Dr. Know: A Cartoon Intersection, Clifton Heights Development, and So Long Skywalk

The good doctor explores troubling issues, including Madisonville’s intersection of Homer and Simpson, the evolution of the former Reflections nightclub, and the actual utility of the Skywalk.

I know this is a stupid question. I recently moved to Madisonville, which is delightful in many ways. And I discovered two streets here, right next to each other, named Homer and Simpson! D’oh! It’s a coincidence, of course. But do these streets have any interesting stories? —I DON’T HAVE A COW

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Shall we be kind, dear Reader, and simply blame the stress of the past year for this person’s question? Or, following the Doctor’s recent attempt to find Cincinnati’s oldest working telephone number (November 2020), might we suspect an attempt to up the ante of triviality?

There is, it seems, a lukewarm factoid here. When Madisonville was annexed by the city of Cincinnati in 1911, all of its street names that matched Cincinnati streets had to be changed. Subsequently, Main Street was turned into Madison, Central to Whetzel, Clason to Roe, etc. Kemper and Columbia Avenues became extensions of Erie. As for your streets of interest, Simpson Avenue had no conflict and was left alone. Oddly, Home Avenue became Homer—the only name that was slightly modified rather than completely changed. That’s as exhilarating as it gets. If only city officials could have foreseen the future, they would have renamed other adjacent streets Marge and Lisa, guaranteeing Madisonville a warmhearted segment on CBS Sunday Morning. Alas, no one knew.

In my University of Cincinnati days, there was a popular club at the corner of Vine and Calhoun, and its name changed as music tastes evolved: Reflections, Prime Time, etc. Now the corner is just an empty concrete slab. Big plans are announced every few years, but nothing happens. Is anything brewing at my old haunt? —I SHOULD BE DANCING

That sad Clifton Heights location might try erecting a haunted house, as it seems to be cursed. The corner did well for years as a nightclub, often changing its name and ambiance as UC students flocked to whichever hot music trend inspired their dreams of hookups and hangovers. If, as you say, you enjoyed the period when it was called both Reflections and Prime Time—you left out Lighthouse Ltd. and Burgundy’s—please accept the Doctor’s condolences. Earning your diploma seems to have taken an exceedingly long time.

The worn-out building was demolished in 2006, leaving a concrete vacant lot. It has since suffered many best laid plans of several owners; handsome computer renderings of shiny edifices have come and gone. The last significant proposal was in 2016, envisioning a hotel, apartments, ground-floor retail, and an underground garage. What do we see so far? A concrete vacant lot. The current owners tell the Doctor that new plans are pending and will be announced soon, so if you want to return to UC for your Doctorate in Delayed Adulthood, things look promising. Again.

One of the last Cincinnati Skywalk segments recently came down. I’m too young to remember the Skywalk at its peak, but all I ever hear is negative stuff about it. Did anybody ever like the Skywalk? Was it ever successful? If so, what went wrong? When did it go sour? —WALK ME BACK

In a city with a Brent Spence Bridge, please do not frighten the Doctor with a sentence like, “A Skywalk segment recently came down.” Something like “A Skywalk segment was recently removed” is less triggering, thank you.

The Cincinnati Skywalk, started in 1971, was a good idea that worked well until it didn’t. It offered a sheltered, traffic-free experience from the Convention Center to Riverfront Stadium, with shopping and socializing for everyone. But it abandoned many retailers on the streets, accelerating the decline of downtown.

The story is more complicated than that, but as to whether the Skywalk ever had enthusiastic supporters, the answer is yes. Many would still claim that had the project not taken so long (26 years) or had it been mapped differently or financed more efficiently or been more supportive of street-level merchants or clearer about who was supposed to pay for maintenance . . . well, you see the problem. Miraculous solutions sometimes backfire. Ask anyone who invested their life savings in asbestos.

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