Newport, KY- Wonderful Historic Urban Suburban Across the Ohio River from Cincinnati

For this evaluation I included just the northern half of Newport north of the railroad. While much of the southern half was development before WW II its often blight, disconnected, and the Monmouth St (the commercial district) becomes very auto centric.

Newport was established as a town in the late 18th and incorporated as a City in 1834 with a population of only about 1,000. The first bridge spanning the Ohio River to Cincinnati opened here in the mid 19th century and the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge (the precursor to the Brooklyn Bridge). By that time Newport’s population was exploding reaching 10K residential in 1860, 20K in 1880 and 28K in 1900. The late 19th century also brought a large influx of German immigration. Population growth significantly slowed by the early 20th century and Newport reached its peak of 31K residents in 1950. The 20th century also brought  waves of “vice” to the City with liquor smuggling in the 1920s, gambling and racketeering in the 30s-1950s and sex clubs in the 60s-80s. In response the City demolished a significant part of the Downtown/waterfront area to create Newport on the Levee, a family friendly new urbanist development with a cineplex and a mall. This opened in 1999 but has lost much of its luster going into the 2020s.

South of the Newport on the Levee is a the Dwtn area, anchored along 4th & 5th Streets that have been ravaged by urban renewal and autocentric development. Fortunately the perpendicular street running up from the south (Monmouth St) is a fairly intact historic biz district with a good array of retail and cultural amenities. The eastern half of Historic Newport is Mansion Hill, filled with tree lined mid-late 19th century residential streets and a mix of grand and more modest homes. The western half is very working class historic stock. Newport also has solid public transit, great housing diversity, decent levels of safety, and solid walkable schools. For Newport to be a great urban district it needs more urban infill Downtown, along York and Monmouth, and other dead spots. There is a funny juxtaposition of great historic urban form and awful senseless post WW II development.

Click here to view my Newport, KY album on Flickr


* Decent urban density
* Good sidewalk infrastructure. Modern ADA curb cuts are hit or miss. Most curb cuts in the business districts have been updated but less than 50% of residential areas.
* Excellent historic architecture especially in Mansion Hill and the Monmouth Biz district. The western half is more working class.
* Modern in fill is mixed bag. Decent urban infill at Newport on the Levee and Dwtn but a good amount of auto centric crab as well.
* Solid public transit and great access to Dwtn Cincinnati being just across the river.
* Good connectivity.
* Good number of walkable schools but public schools were generally rated poor to fair. Several Catholic schools also mixed in.
* Good diversity of for-sale hsg options with 1-beds selling anywhere btwn 85K-400K, 2-beds btwn 100K-500K with some riverfront condos selling for more. 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 150K-800K with some newer product selling for more.
* Good amount of rentals available and nice mix of new and old. 1-beds lease btwn 800K-1.5K, 2-beds anywhere in the 1Ks, 3-beds 1.5K-2.5K. Good amount of afford. hsg here.
* Generally a safe place but good amount of grit, some vacancy, and medium levels of crime.
* Decent parks including the riverfront levee park, excel public plaza at Newport on the Levee, the expansive Ralph Mussman Recreational Complex, and a handful of smaller pocket parks.
* Excellent cultural amenities including many food & beverage bizs, a major cineplex,  a performing arts center, several live music venues, a couple art galleries, the Aquarium & a couple other local museums, and several historic sites.
* Good retail amenities including a couple grocerias, several drug stores, lots of boutiques, lots of antiques and gift stores, plenty of consignment/clothing stores, the Newport Levee shopping mall (no name brands clothing currently), a couple book stores, many banks, plenty of gyms & dessert stores, local post office & public library, lots of churches. Kroger’s and Target sit just outside urban Newport and other stores in the Newport Pavilion.


* Bike  infrastructure including a dedicated bike lane along the levee and a few bike rentals at Newport on the Levee. But much improvement needed.
* Decent economic and generational diversity. Racial diversity is pretty limited.
* Tree canopy was pretty sparse in parts, esp. the more working class western half and dwtn area. Mansion Hill has good tree canopy.
* Some bad urban massing along 4th and 5th Ave but otherwise pretty good.

Reading, OH- Historic Cincinnati Surbub rebranding its Downtown as “The Bridal District”

This evaluation only reviews the walkable pre WW II portion of Reading in the western half of the town.

Between 1830 and 1880, Reading grew rapidly to become the largest village in Hamilton County. It was incorporated as a village in 1851 and reached 1K in 1860. The village’s major industry in the mid 19th century was clothing manufacturing. By the turn of the 20th century like other communities in the Mill Creek Valley, Reading’s economy centered around industry suppliers for nearby aerospace and automotive plants. Sadly Reading has some very ugly segregationist history as it was a sundown town, meaning that African Americans were prohibited from living within the city or remaining there after dark. The law led to few Blacks living in Reading until the 60s. On a more positive note, Reading has reinvested itself as The Bridal District along Benson Street bosting the claim of the highest concentration of wedding-related businesses in the United States.

Reading has fair pretty good for an older Cincinnati urban suburb losing only about 4K of its peak population of 14K and keeping much of its historic fabric and commercial district in tact. This is thanks to newer suburban growth in its easter half (not part of this evaluation), solid schools, decent parks, high level of safety, and reinvesting its Dwtn. For reading to become a solid urban district it needs more housing diversity, mixed-use development especially along the run down parts of Reading Rd., much better bike infrastructure, more trees, and some key missing retail amenities.

Click here to view my Reading, OH album on Flickr


* Solid ADA infrastructure with consistent sidewalks and generally ADA curbs.
* Good economic and generational diversity and there are lots of families with children living here.
* Good ratings for the Reading schools. A elementary  &  middle school are located right in the Dwtn area. Catholic & public schools are in the more suburban eastern half of reading.
* Reading is overall a safe place.
* For sale housing is a mix of affordable and moderately priced housing with ok diversity. 1-bed homes available selling btwn 50K-100K, 2-beds sell btwn 85K-250K, 3 & 4 beds btwn 100K-300K.
* Decent park amenities with several ball fields, cemeteries and pocket parks.
* Good cultural amenities including lots of food & bev businesses, a couple art galleries and local museums, a couple night clubs and live music spots.
* Good retail amenities too including a drug store, a grocerias, a family dollar, an amazing concentration of bridal shops with supporting boutiques & salons, a couple banks & furniture/antique shops, several dessert joints, a couple doctor offices, a public library, and several churches.
* Attractive historic architecture esp. in the commercial district.
* Good urban massing along Benson Ave. Hit or miss along Reading and esp. auto centric south of Benson. Similar story with streetscaping.


* Pretty low density for an urban district.
* So so public transit access.
* Bike infrastructure is basically non-existent.
* Rental is pretty limited. Some 1-beds listed at moderate prices.
* Reading could use a full service supermarket, a hardware store, local post office, more creative (non wedding) stores, a book store, etc.
* Modern in-fill is non-existent except for some crummy auto centric bldgs.
* Tree canopy is so so.

Oxford OH, home to Miami University and an attractive college town

I used the original square mile of the town as my boundaries as this encapsulates pretty well the historic boundaries of Oxford and the majority of its pre- WWII population. These boundaries also include the majority of Miami University, the reason for the town’s existence.

Miami University was chartered in 1809 and the town of Oxford laid out the following year. Thus the fortunes of town and university were inextricably linked since their founding. From an urbanist perspective historic Oxford is a pleasant mostly walkable environment including the bucolic Miami University Georgian campus, main street like Uptown, surrounded by historic but mostly college serving housing. Ringing historic Oxford on three sides is a well establish park system built along rivers and creeks.

The major urban downsides to Oxford is a lack of walkable schools (with the middle and high school located on the urban fringes), a lack of owner occupied housing in the city core, and distance from downtown Cincinnati, the hub City in urban metro to which Oxford belongs.
Click here for my full Oxford Album on Flick. Click here for my Miami University Album on Flickr.


* Good public transit for a small town. Miami University provides excellent shuttle system.
* Augmenting the convenience of bike on campus there are several dedicated bike lanes outside of campus.
* The rental situation is different from a typical urban neighborhood as this is a college town. Because of this there are lots of rental options, albeit geared towards students. 1-bedrooms generally go for $600-$700 & 2-bedrooms in the low $1,000s. Entire houses rent in the $2,000s.
* Not a ton of dedicated public park space within historic Oxford other than Oxford Memorial Park but plenty of green space once you include all the quads and sport fields on Miami’s campus. Also a whole system of trails and greenways ringing historic Oxford.
* Culturally Oxford is enriched by the performing arts brought by the university. Outside of campus there is a community theater and plenty of bars and restaurants.
* High Street hosts a solid array of cafes, restaurants, bars, boutiques, and neighborhood serving retail. There is also a drug store, Ace Hardware, library, and post office located off high street. Locust street, the western edge of historic oxford is an auto centric strip but provides important conveniences such as a supermarket, Moon co-op, and other retail options.
* Quality architecture on both campus and off including a gorgeous Georgian themed campus, Italianate commercial on high street and good urban infill.
* Great tree canopy both on and off campus.


* Access to Dwtn Cincinnati is very inconvenient (50 mins) but the majority of Oxford residents work in Oxford. Dwtn Hamilton is also only 20 minutes away.
* Almost all for-sale property in historic Oxford are rental properties. Sadly one needs to resident in more suburban parts of town to find owner occupied property.
* Oxford Elementary is located just outside of the historic core. Unfortunately the middle school and high school are located on the edge of town, and thus are not walkable. 

Dayton Lane, historic home to Hamilton’s most prominent industrialists

Dayton-Lane is located just east of Downtown Hamilton between 5th St and Erie Blvd. The district includes an officially designated Historic District hosting mansions of some of Hamilton’s most prominent industrialists at the turn of the last century. Architectural styles include Queen Anne, Italianate, Second Empire, and Georgian Revival. The neighborhood also mixes in plenty of middle class homes and worker housing, a good example of how many turn of the century communities were built as truly mixed income districts out of the necessity of proximity before the creation of the automobile.

From an urban form perspective, Dayton Lane has decent density and convenient access to Downtown Hamilton. There is still a fair amount of blight here on the neighborhood edges and the district’s two commercial districts (i.e. Erie and High Street) are generally auto centric. Urbanizing these commercial districts with quality urban infill and permitting mixed-use development within the core of the neighborhood would go a long way towards improving Dayton Lane’s urbanity. 
Click here to view the full Dayton Lane Album on my Flickr Page


* Highly convenient to Dwtn, only a 5-15 minute walk.
Good generational and racial diversity.
* Some of the best architecture in Hamilton and certain the best representation of late 19th century mansions.
* Crazy diversity in housing prices ranking from 25K for an old worker house to 300K for a large Victorian mansion.
* The neighborhood hosts a cafe, drug store and lots of chain restaurants along Main Street. Most of the district is no more than a 15 minute walk to all the Downtown amenities. 


* Bike infrastructure is non-existent.
* About 1/4 of the neighborhood is living in poverty. Interesting contrasts with wealthier households that own that large historic mansions.
* Neighborhood is a mix of well mentioned and gritty/blighted pockets. Because of this safety is still somewhat of a concern here.
* Rental product is a limited but very affordable.
* Only a couple pocket parks within Dayton Lane but the Smith Field sports complex and Greenwood Cemetery are walkable.
* The two commercial districts on the edges of Dayton Lane, High & Erie are pretty auto centric. High Street at least has usable sidewalks and some older buildings left. This does provide a fair amount of retail, albeit generally chains.
* A public elementary and middle school lie about 1/2-1 mile east of the neighborhood. 

Highland Park and Prospect Hill, great neighborhoods on Hamilton’s westside

Some points of interest include a resurging main street with new businesses filling historic buildings along the southern edge of Prospect Hill and lovely 1920s & 1930s housing in Highland Park. Many pleasant streets throughout Prospect Hill in the early 20th century. Prospect Hill also has very convenient walkable access to Downtown.

The biggest areas I’d like to see in Prospect Hill/Highland Park improve include building new mixed-use buildings to fill in the missing teeth along Main Street along with revitalizing the blighted portion of the district along the Miami River.

Click here to see my full Highland Park Album on Flickr


* Great generational and economic diversity.
* For-sale housing is a mix of affordable and middle of the market with prices ranging from 50K-200K. Prices are most expensive in Highland Park with very affordable pockets in Prospect Hill in the more blighted areas closer to the Great Miami River.
* Decent amount of parks including the nice plaza along Main Street, extensive natural trails along two mile run, sport parts surrounding the middle school, and several neighborhood pocket parks.
* Nice urban commercial street along Main with a nice mix of urban retail including a cafe, several bars & restaurants, several boutiques, banks, a drug store, and lots of other neighborhood serving retail.
* Limited cultural amenities within Prospect Hill/Highland Park but one simply needs to walk 5-20 minutes to Dwtn to find this.
* Good architecture spanning the first half of the 20th century. Some blight in Prospect Hill, but not too bad.
* A public elementary, middle school, and high school are all located in Highland Park are ranked pretty well. No schools however in Prospect Hill. 


* Rental product is a bit limited but affordable. Concentrated in Prospect Hill. Highland Park is largely owner-occupied.
* Public transit access is limited.
* Limited amount of racial diversity.
* Generally a stable neighborhood but some blight along the River.
* Limited modern in-fill and what does exist is very auto centric. High Street becomes rather auto centric when passing through Highland Park. 

Rossville another gem in Hamilton Ohio

The neighborhood is located on the west side of the Great Miami River across from downtown. The neighborhood takes its name from the old town of Rossville used prior to its merger with the City of Hamilton in 1854. There are still some gorgeous mid to late 19th century structures remaining today, which helps Rossville retain a solid urban fabric.

Some points of interest include a resurging main street with new businesses filling historic buildings and the large mansions lining South ‘D’ Street. Many pleasant streets throughout Rossville spanning many decades before WWII. Also very convenient walkable access to Downtown.

The biggest areas I’d like to see Rossville improve include building new mixed-use buildings to fill in the missing teeth along Main Street along with revitalizing the blighted portion of the district along the Miami River.
Click here to view the entire Rossville album on my Flickr page


* Very diverse for-sale housing stock ranging in price from 50K-300K for large historic mansions.
* Great generational and economic diversity.
* Decent amount of parks including a riverfront park, a nice plaza along Main Street, and several larger parks that are mostly fields.
* Nice urban commercial street along Main with a nice mix of urban retail including a cafe, several bars & restaurants, several boutiques, banks, a drug store, and lots of other neighborhood serving retail.
* Limited cultural amenities within Rossville but one simply needs to walk 5-10 minutes to Dwtn to find this.
* Quality historic architecture from many different eras.


* Rentals are very affordable here but not a lot of product.
* Limited amount of racial diversity.
* Generally a stable neighborhood but some blight along the River.
* Not great walkable access to schools here.
* Limited modern in-fill and what does exist is very auto centric. 

Downtown Hamilton- The City of Sculpture

I included the district between the Miami River and MLK Boulevard and all of German village and dwtn south to Sycamore Street.

Hamilton started as Fort Hamilton in. 1791. It was the first of several built north from Fort Washington into Indian territory. A settlement grew up around the fort and was platted. It was officially incorporated in 1810. By the mid-19th century, Hamilton had developed as a significant manufacturing city and by 1950 it had around 57,000 residents. This has resulted in a fairly large urban neighborhood surrounding Dwtn and fortunately much of it is still in-tact especially on the West Side.

Dwtn Hamilton held onto much of its fabric of low to medium rise buildings helping fuel its recent renovation the past 10 years. Along with new shops, restaurants, and small businesses, Hamilton created a new multi-faceted downtown park surrounded by new apartment buildings. North of Dwtn, German Village connects pretty seamlessly with gorgeous mid-late 19th Italianate architecture and a nice mix-used district along 3rd Street. Hopefully Dwtn Hamilton continues to fill in all the underutilized lots especially south of High Street. Great progress has been made, but certainly room to improve.   
Click here to view the full Downtown Hamilton Album.


*Highly walkable district in small 0.25 square mile.
* Great historic architecture both in along High Street, Hamilton’s main dwtn corridor, and German Village.
* The Dwtn/German Village population has historically been very low, but this is changing with increased dwtn population and historic renovations in Germantown.
* Nice set of parks including the riverfront park along the Great Miami, Symmes Park Playground, and the downtown jewel Marcum Park, complete with a fountain, significant programming, an outdoor stage, etc.
* Nice array of cultural amenities including several local museums & theaters, Artspace lofts, many restaurants & bars, and some live music venues.
* There has been a wonderful resurgence of locally owned shops, boutiques, cafes Dwtn and across the river in nearby Rossville. The main post office and library are also located here. No large retail stores or grocery stores however.
* High level of ADA infrastructure. Very comfortable to walk here. 


* Not great public transit. Some shuttles run by Butler County but the system is not really tied into the Cincinnati public system.
* Generally very affordable for-sale and rental product. Nice homes in German Village selling btwn 75K-100K. Larger mansions in the 200Ks. Not a ton of rental product listed dwtn, but higher end product slowly coming starting with the Marcum apts.
* Limited ethnic and household diversity dwtn.
* There is a public elementary school and Catholic grade school located just south of Dwtn.
* Very low density. This partially is to be expected as this is a mid-sized dwtn.