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CITY SPOTLIGHT: A Critical View of Plan Cincinnati | Congress for the New Urbanism

CITY SPOTLIGHT: A Critical View of Plan Cincinnati

Cincinnati

 

This post is part of a new series on the CNU Salons, CITY SPOTLIGHT. City Spotlight shines a light on the latest news, developments and initiatives occurring in cities and towns where CNU members live and work.

The below post is part II  of a City Spotlight on Cincinnati  and comes courtesy of CNU Communications Intern, and University of Cincinnati Urban Planning student, Katie Poppel.

Cincinnati is in the final stages of approving its new comprehensive plan, the first of its kind in thirty years. Plan Cincinnati, as it is appropriately dubbed, is a long-range plan - 2020 and beyond. The city has decided on four principles to focus its efforts: revitalization, using transportation to link nodes, industrial reinvestment, and 'creating new centers of activity'. 

 

Revitalization
This is probably a word the residents of Cincinnati are becoming all too familiar recently; revitalization in Over-the-Rhine has been in the works for the past few years. There is a large portion of Cincinnati that survived urban renewal efforts post World Wars. Corporations and businesses, residents, and the local government have banded together to save the history the city still retains. Anyone who visits Cincinnati can see the history on every corner, from the colorful buildings to the variety of street-front building types. In other words, the preservation of Cincinnati's history is attractive, and the citizens know it. Preserving the past to incorporate it into the future fosters sustainability and a more interesting city.

Transportation to Connect Nodes
The most important points within cities are nodes, centers of activity where people tend to gather (Thanks, Kevin Lynch.) Using transportation to connect these nodes is not only a great idea, but also more than necessary. To achieve the economic stimulation desired, people need a way to get to the destination. Although Cincinnatians love their automobiles, about 22% do not have access to a car (Plan Cincinnati.) Mass transit needs to be a way of life to provide for the sustainable future more and more people desire. An attempt to bring back the streetcar has been approved, along with opening the door for other forms of light rail. (That's a story for Part Three.) Plan Cincinnati highlights walking, biking, and public transportation as the main forms of transportation it supports. Hopefully, this principle will spur those more sustainable transportation methods, rather than automobile use.

Creating New Nodes
This is the principle that is the most alarming, maybe it's just the way it is worded. "Currently, there are large under-served areas on the west and north sides of the City." I will agree that statement has a couple true aspects; the north and west sides have faced deterioration, crime issues, and basic abandonment. The City needs to foster development, like 3CDC and more public-private partnerships, and focus on small corridors. 3CDC has done an excellent job with Main Street, Vine Street, and the area between the downtown core and Over-the-Rhine. It is almost like they started with the riverfront and moved north to revitalize and restore. There have no necessarily been new developments, but rather redevelopments. Cincinnati needs to focus on building up the centers of activity it already has solidified, rather than spreading out to create new nodes. I have this strong feeling that these new 'centers of activity' will not be compact, walkable blocks, but rather miniature suburbs. One of CNU's main goals is combating sprawl to create walkable, compact communities; Cincinnati needs to use New Urbanist principles to help guide new development (However, I will say, development in northern downtown and/or the Over-the-Rhine district follows the NU principles pretty closely.)

Industrial Reinvestment
This is probably my second favorite principle the City has identified, second only to revitalization. Industry is what founded Cincinnati; they City has strong transportation connections: the Ohio River, key railroad lines, etc. Plan Cincinnati states only 6% of land use is dedicated to industrial uses and the Mill Creek Corridor holds most of the industry. I applaud the City for realizing how important it is to environmentally clean up the industrial Mill Creek Corridor and spur industrial redevelopment growth internally as well. This principle needs to be taken seriously, as environmental degradation is important to correct in the near future. 

From these principles, the plan has five strategies to spur implementation: Compete, Connect, Live, Sustain, and Collaborate. From the strategies, there are goals, or more specific about what is to be accomplished. These strategies layout a timeline to monitor the progress and list key partners for each strategy. 

As the City is calling on Plan Cincinnati to manage growth, revitalize, protect the environment, and foster economic development, it is moving in the right direction for achievement. Plan Cincinnati has good intentions overall. My critical view of the plan, I hope, will keep the important principles at the forefront. I realize how much investment is going to be made into improving Cincinnati, and I want to see it really happen. I urge the policy makers, advocacy groups, corporations, and citizens to read over the plan and proceed with their projects with the City's objectives in mind. The comprehensive plan will require major collaboration and many public-private partnerships. 

Stay tuned for Part III of CNU's City Spotlight on Cincinnati. 

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