Micro-Tenants Make Mighty Impact in Walnut Hills Business District

Small businesses and arts enterprises are the lifeblood of high-opportunity neighborhoods.  But, these small-scale commercial projects in under-resourced urban centers are traditionally seen as too high a risk for investment. The Port made two loans in 2017 from its DREAM loan fund to help five entrepreneurs open for business in Walnut Hills.

This access to capital problem happens in every city with under-resourced urban neighborhoods that are struggling to revitalize. While there is money available to develop housing in these neighborhoods, they often become business deserts without community-serving enterprises such as dry cleaners, bakeries or other small businesses.

The Port recognized this as a both a barrier and an opportunity as it worked to revitalize housing in Evanston and Walnut Hills. The Port worked with a leading foundation with a robust social investment practice to create a Cincinnati Neighborhood Commercial Real Estate Loan Fund. Kresge Foundation made an investment in 2016 to help The Port develop micro business districts with neighborhood-serving small businesses, a strategy that augments The Port’s residential revitalization work and advances conditions for economic mobility.

Owners of Trevarren Flats businesses in Walnut Hills. From left: Mortar co-founders Derek Braziel, William Thomas and Allen Woods; Brent Gallaher of Caffe Vivacce, Matt Cuff of Just Q’In, Keith Tabron of The Cure, and Jacob Trevino of Video Archive.

The new businesses, including a coffee shop and jazz club, sneaker store, video-themed bar, barbeque restaurant, and Brick Haus, a storefront for MORTAR, a nonprofit minority business accelerator program, are located in the Trevarren Flats buildings in Walnut Hills. More than 70 new jobs are projected to be created by the businesses, according to Cincinnati developer The Model Group.

View of before and after the renovation of 965 and 961 McMillan Street, part of the Trevarren Flats redevelopment project. These formerly vacant storefronts are now home to the Video Archive, Brick Haus, and The Cure.

The buildout of the storefronts was financed by the DREAM Loan Fund, created to minimize barriers for microbusinesses. The Port’s loans through DREAM totaled $1,035,000. About $500,000 of that will be used for tenant build-out for Esoteric Brewing Co., the first African-American owned brewery in the history of Cincinnati.


Read more about our impact in Walnut Hills

More information on the DREAM Loan Fund


Story by: Cheryl Besl and Gail Paul

Photography by: Photos of Business Owners and Storefronts – Lisa Popyk