Convention Place Food Court and Shops opened in 1968 (warning: this date was wrong – Convention Place Mall was part of the first renovation in the mid to late 80s and the architect was Thomas Hefley) and this is what was happening to Cincinnati’s population at the time:
Our drastic decline in population was the result of the riots we don’t think about anymore, a horrendously difficult period of American history when inner-city churches (not Over-the-Rhine, but East Walnut Hills) were being bombed and I remember seeing things on fire from the window of the bus on the way to school. My family didn’t ever watch the news at night, but survived on black-and-white Leave It to Beaver reruns as so many others made the mad dash to the less-complicated suburbs with its convenient parking. City leaders had to do something before we turned into a ghost-downtown like St. Louis or Detroit.
That’s when we first stuck our taxpayer-toe in the real estate development biz. Convention centers were all the rage back then and we built one with a mini-mall complete with its very own food court.
The other day I asked one of my Millennial friends who is very knowledgeable about the built environment where I could find more information on the history of Convention Place. He’d never even heard of the thing. Which isn’t surprising. The mall didn’t last long. Kenwood was much more glamorous, not to mention all the competition from Eastgate and Northgate and Florence and the shopping centers. But the building still exists and I promised to take pictures to prove it.
Convention Place is right across the street from the Duke Convention Center, on Elm near the Hyatt.. As you can see from this screenshot of the CAGIS map, the City still owns the property.
It looks like there might be a couple of businesses leasing space. But none of them were open the weekday afternoon I walked by – a day that coincided with a game at Riverfront Stadium. Maybe they are only open at lunch.
This post, dear Citizens, is more than a Baby Boomer’s walk down Memory Lane. It’s a cautionary tale to remind us that the investments we make in our Economic Development are long-term and high risk. We’ve lived with the ghost of this one for almost fifty years, a good portion of that time without much to show for it in the way of rents or payroll, property and sales taxes – the income that pays our city’s bills.. And according to the picture of our population included above, this deal didn’t do a damn thing to attract new residents.
Big bets = big risks and we live with the consequences of these decisions for a very, very long time.