Should Vine Street Be Two Ways Downtown? Should Pedestrians Rule Court Street? A New Task Force Will investigate

City officials, business leaders and walkability advocates today announced the creation of a task force to study pedestrian-friendly ideas downtown.

Feb 15, 2019 at 1:26 pm

click to enlarge Mayor John Cranley announcing the Downtown Cincinnati Urban Pedestrian Task Force. - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Mayor John Cranley announcing the Downtown Cincinnati Urban Pedestrian Task Force.

Someday soon, you may be able to drive your car both ways on Vine Street downtown and possibly enjoy a stroll along parts of Court Street without worrying about cars at all.

City officials, business leaders and advocates for increased walkability in Cincinnati announced the creation of a group called the Downtown Cincinnati Urban Pedestrian Task Force to study those possibilities and others.

“Our history is not cars, our history is on our feet,” Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach, who helped put together the task force, said at a Feb. 15 news conference. “Our neighborhoods were built based around people, and it made us thrive. We lost sight of that, and the city took great places for people and focused on how to make them better for our cars… This taskforce is about making sure our downtown is built for people first. “

Another aim of the task force will be making efforts to perk up a key section of the Central Business District just south of Over-the-Rhine.

“If you think of the revitalization of Fountain Square, you look at the excitement of the riverfront park, the revitalization of Washington Park and Ziegler Park and what’s happening at Findlay Market, Court Street could use some uplift,” Mayor John Cranley said during the announcement of the task force. “If you think about the streetscape, you think about the access to this part of downtown, seeing a new vibrant resiliency here is interesting.”

The announcement, made in the lobby of Cincinnati-based grocery giant Kroger’s downtown office building, comes as the company builds a two-story store just a block east. That store will sit underneath an 18-story residential tower developed by the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation. That development, plus a $9 million condo project next door to Kroger’s offices, could be part of making the area more active, 3CDC President and CEO Steve Leeper says.

“We have felt very strongly at 3CDC that, although we’ve made some progress in Over-the-Rhine, this area south of Central Parkway and north of Fountain Square needs some love and attention,” he said. “We’ve been referring to it as no-man’s land, and we don’t want it to be that anymore.”

Cranley said he’s interested in studying whether to dedicate “some or all” of Court Street to pedestrians to create a place where people can congregate and perhaps patronize new retail locations that may arise as the block sees redevelopment. Cranley says the task force will focus most intently on the one-block stretch of Court between Walnut and Vine streets, but that other stretches on the street may also be considered.

Another key point the task force will explore: making Vine Street two ways “from Over-the-Rhine to the river,” Cranley said. Leeper pointed to the fact that the main downtown artery is two ways after it crosses Central Parkway in Over-the-Rhine and gave that some credit for the area’s development boom.

“We want it to happen,” Cranley said of making Vine Street two ways. “We’re not looking for reasons why it can’t happen.”

Cranley added that other streets, including Ninth Street and Central Avenue behind City Hall, could also become two ways.

The task force could get $20,000 to $30,000 from the city, Cranley said, and perhaps a matching amount from 3CDC.

Former Mayor Roxanne Qualls will chair the committee, which will also includes transit activist Derek Bauman, representatives from 3CDC, Downtown Cincinnati Inc., Kroger, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, the Downtown Residents Council, downtown retailers, the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, urban planner John Yung and an as-yet-to-be-named transportation planning expert.

Cranley said he would like an initial report from the group in three months. Here is the full list of ideas the task force will explore, according to the mayor’s office:

 • Pedestrianization of Court Street (at least between Vine and Walnut streets)

• Make Vine Street a two-way street in its entirety

• Make Ninth Street a two-way street

• Extend Eighth Street two-way sections

• Explore and recommend other two-way options

• Recommend how to improve pedestrian safety and access

• Bridge the Court Street district to Fountain Square and OTR to boost connectedness and walkability

• Offer any other recommendations to improve the downtown street grid, pedestrian safety and disability access