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Business accelerator opening storefront in OTR


Business accelerator MORTAR is opening a storefront at 1327 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine to provide space for entrepreneurs to operate their businesses while taking full advantage of support services. Called Brick OTR, the space hosts its first brand, Originalitees, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 28.
 
“We took a step back and looked at the landscape of Cincinnati,” says William Thomas II, leadership strategist and business developer for MORTAR. “The city is on the brink of a major comeback, and we wanted to make sure we were growing collectively. We also saw there were many others who wanted to take part in the progress who are often overlooked.”
 
Thomas and his partners Derrick Braziel and Allen Woods realized that many of OTR’s longtime residents were getting left behind as the neighborhood’s landscape was changing. MORTAR is designed to provide support for entrepreneurs or business owners who face barriers, including race, socioeconomic status, access to capital or institutional expertise.
 
MORTAR is open to entrepreneurs who have the desire to take their idea, listen to feedback, pivot and do what's needed to succeed.
 
“Our plan is to assist these entrepreneurs, whether they’re starting a new business or growing an existing business throughout the course, mentorship and continued guidance,” Braziel says.
 
The storefront is only 380 square feet but has the space for up to two businesses at a time. Businesses can rent out Brick OTR for a day, a week or a month, so the brands you see will be constantly changing. Follow Brick OTR on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for upcoming concepts.
 
“One week you might stop in and see two brands working side-by-side, and next time one brand will have the entire space,” Thomas says. “We want to encourage people to stop in frequently because you never know what you’ll find.”
 
Brick OTR is currently only in Over-the-Rhine, but MORTAR’s goal for the coming years is to have multiple locations in underserved areas all over the city.

Hotel, apartments, parking garage coming to Newport riverfront

An $80 million development is in the works for Newport’s riverfront. Dubbed Aqua on the Levee by developer Capital Investment Group, the project will include a hotel, apartment complex and parking garage next to Newport on the Levee.
 
The 144-room, seven-story hotel will feature loft-style guest rooms and a 10,000-square-foot meeting space for events. The 238 apartments will sit atop an 800-space parking garage. Prices for the one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments are yet to be determined.
 
Price Group, which owns Newport on the Levee, has committed $12.5 million to build 305 spaces in the parking garage for Levee visitors as well as a common area to connect the Levee to the new hotel and apartment complex.
 
A hotel was part of the plan for Newport on the Levee back in the late ‘90s, but it was never built after the project opened in 2001. The lot east of the Levee was a surface parking lot until it was closed down last month to make way for Aqua on the Levee.
 
The parking garage will be built first and the apartments are expected to be completed in fall 2016, with the hotel projected to open in late 2016 or early 2017.

Coffeeshop brings slice of Americana to Ludlow, Ky.

Two and a half years ago, Matt and Mary Williams purchased the building at 332 Elm St. in Ludlow, Ky., at the insistence of their late friend Mike Amann, founder of BLDG. They moved in upstairs and a month ago opened Folk School Coffee Parlor in the first-floor retail space.
 
“It’s an attempt to keep the community alive and the shared knowledge aspect of traditional American arts, tied into the local folk/Americana music scene,” says Casey Campbell, who manages the Folk School.
 
The Folk School offers small Americana-based workshops, including beginners guitar and mandolin, clawhammer banjo and songwriting workshops. The classes aren’t all music related, and there are plans to have a few installations from local visual artists as well as a series of rotating resident artists, gallery showings and hands-on workshops.
 
In January, Folk School will start offering masters series classes, with the first featuring renowned recording artist Jeff Plankenhorn.  
 
“Folk is a very broad term, but I regard true folk arts as something that has its heart and roots in traditional American storytelling and mediums, quilt-making, songs of protest and worker’s rights, and banjos and fiddles playing two-step music no matter the decade it was written,” Campbell says. “Folk can be whatever you want it to be. But I think of it as something that ties me to a time way past my own, like a black-and-white picture of something extraordinarily familiar.”
 
Everything at Folk School is small batch, including a limited food menu. But you can enjoy Grateful Grahams, Whirlybird Granola and Dean’s Mediterranean while you sip coffee from Deeper Roots.
 
“Ludlow is on the cusp of bringing in a top-notch arts and entertainment scene to an area that is still run by quiet side streets and people that live and work in peace,” Campbell says. “It’s the epitome of small town by the big town.”
 
Folk School is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Keep tabs on Folk School’s calendar for upcoming classes and installations.

CAC to get artistic new lobby, hours in 2015


The Contemporary Arts Center’s Kaplan Hall lobby will close to visitors Jan. 6 for a $1.1 million renovation, which was designed and will be completed by FRCH Design Worldwide. The CAC will remain open during construction, and the lobby is scheduled to reopen March 13.
 
Lobby renovations include a new lounge space, a café and a relocated welcome desk and gift shop. The café will offer coffee, breakfast, lunch and evening treats and will have an open layout with communal tables. The new lounge area will feature lounge chairs and sofas, artistic lighting and a series of art installations.
 
The welcome desk, which is currently off to the side by the elevator, is being moved so the staff can better greet CAC visitors. The gift shop will be moved to a more central location, and its inventory will become a better curated collection that highlights local, national and international artists and artisanal items.
 
The new lobby will feature commissioned artwork from three artists: Cincinnatian Matt Kotlarczyk will create two large-scale chandeliers that will resemble clouds and water; Assume Vivid Astro Focus, whose founders are based out of NYC and Paris, will create expressive wallpaper and wall paintings; and Erwin Redl of Bowling Green, Ohio, will develop an installation to cover the entire "urban carpet" from the lobby up to the sixth floor of the CAC.
 
The CAC is also in talks with AVAF for a large-scale mural on the building's exterior.
 
The CAC’s hours will change beginning in March. The gallery will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Monday and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday. The lobby and café will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday.
 
During the renovation process, visitors will enter the CAC through the door next to the loading dock on Sixth Street, and admission will be free during construction.

Urban Sites creating living, working spaces in OTR

Across the street from the Emery Theatre, Urban Sites is redeveloping two buildings, located at 1123 and 1125 Walnut St. The buildings will yield 16 units—14 apartments and two commercial spaces.
 
Sixteen years ago, the city loaned money to a developer to renovate the buildings. The developer defaulted on the loan, and Urban Sites purchased the property and began construction a few weeks ago.
 
The 14 market-rate apartments will all be two-bedroom, and are slated to be completed next summer. Each is about 800 square feet, and still has the original wood floors and fireplace facades intact. A small, concrete courtyard connects the two buildings.

“There are lots of young professionals and people who work downtown here, and we want people who work down here and love OTR to live here,” says Seth Maney, vice president of development for Urban Sites.

Urban Sites was founded in the '80s, and since then has focused much of its development south of Liberty Street in Over-the-Rhine. But the developer recently purchased the 40,000-square-foot film center building just north of Liberty.
 
“We’re currently working with Findlay Market to understand their needs, and we’ve been approached by several companies about the building too,” Maney says. “It’s still in the early stages, but it’s one of a few large office buildings like it.”

To date, Urban Sites has redeveloped 400 apartments and more than 100,000 square feet of retail and office space. Almost 100 percent of the developer’s units are occupied, but 70 more will soon be online.
 

Leadership Cincinnati designs projects to strengthen region

Every year, Leadership Cincinnati develops projects that will benefit Greater Cincinnati—the charitable pharmacy at St. Vincent de Paul, Cincy Red Bike, Crayons to Computers and the Power Pack Program at Freestore Foodbank all began at Leadership Cincinnati. 
 
In its 38th year, Leadership Cincinnati is made up of people who are in senior management at both for-profit and nonprofit companies and organizations. As a class, they focus on what will help make the region stronger.
 
“We seek to have a diversified class each year, and have a mix of people who come from many different backgrounds,” says Dan Hurley, who is in his seventh year as director of Leadership Cincinnati. “The theme is bridging the gap—how do we identify, learn about, understand and strategize the gaps in the regional community.”
 
This year’s class has already participated in a number of things, from looking at the proposal for the governance structure of the airport to dealing with gaps in the justice system. Each member of the class went on a police ride-along, and saw interrogations and court cases.
 
“The experience is important,” Hurley says. “You can’t begin to come up with solutions until you’re willing to stand in the gap yourself.”
 
Leadership Cincinnati is the beginning of many projects, including Preschool Promise, which aims to provide quality care and education for preschool-age children. STRIVE is currently leading it, but was started at Leadership Cincinnati three years ago. Each project has to have an organization already formed that is willing to take it on and continue it beyond the initial startup phase.
 
Ozie Davis, executive director of the Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation and member of the current Leadership Cincinnati class, proposed that no matter the project, it uses Avondale as the focal point.
 
One group is looking at food security issues, another is addressing infant mortality. Davis’ group is working on rehabilitation options for St. Andrew’s Catholic church.
 
“It’s a collective impact,” Hurley says. “Some projects will work, some won’t. We’re not going to solve infant mortality, but we’re trying to find a niche where we can be helpful.”
 
Some projects also shift halfway through, when a group realizes their initial idea won’t work, but something else will. For example, Cincy Red Bike started out as a streetscape project in Over-the-Rhine. Group members began looking at what was going on in other cities, and although bike share wasn’t everywhere then, they decided it would work in Cincinnati.
 
“I love when people go in thinking they know what the answer is, and finding out it isn’t the best approach, and they pivot and make something else really work,” Hurley says.
 
If you’re interested in Leadership Cincinnati’s 10-month program, visit its website to learn more.
 
 

Local theater company setting up shop in Northside

New Edgecliff Theatre is currently between homes, but by April, it will be rehearsing and performing in a new event space in the old St. Patrick Church in Northside, located at 1662 Blue Rock St. Grayscale Cincinnati is currently renovating the church, which will also be home to a brewery and taproom.
 
“We hope to help strengthen the arts in Northside, and bring more vitality to the area,” says Jim Stump, New Edgecliff’s producing artistic director. “Northside has an arts profile already, but it doesn’t have a permanent theater company.”
 
On Nov. 15, the theater group is performing a murder-mystery fundraiser at Below Zero Lounge. It will feature The Whodunit? Players, as well as members of the New Edgecliff staff. There’s also a radio drama performance of Miracle on 34th Street at Northside Tavern this winter. During the extended intermission, the audience will be able to enjoy desserts from Cincinnati State’s culinary arts department.
 
New Edgecliff is also working on doing bar nights at Northside haunts over the next few months. Stump is performing his one-man show at Below Zero in January to help raise funds for the theater.
 
“Northside is very similar to our former home in Columbia Tusculum,” Stump says. “It’s a unique community with lots of locally owned and operated businesses. And our new facility has so much potential.”
 
New Edgecliff’s mission is to create a powerful artistic experience by utilizing local professionals and stressing the fundamental communion between the actors and the audience.
 
New Edgecliff will christen its new space with its performance of Race April 9-25. Tickets to all performances are $27, and student tickets are $20. You can purchase them online or by calling Cincy Ticket at 888-428-7311.
 

New housing project breaks ground in Avondale

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Nov. 6 for Avondale’s newest residential development, Northern Townhomes. The eight market-rate townhomes are located at the corner of Northern and Harvey avenues, and are part of the area’s larger Burnet Avenue Plan.
 
Northern Townhomes is the first new market-rate housing in the neighborhood since the '90s, and is part of a larger infill development plan to bring more residents to Avondale, says Beth Robinson, president and CEO of the Uptown Consortium.
 
“We’re trying to bring homeowners into the neighborhood,” she says. “Avondale has a lot of rental units, but research has shown that when homeowners are invested in the community, they tend to stay, get involved and help bring the neighborhood up.”
 
Avondale has a variety of housing choices for all income levels, including a number of in-need-of-rehabilitation homes, which are costly to renovate. And when new houses come on the market, they don't stay for sale for long, says Ozie Davis, executive director of the Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation.

"Northern Townhomes is an opportunity for higher-end housing," he says. "Major rehabs are costly endeavors, and this way, people won't have to worry about renovations for years."

The townhomes were designed to attract young professionals, and all feature two full master bathrooms and one-car garages, with additional parking available on the street. Six of the 1,400-square-foot units are two-bedrooms, and two are three-bedrooms, which is meant to attract families. The townhomes will start in the $175,000 range.
 
Avondale is planning to add another eight units in the same area along Northern, but the design concept is still in the works. Davis says he hopes the townhomes are a catalyst for future commercial development that could lead to an entertainment district much like that on found Short Vine, as well as amenities for new and current residents.
 
The roughly $2.4 million project, which is slated for completion next spring, is a partnership between A-CDC, Uptown Consortium and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. It is being funded through the Uptown Partners Investment Fund and the Uptown Cincinnati Development Fund.

Owner of Nicholson's opening bar, small plate restaurant

In the next few months, Nick Sanders, CEO of The Tavern Restaurant Group and owner of Nicholson’s Pub, will be opening a beverage-based bar and restaurant downtown.
 
The Horse & Barrel is named for a bar that used to be inside another TRG restaurant, deSha’s in Lexington. It will cater heavily to bourbon lovers, but will also serve cocktails and craft beer.
 
“There are lots of restaurants in the area, and this will be another space for people to relax and enjoy good beverages,” says Nancy Parrott, TRG’s director of marketing. “Whether you come by after work or you live downtown, Horse & Barrel will be another great space to be.”
 
Horse & Barrel’s main focus is bourbon, but the small food menu will feature small plates and shareable items with an American flare.
 
Not much renovation needs to be done to the space, which was most recently home to the Walnut Street Grill. The bar and restaurant has exposed brick and wood floors, and a drop ceiling is being added to create an intimate feel. The space is small, and will have cocktail-type seating for about 40.
 
TRG is also leasing the space above the restaurant, and will be creating a private event space for large groups, which will opened after Horse & Barrel.
 

Covington holiday pop-up market encourages shopping local

In 2013, three pop-up shops operated for four weeks of the holiday season in Covington. About 750 people visited the markets, which resulted in $23,000 in sales.
 
Two of the three shops—Uncorked Covington, which is opening soon in Mainstrasse, and Kelley’s Kloset—went on to open permanent retail spaces in the city.
 
Renaissance Covington is looking for about five retailers to fill a space at 801 Madison Ave. for this year’s holiday pop-up market. The shops will be launched in coordination with the city’s holiday activities, and will operate from Black Friday through Dec. 20.
 
“The goal of the holiday market is to add retail offerings to the city that both support existing retailers as part of the downtown Covington destination, and empower new entrepreneurs to test out the Covington market,” says Katie Meyer, Renaissance Covington manager.
 
Applications for the pop-up market have already been collected, but the final retail occupants haven’t been announced. Occupants will be chosen based on the innovation and creativity of their business concept, product or presentation; as well as their ability to activate the storefront and influence business on the street level.
 
The shops are required to be open on Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Meyer says additional hours will be added once the retailers have been selected.
 

New OTR event center hosts first show

Over-the-Rhine’s newest music venue, The Woodward Theater, is holding its first show with Nashville-based The Soil & The Sun on Nov. 10.
 
The 101-year-old theater was purchased and renovated by the owners of MOTR, who were looking for a venue that could handle larger acts and crowds.
 
“It’s a unique piece of architecture in OTR,” says Dan McCabe, co-owner of MOTR and The Woodward. “It’s a rare building, and we want to keep it around for another 101 years.”
 
The inside of the building is a big open room, and can handle up to 600 people. Seating will be brought in to meet the needs of each event, and the stage is in the center of the room against one of the four walls. A horseshoe balcony overlooks the space, and allows for a more intimate feel for both the performer and the audience.
 
A bar runs along one side of the space and features 24 taps. McCabe says there will be a strong local brewery presence, with a wider variety of beers than you see at MOTR, which only has 10 taps.
 
The Woodward was built to be an event hall, McCabe says. Local businesses are renting the space for speakers, and they’ve already booked several wedding receptions. He also wants to show films on a regular basis.
 
“The Woodward will be a gateway for the region and for OTR,” McCabe says. “People are coming from out of town to see shows, and they’re coming early, shopping around and visiting local businesses before and after the show. We hope that people look up and look around, and make the decision to explore Cincinnati deeper, and maybe event more here.”
 
Ticket prices vary for each show, depending on the act. You can get advance tickets for shows at The Woodward here.
 

Cincinnati Neighborhood Olympics to encourage community engagement

This past summer, Henry Frondorf, chairman of the Cincinnati Neighborhood Olympics, watched the World Cup on Fountain Square, and he thought it would be cool to have a tournament like it within Cincinnati’s boundaries. Instead of country vs. country, it would be neighborhood vs. neighborhood.
 
Although the CNO is still in the early planning stages, Frondorf has received a lot of positive feedback from the city and residents.
 
The goal of the CNO is to bring neighborhood leaders together, and connect neighbors with neighbors, which is intended to make the neighborhoods stronger.
 
“You might know your next door neighbor, but you probably don’t know the ones three blocks away,” Frondorf says. “The CNO isn’t about the events, but about bringing people together.”
 
In order to participate in the CNO, each neighborhood will have to hold its own event championship in order to move on to the Olympics. The CNO will then take place on a weekend in July 2016 in various locations, including downtown and Over-the-Rhine.
 
“The point is to make it as inclusive as possible,” says Pam Roebel, marketing chair of the CNO. “It won’t be all about sporting events, but cultural events as well.”
 
The Games will consist of a variety of events, including a 5K, a softball throw, a football kick or throw, a wiffle ball homerun derby, a water balloon toss, table tennis, tug-of-war, chess and monologue reading.
 
Frondorf says the CNO will be simple—it will be all-inclusive and inexpensive, and there will be few referees or umpires and simple rules.
 
The Olympics will go live on March 7 at the Invest in Neighborhoods annual summit. An Olympic Congress will then be held next October, and neighborhood leaders will form an Olympic Committee and form a handbook that will make the Games easy.
 
“We hope that the Olympics create a sense of pride,” Frondorf says. “We’re going to encourage each neighborhood to come up with their own flag, and the flags will be raised when the neighborhoods medal in each event.”
 
The CNO is still looking for volunteers—if you’re interested, contact Frondorf at cincyolympics@gmail.com, Facebook or @cincyolympics.
 

Ultra nanobrewery coming to Mt. Healthy

Cincinnati is currently home to one nanobrewery, DogBerry in West Chester. Fibonacci Brewing Company will be the city’s second, and will open in the spring.
 
Husband-and-wife team Bob and Betty Bollas combined their love for math and their neighborhood when they decided to open a brewery. They secured a building about a month ago—a former flower shop located at 1445 Compton Rd.
 
The upstairs tasting area is about 1,100 square feet, with an outside space that is about the same size; the downstairs brewhouse is about 1,000 square feet. Bob says there won’t be official tours, but he’ll show anyone around who is interested in seeing the brewing process.
 
Bob has been brewing at home for about six years now, and started brewing on a larger system about three years ago. He’ll use that same one-barrel system at Fibonacci, which will allow him to get about 300 beers each time he brews.
 
The Bollas’ plan to have four or five year-round beers, as well as a few seasonals—Bob is thinking about doing an Imperial IPA, a Kolsch and an Imperial Stout to start. Fibonacci won’t have a kitchen, but Bob wants to partner with food trucks and local restaurants, which will allow customers to order food in and enjoy a meal with their beer.
 
“We want Fibonacci to be a place where people can come and hang out,” Bob says. “We want to create a sense of pride in our community and help promote other local businesses.”
 
He also wants to partner with local businesses, such as a coffee roaster up the street to create a coffee-infused beer.
 
Although plans are still in the early stages, Bob says Fibonacci will likely be open Thursday and Friday evenings, and all day on Saturday.

Video arcade to bring classics, food and beer to Northside

You may have visited Arcade Legacy at Forest Fair Village (formerly Cincinnati Mills), but owner Jesse Baker will soon open another arcade in Northside. Arcade Legacy: Bar Edition will be serving up video games alongside beer and food.
 
“I personally love Northside,” Baker says. “I’ve been hanging out and shopping there for years, and I never considered another area when I was looking for a new space.”
 
The arcade is coming to the 3,300-square-foot space formerly occupied by Alchemize on Spring Grove Avenue. It will feature about 40 arcade games and five pinball machines, including classics like Ms. Pac Man and Donkey Kong, as well as old-school consoles like Super Nintendo and N-64.
 
Games will be free to play, but gamers will pay a $5 cover at the door, and will receive $5 worth of food and drink tickets. The menu is still being finalized, but it will feature items not already found in Northside.
 
“The arcade will provide nostalgic fun, and it won’t feel like a bar,” Baker says. “Think of it as an arcade for adults that serves food and drinks too. I know we’ll attract people who normally hesitate going to a bar—they’ll feel more comfortable here.”
 
Arcade Legacy is slated to open in the first part of 2015. Baker plans to be open from about 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. on weekdays, and all day Saturday and Sunday.
 

Lavomatic space to become neighborhood tavern

When Lavomatic closed this summer, Thunderdome Restaurant Group quickly signed a lease for the space, which is right next door to Bakersfield. There was lots of speculation surrounding the coming restaurant, and this December, a new concept, Krueger’s Tavern, will open.
 
Many years ago, the space was home to a Laundromat, and opened as Lavomatic in 2008. It was the first restaurant to open in the Gateway District.
 
The building, which is the only open-air restaurant in Over-the-Rhine, is currently undergoing a remodel to fit the tavern concept. The Krueger’s menu will feature sandwiches and tavern food, with more than 75 varieties of canned beer, as well as a full bar.
 
Four types of sausages will be made in-house, and will be served with sides instead of on buns. The sandwiches will include a sloppy joe and a chicken club, made on bread from 16 Bricks.
 
The name for the restaurant comes from Krueger’s Brewing, which was a New Jersey brewery that, in 1935, was the first to sell beer in cans.
 
Thunderdome owns four Bakersfield restaurants with two more to come, several Currito locations, The Eagle Food and Beer Hall and SoHi Grilled Sandwiches in Oxford.
 
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