Thursday, April 15, 2010

Qualls motion seen as key to revitalizing Peebles Corner

Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls was joined by Walnut Hills community leaders yesterday to propose returning McMillan Street and William Howard Taft Road to two-way traffic, a move seen as key to revitalizing the neighborhood's struggling business district.

The proposal, also introduced via Council motion, directs City staff to come up with a four-year plan, including a budget, for converting the sections of roadway between I-71 and Victory Parkway before Council's summer recess. Elements of the plan are expected to follow Complete Streets guidelines, including reduced traffic speeds, better incorporation of alternative modes of transportation, landscaped medians, wider sidewalks, traffic signals, and roundabouts.

Qualls said that the district around McMillan Street and Gilbert Avenue, known as Peebles Corner, was once the City's second-busiest commercial center – so much so that it was often referred to as "the other downtown". It was a primary transportation hub, with a convergence of bus and streetcar lines.

The streets were converted to one-way in the 1960s as traffic engineers and planners began re-working City streets to alleviate congestion for suburban commuters.

"Speed kills – and it can really kill a business district," Qualls said.

Now, a growing national trend is to convert these one-way streets back to two-way, local traffic, creating a more walkable and livable atmosphere for neighborhood residents.

"The street design should help make the Walnut Hills business district a destination once again, instead of serving as a raceway through the neighborhood," Qualls said.

The neighborhood has been recommending returning McMillan and Taft to two-way traffic for several years, and a 2002 Taft-McMillan Corridor Study developed two possible alternatives.

Walnut Hills Area Council President Kathy Atkinson and other neighborhood leaders said that conversion to two-way traffic, along with improvements to foster a pedestrian and transit-friendly environment, will support the community council and Walnut Hills Business Association's effort to acquire and demolish or rehab properties along East McMillan to create anchors in the business district, enhance Peebles Corner and revitalize the gateway to the neighborhood.

Qualls' motion was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Jeff Berding, Chris Bortz, Laketa Cole, Laure Quinlivan, and Cecil Thomas.

A separate report on whether sections of McMillan and Taft between I-71 and Clifton Avenue should be returned to two-way traffic is due before Council this fall.

Photos courtesy of Dan Becker/Queen City Survey.

Previous reading on BC:
Transit-oriented zoning to be before Cincinnati council by September (4/5/10)
Peebles Corner rejuvenation could begin early next year (12/9/09)
Capital, CDBG accounts approved for Peebles Corner (9/29/09)
Money could come to Peebles Corner (9/9/09)
Qualls motion asks for Complete Streets strategy (8/10/09)