By Spencer de Tenley and Lucy Kramer, Multimedia Managing Editor and Staff Writer
The Wasson Way trail expansion is quickly approaching, with a connection coming right through Xavier.
The new connection has raised some concerns over the possibility of gentrification in neighborhoods surrounding Xavier.
The frequently used section of trail near campus that runs parallel to Dana Avenue will continue construction in the coming months with a new part that “will go west of campus on an uninhabited part of campus in Evanston and north Avondale,” Sean V. McGrory, a member of the Wasson Way Board of Directors, stated.
Xavier has partnered with Tri-State-Trails, Crown, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the City of Cincinnati and the City of Norwood to bring the expansion through campus.
The trail is expected to expand transportation around Cincinnati for Xavier students, especially commuters and off-campus residents. With biking in mind, Liz Blume, Director of the Community Building Institute, mentions that the Wasson Way expansion “is a great opportunity for all the students who live close to, but off campus.”
This new expansion, while being a potential time saver for many students commuting to class, will also connect Xavier’s campus to downtown Cincinnati and to the University of Cincinnati.
In addition to connecting to downtown and UC, the expansion will connect to a larger regional trail system across the city and provide another amenity for students living at the University Station apartments. With projected additional foliage and foot traffic near the University Station, Blume adds that, “it will make University Station a more attractive location for tenants and retailers who want to be near the bikeway.”
Xavier fell under criticism due to its involvement in recent vandalism along the existing Wasson Way.
Back in August of this year, Xavier students were found to be in connection to the destruction of trees along the trail; many of these trees were planted by volunteers and local business owners and were planted in honor of past and present community members.
After the destruction of these trees, Xavier released a statement apologizing for the damage, and the perpetrators were reprimanded.
“We want to make sure that we’re communicating to the larger community that we’re a good partner. We really want this, and our students are enthusiastic about it,” Blume said.
On the citywide scale, concerns about gentrification have arisen in the neighborhoods of Evanston and Avondale.
Gentrification in Avondale has been historically prevalent with the construction of I-71 in the 1960’s and the Uptown Innovation Corridor more recently; thus, Tri-State Trails and Wasson Way have partnered with the Avondale Development Corp. to be more acutely intertwined with the concerns. This partnership poses the opportunity for trailside affordable housing, but Tri-state Trails and Wasson Way agree it would be a challenge.
Rachel Culley, Tri-state Trails GIS Analyst and Planner, acknowledges that “The trail will raise property values, and it does have the possibility to displace people if they aren’t able to secure their homes or secure property nearby” mentioning that Tri-state Trails tries to approach trails with a holistic view. “We’re thinking a lot about different affordable housing policies, economic development policies, zoning that we could potentially get put in place before the trail is acquired or constructed,” she adds.
Despite this, no policies or laws have been put in place to protect Avondale community members from displacement thus far. “We need to be making investments to make these neighborhoods better; this represents one of them,” Blume states.Even with the concerns about gentrification, increased living standards in the neighborhoods are the project’s central focus. Blume says that “the overall intention in a city should be that all neighborhoods are wonderful places to live, so making investments in the things that make places wonderful to live in is a good thing,” Adding that “We’re not going to make improvements and investments that make the quality of life better in poor neighborhoods because it might trigger gentrification.”