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Represent: Growing the Black-Owned Business Community in Over-the-Rhine

Over-the-Rhine, a historically Black neighborhood just north of Downtown Cincinnati, with its photogenic architecture and allure, has been experiencing significant redevelopment since the early 2000s - often at the expense of black businesses whose longstanding consumers have been priced out of the neighborhood. Could a newly created initiative help to strengthen the ecosystem for Black businesses, thus allowing them to remain and thrive?


In 2018, the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with MORTAR, an entrepreneurial capacity building organization, launched Represent, an initiative to strengthen the neighborhood’s Black business ecosystem and engaged Urbane to support them in this pursuit. 


Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce


2018 - 2019

Select Services

Mixed Methods Research

Stakeholder Engagement

Marketing Awareness Campaign 

Capital Attraction Collateral 

Strategic Recommendations



The Cincinnati Music Hall, in Over-The-Rhine, Cincinnati, Ohio

The arrival of high-end retail, amenities, and luxury housing in the historically black neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine has forced many residents to leave the neighborhood for more affordable areas. This migration has ultimately eroded Over-the-Rhine’s Black business community as their consumer base has fundamentally changed. Urbane was hired by the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce to develop a series of strategies that different stakeholder groups, including city agencies, local developers, and business attraction organizations, can use to support Represent’s efforts.  

Over the course of 4 months, Urbane performed a blend of primary and secondary research to better understand the social, economic, and business context of the neighborhood. Urbane reviewed demographic data and performed market analysis on commercial and consumer trends. This was followed by a literature review that examined barriers to and opportunities for Black entrepreneurship, the effects of neighborhood change, and best practices employed by other cities in the region.  

Urbane also identified and led 15 stakeholder interviews to glean insights into the lending landscape, the policy environment, and other factors impacting the Black business community.  Lastly, Urbane facilitated 2 charrettes with existing and aspiring Black business owners and residents of the neighborhood to understand the challenges businesses seeking to grow face in Over-the-Rhine.  

The project culminated in a set of strategies that can increase the number of Black-owned businesses in the area with an eye towards attracting and retaining new businesses. This was codified in a public-facing campaign flyer designed to communicate Represent’s mission and strategies. Urbane also produced a pitch deck intended for members of the organization to seek additional funding sources for future programming and initiatives. 

A recent article in Soapboax Cincinnati, Why Cities Matter More Than Ever, discusses economic development and gentrification in Over-the-Rhine, and also touches upon our work there, including some quotes from James Johnson-Piett.

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OTR has become a regional, if not a national, draw. But is it inclusive? No, it could be better.

- Conrad Kickert, Assistant Professor, University of Buffalo

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