Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati

The story of a neighborhood...

“I’ve been living in Over-the-Rhine, and there’s been a lot of the stereotypical stuff that people see on the news. That’s here, obviously. But there’s also the stuff that they don’t cover, like the love that’s here—and the desire to make something out of nothing..."

- Sierra Hughes '12, Urban Teaching Cohort student teacher

Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine writes:

"Over-the-Rhine is a predominantly low-income neighborhood, adjacent to the Cincinnati's central business district and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has always been a home for poor migrants from Appalachia and the rural south looking for a better way of life, and has all the consequences of a poverty-stricken community.

"It suffers the classic problems of poor inner city neighborhoods, including population decline, homelessness, increased segregation, building abandonment by absentee owners, high rates of unemployment and underemployment, and lack of access to political power.

"In 1950 approximately 30,000 people resided there, with whites constituting 99% of that population. Recent data show about 7,600, 80% black. Of the current residents, an overwhelming majority live below the official poverty level of $17,800 annually for a family of four. Of Over-the-Rhine’s 5,200 apartment units, too many are below housing code standards and nearly 500 buildings stand vacant.

"Dominant media perspectives of Over-the-Rhine characterize the neighborhood as an absence or as a lack. That is, outside of the new businesses, art galleries, and night entertainment spots that have converged mostly on Main Street, there is little else, only a territory marked by drugs, crime, prostitution, and chaos.

"Such perspectives never see that the community is organized. Prominent here is the Over-the-Rhine People’s Movement, a coalition of progressive groups based in organizations of social service, community education, the arts, landlord-tenant relations, welfare rights, and affordable housing development that marks a 30-plus year history.

"These organizations have provided needed services for residents in Over-the-Rhine for the past 30 years. Despite this record of traditional “community development” work, these organizations clash with the desire to “revitalize” Over-the-Rhine into a chic, gentrified neighborhood as an extension of the central business district. Very different visions of development meet and conflict in Over-the-Rhine."

Learn more about the community initiatives and partnerships at the Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine.

View this student presentation of the history, politics and economics of Over-the-Rhine in Google docs.