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

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* 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.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* 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.

Downtown Reading, PA

Downtown is generally between Walnut to the north and Chesnutt to the south and from the River east to about S 8th St. Penn and 5th Avenue are the main Dwtn Thorofares with Penn being primarily retail and commercial and 5th very mixed-use and institutional.

Downtown Reading represents eastern Pennsylvania development patterns well… dense attached buildings developed in a mixed-use pattern before more seperated business districts gained momentum in the early 20th century. And due to Reading’s post War II economic slump, urban renewal was limited in Downtown Reading, leaving most of its historic and dense fabric intact. Downtown Reading is one of most dense Mid-sized Downtowns in America! But it still remains pretty economically depressed and therefore trendy restaurants, bars, shops, and entertainment venues in more successful dwtns don’t exist here. Instead many Hispanic restaurants and grocerias exist along with lowerend shopping options. I hope the fabric doesn’t change much for Downtown Reading, but I do hope more revitalization occurs bringing more economic diversity and amenities to the district.

Click here to view my Downtown Reading Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Around 10K per square mile, very dense for a Dwtn district.
* Very mixed use Dwtn.
* Great historic architecture.
*  Pretty good cultural amenities including a lot of ethnic restaurants, some bars, a cineplex, several performing arts centers, a hocky arena, and convention center.
* Good amount of retail but more working class stores. No supermarket by lots of ethnic grocerias and clothing joints.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Plenty of grit and buildings needed revitalizing in parts. Some vancancies.
* Limited surface parking and dead spaces.
* Missing higher end restaurants and bars of more revitalized Dwtns.
* Nice bike trail along the river but very limited within Dwtn and within Reading neighborhoods. Also no bike share in the City.