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Pleasant Ridge / Kennedy Heights : Development News

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CiNBA hosts networking event for Cincinnati independent businesses

On March 27, the Greater Cincinnati Indpendent Business Alliance is hosting a workshop that will focus on the unseen benefits of nurturing and supporting local independent businesses.
“This event provides a unique opportunity to explore the beneficial impact an independent business alliance can provide Cincinnati and the community,” says Owen Raisch, CiNBA’s founder.
CiNBA was started in March 2012 Raisch visited the American Independent Business Alliance’s national conference. Since then, Raisch has been working with businesses around Xavier University, including Betta’s Italian Oven, Betta’s Café Cornetti, Center City Collision, Baxter's Fast Wheels, Listermann Brewing, Kleen Print Products, Cincinnati Cash Mob and Beans and Grapes.
All of CiNBA’s members except Center City Collision worked with Xavier students to assess business models and develop their businesses. Over 60 students were involved in classes that range from an MBA management project to undergraduate graphic design courses.
CiNBA is the recipient of a Fuel Cincinnati grant that funded Raisch’s trip to the AIBA conference, and paid for CiNBA’s first year of membership to the organization.
“The grant and membership to AIBA provided startup support and promotional materials that were critical to the current level of CiNBA’s development,” says Raisch. “I’m very appreciative of Fuel’s support. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
The workshop will feature a presentation by Jeff Milchen, founder and director of the first International Business Alliance. The free event will be held at Beans and Grapes in Pleasant Ridge at 8:15 a.m. Contact Raisch at 937-402-6596 for more information.

By Caitlin Koenig
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Oasis Rail Transit bound for Cincinnati region

For the first time since 1988, Cincinnati will play host to the 2015 MLB All-Star Game. And by that time, the Greater Cincinnati area could have a rail service, Oasis Rail Transit, which would be part of the Eastern Corridor program of multi-modal transportation improvement projects.
The Oasis project is the first proposed leg of the new regional rail system that will provide a new and much-needed transportation alternative for area residents. The Oasis line would span 17 miles between downtown Cincinnati and Milford. There are existing tracks along the route, but a number of miles of new track would be laid as well.
According to a press release, using existing track is a less expensive way to build a foundation of regional transportation. It would allow a passenger rail service network to advance more quickly and could serve as a national model for other commuter rail projects.

“Regional passenger rail isn’t a pipe dream, nor is it something for the far-off future,” according to Todd Portune, Hamilton County Commissioner and chair of Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District, in a press release. “It is here. Now. We can make this happen by 2015, but it will take a regional commitment from our local municipalities, chambers of commerce, state agencies and leaders to remove any barriers.”
The rail project was awarded funding last fall from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s House Bill 114 to help secure the right-of-way for extending the existing rail line from the Boathouse downtown to the Riverfront Transit Center. HCTID has also been working with local groups to explore joint-use opportunities, such as bicycle and walking paths, within the rail corridors. 
There are other rail lines in the works for the region that would connect Hamilton, Clermont, Butler and Warren counties in Ohio, and parts of Northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana as well. The future rail line will travel from Xavier University to Fairfax to Eastgate (Wasson line); along I-71 from Cincinnati/NKY International Airport/Florence to Blue Ash; along I-75 to Union Centre; along the I-471 corridor to Northern Kentucky University; and along western I-74 to Green Township and US-50 to Lawrenceburg.
By Caitlin Koenig
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City Hall launches app as a community-organizing tool

The City of Cincinnati has taken out the back-and-forth that can occur when residents try to reach them to report issues in their neighborhoods. At the Neighborhood Summit on Feb. 16, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls announced that the Cincinnati City Hall mobile app is available to the public.
With the app, residents can look up trash, recycling and street sweeping days, and set reminders; locate and report problems by address; bookmark locations for quick reporting; and track the status of reports. City Hall mobile also has GPS, so users can report issues, even without an address. There’s even a searchable map with property owner information, which enables residents to see if a property is occupied or vacant.
A few years ago, residents had to use the Yellow Pages to look up the number for city departments to file complaints, says Kevin Wright, executive director of Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation. The city then implemented a hotline for all complaints, but residents never knew the status of their reports.
“It’s amazing how comprehensive the app is,” Wright says. “If you see a broken window, pothole, graffiti, hanging gutter or anything else that is physically wrong with your neighborhood, street or community, you can report it in an instant. It’s a great tool for neighborhood redevelopment.”
The app can also be used as a community-organizing tool, Wright says. For example, if there is a property owner who historically hasn’t taken care of his or her property, social media can help organize a community and target the property to enforce codes until the property is fixed, which is what neighborhood councils and organizations like WHRF do.
“We’re really putting power in the hands of the citizens of the neighborhoods,” he says.
As with most tech programs, the app has room to grow, too. In the future, it could be linked with Facebook or Twitter, so your friends and followers will know who reported problems and where they are.
Cincinnati residents can download the app in the Apple App Store or download it through Google Play.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Pleasant Ridge Development Corp. awarded $150K to buy land, vacant properties

Thirteen neighborhood projects were recently awarded $1.65 million through the 2013 Neighborhood Business District Improvement Program.
The Pleasant Ridge Development Corporation received $150,000 for the acquisition and redevelopment of 6025 Montgomery Road, which includes two separate buildings on one parcel of land. PRDC is in negotiations with the current owner and plans to have the property under contract by January.
The majority of the NBDIP funds will go toward purchasing the property; the remainder will be put toward redevelopment. PRDC will then partner with another community organization or developer to finish the project.
PRDC currently has a working partnership with the Pleasant Ridge School Foundation at Pleasant Ridge Montessori for the project. PRDC and the Foundation have talked about several ideas for the property, including a potential daycare to supplement the school’s part-time preschool. Depending on the how planning for the daycare goes, there might be more than one use for the property, says Jason Chamlee, president of PRDC.
PRDC takes a different approach to its NBDIP projects than other neighborhoods. For the past two years, PRDC has focused on purchasing existing real estate and redeveloping it, says Chamlee. PRDC wanted to acquire the Montgomery property because it is a vacant building that can be redeveloped to capitalize on business opportunities near Pleasant Ridge Montessori, which is adjacent to the property.
Pleasant Ridge is a strong, engaged neighborhood with a stable housing market, says Chamlee. “The biggest need in Pleasant Ridge is rebuilding the business district. With support from the City of Cincinnati, our colleagues in other business districts and strong community partnerships, we are gaining momentum and want to build off our early successes. The quality of our neighborhood is very closely tied to the vitality of the business district."
Last year, PRDC was awarded $200,000 through NBDIP for the acquisition of a property at Montgomery and Ridge roads. The property had fallen into foreclose and disrepair and was about 75 percent vacant. PRDC formed a joint partnership with a local developer who will renovate the property.
The project from last year is going through the final approval process for full rehabilitation construction. In the end, there will be three or four new, redeveloped storefronts that total about 13,000 square feet of restaurant or retail space that will be available for lease in early 2013.

For additional information regarding development projects in Pleasant Ridge, please contact prdevcorp@gmail.com.

By Caitlin Koenig
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Twelve neighborhoods receive $1.65 million for projects

The City of Cincinnati Economic Development Division and Cincinnati Neighborhood Business Districts United (CNBDU) recently allocated $1.65 million to 13 projects for the 2013 Neighborhood Business District Improvement Program.
John Price, then-president of the Clifton Business Association, started CNBDU in 1992. He gathered all of the business association presidents in Cincinnati because he wanted to figure out a way to get funding for those neighborhoods that weren’t downtown, says Mike Wagner, president of CNBDU.
Over the years, CNBDU has appropriated about $33 million between federal and city money, and leveraged more $350 million in private money, to support non-downtown neighborhood projects.
CNBDU awards money annually to Cincinnati neighborhoods through the NBDIP, which receives federal money from the City’s Community Development Block Grant and city capital funds. Neighborhoods can use the money for a variety of capital improvements and other uses to promote economic development in their business districts.
Each neighborhood is allowed to apply for one major and one minor ask, says Bill Fischer, division manager of economic development for the City. The maximum amount for a minor ask is $30,000; there isn’t a maximum amount for a major ask. There are generally more minor-ask projects accepted because more projects can get done.
This year's process began in June when 29 neighborhoods submitted their initial proposals, which totaled $3.1 million in requests. A 28-member peer advisory group of community members who had submitted proposals and representatives from neighborhood business districts reviewed the proposals. In September, the reviewers took a bus tour of the project sites.
“There wasn’t much to look at when we first started CNBDU,” says Wagner. “But now we can see what has been accomplished in the past 17 years.”
In October, the peer group made recommendations to the City’s Economic Development Division after hearing presentations from the different neighborhoods. Neighborhood groups were notified at the end of November if their proposals would be turned into a project through NBDIP.
“Each neighborhood has a different approach to the project proposals,” says Fischer. “Some are looking to maintain what’s already there, whereas others are looking to create new business.”  
CNBDU funding is in addition to the Focus 52 program, a combination of bond and casino revenues, which will create a pool of $54 million for neighborhood projects throughout the city.
The neighborhood projects that were awarded money through the NBDIP are:
  • Walnut Hills: Park-Kemper Streetscape Design, $30,000
  • West Price Hill: Covedale Center Marquee/Community Message Board, $79,145
  • Roselawn: Business District Feasibility Study, $30,000
  • Clifton: Ludlow Avenue Storefront Improvement Program, $77,500
  • Westwood: Parking Lot Renovation, $30,000
  • Northside: Hoffner St. Garden, $80,000
  • Northside: Dhonau Garden, $30,000
  • Corryville: Façade Improvement Program (continuation), $236,397
  • Bond Hill: Bond Hill Identity Project, $30,000
  • East Price Hill: St. Lawrence Corner Public Square, $107,500
  • Pleasant Ridge: 6025 Montgomery Acquisition & Redevelopment, $150,000
  • Avondale: Reading, Rockdale & Forest Streetscape, $400,000
  • Mt. Adams: Streetscape Completion, $375,000
By Caitlin Koenig
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Vacant CPS schools recently sold at auction

On Nov. 8, Cincinnati Public Schools auctioned 13 school buildings and four land parcels, valued at more than $27 million, according to the county auditor's office. Eleven of the buildings sold, along with one piece of land. Bidding opened on Nov. 5 at $50,000; at the close of the auction, CPS made $3.5 million, which was more than enough to complete the district's Facilities Master Plan.
The FMP was part of a bond levy that was passed in spring 2003 that combined state and other funds for a $1 billion build-out of the district. In the next 18 months, every school currently in use by CPS will either have been renovated or rebuilt to create a better environment for students, faculty and staff.
As part of the FMP, many of the schools that were sold at auction were “swing” schools, which means they were used for classes while other schools were being renovated. After renovations, CPS no longer had a need for the schools, but wanted the buildings to have second lives.
“As part of the plan, we knew we couldn’t overbuild, and we didn’t want to under-build,” says Janet Walsh, director of public affairs for CPS. “The consequence of that was that there were some beautiful buildings that we weren’t able to use as school buildings, but could be used by the community in other ways.”

The district's approach, as it has been before, was to put the buildings up for auction.
CPS held a successful auction about three years ago, but this one included more buildings and raised more money than expected, says Eve Bolton, board president of CPS. Some of the schools that didn’t sell in the 2009 auction sold this time around.
“The reality is that the economic upturn in this region and the interest in Greater Cincinnati leaves a stock of historic, well-built schools empty,” says Bolton. “We want to see our buildings reused and recycled so that they can be beneficial to the neighborhoods they are a part of.”
State law allows CPS to auction off unused buildings, but only after they have first been offered to local charter schools. Those left after auction can be sold on the public market as pieces of real estate. Buyers have no legal restrictions regarding what the school buildings can be used as—some of the buildings will become other schools, residential housing or office buildings; others will be torn down and something else will be built in their places.
CPS schools and land included in the Nov. 8 auction:
  • Burton Elementary School, 876 Glenwood Street, North Avondale: sold for $305,000; built in 1966, last class in 2008
  • Central Fairmount Elementary School, 2475 White Street, South Fairmount: sold for $310,000; built in 1900, last class in 2012
  • Heberle Elementary School, 2015 Freeman Avenue, West End: sold for $60,000; built in 1929, last class in 2007
  • Hoffman Elementary School, 3060 Durrell Avenue, Evanston: sold for $200,000; built in 1922, last class in 2011
  • Kirby Road Elementary School, 1710 Bruce Avenue, Northside: sold for $230,000; built in 1910, last class in 2005
  • Lafayette Bloom Middle School, 1941 Baymiller Street, West End: sold for $60,000; built in 1915, last class in 2006
  • Linwood Fundamental Academy, 4900 Eastern Avenue, Linwood: sold for $75,000; built in 1927-29, last class in 2005
  • Losantiville Elementary School, 6701 Elbrook Avenue, Amberley Village: sold for $525,000; built in 1954, last class in 2008
  • Old SCPA, 1310 Sycamore Street, Pendleton: sold for $1.3 million; built in 1910, last class in 2010
  • Old Shroder Junior High School, 3500 Lumford Place, Kennedy Heights: sold for $150,000; built in 1956, last class unknown
  • Paradrome Street parcel, Mount Adams: sold for $135,000
  • Winton Montessori School, 4750 Winton Road, Winton Place: sold for $265,000; closed in early Nov. 2012
  • George F. Sands School, 940 Poplar Street, West End: not sold, valued at $1.89 million; built in 1912, last class in 2007
  • North Fairmount Elementary School, 2001 Baltimore Avenue, North Fairmount: not sold, valued at $2.2 million; built in 1954, last class unknown
  • E. Apple Street parcel, Winton Hills: not sold, valued at $485,628
  • Terry Street parcel, East Price Hill: not sold, valued at $13,400
  • Site of old Millvale school building, 3277 Beekman Street, Millvale: not sold, valued at $135,550
By Caitlin Koenig
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Big plans in the works for Cincinnati

As many areas of Cincinnati are being rejuvenated, including OTR and Washington Park, the City of Cincinnati approved a comprehensive approach to focus on development in the city as a whole, not just targeted neighborhoods. 

Last Friday, the City Planning Commission approved and adopted Plan Cincinnati, which was designed with input from residents. The Plan is an opportunity to strengthen what people love about the city, what works and what needs more attention, says Katherine Keough-Jurs, senior city planner and project manager.
The idea is to re-urbanize suburbanized Cincinnati; in a sense, to return to the strengths of the city's beginnings. Cincinnati was established just after the American Revolution in 1788 and grew into an industrial center in the 19th century. Many of those industries no longer exist in the city, which is part of why Cincinnati has become more suburbanized in the past 50 years. One of the long-term goals of the Plan is to bring new industries to Cincinnati.
With a new approach to revitalization, Cincinnati is blazing the trail for other cities. With a focus on building on existing strengths rather than tearing down structures and creating new ones, the Plan aims to capitalize on the city's “good bones” and good infrastructure.
Cinicinnatians had a huge role in developing the Plan. The first public meeting for the Plan was held in September 2009, when residents offered their insights into “what makes a great city?" and "what would make Cincinnati a great city?” A steering committee of 40 people representing businesses, nonprofits, community groups, local institutions, residents and City Council helped develop the Plan.

The Plan also got support from a grant from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which the City received in 2010. The grant allotted $2.4 million over three years to support the Land Development Code, which combines and simplifies Cincinnati's codes, reviews the development process, implements Form-based Codes and considers more creative uses for land. The grant allowed the city to start implementing some of the ideas voiced in public meetings.
Visionaries included youth, too. City staff worked with community centers and Cincinnati Public Schools to develop an art project for children. They were given clay pots and asked to paint their fears for the city on the inside and their dreams for the city on the outside. The children saw the big issue was quality of life, just like the adults did.
“It was an interesting way to get the kids involved and thinking about the future,” Keough-Jurs says.
The Plan aims to strengthen neighborhood centers—the neighborhoods’ business districts. It maps out areas that people need to get to on a daily basis and found that most are within about a half-mile of the business districts. But in some neighborhoods, residents can’t access their neighborhood centers. 

The accessibility of a neighborhood center is based on walkability—not just for pedestrians, but also about how structures address walking. For exampke, if a pedestrian can walk from one end of the neighborhood center to the other without breaking his or her pattern (the window shopping effect), the area is walkable; if he or she has been stopped by a parking lot or vacancies, it’s not walkable, Keough-Jurs says.
The neighborhood centers are classified in one of three ways in the Plan: maintain, evolve or transform. Some neighborhoods have goals to maintain levels of walkability, whereas others need to gradually change or evolve. Still others need to completely transform in order to strengthen their business districts.
“Cincinnati is at the heart of the region,” Keough-Jurs says. “If we strengthen Cincinnati, we strengthen a region.”

The next step for the Plan is to go before the Cincinnati City Council, specifically the Livable Communities Committee, which is chaired by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Gyms build muscle in downtown locations

Several gyms have opened or relocated in downtown Cincinnati in the past few months, all with one goal – to pump up young working professionals.

Snap Fitness 24-7, which opened in mid-April at 15 E. Seventh Street next to the former Blackfinn Saloon, is one of the gyms bypassing the suburbs and focusing fitness efforts on Cincinnati's urbanites.

The 24-hour gym, accessible by key card, is within walking distance of many residential complexes, says Beth Roe, its manager.

"We have people coming in here at all times," Roe says. "We have people coming in here at 3 a.m. to work out. We have cops coming in at 4 a.m. after their shifts. We just believe a 24-hour gym works here in downtown."

It's that type of clientele – the young professional living downtown – that encouraged another downtown gym, Sweat Training, to move from Pleasant Ridge to downtown.

The gym, which offers indoor boot camp and personal training, moved into its location at 18 W. Seventh St. in October 2010, says owner Danielle Korb.

It's a gym that focuses on catering to the demands of professionals who want to come in, work out hard, improve their bodies and then go play hard, she says.

"We're really for those people that are moving and shaking," Korb says.

Korb, who is also a trainer at the gym, scouted out 20 locations throughout Greater Cincinnati before settling downtown.

The open warehouse loft atmosphere of the location was a unique selling point in the gym's relocation, she adds.

"The gym is a big part of the atmosphere while working out," Korb says. "It's a loft with open windows and graffiti on the walls."

The move downtown also spurred growth, she says.

"It's the perfect pairing up of brand, location and clientele," Korb says. "I just felt like my brand was the perfect match for downtown."

By James Sprague

CPS green building projects attract national attention

Cincinnati City Council's Quality of Life Committee received an update Tuesday on Cincinnati Public Schools' progress on its facilities master plan. This system-wide construction and renovation project has garnered national attention, not only for its scope but also for its emphasis on green building. The project's 23 LEED certified or registered schools have CPS on track to be one of the nation's most environmentally sustainable school systems, and is playing a key role in some of Cincinnati's key goals, said council member and committee chair Laure Quinlivan.

"The most important thing [council] can do as politicians is try to get more people and businesses into the community. One of the big questions I hear again and again is, 'how are the schools?'" she said. "The better our schools, the more people we retain in our urban core."

CPS Director of Facilities Planning and Construction Michael Burson reported that the project has completed construction and renovation on 36 of its 51 planned and current schools. Ten more are under construction, and five are in various stages of the construction bidding process.

But the master plan, which was initially approved in 2002, is already showing results, he noted. The biggest change comes from 'right sizing' the system, he said.

"We were operating 80 schools, a legacy of the 90,000 students we had in the 60s," he said. "A lot of the old buildings didn't consume a lot of energy, but they were not that functional and their environment wasn't that great.

"The master plan, he explained, changed in 2007 to mandate LEED Silver certification or better, meaning that CPS would had the potential to become one of the greenest school districts in the nation. Burson reported at the meeting that CPS has already achieved a number of noteworthy marks, including the first LEED Silver certified school in the state (Pleasant Ridge Montessori). And the sustainable construction is more than a bragging point; he explained that CPS is on track to operate its upgraded facilities - complete with new technology, security features and modern air conditioning - for the same cost per square foot it spent to operate the outdated, inefficient schools with a fraction of the amenities.

"I was really surprised at all I heard CPS is doing," said Quinlivan. "They're really on the cutting edge of facilities, and it's great for students to be in buildings that are healthy as well as new."

Burson went a step further, noting that the green building features are becoming a hands-on part of curricula throughout the system. And therein, he said, lies the biggest contribution CPS is making to the city through its facility upgrades. "For us, I think we're able to influence the younger generation, and we're instituting this into the culture," he said.

Writer: Matt Cunningham

Retailers looking to the next Jungle to solve the big box challenge

As construction of the Jungle Jim's International Market ensues in Union Township, retailers are contacting the development team about space available around and inside the supermarket. Formerly Bigg's Place Mall, the Eastgate site spans 40 acres, of which Jungle Jim's will account for more than 200,000 square feet, according to the team. It will be the second Jungle Jim's in the greater Cincinnati area. The original makes up 6.5 acres in Fairfield.

Peter Borchers is a specialist with Midland Retail, the company handling leases at the 40-acre site. He wasn't permitted to comment on specific interested retailers, but he did concede: "We are targeting restaurants … electronics would be another example. We have some specialty retail, and we've located more of the independent variety that we think would be a good mix with Jungle Jim's. I think it's going to be a real dynamic mix."

He added: "We're going after some larger tenants for larger spaces. They would be more of the national variety."

Eastgate Jungle Jim's construction began last month, not too long after the township agreed to invest $7.5 million in the property, which the store plans to purchase after an eight-year lease. The Jungle Jim's team has been documenting the construction via Facebook, where fans are asking about jobs, beer, wine and more locations - Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and even China.

"The No. 1 question we're getting is, 'When are you going to build a Jungle Jim's in my area?" says development director Phill Adams.

Jungle Jim's Fairfield location has been recognized for its international selections and wine collections, as noted in programs such as Good Morning America and the History Channel's Modern Marvels.

Union Township officials took note of the supermarket's success. They approached owner Jim Bonaminio and company when bigg's closed its store at the Eastgate site last spring.

"By getting Jungle Jim's, we're talking about a facility that has the capability of attracting people from a 150-200 mile radius, which will not only bring business for Jungle Jim's, but for all of the other retailers, restaurants and so forth," says township trustee Tim Donnellon. "We expect the economic impact to be significant for the township and Clermont County."

The idea of renovating what is known as a "big box" retail site is trending in the greater Cincinnati region. Columbia Township officials and Neyer Properties recently made advancements to the township's Ridge Pointe development, which includes a 108,000 square-foot building near Pleasant Ridge and Kennedy Heights. Kmart closed there in 2003. Tri-State Clinical Laboratory Services is one major tenant moving to the new development.

"It's about time (the development) came to fruition," says Susan Hughes, vice president of the township's board of trustees. "We're going to do a lot of things over. The economics and everything will be better."

Writer: Rich Shivener

District 'A' festival highlights arts district in two neighborhoods

The District A Festival is a day of art, dance, music and food in Kennedy Heights and Pleasant Ridge that highlights those communities' efforts to band together and brand themselves as a destination arts district.

"We are doing a progressive party building on our arts assets, moving from Kennedy Heights in the morning to Pleasant Ridge in the afternoon," District A's board chair Maria Kreppel said. "Then we're having a community art party in the middle."

Kreppel said the festival, this Saturday, mimics a typical Saturday in "District A" where Kennedy Heights' arts organizations offer programming in the morning and restaurants and shops are open in Pleasant Ridge during the afternoon and evening.

At this year's festival, dance classes and art demonstrations begin the day at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center and Arts Innovation Movement (AIM) Cincinnati (formerly Ballet tech.) During the course of the day artists from the neighborhood (of which there are many) will sell works along Montgomery Road while art activities and a book sale will be offered at the Pleasant Ridge Library. Also, AIM will present a dress rehearsal preview of TwiNight, a dance performance premiering next Friday at the Aronoff. The event ends with indoor/outdoor concerts and dinner at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pleasant Ridge. 

A non-profit, all-volunteer organization, District A grew out of a years-old effort in the two neighborhoods to keep their business districts vital despite businesses moving out. 

An arts renaissance in Kennedy Heights was sparked five years ago when community members turned vacant buildings into "arts anchors" like the Kennedy Heights Arts Center and later Ballet Tech Cincinnati (now AIM) and the Green Corner and Giving Garden - a market and garden.

Pleasant Ridge, a district with restaurants, bars and shops, joined the effort when its community councils joined with Kennedy Heights' to establish the "Montgomery Road Arts Collaboration." It became "District A" in 2008 with assistance from design agency LPK. Kreppel said the name reflects the effort to be "not your typical arts district." The organization currently works to foster communication between artists, businesses, building owners and neighbors to promote community and economic growth, Kreppel said.

District A recently helped Pleasant Perk, a coffee shop, through a change in ownership. They have also placed artwork by local artists in vacant commercial spaces at the corner of Montgomery and Ridge roads. Plans for the next big "arts anchor" in Kennedy Heights - the conversion of an abandoned Kroger's supermarket into the Kennedy Heights Cultural Center - will be unveiled at the event.

Information on the festival, including times, can be found here. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Writer: Henry Sweets
Photography by Henry Sweets

Kennedy Heights to get green light for new cultural center

The residents of Kennedy Heights are turning their business district into an arts community one vacant building at a time.

Three examples now flank the neighborhood's short stretch of Montgomery Road. A one hundred-year-old Victorian mansion vacated by a funeral home is now the Kennedy Heights Arts Center, a former bar is now a dance and music studio operated by Ballet Tech Cincinnati, and an old filling station hosts an art gallery and weekend "green market."

Now the most ambitious project - the proposed conversion of a 32,000 sq ft vacant Kroger store into the Kennedy Heights Cultural Center - is expected to get a very important legal green light.
Within the next two weeks, representatives from Cincinnati Public Schools, the City of Cincinnati and the Kennedy Heights Development Corporation (KHDC) are expected to sign an option agreement that will legally allow the KHDC to purchase the building from Cincinnati Public Schools, which currently uses it as a warehouse. Once the agreement is signed, the KHDC and the center's three resident organizations will have six months to raise the rest of the money needed to make an offer on the building, KHDC chair Ernie Barbeau said.

If the center is built it will be shared by three occupants. The Cincinnati Art Museum will display a collection there that is currently in storage in Columbus, the Kennedy Heights Montessori School will make the building its permanent home and the Kennedy Heights Arts Center, which has more demand for artist studio space than it can provide, will open studios and a theatre there.

"From my view the cultural center is going to change people's perceptions about Kennedy Heights and I think it's going to change many Kennedy Heights residents' perceptions about themselves," Barbeau said. "And it is really going to be changing not only the nature of our neighborhood but our business district, and I think we are really going to become a major force within the arts district."

The KHDC recently secured a $375,000 grant from the City of Cincinnati to purchase the property, and have been recommended to receive a $300,000 grant from the state for construction costs, Barbeau said. He also said an anonymous donor has pledged a donation that will bring the effort to about 40 percent of its $2.4 million goal, the estimated cost to purchase and renovate the building. If everything goes as planned then construction on the project could begin as early as this fall, Barbeau said.

Writer: Henry Sweets
Photography by Scott Beseler

Cincinnati Parks working to green city's unique neighborhood business districts

Following the renovation of Fountain Square, the City of Cincinnati needed someone to manage the plantings on the public plaza.  After a competitive bidding process the Cincinnati Park Board's Greenspace Program emerged as the best organization to handle such a project.  Since that time, the program has expanded considerably throughout Downtown and Over-the-Rhine, and more recently into eight of Cincinnati's neighborhood business districts.

"The Park Board competed for the landscaping contract against private companies and eventually won," described City Council member Laure Quinlivan, Chair of the Livable Communities Committee.  "The City was excited to hand this platform off to a group able to do this, and we are really fortunate to have one of the best park departments in the country that was able to step up to the challenge."

The initial contract at Fountain Square has led to other opportunities for the Park Board's Greenspace Program.  At the end of 2007, City Council looked at eight business districts that recently had streetscaping projects completed, or had existing landscaping in their business districts. The goal was to find out what it would take to design, install and maintain three seasonal displays annually.  The Greenspace Program fit the bill and also maintains the sidewalk cutouts that include tree plantings in those business districts.

"We really enjoy the opportunity to do this work in neighborhoods throughout the city," said Dave Boutelle, Service Area Coordinator for the Greenspace Program.  "It has added a new dimension to our program and we are encouraged by all the positive feedback we have been receiving from the neighborhoods where we have been working."

Neighborhoods where Greenspace has been working include Westwood, Bond Hill, Roselawn, Evanston, Northside, O'Bryonville, Mt. Washington and Pleasant Ridge.  The work has been ongoing since 2008 with a two person crew maintaining the landscaping in these areas to keep them looking beautiful.

"Our Greenspace Program concentrates on public areas that are not parks, but do have landscaping like highway ramps, parkways, neighborhood gateways and other park-like settings," Boutelle explained.  "And we are fortunate to have talented people that do tremendous design work that has been able to keep the areas colorful year-round."

The program costs the City no additional money and expands the work of the Cincinnati Park Board; which in the end is something Quinlivan is very proud about.

"My goal is to create a cleaner, greener and smarter city, and what better way to do that than through a partnership like this," she said.

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Tiffani Fisher
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy

Pleasant Ridge Montessori School achieves LEED Silver Certification

Pleasant Ridge Montessori has become the first public K-12 school in Ohio to achieve Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Certification thanks to the efforts of Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), the Pleasant Ridge community, and the design work of SHP Leading Design.

The announcement of the LEED Silver Certification came from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) after a review of the school's application.

"This announcement is a monumental achievement for SHP, Cincinnati Public Schools and the community of Pleasant Ridge," said vice president of SHP, Charlie Jahnigen.  "The school was the first LEED registered K-12 building in the state of Ohio and the first to receive its LEED certification."

The 75,000 square-foot educational facility was constructed on the school's existing seven-acre site and opened in 2008 to house 317 students, but enrollment this past year has grown to 572 students.

Some of the school's sustainable features include solar panels, specially designed utility and mechanical systems, north and south facing windows to prevent sun glare and provide optimal sunlight, a white roof to reduce heat absorption, and the use of recycled and locally produced materials in the construction process.

While Pleasant Ridge Montessori is the first of its kind, it will certainly not be the last as Cincinnati Public Schools has adopted the sustainable design standards used on this project and applying them to all of its future projects.  Likewise, the state of Ohio has also mandated that any new public school in the state receiving state funds must meet LEED Silver certification or better.

Jahnigen said that everyone invovled in the process of creating this new school should be very proud.  "Pleasant Ridge provided an incredible opportunity to realize the benefits of sustainable design, and CPS has proven to be an invaluable partner in the process."

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @SoapboxRandy

May means it's bike month in Cincinnati

As Cincinnati strives to become a more bike friendly city, the local bike community continues to grow and become more active.  Recent victories include the announcement of dedicated bike lanes on Spring Grove Avenue when it is repaved in the near future, the start of a new “sharrow” pilot program that will study a variety of bike corridors throughout the city to determine which ones are best suited for “sharrows” and an update to the City’s Bike Plan is currently underway.

The dedicated bike lane along Spring Grove Avenue will further connect the neighborhoods of Downtown and Northside, and will allow bicyclists to safely and quickly travel through the Mill Creek Valley on their way to or from the center city.

“Sharrows” are marked lanes that are used to indicate to motorists that bicyclists do indeed share the road and help provide a safer environment for bicyclists to navigate congested city streets.  These sharrows are used throughout much of the United States, but have yet to be embraced in Ohio, which has recently been ranked as the 32nd best state for bicyclists.

The hopes are that these new initiatives will illustrate support for bicyclists and encourage higher rates of bicycling in the Cincinnati region. But even with these new initiatives, many hurdles still exist for Cincinnati bicyclists.  Support facilities like lockers and showers are virtually non-existent, many bicyclists still do not ride on the streets with vehicular traffic and ample riding and parking space continue to be issues faced by bicyclists.

Sherman Cahal is the owner of the local bicycling forum known as Cincy Rides and regularly participates in the grass-roots rides known as Critical Mass – both of which are meant to engage the local bicycling community and keep communication open for their efforts.  Cahal has attempted to further network the local bicycling community in a way that will hopefully create new and innovative solutions to many of the problems still faced in Cincinnati with regards to bicycling.

May is also National Bike Month, making it the perfect time to celebrate bicycling and bring awareness to its causes in the Cincinnati-area. This year’s Bike Month includes a variety of events and activities geared towards getting Cincinnati-area bicyclists out on the streets and being visible.  One such activity is Deals on Wheels where dozens of local businesses are offering discounts and special deals for those who bicycle to their businesses.

This coming Thursday marks the Cincinnati Bike to Work Day where cyclists are strongly encouraged to get out and bicycle to work.  The efforts of getting people to bicycle to work are largely centered on support facilities like lockers and showers that are currently not found in Cincinnati.

To get involved with Bike Month activities in Cincinnati, you can visit Queen City Bike for regular updates on events, activities and specials.  This involvement is important as the local bicycling community moves forward and spreads the word about their beloved means of transportation.

“The bicycle is perhaps the cleanest mode of transport for any measurable distance, and nothing remains as pure or as spirited as the natural elegance of a bike ride,” says Cahal.

Writer: Randy Simes
Source: Sherman Cahal, owner, Cincy Rides
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