Findlay Market and the Findlay Market District are located in downtown Cincinnati in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Over-the-Rhine is adjacent to the central business district and home to the nation's largest surviving tract of late 19th century Italianate architecture. It is both a local and national historic district. Findlay Market itself, an unusual iron framed public market house built in 1852, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The city's historic conservation guidelines describe Over-the-Rhine as, "a dense urban area that displays a visual continuity conveying a sense of time and place." The Findlay Market district within Over-the-Rhine, the guidelines state, "is characterized by residential buildings, including single-family homes, multi-family buildings, and apartments located above first-floor storefronts."
In 1995, the City of Cincinnati's Departments of Economic Development and Public Works commissioned a master business development plan for revitalizing Findlay Market. The planning process involved public officials, market merchants, neighborhood representatives, market shoppers, and several national experts on public markets. The resulting master plan was adopted by Cincinnati City Council in December 1995 and continues to guide the revitalization of Findlay Market and its surroundings. Pursuant to the plan, The Corporation for Findlay Market was founded in 2000 to become the private, non-profit management organization for Findlay Market and to lead the market's revitalization.
The revitalization plan proposed that, "the properties in the area surrounding the Market House, designated as Market Square, be recognized as an extension of the market and their physical elements and tenant mix be managed to complement the other market components... This area is particularly important because it acts as an extension of the market. It has the opportunity to be very special with special types of vendors... or to have special amenities such as restaurants that have sidewalk cafes on the Market Square itself." Regarding residential development, the plan states, "The issue of increasing the number of housing units in the Findlay neighborhood is very important to the long term success of the market. More residents in the area will provide a ready customer base for the market vendors... They will come through the week when the market is less busy thus providing a more even flow of income for vendors."
In June 2002, Cincinnati City Council adopted an Over-the-Rhine Comprehensive Plan. According to then-Mayor Charlie Luken, the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood plan is, "the product of years of painstaking dialogues, debates, and decisions. It is the outcome of a process... that involved hundreds of people who live, work, and play in Over-the-Rhine." The plan identifies Findlay Market as a key development asset and envisions, "Findlay Market is a food and flowers district that is eventually seen as a daily market for residents of Over-the-Rhine and outlying neighborhoods with additional restaurants and housing." The plan includes market rate residential development adjacent to Findlay Market among its housing priorities. Its economic development goals include, "Focus marketing of retail space around Findlay Market for local, specialty, and international food products and services," and, "Enhance Findlay Market as a regional destination by expanding the market and targeting renovation of the surrounding buildings."
Since adoption of the plans noted above, Findlay Market has become a center of economic development in Over-the-Rhine. The City of Cincinnati invested more than $18 million in the market's revitalization between 1995 and 2004. In 2006, the Corporation's Board of Directors prioritized the need to accelerate development in the blocks surrounding Findlay Market to address blight and building vacancies that threaten the market's successful revitalization. The board concluded that the Corporation needed to take a leadership role in this process. Cincinnati City Council named The Corporation for Findlay Market its Preferred Developer for 39 city-owned properties near the market in June 2006.
Since then, the Corporation has acquired several additional properties, including a parking lot, on or immediately adjacent to the Market Square. The Corporation wishes to see the city-owned real estate and other properties in the market district developed by third parties in a manner that supports Findlay Market revitalization. The Corporation will hold land, define major functions and urban development guidelines for key sections of the district (such as a parking strategy for the market that also provides general benefits to the entire district), offer land/development opportunities to private developers that are consistent with those guidelines, and form innovative financial strategies to assist such projects. It will honor and encourage development entities and organizations that have expressed interest in this district or begun development efforts, but will do so within an organized vision of the district that is fully compatible with Findlay Market revitalization, the Over-the-Rhine Comprehensive Plan, and the distinctive historic character of the neighborhood.