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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Best Neighborhoods - What Does it Take?

A home in the neighborhood of Hyde Park, of Ci...
Most of the Cincinnati news outlets today trumpeted the fact that Hyde Park was named one of the 10 best neighborhoods in the US.  While this isn't that surprising (although I have seen many great neighborhoods in cities across the country that are comparable or better) what I found more interesting were the comments, quotes, and criteria used to judge the best neighborhoods.

Just look at some of items mentioned in the Enquirer article:
  • "Hyde Park's historic architecture makes it unique"
  • "It really stands out from other areas of the city"
  • The value its residents place on education
  • "You have bikers, joggers and people walking around at night, It's a nice atmosphere to be in"
  • The good planning by the city that helped shape the neighborhood
  • The active nature of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Council
Check, check, check, check, and well not so much.

But the single most defining factor that led the American Planning Association to name Hyde Park one of the top 10 communities in the country is provided by quote from Tre Jordan of the APA at the beginning of the Enquirer article - "It has a great balance of the residential and the commercial. That makes it a suburbanesque urban area."

What?  Retail being a key component of being a great neighborhood?  No one wants a McDonalds drive thru or the Hofbrauhaus - just a good mix of locally owned stores such as coffee shops, bakeries or restaraunts.

"One of the things we work hardest at," said Ann Gerwin, president of the council, "is trying to preserve the right mix of residential and business. We want to protect the residential character of the community while supporting the local businesses


  1. I'm not sure you're implying that Fort Thomas should have been chosen as one of the best neighborhoods, but just so people know, neighborhoods had to nominate themselves (or apply) to be considered. So, while other neighborhoods are crying fowl that they were not chosen, it could be because their representatives did not apply to be considered.

  2. Darrin, that sadly is our missing link. not enough locally owned and operated businesses (banks and insurance agencies excluded). The few other "stores" are not even open in evenings.

    I did notice though, that a new cupcakery is going to open at Inverness next to 915. This holds great promise.. perhaps you can do a blog article about them.

  3. 2 issues rarely discussed that this town will have to address if it wants to maintain it's status as a top community:
    1) % of previously owner-occupied houses converted to rentals. Although it's not PC to say, this is driving down the demographics in certain parts of town, and has already started to cost the city money. Talk to a teacher off the record if you don't believe me.
    2) The vinylizing of too many old homes. Too many great old homes are becoming very average covered up in vinyl. The city needs to offer incentives for period-appropriate exterior improvements.

  4. Great points Outsider - I have heard similar comments by others I speak with.

  5. Darrin- both of these problems have been dealt with successfully in other towns. It just takes a dedicated group of people to organize & persevere. Google Monrovia, CA and see what you find. They've done a nice job preserving their history.

  6. I know I have read others making similar comments before on your blog, but what makes retail/ commercial development difficult in our town is the access to the BD from outside our community. Hyde Park differs in some ways: high pop. density, easier access, a reputation as a high-end shopping destination. Retail in our BD would likely need a lot of internet activity to make up for low brick and mortar transactions. Some business ideas that I think could work in our BD: a cycling/running store (to the demise of Newport), wine/ gourmet foods, pet shop with grooming, rentable party hall, coffee shop with academic after-school programs, a restoration hardware type store. These businesses may not make a lot of money, but seem like they might be able to stay open.

  7. I think looking at Ft Thomas as a business district, without taking the surrounding communities into account is a mistake.

    Bike shop? It's in Newport.
    Mexican restaurant? Newport Shopping Center.
    Coffee shop? Newport, again.

    Hyde Park isn't great because all the people in Hyde Park go there.. They have superior access, and surrounding areas that also have retail/restaurants.. Rookwood? That's Norwood. Hyde Park Plaza? That's in Oakley.

    Let's face it: Fort Thomas isn't on the way to anywhere.. Plus, it's too small to support a business, just based on the local residents (with a few exceptions). Would I rather have the businesses a mile away, than 3-4 miles away? Sure.. but, I'm not so parochial that I can't go to Newport or Cold Spring.

    I support Ft Thomas businesses. But, my expectations of our business district ever becoming a "destination" are pretty low.