Port Short: The Growth and Resurgence of Mt. Auburn

Nestled nearby and high atop downtown Cincinnati sits a neighborhood decorated with historic architectural marvels and streets lined with stunning homes, many built in the early 1800s.

It’s the boyhood home of former U.S. President William Howard Taft. The famed novelist Charles Dickens once wrote about its spectacular panoramic views, which still reflect the heritage of this neighborhood of just under 5,000 residents.

Mount Auburn, Ohio – a bedroom community of the Queen City – was originally founded as a hilltop respite for Cincinnati’s wealthy socialites.

After years of neglect and disinvestment, however, Mount Auburn soon became one of the city’s most blighted neighborhoods. Properties became hosts for recurring crime and illegal dumping.

Community leaders knew that in order to rekindle Mount Auburn’s charm, something had to be done. That’s when Carol Gibbs, the long-time leader of the neighborhood’s development corporation, stepped in with a novel approach.

“And there wasn't really anything going on. No investment. Really, the first investment made was back in 2016 with Wellington Place. That was a huge investment. But since then we had some interest, and because of the relationship with The Port, we've done some great things.” - Carol Gibbs, President & CEO, Mt. Auburn CDC

Interest that in recent years, has sparked a number of transformative developments that have breathed new life, and renewed vibrancy, into Mount Auburn. New housing developments on Wellington and Bigelow add increased density, a new hotel brings needed capacity to Uptown, and improvements to Inwood Park add an accessible playground to the historic greenspace. Meanwhile, long-vacant and dangerous structures have been demolished, making way for future development.

The renaissance of Mount Auburn continued in 2018, when Gibbs approached the Landbank, a managed entity of The Port, to partner on a parcel of land located on a nearly abandoned street.

Plans were drawn up to transform this empty plot of grass into six new townhomes at the bottom of Loth Street.

The project is the result of The Port’s holistic housing strategy. The intent is to transform vacant, blighted residential properties into safe, high-quality single-family homes to increase homeownership, protect surrounding property values, and provide housing options across a range of price points.

And, in line with the Port’s mission, profits from these new townhomes will fund the cost of similar-looking, but affordable housing units just up the street.

“I think it is unique to Cincinnati that we take a neighborhood that's been left alone for probably 100 years and put a market rate and affordable in the same area. The healthiest and most vibrant neighborhoods are ones that are mixed-income.” - Carol Gibbs, President & CEO, Mt. Auburn CDC

Less than a mile from the Loth Street townhomes sits the iconic Flatiron Building. The historic structure rests atop a prominent intersection, serving as landmark and gateway to Mount Auburn. Originally built in the late 1800s, the Flatiron was once named one of our region’s most endangered buildings.

In 2016, the City of Cincinnati filed a chronic nuisance complaint on the Flatiron. Then in 2018, the Landbank, in partnership with the City of Cincinnati and many others, stabilized the building after the property sat empty for 12 years.

About four years and one pandemic later, Neyer Holdings, which purchased the Flatiron from the Landbank co-hosted an open house to showcase its shiny new jewel as part of its larger plans for the neighborhood.

“One of the things about which I'm very pleased with our ten-year development strategy is that there's not a single residential unit that's going to be displaced. Mount Auburn has a great community of residents right now, there's great residents all around it, and I'm excited to have a mixed community in Mt. Auburn that says the best of the greater Cincinnati community.” - Tom Neyer, President & CEO, Neyer Holdings

“It's critically important for all 52 of our neighborhoods, particularly the neighborhoods that have seen disinvestment, to be prioritized. I've said from the beginning that if we really want to grow, we have to make sure that racial equity is at the center of the frame. So the fact that we're investing more dollars in communities like Mount Auburn will give us a competitive advantage to recruit and retain young, diverse families to come here and help us grow as a city.” - Mayor Aftab Pureval, City of Cincinnati

Development of the Loth Street townhomes and redevelopment of the Flatiron both speak to The Port’s commitment to revitalize blighted, vacant and underperforming real estate to improve quality of life in Cincinnati’s communities…, one neighborhood at a time.

“If this can happen with such a difficult building in Mt. Auburn, then I think that gives a lot of these communities hope that with the right tools, the right resources, the right partners and relationships, they can do the same thing in their neighborhood, wherever that is.” - Philip Denning, Executive Vice President, The Port