Skywalks. "Modern" ideas of the late 60's/early 70's born out of a major city's desire to keep shoppers downtown and out of the suburban, indoor shopping mall. These enclosed bridges crisscrossing over city streets were envisioned to network hotels, office buildings and retail centers. In the summer months they kept pedestrians cool with air conditioning and warm in the winter months with heat. Ideally, these skywalks would provide one of the largest conveniences of the suburban shopping mall while keeping businesses downtown. The skywalk sounds like a great idea with the best intentions at heart, but there are those that argue they do more harm than good and over the past decades skywalks have had mixed results. This is especially evident in Cincinnati.
Many major cities began building networks of skywalks in the early 70's. In cities that featured much harsher winter climates like Chicago, Minneapolis, and St. Paul; Skywalks became relatively successful. In Cincinnati, however, the skywalks deteriorated over time and became an eyesore for many. Originally designed to link Cincinnati's hotel, commercial and retail business to a brand new convention center; the skywalks have become somewhat of their own "downtown ghost town."
Cincinnati's Skywalk is quite interesting to say the least. Along the route you can find many neat attractions and features of the city. Many parts of it are well kept and maintained, while others seem to have fallen into disrepair and feature old signage and panhandlers. The skywalk route is often hard to navigate. The day a friend and I tried to walk it all, taking photographs, we encountered numerous dead ends and sections where we had to go back down the street level and outside to reconnect with the skywalk...kind of defeating it's purpose. There are also a few sections that are above ground, yet are open air, again, defeating the purpose.
The Skywalk is mostly utilized during business days by those working in the numerous office towers it connects. For others, it seems to be just a confusing network of above ground tunnels. With the recent success of the Fountain Square renovations and a push to complete "The Banks" and a new riverfront park, one is left to wonder how useful the Cincinnati Skywalk still is and whether it's worth it for the city to continue maintaining these bridges above the city streets. Have a look for yourself by checking out this interactive, virtual tour of the Cincinnati Skywalk that I created.
Do you ever utilize the Skywalk? Do you think it should be kept around, expanded, torn down or renovated? Feel free to leave a comment in the section below. Thanks for reading!
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Previous Update: February 7, 2009 :: Cincinnati's Forgotten Railroad History.