Wednesday, 26 September 2012

City of Contrasts

I've been in Cincy now for a couple of days and I've gone through a range of emotions about it.  The Monday morning (after the Oktoberfest admittedly) I was surprised at how quiet the city was - there was almost nothing going on for a Monday morning rush-hour - certainly compared with New York of course but even for a comparable UK city it was eerily still.  My earlier post covers some of what I did the rest of the day which certainly give me a different physical and social angle on the city.  I could definitely live in the Mt Adams area of the city

For yesterday I decided against my original plan of going to an outlet mall - I've already brought far too many clothes so decided I didn't really need any more - and planned on exploring more of the city.  I first went up the Carew Tower - a hidden gem if ever I saw one!  It was hard to find out how to actually get up the tower and I was somewhat sceptical of the rickety lift and handmade signs directing me up to the 49th floor.  On arrival and once I had paid the extortionate entrance fee of $2 the views from the blustery observation deck were fantastic.  An attraction that in any other city would be hugely publicised and probably be five times more expensive.  A couple of sample pictures.


It looks like a prosperous and thriving city which at times it certainly feels like but as you see below at other times it definitely doesn't!  There is an exhibition in the lobby of Carew Tower which gives a really interesting context to the building. The design is classic 1930s French Deco - which was trendy in the US for about 18 months.  The speed that the building was constructed at meant that it was the height of fashion for a very brief period of time.  The building has gone through a series of different uses and fortunes over the years but retains pretty much all of its charm and style - including some excellent glazed porcelain decorative arches from Rookwood Pottery - a company established in the city in the 19th Century and still trading (albeit with a number of different locations and owners over the years). 

I then decided to walk up to Findlay's Market in the north of the city.  Again a historic organisation (and a good place to get lunch) but I was also interested in seeing how the neighbourhood would change as I moved north of the city centre.  I wasn't disappointed.  From is a socially and racially mixed and fairly vibrant city centre I quickly moved into an almost exclusively Black neighbourhood and one that obviously is struggling.  Some obvious signs of decay and also something of a renaissance but at times it didn't feel like the best of places to be. 

This old pool hall has obviously seen better days...

And there are a number of 'missing' houses where there were obviously so decayed that they've had to be knocked down. 

The interesting thing is that on the wooden picket fence you can see in the photo there is a sign for the Cincinnati City Centre Development Corporation who are evidently working hard to transform the area. 

From a strict economic point-of-view of course, reducing your building and housing stock (especially when they are dilapidated) increases property values and encourages use of the neighbourhood in new ways.  The Development Corporation is based directly in this neighbourhood and surrounding their (pretty plush) offices there already seems to be some gentrification going on.  Their website here directly talks about land-banking and assembling plots for redevelopment.  Ed Glaeser talks very helpfully about this kind of regeneration activity in his book, 'Triumph of the City' and I've covered 'Planned Shrinkage' before along with my thoughts on Nottingham's own areas of urban decay.

The area I walked through (which I think is known as 'Over-The-Rhine' - Cincinnati has a large German population, dontchyaknow) could be great: some historic (and huge) buildings and great access to the city centre.  And various bodies are putting a lot of effort into trying to transform it.  I hope they're succesful. 

The Market itself was a little disappointing - very quiet and not a huge range of food on offer.  I even managed to resist the Belgian waffle stall...

The walk back brought me through Washington Park and the frankly incredible Music Hall.  Again, a clear influence from the German population in its architecture. 

Just so my day wasn't all architecture and urban regeneration I popped into Nicholson's Scottish (!) pub in the afternoon - it claims to be Cincinnati's first gastro-pub: a dubious claim to fame if ever there was one!  Some reasonable beers however. 

A pretty packed day and I still had the baseball game at the Great American Ball Park to come - a report on that later today I hope. 

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear you're hitting the Scottish pubs! Jo x