Revitalizing the Neighborhood: A Cheviot Case Study

Updated: Mar 11

"The Cheviot Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) was awarded a grant received through Hamilton County and done by the Urban Land Institute.  The grant was to provide a thorough review of the Cheviot Business District. The recommendations will be discussed with the committee on April 16th at 6:30 pm at city hall. The meeting is open to the public." - Clerk of Council Jenny Eilermann

TAP Report photo (source: Cheviot Housing Survey 2016)

Cheviot’s Technical Assistance Panel

The City of Cheviot presented its objectives pertaining to revitalizing the business district on February 21, 2020. The report’s central focus was the Technical Assistance Panel (TAP), a think tank consisting of city officials, business leaders, and real estate owners along with some educational and commercial consultants. TAP was assembled through the Urban Land Institute of Cincinnati (ULI) with the goal to generate strategies that focus on the city’s revitalization plans.


The city is home to an estimated 8,280 people. The community is approximately split equally between owners and renters, with the median age estimated at around 35 years. This is almost 2 years under the overarching Hamilton County’s median age and almost 4.5 years under that of the State of Ohio. Median home values have trailed those of Hamilton County and Ohio’s and the population has suffered a decline of approximately 1,200 since the 1990 census report. These data points are helpful when laying out plans to revitalize and expand the neighborhood and improve the overall economic value of the residential & commercial markets. The unique numbers also help Cheviot define its brand and identity and market its neighborhood accordingly.


The expansion plans, especially improvements in infrastructure need a combined funding effort through public and private investments. Some key funding sources listed by the TAP think tank include The State of Ohio, Hamilton County P+D, Ohio Market Access Program, Tax Increment Financing (TIF), Special Improvement District (SID) schemes, among other foundations and philanthropies. The city has a current $10,000 loan plan which will need supplementation from the aforementioned organizations in order to fully fund the revitalization.


Areas of Focus


TAP Report photo: Signage needed in Cheviot’s Business District (Source: Jeff Raser, Owner, CUDA Studio via TAP)

Cheviot has several assets that can be pivotal in improving the outlook of the city. Both the physical infrastructure and the city’s public services offer opportunities aplenty to help in the revitalization effort.


The city’s low crime rate is a benefit that can be instrumental moving forward, however, it is often overlooked because of high vacancies in the business district along with high-speed traffic through Harrison Avenue, the city’s commercial hub.


Business District


Harrison Avenue has suffered in recent years from a series of high profile vacancies that then turned into unoccupied commercial real estate, giving a sense of emptiness in the city’s heart. A lack of signage and favorable pedestrian options further exacerbates this feeling. The business district features some weekend and evening dining & relaxation options but lacks a weekday or midday focal point such as a cafe or dining court.


Despite this, the business district has various positive assets such as proximity to 9 to 5 commercial offices and buildings, walkability, and sound zoning layouts. There are various restaurants and outdoor seating options as well as very lax parking restrictions.


A chamber of commerce or community development corporation can act as a catalyst that would reinvigorate local businesses in Harrison Avenue. Cheviot should look to set up such an organization. Note that the Westwood Kiwanis Club and The Harvest Home Fair Association, which manages the Harvest Home Fair is active in the community and can act as a supporting group moving forward.


The business district lacks an online presence and is not advertised through the city’s website (www.cheviot.org). An online presence will help improve visibility and will encourage new businesses to take advantage of free advertising.


Real Estate


Cheviot has a good housing stock that can be attractive to younger families, further playing into the fact that Cheviot is a younger community, considering the significantly lower median age, by comparison. Properties such as mix-use real estate through the commercial district can help develop renovated apartments without investing in new complex construction.


The Cincinnati Public School (CPS) &Cheviot Elementary have seen improved output recently. The addition of the gifted academy is a further testament to the fact. The school is nearly at capacity and considering expansion, as of the TAP report’s publication.


The school community should be allowed to lend a voice in the city's revitalization efforts, helping the city’s future residents determine what they want back from Cheviot.


Other Areas


While these two areas are a main focal point in the city’s revitalization effort, other avenues should be considered as supplementary resources and inflection points. Infrastructure in the form of the city’s spiritual anchors (the Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches) can help retain the population back into the community. Development of other infrastructure such as sidewalks, trees, bodegas, parks, etc will also help reinvigorate residents to remain in the city during weekday evenings and weekends.


Recommendations

TAP Report photo: Business District (Source: Jeff Raser, Owner, CUDA Studio via TAP)

TAP’s Strategies


TAP laid out 6 strategies that can help fast forward the city’s revitalization.


TAP recommends that businesses make an effort to connect their brand to the city’s roots, becoming part of the economic vision of Cheviot. Engaging in a family-friendly community through brand definition will help draw attention to the business and will play to the local demographic’s preferences.


Additionally, TAP encourages residents and prospective business owners to maintain strong ties to the community by bringing in local goods and services and maintain the city’s spirit of a small-town community.


TAP encourages new and existing businesses to work together and in conjunction with city officials and investment, resources to maintain an organized and focused development effort. Rather than having businesses compete for location and customers, a cooperative approach is recommended to reward one another together as a community.


Harrison Avenue is the key piece moving forward. Turning this asset into a bustling epicenter requires effort on the city and businesses’ parts. Visible signage that defines the brand rather than advertising a product, an improved facade, lively green space with lots of trees and sidewalks are some of the starting points that can help Harrison Avenue turnaround.


Lastly, TAP encourages the city to use its existing infrastructure, building inventory, layout and environmental assets and turn them into revitalization resources, as opposed to building from scratch. This will not only help save time, effort and costs but will also ensure that the city’s identity is maintained as its outlook improves.


Other Strategies (Not included in the report)

Other consumer-friendly policies such as designated outdoor refreshment areas along with well laid out outdoor seating and sidewalks can encourage the residents, especially younger families to seek out relaxation options within Cheviot as opposed to going out of town. The local bars and pubs will also benefit as Cheviot’s younger, almost millennial population will certainly take advantage of such allowances.


The likes of Detroit, MI, New Orleans, LA and Nashville, TN already have such programs in place in their downtown districts. Often, these areas attract young professionals back into the city as opposed to their various suburbs, especially in the case of Detroit, which has seen a resurgence in apartment rentals being occupied by young professionals.

Granted that Cheviot is a much smaller community, but the same principles that have proven successful in big metropolitan areas can be scaled to work within Cheviot.


Summary

Quoting the TAP report:

The City of Cheviot is well-positioned to revitalize its business district in a way that is distinctively Cheviot. With strategic choices in streetscaping, business district investment, development, and relationship-building, Cheviot can build upon the community that is already perceived by its residents as a family-oriented place to live. Emphasizing that family-friendly brand/personality is a way to capture an existing market and expand upon it.

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