Plans for Walnut Hills entertainment district not hindered by recent violence

WALNUT HILLS (FOX19) - Police are searching for a suspect following a deadly shooting in Walnut Hills on Wednesday afternoon. This is the fourth confirmed murder in Walnut Hills so far this year.

The suspect remains on the run.

But, violence like that isn't stopping positive improvements to the neighborhood and surrounding area.

The city of Cincinnati has approved an area around DeSales Corner as a Community Entertainment District, an area that hasn't always looked like it does today. The CED designation provides a tool to help revitalize neighborhoods, and help businesses get liquor licenses at a normal cost of around $2,300 to help spur that development.

"It's been a while since it was bad. But, I think when this effort first started five, ten years ago, there were real safety issues. There was a lot of vacancy, a lot of blight. It essentially wasn't a place. It wasn't a place anyone cared about," said Kevin Wright, executive director of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation.

That's all changed.

It's taken years, but most of the storefronts are filling up, streetscape projects beautified the area and new businesses are moving in.

"Just as you've seen the transformation in OTR, I think that that is what's going to happen here, as well," said Alicia Gibson, owner of Heterotopia.

Gibson is opening her bookstore, Heterotopia, along Woodburn Avenue. She sees the area as a great catalyst in continuing efforts of cutting crime.

"That kind of crime occurs in all different kinds of places. I think this street has already made that turn," said Gibson.

But, what officials say was really missing to take the area to the next level – a destination bar, and a destination restaurant.

That's about to change, too. 

"There's some great people who live up in this neighborhood, and they're bringing it back to life. We really wanted to be a part of that," said Molly Wellmann, co-owner of Myrtle's.

The first liquor license as part of the new entertainment district will go to Myrtle's. Wright says there are four total liquor licenses available for this particular entertainment district.

"I want a great place for people to live, a positive place to live. If you want that to happen, you actually have to come in and make that happen. You have to be the positive energy," said Wellmann.

The hope is that the nearly decade long investment, combined with the entertainment district, will really make the city safer. 

"That is what's going to make East Walnut Hills and other neighborhoods in the city of Cincinnati safer long-term. We think this is the sustainable way to solve some of those problems," Wright told FOX19.

Walnut Hills also has a CED designation. Thanks to that, Fireside Pizza was able to come to the neighborhood in the oldest standing firehouse in Cincinnati.

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