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The Seeds of Change Grow in Walnut Hills

Historic renovations and infill projects across the neighborhood are attracting entrepreneurs and community partners.

by John Fox

ArtWorks is renovating an empty 1909 building on Gilbert Avenue that once housed a paint store and an appliance store. The work will attempt to keep as many historical features as possible, including the front signage and a vintage cabinet (pictured above). ArtWorks is creating studios on the third floor to house work space for visual and video artists in the same building as administrative staff for the first time. The studios, as well as a new “art park” across the street, will welcome community participation.

The Gilbert Avenue and McMillan Street corridor is seeing additional renovations to serve as offices and work spaces for MORTAR, DanceFix, and other cultural businesses. Construction at the old Kroger site, led by Model Group, will bring more than 100 new housing units online starting this summer. The nearby Thatcher Flats project, developed by Pennrose, will open 50 housing units this summer as well.

The Paramount Building was always a high-profile anchor at the corner of Gilbert and McMillan when Walnut Hills was once considered Cincinnati’s “second downtown.” The corner is humming again, now that The Aperture restaurant has joined Esoteric Brewing and upstairs apartment dwellers. Chef Jordan Anthony-Brown opened The Aperture in January after years of pandemic delays. It was recently named one of the Top 10 New Restaurants in the region by Cincinnati Magazine.

Woodburn Brewing opened in Walnut Hills in 2016 and, like a number of hospitality businesses, closed during the early pandemic. Blue Ash-based March First Brewing reopened it in 2021 with the Woodburn name and beers intact, and it continues to help anchor the Woodburn Avenue business district.

The new breakfast/lunch restaurant Rose Garden is the latest Black-owned small business on McMillan Street. Developers working with the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation on housing and retail projects have had success recruiting entrepreneurs to invest in the neighborhood.

The Walnut Hills public library is the city’s oldest neighborhood branch, opening in 1906. The original Carnegie Library building was renovated and expanded to 20,000 square feet total with a new addition opening in 2022. Located just behind the Model Group housing development, the facility has seven meeting rooms and a large community space.

Photographs by HATSUE