Monday, February 4, 2008

Growing Inward

The City of Cincinnati has boundaries. Its geographic size is basically set; has been for a while. I do not see us growing physically beyond those limits anytime soon. In the past, Cincinnati grew by annexation. Among them: Spencer Township annexed in 1870, the Village of Woodburn annexed in 1873, and the Village of Clifton annexed in 1896. I do not imagine we will not grow anytime soon with the annexation of Norwood, Silverton, Amberley Village, Delhi Township or the like. And as much as I think it deserves careful study, I doubt a consolidated City of Cincinnati – Hamilton County government will ever take place. So if Cincinnati’s goal is to increase our tax base by increasing our population and increasing the number of corporate enterprises and we cannot get bigger physically, we must grow inward. We must find ways to attract business and residents to the 79.6 Sq miles that we have. Seems pretty simple to me. I guess the hard part is how.

The concept itself is nothing new. It is basically the main point in David Rusk’s book "Cities Without Suburbs". But how we grow inward and the best way to grow inward can be argued by various parties and factions ‘till the cows come home. Nearly every project could be considered redevelopment and has the potential to help us grow inward. I do not care if you are talking about Millworks in Oakley, The Yards in Riverside/Sedamsville, or projects like the Banks and the Cincinnati Streetcar. Many contend that issues like the state of our public schools and crime, while less physical, are clearly important towards attracting people and jobs. They too have a point.

Attracting new businesses and residents is a multi-pronged approach that has to do with providing quality services and a certain quality of life. In a vicious cycle, it takes money to offer those things and the more people and businesses we have the more we can offer. So while everything is a piece of the puzzle, there comes a time when you have to sort through everything, prioritize, and started putting that puzzle all together. What are those pieces that are most critical? What will give you the most bang for your buck? If we need to spend capital and "it takes money to make money" where will we do ourselves the most good? I’m not arguing every little bit, every little project, does not help but we need to look at the big picture and ask ourselves, what is going to grow this city inward. What will get us moving in a positive direction quickly? The city contends we have grown to 368,868 people. But keep in mind, in the 1950 Census we had 503,998 people. So the quicker we move this along, the quicker we’ll have additional revenue to get to the next steps and the next steps.

So ask yourself critically, "What are those things – projects or otherwise – that will grow this city inward and what will get us moving in a positive direction quickly?" Write them all down. Put them in order putting aside any allegiance to a neighborhood or a constituency. Think big picture. Go ahead and ask your questions if you must but move beyond shortsightedness and misinformation. Is a $100,000 re-development project in Saylor Park No. 8 on the list or No. 80? Are a number of projects in the Central Business District more important than say a streetcar that links them? When you are done you have a blueprint to growing inward. You have a plan, steps, and phases to get there. Cincinnati isn't going to be re-built in a day. But you better not wait to much longer, our future is at stake and I'm getting tired of all this good news and optimism always seeming to be tempered with bad news and skepticism.


Anonymous said...

Great article, and I'll echo your sentiments. We need to start taking action ourselves. Whether that's directly investing in some projects or simply being a cheerleader for the city and these objectives, it does us no good to sit on the sidelines. Keep up the good work!

hellogerard said...

Great questions. I usually don't link back to my blog, but I wanted to share my thoughts and didn't want to repost them here. My thoughts.

Jeff said...

I agree whole heartedly, the city (or atleast its news outlets) have developed a weird double standard for the city where are positive actions take place, or problems are identified they seem to cancle out one another generate a feeling of neutrality in the city. Whats worse is i think that we are all guilty of it in some ways (i know i am), I think that collectively the city needs to realize that the two are not mutually exclusive and that the existance of a problem does not negate other progress made. I think we need to clearly support the positive actions taken and progress made while being realistic and appropriately addressing negative aspects of the city and looking to fix them.