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Avondale Quality of Life Plan
Avondale Quality of Life Plan
In the 1970s, community-based organizations in Avondale began a revitalization struggle to escape the legacies of white supremacy and maintain the area’s cultural wealth. Despite attempts to implement multiple city-approved development plans, abandonment of Avondale’s aging housing stock has continued. With a population that began declining in 1990, it was especially hard hit by foreclosures during the Great Recession of 2007–2009. Today, one third of Avondale’s predominately African American population lives below the poverty line in a neighborhood that has 17 percent unemployment, open drug dealing, many vacant residential buildings, and vacant lots where buildings once stood. Only one in four units is owner occupied and many rental units are in severe disrepair, raising concerns about safety.
Yet, Avondale is home to some of the most influential African American leaders in the region and boasts a diverse housing stock with historic homes and dozens of substantial apartment buildings. Located just five minutes from Cincinnati’s downtown, it sits at the confluence of the potential for investment and the threat of displacement of residents who have lived in the community for generations.
In 2019 after a multi-year community engagement process, the resident-led Avondale Community Council, in partnership with the Avondale Development Corporation and institutional and commercial stakeholders, articulated the Avondale Quality of Life Plan for the neighborhood’s future. It identified 13 goals and 135 specific actions, organized under four key themes: “Increasing Safety,” “Sharing Success,” “Connecting Residents and Building Institutional Partnerships,” and “Improving Housing.” Unlike previous urban renewal plans that addressed specific areas of the neighborhood, this plan is based upon a comprehensive analysis of Avondale and has the approval of both the Avondale Community Council and the Cincinnati City Council. Decolonizing Suburbia’s spatial strategies align with the plan’s four themes. Together they propose a new Avondale commons that fosters cooperation, interaction, and mutual assistance while preserving the unique culture of this historically African American neighborhood.
Tool Kit Strategies
Initially the Decolonizing Suburbia team developed a survey to get resident feedback on the spatial strategies it envisioned but, likely due to limitations in technology, was unsuccessful in getting responses. Lacking resident feedback, the team developed a theory-based tool kit for each of the resident-generated key themes as follows:
- Increase activity and “eyes on the street” in residential areas by adding program to lots with existing buildings.
- Create a network of public spaces for intergenerational groups of residents to share.
- Add new buildings and repurpose underutilized ones to activate neglected and underutilized lots and improve accessibility.
- Create new buildings on lots with existing structures and refurbish existing ones in order to foster connections between residents and neighborhood institutions.
- Create new public spaces that connect existing and new residents while encouraging institutional connections.
- Add buildings to residential lots in order to generate income for homeowners and address the needs of residents.
- Develop new small businesses and housing in relation to new public space.
- Develop new hybrid residential buildings and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to increase the housing supply, generate wealth for homeowners, and bring new people into the neighborhood.
- Refurbish space in existing buildings for neighborhood entrepreneur and residents who can benefit from having an economic base.
- Refurbish existing buildings and add new ones to vacant and underutilized lots in order to increase the housing supply and generate income to pay for repairs to the existing housing stock, including improving its accessibility.
- Create new public space networks that enrich and enliven the neighborhood fabric.
- Align new housing with the needs of existing residents, while also encouraging newcomers.