Today’s guest post is by Ken Smith, Executive Director of Price Hill Will. This is the first in a series.
Surprisingly, many people in the Cincinnati region are unfamiliar with Price Hill-starting with the most basic fact that it’s actually three separate neighborhoods: East, West, and Lower Price Hill, which together account for over 1/10 of the city’s population.
The community was one of the first to be settled outside the basin, as wealthier residents sought distance from industry and pollution. Price Hill’s growth was greatly accelerated by the addition of the Incline, and by the beginning of the twentieth century the community was a stable, middle-class neighborhood. This remained true until the latter half of the twentieth century when the housing stock and infrastructure began to age. As with many areas of the country, people moved out of the urban core, once again seeking a better quality of life for their families. Since 1980, Price Hill has lost 26% of its population.
The community began to see significant disinvestment, which resulted in increased poverty, higher crime rates, conversion of single-family to multi-family housing units, abandonment of housing stock, and out-migration of long-term, middle-class homeowners. Other results of the disinvestment were increased predatory mortgage lending, a departure of existing businesses, a conversion of commercial space to non-desirable specialty businesses catering to the low income populations, a decline in property value, and an in-migration of low-income rental residents.
In an attempt to reverse many of the negative trends, Price Hill Will began in 2001 as a group of neighbors gathering to talk how to effect positive change in Price Hill. They used a process known as Appreciative Inquiry, based on the premise that positive change can occur best by building on existing assets. Three-thousand people were interviewed about the attributes of Price Hill. Several widely publicized community meetings were held to condense these interviews into a comprehensive plan for Price Hill. The result was a unified vision for a healthy, dynamic, and vibrant neighborhood, which was presented in several “bold statements” that focused on Price Hill’s assets. Eight community action teams (CATs)—Arts, Diversity, Eco-Neighborhood, Housing, Churches, Block Clubs, Beautification, and Schools—were created to implement these bold statements.
Until that time, Price Hill Will had been operating as a program of Imago, an environmental education organization that has been active in Price Hill for many years. By 2004 there was a growing list of successfully completed projects, and an ever expanding agenda. Considering the scope and mission of the work, creating a Community Development Corporation focused on community revitalization seemed to be the best path forward. On August 1, 2004, Price Hill Will incorporated as a separate non-profit focused on community engagement, economic development, and physical revitalization. Price Hill Will continues to approach its work from the original asset based/appreciative inquiry model.
In the beginning the biggest challenges for the organization were lack of experience, knowledge, stable funding, and credibility. In the first year, there were no permanent staff, and a total operating budget of $56,000. With a lot of patience, Price Hill Will began to build on its successes while gaining the expertise to take on large projects. Over the last eleven years, the organization has been directly involved in almost $26 million in real estate development including the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater (in partnership with Cincinnati Landmark Productions), The Elberon Senior Apartments (in partnership with The Model Group), over 60 single-family rehabs, St. Lawrence Corner (a park and performance space), and the redevelopment of a commercial building for an urban agribusiness.
Future projects include the redevelopment of a 12,000 sq. ft. Masonic Lodge, the redevelopment of two areas of our business districts (nineteen parcels of land), the Olden Tot Lot Park, the continuation of our single-family rehab program, and the creation of a pilot homesteading program.
In our non-real estate work, we have numerous community engagement efforts including community gardening initiatives, a free, daily, orchestra program that works with eighty-five neighborhood youth called MYCincinnati, neighborhood planning, and community programming such as concerts, outdoor movie nights, holiday events, and gallery hops. We also are engaged in various economic development initiatives including business support and entrepreneurial training.
We are proud of our accomplishments, but there is still have plenty of work to do. Like many neighborhoods in Cincinnati and around the country, Price Hill faces many challenges. We are confident that our strengths, strong foundation, and community partnerships will help us meet those difficulties, and we are glad to be a part of the revitalization efforts happening in Price Hill.