Burnet Avenue Revitalization

The Challenge

The Burnet Avenue corridor in the Avondale neighborhood of Cincinnati was plagued with one of the highest crime rates in the city. Residential and business properties had declined and long-time, stable community partners were fleeing. In order to address these dire problems and others in the community, the five largest employers in Uptown Cincinnati, including Children’s Hospital and the University of Cincinnati, formed the Uptown Consortium (UPCO), a community development alliance. In Avondale, UPCO has worked with the Community Council to create a plan to revitalize its main business corridor along Burnet Avenue.

In November 2007, with commercial development already underway, UPCO hired the Model Group as its advisor/developer for the missing residential component of the Burnet plan. UPCO retained Model based on the company’s successful history of revitalizing neighborhoods using strategic affordable housing redevelopment alongside mixed-income, mixed-use development.

The Development Solution

  • First, Model prepared two site visits to observe national success stories of revitalizations adjacent to similarly situated urban institutions: one, to the West Philadelphia neighborhood adjacent to the University of Pennsylvania; and a second visit to the East Baltimore, Maryland neighborhood area surrounding the main Johns Hopkins University and Hospital campus. In both cases, the addition of new quality affordable and mixed-income housing played integral roles in stimulating additional residential and commercial development.
  • From observations made during these ‘best practice’ trips, tapping into Model’s insights and experience, incorporating the Burnet Avenue’s community plan, and utilizing Model’s proven strategies in comparable urban neighborhoods, the Model Group developed a residential redevelopment strategy.
  • Simultaneously, for the first stage of the plan, Model developed financing strategies for a gut rehab of 63 existing affordable housing units on two key blighted corners of Burnet Avenue; a 21-unit new construction, LEED-certified, senior building on another key vacant corner; and a 60+ unit home ownership condo project in mid-rise and townhouse buildings. Collectively, these residential buildings helped architecturally transition the area from institutional/commercial to residential.
  • Within seven months of the out-of-state site visits and master planning process, Model secured financing on two of the three projects. Construction on these projects began 12 months later.
  • Sources of funds included: New Markets Tax Credits, HOME loans, CDBG loans, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, Federal Stimulus funds, developer equity, private investment, non-profit grants.
  • Partners: Avondale Community Council, Uptown Consortium, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, PNC Bank, Key Bank, City of Cincinnati, Ohio Housing Finance Agency.

Through partnership, in a short period of time, Model is helping lead the major transformation of Burnet Avenue from crime and blight to commercial activity, retail activity, green space, streetscape improvements, and high quality residential living. New hospital office buildings are being balanced by new residential development for existing residents. In a visit specifically to see Model’s residential development, the United States’ HUD Secretary, Sean Donovan called the project a “model for the country.”