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Preschool Promise: A Q&A with Anne Sesler


Cincinnati Preschool Promise is a burgeoning program created with the express interest of assisting families with the cost of early childhood education, while also improving the quality of eligible preschools. Anne C. Sesler, media relations for Preschool Promise, answered some questions readers might have concerning the program.

Describe Preschool Promise to a family of three with a household income of $36,000.
We all want all of our children to succeed in school, and a key to success in kindergarten is a good start at a quality preschool. Preschool Promise is kicking off this fall and may be able to help you pay for quality preschool.

Quality preschool will help your child learn, develop cognitive and social/emotional skills and succeed in kindergarten. Children who have quality preschool before entering kindergarten are more likely to enter school prepared, succeed in school, graduate from high school and become productive citizens.

Where does funding come from?
Preschool expansion is made possible thanks to a significant investment from taxpayers who approved a five-year Cincinnati Public Schools levy in 2016. The levy includes $33 million a year to strengthen K-12 education and $15 million a year to expand access to quality preschool. The taxpayer investment with this levy for both K-12 and preschool education is $5.35 per week for a home valued at $100,000. CPS will utilize expansion funds for preschool tuition assistance at CPS preschools, and Preschool Promise will utilize expansion funds for tuition assistance and quality improvement supports at community-based preschools.

How are those funds transferred to the eligible preschools?
Parents select a preschool and apply for tuition assistance. The tuition assistance is paid directly to the preschool.

What prompted this program to begin?
There are 9,200 3- and 4-year-old children in Cincinnati, and nearly half live at or below the federal poverty level. As our children enter kindergarten, more than 40 percent of Cincinnati’s children are not prepared. The gap is even greater for low-income children. While there is some public funding preschool tuition assistance available, it is not sufficient to meet the demand.

With a quality preschool education, children are ready for kindergarten, read successfully by the end of third grade, do better in school and graduate from high school prepared for college and careers. Investing in quality preschool also generates strong economic returns, conservatively estimated at $2-4 for every $1 invested by taxpayers. For these reasons, a coalition of educators, community and business leaders came together to advocate to expand access to quality preschool.

How is a preschool’s eligibility determined?
There are two options for preschool provider participation depending on the preschool’s “Step Up To Quality 1-5 star rating, as administered by the state of Ohio. Tuition Assistance reimbursements for qualifying students are for 3-5 star rated providers. Quality Improvement supports are for unrated and 1-2 star rated providers with a goal to get to and maintain 3-5 stars.

To apply, a provider must be located within the CPS district boundary, complete an application and comply with reporting and other requirements. The application and provider manual is available at AskPreschoolPromise.org or providers may request a copy to be sent via mail or email by calling 447-4CPP.

How will the quality improvement grants affect preschools in need?
Preschool Promise is designed to expand access to two years of quality preschool and to build the supply of quality rated preschool programs in Cincinnati — with the goal of helping every child enter kindergarten ready to learn. Preschool Promise will expand access to quality preschool for children in Cincinnati by helping preschool providers achieve and maintain high quality ratings.

Research shows that early childhood education is key to laying a foundation for success throughout life, and that quality is critical for preschool to be successful. A major component of Preschool Promise is to expand the number of quality-rated programs and seats that are available to preschool eligible children. Preschool Promise will award quality improvement supports to help providers currently unrated or not quality rated to achieve a high-quality rating — 3, 4 or 5 stars on Ohio’s Step Up To Quality scale.

What message is most important for you to share with our readers?
The time is now for parents and providers to apply to participate.

Talk with your preschool provider or call us to find out if you qualify. Families can apply for tuition assistance if their child is enrolling in a participating Preschool Promise program. Questions? Call us at 447-4CPP (4277).

How to get involved:
Tomorrow, help the United Way of Greater Cincinnati "Stuff the Streetcar." The nonprofit is chartering a streetcar from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to collect new school supplies for kids and items for preschool providers and their classrooms. You can drop off donated supplies at select stops along the route. From 4:30 to 7 p.m., volunteers will gather at Rhinegeist to assemble the donated items into preschool kits for distribution to local families and preschool providers. For more information, including a list of needed supplies and dropoff locations, click here.

On June 23, local band Over The Rhine is playing in Washington Park. Attendees are asked to make a suggested donation of $20, all of which will go to the United Way to help lift children and their families out of poverty. You can start coming down for the show at 4 p.m.; the show will start at 6. For more ways to help, visit the United Way's website.
 


Historic Mohawk area the next up-and-coming section of OTR?


With the ongoing rehabilitation and redevelopment of Cincinnati, specifically Over-the-Rhine, the consideration of businesses, residents and growth opportunities are a must.

This was just one of the many aspects that became the forefront of the discussion for the Mohawk Area Plan, which is geared toward not only enhancing the Mohawk Area of OTR, but also to engage those involved.

Also known as the Mohawk District, the neighborhood runs the full length of Central Parkway as its western boundary with eastern boundaries running along Clifton Avenue, Zier Place and Klotter Avenue. The northern boundary is at Brighton Bridge Approach, and the southern boundary extends well into OTR along Findlay Street.

To coincide with a strategy already in place for properties, businesses and residences, the City of Cincinnati formed a committee to take on the task of forming maps, a collection of assets and opportunities and sections that need attention. The Steering Committee held three meetings between Nov. 2016 and March 2017 to draft strategies with the assistance of Brewery District leadership, city planning leaders and business executives.

The public was able to weigh in through a series of meetings — public forums were held between July 2016 and May 2017 to get input on both the progress of the neighborhood and the challenges it could face in the future.

According to the city, two "open house" working group meetings were held in July and Sept. 2016, where residents and stakeholders came together for an interactive mapping exercise. Using a variety of multimedia annotations, attendees identified where they lived, worked or owned property, as well as areas they felt were assets, opportunities or in need of help.

According to residents and committee members, one of the biggest challenges faced in OTR both past and present has been a concern of safety. The Mohawk Area Plan hones in on developing a safe and walkable entertainment district, making the area more pedestrian-friendly.

Construction will undoubtedly play a role in this part of the plan, as the Brighton Approach connector is set for demolition, and another connector route will need to be put in place. This also opened the table for discussion on how public transit could help to enhance the neighborhood. According to the Plan, ideas like Cincy Red Bike, bus stops and streetcar stops could be beneficial for visitors and residents. Additional surface parking lots are also being considered.

In terms of economic development, the goal is to show people why the neighborhood is the place to be. By highlighting neighborhood assets like parks (Hanna Park, Bellevue Park, Cincinnati Open Space and Fairview Park), breweries (Rhinegeist, Cliffside and Jackson), entertainment venues (the Imperial Theatre, which is readily undergoing renovations; Mockbee Arts Building; and Dunlap Café) and businesses (the APEX building, Rookwood Pottery and Robin Imaging), investors and startups could be more drawn to the area with the proper economic investment and amenities/space to grow readily available to them.

The residential goal is to make use of abandoned space along Renner and Hastings while maintaining the historic structural components of the neighborhood and establishing a network of open communication for residents

In alignment with the 2002 OTR Comprehensive Plan, and similar to the Brewery District Plan, the future of the Mohawk area is starting to take shape. The general timeline for approval by the city won't take place until later this summer, but residents and community leaders are ready to reshape the future of the neighborhood.
 


Gorilla Cinema is launching a new brand strategy that's sure to shake things up


Gorilla Cinema, the masterminds behind The Overlook Lodge, The Video Archive and Pop Art Con (its newest concept), have launched a possibly radical new marketing plan: abandoning the over-crowded newsfeeds of Facebook.

“It’s a process and evolution for how we use Facebook,” says Jacob Trevino, owner. “We’re moving away from regular posts toward more video marketing about the experiences we provide. We still want people to be actively engaged with the brand, we just don’t want to be the only ones shouting.”

Facebook users won’t see an abrupt departure but more of a gradual exit over the next year and a half. Meanwhile, Gorilla Cinema will ramp up its events and emphasize its uniqueness through other outlets.

“Life is hard, and we want to give people an escape from the every day — where the world can come to you,” Trevino says. “We want to create more experiences outside of our bars. Experiences that everyone wants to talk about because they surprise our audiences.”

For Trevino, it’s also about creating an expectation of excellence and an engaged staff. “We don’t hire ‘just’ bartenders. We look for creatives and forward thinkers who make people feel welcome and create amazing experiences, but who can also make picture-perfect drinks.”

Gorilla Cinema has several big announcements planned for the coming months, including more details on its largest cinema event to-date, which is scheduled for Aug. 2 at Washington Park, as well as more movie pop-ups and the 2018 Pop Art Con.

So if there will be fewer posts on Facebook, how will you know when there's an event?

“If people really want to be the first to know, they should visit the bars since we make announcements there first, plus the bartenders often let something slip early,” Trevino says. “We’re focusing our social media efforts on Instagram, but look for new videos on our website and Facebook too.”

For Trevino, movies are something that can bring people together to share common experiences. He's built his bars around cinematic concepts and creating a sense of community.

“We want to take people on a new adventure and get people into exploring new places,” he says. "But we also want our bars to be for the people who already live in the neighborhood. We try to be active in the community because it’s important that the neighbors and other businesses know and love us first.”

As Gorilla Cinema ramps up its new marketing efforts, Cincinnatians can expect to see more events and experiences outside of Pleasant Ridge and Walnut Hills (where The Overlook and The Video Archive are), as Trevino and his team bring their love of cinema magic to larger audiences.
 


All about the beer: Three more breweries coming online later this year

 

In the second half of our exploration into new breweries, we looked at those that are opening in late summer or early fall of this year.

You might have to wait a bit longer to taste these brews, but rest assured that the experience, flavors and distinctive interiors will be worth it.

 

Rebel Mettle, 244 W. McMicken Ave., Over-the-Rhine

Opening: Spring/summer, 2018
 

“The people of Cincinnati are beer drinkers; we are a melting pot that just likes to drink,” says Mike Brown, CEO and president of Rebel Mettle Brewery.

 

The idea for the brewery started with Brown and his friends Ryan Renner, Greg Goeke and Duane Donohoo sitting around a kitchen table.

“We wanted someplace that had character,” Brown says. “I was adamant that we open up in OTR for the heritage. It has the largest number of pre-Prohibition era breweries in the nation.”

 

Rebel Mettle will offer a selection of ales, lagers and sours; there are plans for ciders as well. Brown says that they hired a secret weapon — a mysterious master brewer he wouldn’t name. He says that combining the master brewer’s education and experience with his team’s home-brewing skills will set Rebel Mettle's beer apart.

 

Also known as the former Clyffside and Sohn Brewery, the 40,000-square-foot space will host the brewery, a tap room and the Clyffside Event Center.

 

 

Humble Monk, 1641 Blue Rock St., Northside

Opening: Late summer, 2017
 

Mike Kemp and his son Paul are the head brew master and CEO, respectively, for Humble Monk Brewing Company. As the name suggests, Humble Monk will utilize a process similar to the famous Trappist Monk style of brewing.

 

“My dad prides himself on full-bodied, in-your-face style beers,” Paul says.

 

Trappist style means that each brew can yield three different types of beer, known as partigyle. The partigyle used in this method of brewing guarantees that there will be a variety of flavors and gravities, or alcohol levels, in each beer.

 

The brewery and taproom will be in a warehouse space a block and a half from Northside’s main thoroughfare. The Kemps describe the space as “barren but cozy” with an industrial feel.

 

Sonder, Duke Boulevard, Mason

Opening: Late fall, 2017
 

Justin Neff, president of Sonder, started out brewing beer at home but had dreams of his owning a brewery. When he met his business partners Daniel Schmerr and Jennifer Meissner, those dreams came true.

 

Neff fell in love with the meaning behind the word sonder, which is defined as the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

“It became so much more than just a word — it’s a culture we started our company on. We believe every beer has a story just like every person does.”

 

With the help of New Glarus Brewing's Chase Legler, Sonder will focus on high quality and true-to-style beer.

 

“We’ll ensure that a German hefeweizen tastes like the same hefeweizen that was brewed in Germany generations ago,” Neff says.

 

Sonder is building its own two-story facility in Deerfield Township. The 6.5-acre property will include bars and outdoor patios on both floors. Neff says that they hope to grow their own hops on-site and the green space will be a gathering place for community events.

 

Neff says Sonder will be a place “where Mom and Dad can bring their kids and have a date night as well.”

The ambitious campus will include sand volleyball, a wiffle ball field, fire pits and a walking path where visitors can sip a beer as they go for a stroll.
 


Fourteen Cincinnati projects chase after Ohio historic tax credits


With just one month remaining in the application review period, 14 Cincinnati projects are after over $26 million from the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program.

The program is highly competitive program and contributes to economic development all over the state. It provides a tax credit to development projects in order to influence the private redevelopment of the state’s many historic buildings.

In the previous 15 funding rounds of the program, tax credits have been approved for 284 projects to rehabilitate 398 historic buildings in 52 different communities. The program is geared toward owners of historically designated buildings who wish to undertake a rehabilitation project.

But what makes a building eligible?

A building is eligible if it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; contributes to a National Register Historic District, National Park Service Certified Historic District or Certified Local Government historic district; or is listed as a local landmark by a Certified Local Government.

The 48 applications received in the current round range from historic theater renovations to the restoration of a single storefront.

Notable projects that have requested tax credits in the Cincinnati area this round include:
  • The Traction Company building, a 60,230-square-foot building that Parkes Companies, Inc., plans to convert into a mixed-use property
  • Union Terminal, which is asking for the maximum $5 million in tax credits to assist with the $212 million renovation
  • First National Bank (under the ownership of NewcretImage, LLC.), which is also asking for the maximum $5 million to assist with converting the building into a contemporary lifestyle hotel
  • Smaller projects, like the conversion of 620 and 622 Vine St. into a large commercial space with upper apartments (Sieber Vine Holding LLC), are also in the mix

Other developments in major cities like Cleveland and Columbus have requested millions in tax credits in hopes of redeveloping and/or restoring buildings like Cleveland’s Terminal Tower, The Palace Theatre in Columbus, the Louis Sullivan Building in Newark and more.

Statewide, the total request of historic tax credits for the March round is over $75 million. Round 18 applications were due March 31, and approved applications will be announced on or before June 30. Applications will be received for the September round later this summer.
 


Tom McKenna creating own niche in OTR community with Allez Bakery


Allez Bakery, located at 1208 Main St., is the newest addition to Over-the-Rhine’s already impressive line-up of locally-owned restaurants, breweries and cafes.

Owner, baker and Cincinnati native Tom McKenna hopes to play a positive role in the community. His business approach is steeped in social conscientiousness and affection for the city he calls home.

“I genuinely want to be a positive force in the neighborhood by being a staple of people's diets and routines," he says. "Interactions, as small as they may be, can change someone's day, and if I can do that while making a living, I'm way ahead of a lot of people."

While Allez is new to the OTR scene, McKenna got his start years ago. He learned the ropes at the New England Culinary Institute and then did a stint at Blue Oven Bakery before branching out on his own to provide fresh bread to the community.

“I opened the bakery because there wasn't the job I saw for myself already in existence in the city," McKenna says. "I wanted more control over what I did for a living and I had a skill that wasn't very widespread at the time. A lot of people are very good bakers but they either have other successful jobs or just don't want to do it as a career. I needed a career and had loads of support from friends and family and was able to turn that into a bakery."

The menu includes variations of the classic sourdough, such as urban sourdough, seeded sourdough and rye sourdough, along with items like ciabatta, French baguettes and sandwiches.

Morning offerings will soon include scones, biscuits and toast. The afternoon menu will feature sandwiches and beer, in addition to fresh bread. The craft bakery’s signature items are its sourdough and whole grain breads .

Items are available at both retail and wholesale prices to local restaurants. Fresh bread and sandwich delivery are offered via bicycle courier service.

Allez is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
 


Collective Espresso goes mobile to reach more Cincy coffee drinkers


Dave Hart is co-owner of Collective Espresso, a business that is synonymous with quality coffee in Cincinnati. It currently operates out of brick-and-mortar coffee shops in Northside and Over-the-Rhine, and just recently, a mobile coffee truck was added to the blend.

This development, called Collective Field Services, began around the same time Hart and his business partner Dustin Miller lost their lease at the Contemporary Arts Center. That was their third coffee shop; it was replaced with a second Bottle & Basket, a deli owned by the ever-expanding Wellmann’s Brands.

The coffee truck, a 1982 Chevy G30, made its first venture into the city at the first spring City Flea, and later that day, at the Pollination Festival in Northside. Hart spoke with Soapbox about what led to the acquisition of the truck and what it means for Collective Espresso’s presence in Cincinnati.

So what's the story behind the truck?
The truck also comes from Berlin, Ohio. It’s kind of an interesting story, how this all came about. It started in a very organic way. We had a meeting with the guys from Such and Such to fabricate a bike for us, and we’re building this bike — it’s a pedicab that’s going to haul kegs of cold brew — and it’ll just do weekend events. It’s not like a staple of the business or anything like that, it’ll just be for special events.

When we first started talking about this, we thought this could be the launch for a whole mobile food and coffee operation. At the time, this truck had been in the fold. Dustin’s brother had two delis up in the Berlin area and he does a hot dog cart during special events. He bought the truck to sell hot dogs, but he’s got a million things going on. Right around the time of our talks with Such and Such, we found an espresso machine, a Synesso, for a really reasonable price outside Philadelphia. It’s similar to what we have at Collective Espresso Northside but  smaller — it’s a two-group Synesso. We found a heck of a deal on it and we kind of just bought it with no real intentions. We knew at some point we would need it. It could have been a backup.

At this point, we have no CAC location and we have an espresso machine. We needed to do something. It was a week later when Dustin’s brother, Ryan, called and said he was selling the truck and asked if we wanted it. It all happened in the span of two or three weeks and it made perfect sense to us as a logical progression. We have a killer staff from CAC and we figured we could absorb them into something new that we do, so all signs pointed toward it as a no-brainer.

The truck is named after a bus that hauls Amish people from where Dustin and I are from, and it’s called Pioneer Trails. It takes Amish people from Berlin to Florida. A lot of Amish people go to Sarasota in the winter. We want to get “Pioneer Trails” painted on the front of the truck.

When did you buy the truck?
We bought the truck in November. It sat at my parents’ house for a while and we’d go up on weekends to work on it. We gutted the whole thing. It used to be a book mobile — growing up in the country, if your town doesn’t have a library, the book mobile will come to your school and once every two weeks, you’d get a break from class to go look at what’s in the book mobile. The truck had been decommissioned years ago and then it was owned by a television station.

What can customers buy from the truck?
It’s a basic coffee shop menu. We’re looking to do something with a keg for cold brew, but it’ll be just like any of our coffee shops. We’ll have light baked goods. Lots of food trucks have miniature espresso machines, but we have a full-sized espresso machine, so we’ll be able to work at the exact same pace as we do in any of our shops.

Are there any long-term plans where the truck can be found?
We’re going to start doing things to see what ultimately ends up being successful. The idea is twofold: to service the food truck areas — we have a customer base downtown from our CAC location, so it makes sense to stick near Fountain Square’s food truck space. Weekdays we’ll be there and also at Washington Park on nice days.

Weekends, it’s not just a mobile vending thing, it’s an opportunity for us to get in front of people we’re not normally in front of. If there’s a neighborhood that might warrant opening a Collective Espresso in it, this is a great way to go there, meet people and test market the business. We’d like to be in various different neighborhoods on the weekends: Walnut Hills, College Hill, maybe somewhere on the West Side. New people. Special events are also a given. We’ll see as it goes along.

Going mobile, what’s the truck’s maximum radius going to be?
If there was a big event, we could take it far out of town, but it’s an ’82 — an older piece of equipment. I don’t think it’s going to be taking trips to Louisville every weekend. We kind of exist in these little bubbles where everybody knows what Collective Espresso is, but then I go to some big event in town and realize there are all of these people out there who still have no idea. There are even people in OTR who ask when we opened and it’s weird to tell them almost five years ago. I think that the truck gets rid of that limiting factor of having to be in these little, obscure up-and-coming neighborhood situations. There’s nothing wrong with a bunch of people knowing what we do.

To keep up with the coffee truck, follow @collective_field_services on Instagram.
 


Museum Center curates CurioCity events to reach a different crowd


While Union Terminal undergoes renovations, museum staff has had to get creative to make our community’s shared history available. The Duke Energy Children's Museum is open during construction, but the Cincinnati Museum Center wanted to tap into the 21 and up crowd too, so they designed the monthly CurioCity series, which aims to teach young professionals about history in a fun, informal way.

“A lot of young professionals want to learn about Cincinnati history,” says Emily Logue, manager of community festivals and events at the Museum Center. “Whether it’s beer history, little-known facts, the arts or pop culture.”

Rather than attending a lecture, CurioCity prioritizes interaction, experience and socializing. Six of the eight events from the inaugural season of CurioCity were held at local bars and breweries and featured an eclectic mixture of history and fun.

“The best quote I’ve ever heard is, ‘This is the most I’ve ever used my brain at a bar,’” Logue says.

The series started last September and really hit its stride in November when Arnold’s Bar and Grill hosted Wizard Meets Flapper to mark the release of the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Logue says the history of Arnold's, and the fact that it's the oldest bar in Cincinnati, makes it an ideal location to hold CurioCity events.

“Ninety-eight percent of guests were dressed as a wizard, a flapper or both,” Logue says. Attendees listened to jazz music and danced at the “speakeasy” style event.

Beer-centric events have proven popular with the young professional crowd, especially if centered around a local brew. CurioCity went hyper-local by partnering with Urban Artifact for Crafting Culture, where guests learn how beer is made. The event featured a specially brewed beer, the Union Terminal Bach — a beer brewed from yeast collected at Union Terminal.

In March, the Viking “Mead-up” at Arnold’s gave guests the opportunity to tap into their inner Viking with mead brewed at a local meadery.

The grand finale of the first season of CurioCity Throwback Thursday at 6:30 p.m on April 13. Attendees will relive their 1990s childhoods as they take over the Duke Energy Children’s Museum for the night. Guests will be able to make their own ice cream with liquid nitrogen, make friendship bracelets and enjoy '90s-themed coloring pages. The Children’s Museum’s famous wooden jungle gym and ball machine will be open as well.

Light bites will include childhood favorites like tater tots and bagel bites. Jenco Brothers Candy will have samples and local shop Full Frontal Nerdity will be on hand to sell buttons featuring '90s legends like Bill Nye the Science Guy. Logue says scrunchies and apparel with sunflowers are encouraged but not required.

The second season of CurioCity returns this summer. See the full schedule here.
 


Brewing Heritage Trail moving along, new app on the way


Cincinnati loves good beer, and it turns out that that’s nothing new. Thanks to the droves of skilled brewers who immigrated from Germany and settled in Cincinnati prior to Prohibition, it's long been known as a mecca for beer aficionados.

The Brewing Heritage Trail, which will begin in Pendleton and weave its way through OTR and into the Mohawk area, is gradually nearing completion, and will help tell the storied past of the Queen City’s role in the world of brewing. The trail will showcase former brewery buildings, share brewery information and tie all of that beer culture it into Cincinnati history.

Steven Hampton, executive director of the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District Urban Redevelopment Corporation, took some time away from Bockfest festivities to provide updates on the trail and to give some insight to the motivation behind the trail.

How would you describe the Brewing Heritage Trail to a tourist who's never heard of it before?
It is a fun and engaging way to learn and experience our city’s rich brewing heritage through signage, art, digital experiences and guided tours through the streets and historic breweries. It is not just the story of how much beer we made and drank, which was a lot, but the story of Cincinnati and America told through the lens of beer.

Has construction started on the trail? What kind of work needs to be done to complete this project?
In partnership with ArtWorks, there are almost a dozen public art pieces along the trail already. The first 3/4-mile physical segment of the trail, including signage and bronze medallion way finding, will be under construction this summer with completion around September, thanks to funding from the State of Ohio and the City of Cincinnati. We are also just about to launch the first version of the smartphone app for iOS and Android to lead you along the trail digitally and share even more content.

How is the trail organized?
The trail has three initial story segments, of which we are building one plus small portions of the other two as key connectors. The segments generally tell the overall story of brewing beer in Cincinnati, with many sub-stories that are tied to specific locations and buildings along the route.

The first segment we are building is the middle segment, “Glasses and Growlers." During the second half of the 19th century, breweries began playing a controversial role in the proliferation of saloons in cities across the nation. The "Glasses and Growlers" segment of the trail will explore the role that Cincinnati’s hearty beer industry, unregulated saloon trade and thirsty population played in shaping Americans’ relationship with beer.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, the Brewing Heritage Trail will be accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Once the app launches, you can download it for Apple or Android here.


CDF/IFF nonprofit loan program leads to community reinvestment


In 2015, the Cincinnati Development Fund teamed up with IFF (and the JP Morgan Chase Foundation) to provide loans to nonprofits in Greater Cincinnati and Dayton. The facilities and equipment loan program was designed for nonprofits that served low-income neighborhoods and special-needs populations. 
 
“This has been an incredible opportunity, and we’ve lifted this partnership up as a model for CDFI collaboration across the region,” says Kirby Burkholder, vice president and executive director for the Eastern Region of IFF.
 
Eight area nonprofits — Bi-Okoto Drum and Dance Co., The Center for Great Neighborhoods, Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky, DECA Preparatory Academy, Findlay Kitchen, Kennedy Heights Arts Center, United Way and the Washing Well — have all received loans through the program, totaling more than $6.6 million.
 
Development highlights that were the direct result of these loans include:
  • The Corporation for Findlay Market borrowed $980,000 to buy, renovate and equip Findlay Kitchen.
  • The Center borrowed $1.75 million to convert the historic Hellmann Lumber building in Covington to a headquarters that now includes community meeting and event space and eight artist studios.
  • A $140,000 loan allowed Opportunity Matters to turn a vacant storefront into a nonprofit laundromat for Lower Price Hill residents.
The partnership has resulted in impact beyond the loan fund, says Jeanne Golliher, executive director of CDF. For example, IFF has brought $6 million in New Market Tax Credits to the area to help support the development of the Shelterhouse Men’s Center on Gest Street in Over-the-Rhine.
 
IFF also participated in a loan with CDF to help develop Market Square near Findlay Market.
 
“IFF has also opened the doors to a new funding partner, which resulted in $2 million in additional capital for us that can be used for additional IFF partner loans or for our direct lending,” Golliher says.
 
Initial grant funds have been expended, but Golliher and Burkholder both say that their respective organizations plan to continue their partnership. They’re also working with the community to help fill gaps and to better understand need.
 
“We want to continue to explore opportunities to refine and grow together,” Burkholder says.
 
Check out a video about the program here.
 

Ladling out cultural understanding and community building through soup


Soup is a quintessential comfort food, and in these culturally polarized times, could be especially useful in countering the woes of a post-election winter. Kate Zaidan, owner of Dean’s Mediterranean Imports at Findlay Market, has organized a community "soup swap" in an effort to highlight the diverse voices of people in Cincinnati.
 
“This is part of a long tradition of community food gatherings,” Zaidan says. “I didn’t invent the idea of a soup swap — they happen all over the country. They’re great ways to get people together, do something community-oriented and leave with a benefit in the process.”
 
Zaidan is attempting to use soup as a starting point for people to discuss their heritage, while also opening their eyes to other cultures they might not have much exposure to on a regular basis.
 
“Food is such a great place to start,” Zaidan says. “We all eat, we all cook. Food is very, very personal and a source of pride for people, and I think if we can start building bridges across the divisive lines in our society with food, if we start there, it grows and builds something incredibly powerful.”
 
To attend the free event, it’s been requested that participants register ahead of time and bring a soup of their own to share. Simply make a pot of soup, divvy it into six Tupperware containers and write down the recipe in consideration of anyone with dietary restrictions. It’s expected all participants will be able to leave with five of their favorite soup samples.
 
The soup swap is a sort of inaugural event for Zaidan’s new monthly cooking club, Stir!, which recently received a $10,000 grant from People’s Liberty (the nonprofit is hosting the soup swap in their space in Over-the-Rhine). Stir will focus on a different theme each class, which is centered around creating community and sharing skills and expertise.
 
“Every single culture has its own neat recipes," Zaidan says. "Through that, we’ll have all kinds of people who might not otherwise be in a room together talking about food. Any kind of soup is welcomed. The world is your oyster.”

She adds: “If you even want to bring oyster soup, that’s totally fine too.” 
 
Hungry participants can join the soup swap at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm St., at 11 a.m. on Feb. 25. For more information on the soup swap and Zaidan’s new cooking club, connect with the group on Facebook.
 

25th annual Ohio Sacred Harp convention keeps folk tradition alive


On March 4 and 5, more than 100 regional and international "shape-note” singers will come together for the 25th annual Ohio Sacred Harp Singing Convention. Shape-note singing is a folk tradition first popularized in the late 19th century in the United States.

Shape-note singing uses four notes on a sheet of music, as opposed to the seven-note scale most commonly taught.

At the Ohio Convention, which takes place in Cincinnati every three years, participants will sing from the Sacred Harp songbook. Sacred Harp is a term that refers to the human voice, and the Sacred Harp hymnal book was first published in 1844. At the time, it was one of hundreds of hymnal collections written in shape-note notation.

Historically, groups of singers would gather for marathon all-day singing sessions at public conventions. These events were not performances or religious services, but were seen as inclusive, collective spiritual experiences. This folk tradition continues today, and the Sacred Harp is still the most enduring and widely-used shape-note songbook.

According to convention planner and founding member John Bealle the convention is nondenominational and inclusive to all.

“Some are devout Christians, and others are not — it’s really a personal thing,” Bealle says. The unique sounds of sacred harp singing are influenced by colonial era fugues, baroque composers and sometimes feature four-part, cascading harmonies. The songs touch on themes of praise and the shared experience of death.

“It’s a real physical experience, putting every bit of physical energy into music,” Bealle says. "We’ve even broken windows sometimes because the singing is so loud.”

Convention attendees do not come to watch a performance by professional singers. Rather, everyone in attendance participates in the a capella chorus.

According to the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association, sacred harp singing is “a living, breathing, ongoing practice passed directly to us by generations of singers, many gone on before and many still living.”

Bealle says that the convention is the perfect time to experience sacred harp singing for those unfamiliar with it. “The best singers are going to come to this,” he says.

The event is free, open to the general public and will take place at First Lutheran Church on Race Street in Over-the-Rhine. All ages are welcome to attend. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 4 and 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 5. For more information, visit the website.
 

Father and son team up to bring their brand of distilled spirits to Over-the-Rhine


In German, “stadt” means “city.” But for Mike and John Funcheon, that word means the start of a new business venture. The father-son team plans to open Stadt Distillery in Over-the-Rhine this summer.
 
“We want to bring something that’s not quite ‘here’ yet,” John says. “Craft distilling is a new trend, and we want to see more craft distilleries coming to OTR. It’s the scene for distillers, and will add another facet to the neighborhood.”
 
As a former tour guide for American Legacy Tours, John is familiar with OTR's history, and says that he pursues his own personal education in things that interest him.
 
Craft distilling is no different.
 
Seventeen years ago, Mike and John brewed their first batch of beer together, when John was just 11 years old. About 10 years ago, they had their first taste of moonshine, which sparked an interest in craft distilling and has lead them to open their own craft distillery.
 
Until September, the Funcheons were only planning to open a production facility, but a new Ohio law was passed that now allows distilleries to function like breweries and wineries. Plans have changed, but that’s not a bad thing, John says.
 
“Starting this business has been one of the most exciting things we’ve ever done, and I can’t imagine doing it with anyone but my father,” he says. “We’ve both realized we couldn’t do it without each other.”
 
John will be Stadt’s master distiller, and Mike will focus on the business side of things. They want to keep each side of the business separate in order to do the best they can in every facet of the distillery.
 
Since John has worked most of his adult life in the tourism industry, he wants to incorporate tourism into Stadt in some way. He plans to give tours of the distillery and tell customers about his family’s history and the distilling process.
 
“Distilling can be kind of intimidating, but since my background is in storytelling, I want to make distilled spirits as approachable as possible and get people involved,” John says.
 
Although Stadt’s exact location and design plans are still undecided, the Funcheons have a huge lead time because they already have their stills, which were purchased from Kothe Distilling in Urlinger, Germany.
 
The space will have a contempor-rustic feel, and will be open and inviting. Customers will be able to see the production facility while enjoying a drink at the bar. By law, there has to be food in some way, and the Funcheons are planning something unique that speaks to craft distilling.
 
Stadt will have a full bar featuring its own distilled spirits — bourbon, gin, absinthe, vodka, bitters and moonshine — and bottles will be available for purchase. The Funcheons are also going to distribute their products, starting in Ohio, then Kentucky and Indiana, and growing from there.
 
If you’re interested in learning more about Stadt, email mikef@stadtdistillery.com.
 

Upcoming event series at Know Theatre to focus on active citizenship


For an upcoming three-night event, Know Theatre is encouraging area residents to be more active citizens.

The theater company is known for showcasing “unexpected voices, new works and plays that embrace the inherent theatricality of the live experience." Democracy in Action is a three-part event series that addresses how to be a more active citizen in local government issues via political, humanitarian and artistic means.

According to Alice Flanders, the managing director for Know Theatre, the idea to create the series stemmed from the 2016 presidential election.

“The results were not what we expected, nor what we desired, but they incited us to action,” Flanders says. “Maggie (education director for Know Theatre) and I both have scheduled weekly calls to those in power to voice our minds and to make sure our opinions are heard by our elected representatives.”

Once word spread about the plan they were developing, more people wanted to get involved. “A friend of ours suggested a sort of ‘citizen training’ evening where we taught people what we knew about affecting change on a local level,” Flanders says.

The first event, “Getting Involved in Local Government,” will be held on Jan. 31 and invites local politicians and representatives to help answer questions about how to get involved. The panel, including Aftab Pureval, Tamaya Dennard, Chris Seelbach and others will answer questions about what local government can do and how getting involved on a local level can affect change nationally as well.

Tuesday's event will be hel at Greaves Hall at Northern Kentucky University, which is located within the university's Fine Arts Center. NKU's campus is located at 100 Louie B. Nunn Dr., Newport, 41099.

The second event, “Arts and Politics: A Group Discussion,” will be held on Feb. 7 as more of a group discussion that will center around how the arts and culture community can use their professional skills and talents in the current political climate.

“We're very committed to this being open to all art forms, not just theater,” Flanders says. “We want to know how writers are combating the attacks on civil rights, we want to know how crafters are using their embroidery and knitting to fight for equality, we want to know how performance artists are campaigning for our natural resources.”

The third event, “Bystander Training,” will be held on Feb. 21 to teach people how to react when faced with an altercation, from being a simple witness and calling for help to standing in solidarity for what you believe in. This could be groundbreaking, as many people are concerned about raising their opinions about local and national issues due to fear of controversy.

“The Know has always been a place that has striven for equal representation, and we believe a program like this falls well within our mission statement to give a stage to voices that are traditionally underrepresented," Flanders says.

Know Theatre, a contemporary black-box theater, is located on Jackson Street in Over-The-Rhine. For more information on the event series, visit the Facebook event page or the Know Theatre website.
 

What's next for affordable housing in Over-the-Rhine?


Historically, Over-the-Rhine has been at the epicenter of Cincinnati’s housing boom; however, it can be argued that not enough of the neighborhood’s housing options are affordable. But 3CDC, Cornerstone Corporation for Shared Equity, Model Group and Over-the-Rhine Community Housing are working together to change that.
 
It’s estimated that 550 new apartments will be developed this year, with the majority designated as affordable housing. Developers are working to save 300 units of low-income and affordable housing that have been lost in recent years or are at risk of leaving the market, and a total of 12 new housing projects are also in the works that will add 50 more affordable units and 200 more market-rate apartments to the neighborhood.
 
In order for these projects to happen, 3CDC had to acquire the Section 8 Jan and Senate apartments, which include six separate buildings, from Community Builders. To complete the project, 3CDC needs to get 101 housing assistance payments — these are U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development subsidies — that are associated with the two buildings. Those subsidies will be donated back to the 12 projects that will create a mixture of low-income, affordable housing and market-rate units in different buildings.
 
Model Group and 3CDC also plan to acquire the Mercy Housing portfolio, which is a group of 18 buildings, or 140 units, scattered around OTR. The goal is to rehab half of the units that are in desperate need of repairs, and make basic renovations to the other half.
 
The Jan and Senate buildings, located at the northwest corner of 13th and Walnut streets, along with 216 W. 12th St., are vacant, and will be included in the housing overhaul.
 
The City of Cincinnati also recently passed an ordinance that will forgive four loans that are associated with the Mercy buildings, for a total of $2.2 million in loan forgiveness. The loans were federal housing funds that were passed through the City to the projects.
 
In partnership with McCormack Baron Salazar, developers are planning to build high-quality affordable housing that will ensure that there are options available to residents of all income levels. In total, 276 units will be available to those who earn less than 60 percent of the area median income; 71 units for those who earn less than 80 percent of the area median income; the remaining 200 units will be market-rate.
 
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