Reconnecting a Community

Rookwood pavilion was a dying center. At 650,000 square feet, it was too large. The owners were unable to keep tenants and negotiate appropriate rents. It no longer fit today’s retail needs or the needs of the community. It was designed to maximize square footage by turning its back to the community. Augmenting the problem is a very poor vehicular circulation network resulting in exhaustively crowded access and egress points. The center was designed with no green space, narrow sidewalks, and blind intersections, causing a dangerously unhealthy condition between vehicles and pedestrians. The two center layout meant shoppers drove from one side to the other, instead of walking.

The Solution

We realized early on that the success of Rookwood is directly proportional to the surrounding community and how it connects to the community. Cincinnati is an array of small to medium sized legacy villages. All with a town square, a mixed-use section including retail and restaurants with office and multifamily. The location of the center placed the project in Norwood – due to the community’s tax relief and incentives, made it excellent for office development. Being on the other side of the freeway placed its physical location in Oakley and Hyde Park – two high-income urban-suburban neighborhoods. Also, after examining the rent-roll, it was determined that within five years, 85% of all tenants leases would be turning – a perfect time to plan a new destination. Knowing the center could no longer support its mass, yet maximizing the ROI to the owner was paramount, we identified a concept that would transform the dying center into a new legacy village: Rookwood.

We first created a relief valve to the vehicular path by adding a new entry/exit point. We then used the new circulation network to create a connected shopping experience, eliminating the two center concept. Working with a development consultant we determined a strategy of building new and tearing down old minimizing the impact of rent reduction. This process positioned key tenants the owner wanted to keep but allowed the less desirables to walk, freeing the team to create a new merchandising plan that would maximize the return on a reduced retail footprint (425,000 square feet). The true value came by opening the edges to the surrounding community and creating a heart at the center of the plan. By adding new uses, such as multifamily, office and senior living, planning for the bus transit hub, and connecting the new city-wide bike trail network, we established a true walkable, connected community whose value increased exponentially, in both value and place.



Master Planning, Site Planning, Architecture


Retail Center, Mixed-use, Multi-family Residential




Norwood, Cincinnati, Ohio

Project Lead

Brett Kratzer

Project Team

CJ Lindberg, Tyler Zembrodt, Ryan Johnson, Corey Mai, Brian Murray