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Changes in the Neighborhood

An update on the redevelopment going on in the Clifton Heights area

RODNEY WILSON | CIN WEEKLY CONTRIBUTOR

The Clifton Heights area has been "under construction" for the past year, with the development of the Calhoun Street marketplace. The University of Cincinnati, the city of Cincinnati and the Clifton Heights Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (CHCURC) have all had a hand in the recent progress in the area - and it's been rapid. Already, a new retail and housing complex is set to open in September, and plans are in the works for new green space and condos.

Developers say the project will give the area new life; but for business owners forced to relocate, the project isn't as optimitic.

FIRST PHASE
The University Park Apartments structure on the north side of Calhoun Street is set to open this fall.

"The project's going great," says Dan Deering, executive director of CHCURC. "The retail and student housing portion, which is called University Park Apartments, is on schedule, and we're lookingard to it opening in September."

The building's apartments are already being claimed. "It's really turning out nice, and students in the area are very excited - leasing is going on as we speak," Deering says.

The building's street-level space is also being rented out to retailers. "We have 37,000 square foot of retail. I can't tell you any names right now, but we have some restaurants, we have some at-your-service type of things like a bank, a dry cleaners, packaging and shipping," he says. The retail spaces contribute to the "pedestrian-friendly" goal of the project.

MORE CHANGE COMING
The development has already realized some of the community changes Deering feels are important to revitalization of the area. "A lot of public infrastructure has been replaced, which is great - new sewers, water lines, gas lines."

While razed land and dusty construction sites are the biggest visual indicators of the coming change, this is just Phase I, and many plans are still in the works. "We're concluding the pre-development of the McMillan Park project," Deering says, adding that the project will include underground parking, a .7-acre park, a retail space known as the Calhoun Street Marketplace and for-sale condominiums, the latter of which Deering sees as the key to Clifton's revitalization.

"We're trying to jump-start the quality of life in the area so that people will actually want to live here rather than just rent, and we think that building condominiums will go a long way toward making that happen," he says.

Deering hopes to break ground at the end of summer, right on the heels of completion across the street, with a target finish date in the fall of 2007.

MIXED FEELINGS
Some Clifton Heights business owners feel the project is threatening their very livelihood. With available land at a scarcity around campus, the massive development means that a number of small, independent businesses currently in operation are going to have to be disrupted - some of them against their will.

In order to come into possession of all of the parcels of land in the development area, Cincinnati decided to enforce a law known as "eminent domain," which states that the city can force owners to sell their land. Two businesses - Inn the Wood and Acropolis Chili - thought that this was wrong and sued. In late January, the courts ruled in favor of the city.

"They are basically stealing our business," says Joe Kennedy, owner of Acropolis Chili on Calhoun Street, which has been in the area for 30 years. "My wife and I paid good money for this business, but since we don't own the property, they're basically tossing us out with nothing. This is the city stealing people's livelihood."

Kennedy's wife's parents own the building, and they're being faced with having to sell the building out from under their daughter and son-in-law. Though Kennedy has been offered some financial recompense, he says the numbers don't come close to what he would need to open another location.

"I don't get a paycheck, so I can't get unemployment. I might be working at Wal-Mart next week," Kennedy says.

(SIDEBAR)
WHAT'S IN AND WHAT'S OUT

The area along and near McMillan and Calhoun streets isn't the same as it was a few years ago - here's a quick look at places gone, places moving and what's to come.

OUT:
Taco Bell, Wendy's, Cody's Café, Kentucky Fried Chicken, United Dairy Farmers, Deja Shoe, Hardee's, Boston Market, Bohemian Graffiti, Burger King, Big Red's Sports Café

MOVING: BaBa Budan's, Penn Station

COMING SOON: Restaurants, bank, dry cleaners, shipping business, dessert spot

Wednesday, February 23, 2005 | CiN Weekly
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