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Over-the-Rhine : Development News

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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.
 

Another restaurant concept coming to Pendleton neighborhood this summer


This summer, a new restaurant concept is joining the 1200 block of West Broadway in Pendleton. Boomtown Biscuit Bar, which is slated to open in June, will specialize in traditional American fare that was favored by pioneer settlers.

Boomtown’s menu was designed by head chef Christian Gill, formerly of the Terrace Cafe at Cincinnati Art Museum.

“The story we’re trying to tell through food and beverage is the life of prospectors,” says owner PJ Neumann. “From waking up at a campground at the base of the mountain, making a breakfast in cast iron, and going up the mountain and coming back to pass the whiskey around.”

Neumann says Boomtown will be a biscuit bar by day and whiskey bar by night, with an extensive whiskey selection and specialty cocktail list. The menu is still being tweaked, but is so far slated to include Pick & Shovel (fork and knife) biscuit sandwiches, Prospector plates (entrées) and Sweet Fixins (pastries and desserts), as well as a selection of Sundries (sides).

The menu will also provide alternative options for people with dietary restrictions, including a gluten-free griddle cake that can be subbed for a biscuit, and a mushroom and truffle gravy for vegetarians.

“No one will categorize us as health food,” Neumann jokes of the comfort food menu, “but we are hyper-focused on food quality.” He says that the restaurant will develop purveyor partnerships with distributorships to source local ingredients such as micro-greens, lards for biscuits and other key ingredients.

Neumann, a 17-year food-and-beverage industry veteran, says that he’s been wanting to open a biscuit restaurant for years and has been on the hunt for the perfect property. He formerly worked at the nearby Nation Kitchen + Bar, which opened in Pendleton in 2015. That location is what inspired him to look at properties in the neighborhood.

“I’m really excited to be a part of the neighborhood," he says. "There are so many talented people there."

The restaurant is part of the Broadway Square project being developed by Model Group at the corner of East 12th and Broadway streets. The restaurant will occupy a 1,400-square-foot space, with seating capacity for about 70 patrons. It will open at 7 a.m., offering breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week.

For updates on the project and its official launch date, keep an eye on its website, or follow @boomtownbiscuitbar on Instagram and Twitter.
 

Six Greater Cincinnati projects receive more than $2 million in state historic tax credits


Across the state, 18 organizations were awarded $22.8 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits to rehabilitate 33 historic buildings. The projects are expected to bring more than $225 million in private investment to 12 communities.

This round, six Greater Cincinnati projects received more than $2 million in tax credits, which will help developers continue work on pivotal projects in Hamilton and Over-the-Rhine.
 
509 E. 12th St., Pendleton
Received $150,000 in tax credits
Two buildings on the front and rear of the site have been vacant for about 20 years. They served as housing for about 130 years, and after catching fire in 2016, will be rehabbed into seven one- and two-bedroom apartments.
 
1810 Campbell St., OTR
Received $250,000 in tax credits
Located in OTR’s historic district, 1810 Campbell is part of Model Group’s Market Square project near Findlay Market. The building, which has been vacant for years, will be rehabilitated into commercial office space.
 
1925 Vine St., OTR
Received $249,000 in tax credits
This building, which is on the northern edge of OTR’s historic district, will be renovated into 20 residential units. Built in the 1850s and abandoned decades ago, the building will become a combination of studio and one-bedroom apartments. OTR A.D.O.P.T. helped save the building, and plans include preserving the original staircases, wood floors, wood trim and fireplace mantels.
 
Dollar Federal Bank Building, 2 S. Third St., Hamilton
Received $250,000 in tax credits
Built in 1958, the mid-century modern bank building will have two of the upper floors rehabilitated into commercial office space.
 
Liberty and Elm, 212 and 214 W. Liberty St., 1711 and 1713 Elm St., OTR
Received $1,358,772 in tax credits
This project will include the rehabilitation of five historic buildings, plus more than 100,000 square feet of new construction on currently vacant lots. When finished, the project will yield first-floor retail space and 109 apartments.
 
Market Square III, 30, 34 and 124 Findlay St.; 1821, 1834, 1936 and 1941 Race St.; 41 W. McMicken Ave.
Received $1,690,000 in tax credits
Near Findlay Market, Model Group will rehabilitate eight primarily vacant, historic buildings that once served as residential and mixed-use commercial storefronts with residential above. When finished, the buildings will house retail and office space, as well as 38 residential units. One non-historic building will be demolished, and a new commercial building will be built in its place.
 

Mecca creates artistic haven in the heart of OTR


In November, Mecca OTR held a quiet opening, which isn’t normal for a bar in the heart of Over-the-Rhine. However, owners Joe and Robin Creighton and Jon Mouch, who also co-own Cheapside Café, wanted to let people discover something new on their own.
 
The building, which is located at 1429 Walnut St., used to be the home of local developer Urban Sites, but when they moved to a new office on Sycamore Street, they asked Creighton if he wanted to open something in the space.
 
Mecca gets its name from the Walnut Street saloon where Boss Cox kept his office. It’s also used in the religious sense of the Holy City, which is a place that draws people together, regardless of their culture or background. And that’s what the Creightons and Mouch wanted Mecca to be for OTR.
 
In the 1800s, Cincinnati was called the "Paris of America" and was filled with artists. Now, many of those artists go to New York or Los Angeles. To strengthen Cincinnati’s current artistic community, Mecca’s owners worked with artists all over the city to cover every inch of the bar’s walls in murals, drawings, sculptures and art installations.
 
Each bathroom was designed by a different artist, and the tables have Sharpie drawings on them by Alex Frank. A giant metal bee perches on the building's façade, and lights are strung across the outdoor courtyard. Ferns hang from the ceiling in the indoor bar area, which is black-lit to create a 3D effect on the murals.
 
An outdoor bar area is in the works, and will include a deconstructed car tunnel entrance and a tree that will be done by Adam Sands of Elite Customz (who also designed the bee).
 
Mecca alo houses a vintage Americana apparel and memorabilia shop on the Walnut side of the building. Owner Matt Joy curates his collection from estate sales across the country, and has everything from vintage denim to license plates, boots and decorations. The shop is open from 4 to 8 p.m. on days that Mecca is open.
 
The cocktail program is simple, and shots of absinthe are available for $6. The signature drink is called the Chichunker, a can of flavored San Pellegrino served with a lime wedge and a tiny bottle of liquor in the mouth of the can. The food menu is small and basic: popcorn and corn dogs.
 
Mecca is open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
 

Source 3 Development finalizes plans for redevelopment and infill project in OTR


At the beginning of December, the Cincinnati Planning Commission approved Source 3 Development’s plans for a new housing development in Over-the-Rhine. Freeport Row, which will be located at the northwest corner of Liberty and Elm streets, will break ground in March 2017.
 
The $25 million, mixed-use project will sit right in the middle of OTR, connecting the north and south portions of the neighborhood. The project will include four historic building renovations, as well as the construction of a new building on a currently vacant lot.
 
In total, Freeport Row will yield 110 apartments and 17,000 square feet of retail space. There will also be a two-phase parking garage with 155 total parking spaces.
 
Freeport Row is so named for Freeport Alley, which is at the center of the development site.
 
Initial plans for the 1.5-acre site were announced a year ago, but have gone through a number of changes since then.
 

Findlay Market plans City Kitchen pilot program for new year


In January, Findlay Market plans to launch City Kitchen, an eight-week workforce development program that will partly be managed by CityLink Center, the nonprofit’s partner in this new venture. The program will run from Jan. 16-March 11.
 
“There’s a great food scene here, but the barrier is the availability and reliability of a skilled workforce,” said Joe Hansbauer, executive director for the Corporation for Findlay Market.
 
Although Greater Cincinnati has a higher unemployment rate, there are restaurant jobs just waiting to be filled. The workforce doesn’t have the skills needed, so City Kitchen will help workers develop those skills.
 
City Kitchen’s first cohort will include 12 people that will spend one month learning soft skills and hard skills in a low-pressure environment. The second month of the program will continue the hard skills training and will culminate in running a pop-up restaurant at Findlay Kitchen each week.
 
Students will learn knife skills, kitchen vocabulary and math, as well as all the skills needed to run and work at a restaurant.
 
Findlay Market will manage the hard skills and restaurant portion of the program, and CityLink will manage and operate the soft skills and wrap-around services.
 
City Kitchen is modeled after similar restaurants and programs across the country, including Fare Start in Seattle, Café Reconcile in New Orleans and Edwin’s in Cleveland. Hansbauer says the goal is not to compete with programs like it in Cincinnati, such as Cincinnati COOKS! and Venice on Vine, but to complement them.
 
For example, students from Cincinnati Cooks could graduate from that program and come to City Kitchen to learn more about the restaurant side of the food world.
 
When the pop-up restaurant goes live, seatings will be held for four weeks in February and March on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with two seatings each night. You can purchase a seat for $45, a table for $250, a seating for $1,500 or an entire evening for $3,000.
 
The menu will be unique, with three courses and two options per course. Wine pairings will be available each week for an additional cost per person and can be purchased on site. There will also be a cash bar with local beer and wine by the glass.
 
“The goal is to learn as much as possible by leveraging the program and physical assets of CityLink and Findlay Kitchen,” Hansbauer said. “We want to ensure we can deliver on the promise and execute a great culinary and service experience. If we’re able to accomplish this, the next steps would be to ensure that we can operate in a sustainable and profitable way that serves the needs of Findlay Market and the community we are looking to assist.”
 
Sponsorship levels are available for City Kitchen. Please contact Hansbauer at jhansbauer@findlaymarket.org for more information.
 
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