Urban Cincinnati [Part Two]

In the early twentieth century, despite a decline in growth as the country countined to spread west, Cincinnati was in decent shape. Sure, a corrupt political machine was in control of local affairs, but the city was still able to thrive. Even in the midst of the Great Depression [1925] the city released a master plan of the future, the first major American city to do so. During the tumultuous years of the Second World War city leaders began to anticipate the return of over 50,000 servicemen to the city; they felt they had to do something to steer the future of the city for their sake. They began to research in 1944 and, four years later, the 1948 Cincinnati Metropolitan Master Plan was released. This is the plan that made Cincinnati what it is today.

Here's what they came up with: even though their was an elaborate [and rather successful] street car system stretching as far as Lockland, city planners believed the automobile was the method of transportation in the future, making streetcars obsolete. Whereas a streetcar could get you within block of your home, an automobile could get you to your driveway. Planners reasoned that since the car was the future, people would no longer be limited by public transportation as to where they could live.

So the 1948 Master Plan suggested that areas near downtown should be prepared to become predominantly commercial and industrial; that the city core would be the place where people work. Then, residents could hop in their cars and go their homes outside the city. While fewer residents would seem problematic, city planners weren't detered because they would still be able to to receive tax revenues from these businesses. So they began the process to create a central business district.

A prime target of this was a community known West End, the area immediately west of the downtown area in which many slums were located. The Cincinnati Post comments that the plan included "tearing down the West End (now known as Queensgate) and reconfiguring the street patterns so as to merge six or eight city blocks into super blocks. Each super block was to be the home of a new multi-story factory. Fifty years later, no multi-story factory has been built because multi-story factories were not being built by manufacturers at the time the economic development department came up with this scheme." Portions of this area also became the route that Interstate 75 took through the Mill Creek Valley.

But the plan called for still one more construction project that, since its completion, has dominated our region. From John Emmeus Davis in his book Contested Ground [pg 123]:

“In the 1940’s, city fathers observed that the majority of residential housing was being built outside of the city proper. Far from being disturbed by such suburbanization, however, [the 1948 Master Plan] expressed a certain relief that so much land for development was still available in the city’s outlying areas. The only public intervention that was warranted was the construction of a multilane highway system to serve those areas”

This multilane highway system will be the subject of part three.