Strongest Town 2022, Round 1: Chauncey, OH vs. Norwood, OH

STC+5

Entry submitted by: Alisha Loch.

What is your favorite thing about your town?

There are many favorite things, but the size and compactness might top the list! We are an urban small town, nestled inside the city of Cincinnati, but independent. Our size makes it possible for us to come together to achieve great community feats! We know each other and mostly work together. We attend the same few neighborhood schools and our children come together for middle and high school. Our city council, administration, and school board are accessible to hear and answer us, and they live in this shared small community. We are socioeconomically diverse but live together and frequent the same churches, restaurants, schools, and grocery stores. It’s really incredible and affords us so much opportunity!

What is the biggest challenge your town faces, and what are you doing to address it?

The community’s perception of itself. In the days of the General Motors (GM) plant and a few other manufacturing factories, Norwood was thriving. Since many of those have closed, most notably GM, money became a huge issue and the city saw significant decline. The money is a real challenge, but greater than that is the challenge of how defeated the population often feels. There’s a lack of trust in city administration and in newcomers and a negative shadow has been cast on the city.

To overcome this challenge—still a work in progress—many groups of residents have joined together on multiple fronts! One group of women combated the negative/unfruitful Facebook community groups by creating the intentionally encouraging/productive “Norwood Organized Women (making a difference NOW)” FB group. This group created a scholarship for girls in high school, collected supplies for tornado relief, helped out aging neighbors, supported campaigns for new city leadership, and provided a safe space for women in the community to move our neighborhoods in a positive direction. We also created “Norwood Deserves Beautiful Things” yard signs

Another endeavor was taken on by Norwood Together to organize now three annual historic homes tours throughout the city. These have been a wonderful way to showcase Norwood’s beauty and uniqueness and create a sense of pride in the neighborhoods

Residents have created community councils, raised money for micro parks, made an official week for porch parties, and organized many small and successful events that all are welcome to and enjoy (like the upcoming parade organized to cheer on the Bengals).

We are changing the perception and connecting/empowering residents!

What transportation options exist in your town for people of varying ages, abilities, and means? How easy is it to live in your town without regular access to a car? What transportation investments has your town recently made or is it in the process of making?

We have a main bus line through our city; it is not impossible, but not easy to live in our town without regular access to a car, but we are working on that. We have the bones for a walkable neighborhood, with neighborhood schools and corner stores, and we are a city of only three square miles, but it is auto-centric. The city now has an improvement plan for our main thoroughfare to increase its walkability—to make it safer and more enjoyable. We’re working to attract more businesses to fill vacant storefronts and give us more to walk to.

We also now have a bike trail bordering our south side that the city and community has supported and we are working to connect that trail up through our city to a park near our middle and high schools. This would be huge and would help increase mobility for our non-driving youth.

Tell us about your community’s local economy. Who are the key players, big and small, and how do they help your town to be financially strong and resilient? What local businesses are you most proud of?

We are proud of our many local businesses. UDF and Shepherd Chemical are big players, with factories and several office buildings in our city, and they do much to give back to the community. Kroger is based in Cincinnati (that surrounds us) and also does a lot for our community, providing a convenient place for groceries and also giving back to our community through many donations.

We have several small businesses that the community works to support and they in turn support the community. The Indian Mound Café is definitely one that comes to mind!

A new development we are excited about is Factory 52. It will be an area that has apartments, public spaces, a brewery, and a market house. It is on the site of the very special U.S. Playing Card Factory, an iconic building that once housed a company that meant a lot to this community. They’ve been able to preserve the clock tower, as they renovated the property. We are very excited for it to be opening soon. 

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