In the early 1980’s, with the
leadership of Jim Tarbell, local businessmen, activists and civic
leaders Fred Berger, Walter Gabennesch, Kim Krause, Dick Thomas and Bob
Wimberg, concerned that the needs and the opportunities of
Over-the-Rhine were great, and that an organization to address them did
not exist, formed the neighborhood Chamber of Commerce,
before the OTR Chamber acquired it’s official 501c6 designation, this
group had secured the National Historic Register recognition for the
entire 360 acre foot print of the OTR neighborhood. OTR has the largest
collection of 19th century Italianate architecture than any district in
the United State an asset that continues to be a core value and appeal
of the area.
In spring of 1985, the group’s first meeting was
upstairs at Grammer’s Restaurant where Jim Tarbell was named president
of the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce, dedicated to improving civic
involvement and rebuilding the inner city. Early members included Diane
and Bill Smart, Marge Hammelrath, Mary Bonansinga, Tom Denhart and Joe
Gorman. Monthly meetings moved from one business and establishment to
another so members became familiar and supportive of one another. (This
tradition continues today with monthly lunch meetings and various
networking activities in a variety of businesses in OTR.)
the beginning, Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce has actively
encouraged the maintenance and establishment of businesses in the area.
About the same time the OTR Chamber began, Terry Carter opened Neon’s
bar and nightclub. This was the catalyst that began the revival of the
Main Street Entertainment District. Numerous clubs, restaurants and
bars lined Main Street and entertained nearly a million visitors a
Cincinnati is rich in volunteerism and philanthropy. In early 2000 with the energy and support of the OTR Chamber, the OTR Revitalization Corporation was spun off as a 501c3 organization, to tap into the grants
and fiscal gifts available to generate street animation and activity
for the businesses and residents of Over-the-Rhine. Together these two
organizations work hand in hand to bring special events, attentions,
awareness, resources and commerce to the 360-acre neighborhood.
community's proximity to downtown and major transportation corridors
and its lower property values and rents have attracted these investors,
just as similar factors attracted Over-the-Rhine's original builders
150 years earlier. The neighborhood's architectural character and sense
of time and place also have been major factors in attracting new
businesses. Some shops provide for the community's residents, while
others attract customers from throughout Greater Cincinnati.
Findlay Market is Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market and
one of Over-the-Rhine’s most cherished institutions. Findlay Market is
home year-around to about two-dozen indoor merchants selling meat,
fish, poultry, produce, flowers, cheese, deli, and ethnic foods. More
than an exchange of commerce, Findlay is a gathering place attracts
perhaps the most socially, economically, racially, and ethnically
diverse crowds found anywhere in Cincinnati.
throughout the neighborhood are small groceries, specialty stores,
restaurants, and light industrial shops. Most conspicuous is the large
collection of arts and cultural related buildings including Music Hall,
Memorial Hall, Emery and Ensemble Theatre.
An issue that the
founders and the current leadership of the OTR Chamber face is
maintaining high quality, affordable housing for low-income residents
while attracting market-driven, middle- and higher-income housing thus
insuring the economic stability of the neighborhood.
Chamber stays responsive to the needs of members and the community. In
recent history, the OTR Chamber developed an anti-drug program with
targeted police details to reduce the criminal activity related to
illegal drug trafficking. The safety sector meetings successfully
facilitate open dialogue between police officers, safety ambassadors,
businessmen and residents in the various districts in the neighborhood.
its inception, the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce has grown to 500
members, making it the largest neighborhood Chamber of Commerce in
Cincinnati. In 2004 it formed a partnership with the Greater Cincinnati
Chamber of Commerce to strengthen its influence and to offer added
benefits for members and the community.
Today, the OTR Chamber
of Commerce is the lifeblood of the neighborhood, supporting all facets
of the neighborhood – commerce, community and lifestyle. The OTRCC
provides a forum for diverse interests: businesses, developers,
property owners, residents, arts organizations and social service