Talking Form-Based Code with Vice-Mayor Qualls

Our Executive Director, Kevin Wright, joined Vice-Mayor Roxanne Qualls yesterday on WVXU‘s Cincinnati Edition to discuss the City’s new Form-Based code implementation and how the new code impacts our neighborhoods! Walnut Hills is one of four pilot neighborhoods in Cincinnati that volunteered to adopt this new type of zoning, and we’re very excited about the opportunities it will provide

According to Vice-Mayor Qualls, the Form-Based code “specifies proportion and relationship to the street and to other buildings. People are choosing more and more to live in our neighborhoods because they want an urban experience and we know the value of the architecture and the original urban form of our communities. Form-based codes respect that and it actually allows for new development that is also respectful of that original urban form.”

Qualls adds that the new code “makes things very clear to developers what they can do in a specific neighborhood. You should be able to get all your approvals in a very short amount of time.”

In the case of Walnut Hills, Kevin Wright states that it “allowed the community to create a vision for their business district and how they want it designed. We took that vision and are attaching a zoning code to it.”

According to Wright, the new code system “creates a win-win-win for community, the City and the developer”. “When we visited Nashville”, he continues, “some developers even admitted being skeptical at the beginning, but once they started developing under the code and saw that the form based code was much easier to use than conventional zoning…developers loved it.”

Click below to listen to the full interview:




We’re growing again!

Meet our newest full-time staff member and summer interns

Thea Munchel starts this month as our Real Estate Development Officer, bringing over five years of experience working on real estate development projects for community development corporations. Most recently, Thea has worked on the development and financing for two historic renovations in Over-the-Rhine, Elm Street Senior Housing and Beasley Place. Elm Street Senior Housing is on track to begin construction in June 2013 and once completed will be the first senior housing opportunity in Over-the-Rhine. Additionally, Thea managed the construction budget and schedule for the City Home development in Over-the-Rhine, working with local real estate agents and buyers to pre-sell and customize several homes during the construction period. The project was highlighted in local and national journals.


Kate Esarey started working for WHRF in May. She is currently a Master of Community Planning student at the University of Cincinnati. She graduated from the University of Illinois in 2008 with a BA in International Studies and Human Rights. Her community development experience includes two years in the Peace Corps in Moldova, Eastern Europe directing a nation-wide women’s empowerment initiative and serving as a community development advisor in her host village. For the past year, Kate has been working in the non-profit sector in the Greater Cincinnati area and loving every minute of it.

Jaren Abedania is a second-year graduate student in Community Planning at the University of Cincinnati, with a Bachelors degree in Architecture from the Georgia Institute of Technology.  Prior to arriving in the Queen City, Jaren has worked in a fine arts studio, an environmental non-profit, and a popular food truck in his hometown, San Francisco. His impending thesis will explore the means by which food is distributed and accessed in urban environments with the intent to propose a new “foodway” for the city.  Walnut Hills will serve as a venue for said project and he appreciates the opportunity to work with the community.

We Have a New Office

As of May 1st, we are officially moved into a great newly renovated storefront space on May Street near E. McMillan St! Our new official address is 2505 May Street, so stop by and say hi sometime. We’re still putting finishing touches on the decor, but you might recognize those murals from the 2012 Cincinnati Street Food Fest! We are enjoying the flood of light through giant front windows, newly finished floors and a lot more desk space for our expanding staff. Look for an announcement about an open house soon, but for now here are some pictures.

A Look Back at 2012

It’s been a great year for our organization and the neighborhood of Walnut Hills! As we prepare to launch into an even more fruitful 2013, we wanted to highlight some of the milestones and achievements of the past year:
Form-based Code Charrette, October 2012Neighborhood Developments: 2012 brought exciting new projects and developments into Walnut Hills on several fronts:

  • Entered pre-development on the Rhodes Buildings renovation, an $8-9 million project resulting in 30 new market-rate residential units and 3-5 new first floor store fronts. A major first step in this project was our success in partnering with the Model Group to apply for and receive State Historic Preservation Tax Credits, bringing in over $1.7 million in financing! Read our post for more details.
  • Helped facilitate the transfer of ownership of 5-10 buildings to positive and engaged ownership.
  • Facilitated the structural stabilization of the oldest firehouse in the city on E. McMillan St., with usable square footage of about 3,100 sf
  • Worked with the City of Cincinnati and the Walnut Hills Area Council to get Taft and McMillan converted to two-way streets
  • 30 new flower pots were added along the sidewalks of the business district

  • Created a grocery program that boosted the store’s revenue by over $10,000 a month and helped create an organic and natural foods section in the store.
  • Committed to be among the first neighborhoods in the City’s form-based code implementation, including a multi-day design charette in which dozens of Walnut Hills residents participated
  • Received a Duke Energy Revitalization Grant to fund facade improvements to buildings within the business district. This grant has helped to launch our Facade Improvement Program which is already leveraging significant private investment from business and building owners.
Neighborhood Outreach: One of our primary goals over the past year was to increase outreach efforts and community events in Walnut Hills. In 2012 we planned the Cincinnati Street Food Festival. This event attracted over 1,500 people to Peeble’s Corner! We planned monthly neighborhood meet-up events throughout the year. We also created a website, Facebook page,  Twitter account, Vimeo account, and Instagram account for the WHRF.


Organizational Growth: In 2012 we established a new mission, strategy and branding for the WHRF and hired a full-time employee (Business District Coordinator). The Business District Coordinator, funded through a LISC Community Safety Initiative grant, will prioritize making the business district and neighborhood both cleaner and safer.

Cincinnati Street Food Festival, October 2012

We can’t wait to get back to work in 2013, and are looking forward to continued success. Join us in improving the quality of life for all residents of Walnut Hills!