Market-priced apartments crown College Hill development

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CINCINNATI — When Seth Walsh arrived in College Hill seven years ago, the neighborhood looked different. Its business district had faded, an empty Kroger acted as an eyesore along the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, and housing stock was stagnating and aging.

As head of the neighborhood’s development arm, the College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, Walsh has seen the neighborhood find new life. New bars, restaurants and shops began to line the streets, vacant buildings were demolished or renovated and demand for new housing increased. Now that HaNoBe Apartments are preparing to welcome their first tenants, Walsh hopes the growth can sustain the neighborhood for years to come.


What do you want to know

  • The College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation has spent millions redeveloping the neighborhood’s business district
  • HaNoBe will add 171 new units to the neighborhood
  • CHCURC has also helped develop a number of affordable housing projects
  • Neighborhood redevelopment efforts spanned 20 years
  • The apartments will start to be rented in August

When the $31.25 million building complex on both sides of the 6200 block of Hamilton Avenue is completed, it will add 171 new units to the leased neighborhood at the upper ends of the market.

“The College Hill community has been in the making for over 20 years,” Walsh said as he walked through the nearly completed hall. “That’s about 10 times the number of units that were available in this area in the first place.”

When the locally owned Shuller’s Wigwam closed in 2000, soon followed by the Kroger across the street, Walsh said CHCURC was looking for the right project to fill the void left by these businesses of base.

“These have been the cornerstones of College Hill for decades,” he said. “But the reality was that those corners had closed because the market was gone.”

That’s why Walsh said that to build the corner of Hamilton and North Bend, CHCURC needed to start a few blocks south. During his seven-year tenure as CEO of the nonprofit, CHCURC invested more than $80 million in the five-block business district, buying and renovating vacant buildings, leasing commercial and residential properties and rebuilding what Walsh sees as the kind of neighborhood center the modern market wants to see. According to Walsh, more than $6 million of that funding came from private donations within the College Hill community.

“The community had bought in, they had fought hard, to get to this point, the city stepped in to help make it a reality,” he said. “It was a long process.”

Walsh walks through one of the HaNoBe units.

The HaNoBe project has gained momentum during the pandemic. Walsh said that’s when the demand for high-density housing near the business district became impossible to ignore. In partnership with developer Pennrose and architect GBBN, CHCURC designed the type of modern apartment complex, according to Walsh, that the neighborhood lacked and came to the building.

“A lot of the construction that’s existed in Cincinnati is 1950s, 1920s, beautiful old, historic homes, but the modern market is different now,” he said. “That’s the same reason Over-the-Rhine took off, that’s what people are looking for.”

The comparison with OTR is no coincidence. The rapidly growing neighborhood closer to downtown began its redevelopment trajectory around the same time as College Hill, with help from its development arm Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation or 3CDC.

Leaders of the city’s Fair Growth and Housing Committee called CHCURC the second strongest neighborhood development organization behind 3CDC in terms of power and effectiveness.

With a citywide affordable housing crisis, however, groups like the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition remain skeptical of the impact of large luxury housing developments. While CHCURC has built and plans to build several affordable units in the business district, there are fear projects like HaNoBe that will drive up the value of the neighborhood and, in turn, drive up rents.

Walsh sees the problem from the other side. The market is already hot enough that the demand is already there, building projects like HaNoBe is like creating more supply.

“When you don’t have a product like this out there, the oldest buildings are always technically the oldest out there, so they get higher rent values ​​than they’re probably actually worth,” a- he declared.

Whether that will lower rents, inspire more renovations or slow housing inflation remains to be seen, but Walsh said the demand for HaNoBe speaks for itself.

The complex will stagger its opening over the next few months, with its first residents moving in in August. By mid-July, the first building had already rented half of its apartments.

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