Since 2009, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful has been changing the urban landscape by enhancing vacant buildings with painted representations of doors, windows, awnings, and flower boxes. Contrary to the Broken Window Theory, which claims that blighted buildings encourage more and more neglect, enhanced vacant buildings seem to have the opposite effect. They cultivate community pride, deter vandalism, and spur investment.

Our process for enhancing buildings is simple and cost-effective. We use a limited color palette so that maintenance is a breeze, and we employ a “paint by layers” method so that co-op students and volunteer groups can easily step in to help at any time. To date, we have enhanced over 850 abandoned buildings in more than a dozen Cincinnati neighborhoods.

Once our staff has acquired permission from a property owner, we work on a design that complements the architecture of the building. Once we have that, our team goes out and paints doors and windows on the barricades of the vacant building. In other words, we’re not making any structural changes to the building, we’re just improving the façade. Once a building is completed, we monitor the site regularly for graffiti or other vandalism. However, we rarely encounter either!

Here’s a time lapse video of a building we completed in East Price Hill: