Between 2006 and 2016, The Hillside Trust acquired 3.86 acres of land in a deep ravine between Egbert and Clifton Avenues adjacent to the Millcreek Expressway. This small oasis of green space has a fascinating history.
During the early 1990s, it was marketed unsuccessfully with schematic plans to build a mid-rise residential tower. Prior to the adoption of a new citywide zoning code in early 2004, there was a rush to submit hillside development plans under the City’s outgoing Environmental Quality (EQ) Hillside District regulations. Clifton was one of three neighborhoods, along with Mt. Adams and East Price Hill, where large-scale hillside development plans were submitted at the eleventh hour for consideration under the old rules. The former EQ districts were generally more lenient insofar as permitting greater development density. In Clifton, for example, the former EQ District would permit 47 units within this ravine area, whereas the new Hillside Overlay District (HOD) would only permit five.
Several weeks before the new HOD code took effect a development plan for 22 units of attached townhouses was submitted for approval. The Hillside Trust joined with neighbors to oppose this plan based on three primary concerns. One, the ravine was part of a large natural drainage system that moved large volumes of storm water. Two, the site was comprised of lakebed clays that are notoriously associated with hillside instability and land sliding. Three, in the 1800s the ravine once impounded water as a turn around for canal boats that traversed the Miami and Erie Canal. Due to the long-term impoundment of water, a large amount of sediment built up in the ravine. The depth to bedrock was estimated to be upwards of 50 feet. Consequently, any development would be complicated and problematic.
In a surprising turn of events, the development team backed out of the project several months after it was approved due to financial difficulties. With a new opportunity to control the destiny of the property, an adjacent neighbor Ed Horgan stepped in a made a series of purchases to acquire 11 parcels of land within and around the former development.
Due to income tax consideration, Mr. Horgan donated half the acreage to The Hillside Trust in 2006, and the other half in 2016. Today, this green space is one of 29 properties The Hillside Trust owns within the region.