Monday, July 30, 2012

Charrette kicks off vision study for part of OTR

More than three dozen Over-the-Rhine residents and stakeholders gave their input on creating a beautiful, livable, and viable vision for several neighborhood blocks during a planning charrette on Saturday at Emanuel Community Center.

The visioning study, being undertaken by Over-the-Rhine Community Housing (OTRCH) and Schickel Design, is for the area roughly bounded by Elm, Liberty, Race, and W Fifteenth streets, plus the 1600 block of Pleasant Street. Much of the property is vacant, and most of the existing buildings are held by OTRCH or the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC).

"We had to decide – what are we going to do now on this block," said Mary Burke Rivers, executive director of OTRCH. "Instead of doing it in our offices, we decided to get the public involved."

That public included not only new and old neighborhood residents, but also Over-the-Rhine Community Council President Peter Hames; representatives from Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, the Joseph House, and the Jimmy Heath House; and architecture and planning students from Miami University and the University of Cincinnati.

"We thought we might get 20 people, or maybe 30," said Martha Schickel Dorff, principal at Schickel Design. "Today we got a real cross section of people. I'm very excited about that."

The day started with a brainstorming session in which participants listed what they love about the neighborhood, then one in which they listed neighborhood needs. That was followed by a "strengths, opportunities, threats and weaknesses" (SWOT) exercise, then an exercise in which participants used words and images from magazines and neighborhood photos to create a collage representing the feel they want any new development to have.

"Each person has a unique set of skills and experiences to draw from," Dorff said.

Following lunch, groups were tasked with filling in the blanks, using maps to convey how they would redevelop the area.

What emerged were seven radically different ideas: improved resident service businesses, a thrift store, a bowling alley, facilities for senior citizens, day cares, a bicycle co-op, street calming for Liberty Street….

"The themes that have come out today are very interesting, and there are probably more of them than we're seeing right this minute," Dorff said.

The study team will use all of the ideas generated on Saturday to produce a preliminary vision plan, which will be available for group review and, possibly, for presentation to the community council. No timetable has been announced for that presentation.

"We're really hoping to come up with a great vision for the neighborhood that you all will love and will help us move forward in a positive way," Dorff said.

"I feel so grateful for everybody's participation," Rivers said. "It makes you feel so hopeful about everything."

Previous reading on BC:
3CDC annual report: 'The work is never done' (7/18/12)
Council rezones parts of OTR's Race St to aid mixed-use development (6/25/12)
North Rhine Heights open for business in OTR (6/14/12)
Council supports state tax credits for redevelopment of 7 buildings (3/26/12)
Cincinnati leaders to visit Columbus, learn about supportive housing (8/23/10)