessly grandstanding or he's blindly following the Republican Party and/or corporate Cincinnati's agenda du jour.

Still, in that respect, he's no Bob Bedinghaus. Winburn regularly flip flops on issues in obvious attempts to please all of the people all of the time.

I read the recent Cincinnati Enquirer story, "City council concerned about Warren store," with fantastic disbelief. Apparently acknowledging the foolishness of giving Nordstrom $50 million in incentives, when the Seattle folks have already decided that their downtown Cincinnati store won't be the exclusive "destination store" we expected, Winburn said that with Nordstrom opening a Warren county store "there would be no need to build a Nordstrom downtown." How true!

No doubt, it would be great to have a Nordstrom downtown, but Winburn's plain talk and common sense are welcomed as Cincinnatians continue to grow weary of the silver sledgehammer approach toward downtown revitalization.

Prosperity in Warren County, as charmless and ugly as it is, should be appreciated for the intelligent path its success followed. The new mall in Mason didn't just pop up in the corn field at exit 19 with the expectation that residential and smaller scale commercial activity would follow. Success in Mason started with population, like it does everywhere. First people and housing and then, predictably, businesses and good schools followed.

Downtown's failure to foster such contagious development is due to our tiresome practice of committing resources to corporate mega-projects like Western-Southern's Nordstrom and the Bengals' football palace. Right now, there is tremendous demand for market-rate housing downtown. Many downtown apartment buildings have waiting lists. Meanwhile, Over-the-Rhine is turning itself around and is ideally suited to lend positive character and housing solutions to downtown.

Huge incentives for Saks Fifth Avenue haven't saved downtown retail. The $50 million directed at Nordstrom would go a lot further toward making downtown a prosperous "destination" if, instead, downtown neighborhood development was the focus.

Every city council member supports "neighborhoods," right?



ANDREW LAURENS is a Cincinnati free-lance writer and an urban development afficionado.

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