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Over-the-Rhine : Development News

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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.
 

First alcoholic ice cream shop opens March in Over-the-Rhine


Buzzed Bull Creamery, Cincinnati’s first liquid nitrogen ice cream shop, plans to open at 1408 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine in March. According to the owners, it will also be the world’s first alcoholic ice cream shop.
 
Owners Colten and Kaitlyn Mounce, Keith and Amber Ayers and Shane, Katherine and Cathy Mounce grew up in Mason and went to school together. The Mounces have been looking for a place to open their ice cream shop for about a year, after moving back home from out-of-state.
 
The group plans for the OTR location to be the first of several Buzzed Bulls in the area.
 
Buzzed Bull will be a traditional ice cream shop with a few twists. The first is that the ice cream is frozen with liquid nitrogen, and the second is that those 21 and older can add shots of alcohol to their creamy concoctions.
 
Freezing the ice cream with liquid nitrogen allows for each order to be fully customizable. It also presents a smoother, creamier texture than other ice creams.
 
Customers will choose a base ice cream or yogurt flavor like vanilla, chocolate, cookies and cream, strawberry or peanut butter. There will also be flavors designed to taste like cocktails, such as margarita, rum and Coke or whiskey sour.
 
From there, adults can add one to two shots of alcohol, either well or premium brands. The end result will be about 5 percent alcohol by volume. Everyone will be able to choose from the wide selection of add-ins: brownie pieces, chocolate chips, cookie dough, cookie pieces, graham crackers, Lemon Heads, Snickers pieces, etc.
 
Buzzed Bull’s menu will include a number of specialty concoctions, including the

 
The mixture is then frozen instantly with liquid nitrogen, which is liquid at -320 degrees. It makes a cloud of vapor when it freezes, and will freeze in a matter of seconds. The resulting ice crystals are much smaller than in typical ice cream, which is what makes the ice cream smoother.
 
Buzzed Bull will be open from noon to 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday.

Keep tabs on Buzzed Bull's Facebook page for details about its grand opening.
 

Downtown building to undergo renovations, solar panel installation


The former Strietmann Biscuit Building, which is located at 221 W. 12th St. in Over-the-Rhine, will soon undergo a $12 million renovation. The project received $1.2 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits; the building will be historically preserved.
 
The 117-year-old, 100,000-square-foot building, which was built in four phases between 1890-1910, was originally the home of the Strietmann Biscuit Co. It served as a bakery, warehouse and offices for the company until the 1970s. Since the 1990s, Western Interiors and Wegman Co. used the building for storage.
 
Renovation plans include 70,000 square feet of Class A office space and 15,000 square feet of street-level retail. The seventh floor of the building will become a conference center with full kitchen and rooftop terrace. The basement of the building will include locker rooms and bike storage.
 
Initial construction will focus on repairing or replacing any deteriorated structural aspects. During renovations, many of the building’s historical aspects will be preserved, including original hardwood, brick and exposed ceiling beams. Modern touches like marble, chrome, concrete and hardwood floors will be added too.
 
A new roof will be added, and Grandin Properties, the building’s owner, is planning to install 144 rooftop solar panels in order to receive LEED certification. The panels will produce about 61,000-kilowatt hours of electricity per year, and will offset lighting, heating and air conditioning needs.
 
HGC Construction is doing the renovation work, and SunRock Solar LLC will install the solar panels.
 
Blue Chip Venture Co. and Grandin Properties have already been named as tenants. Developers are courting marketing firms and other companies that serve Kroger and other Fortune 500 firms.
 

People's Liberty, Brick Gardens


According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a "food desert" is an area where substantial numbers of residents live in poverty and lack access to affordable, nutritious food. Under this federal definition, Cincinnati has several neighborhoods that qualify as food deserts, including Avondale, Bond Hill, Evanston, Northside and South Fairmount.

Domonique Peebles, a 2016 People's Liberty grantee, wanted to do something about it.
 
Peebles first had the idea to activate vacant spaces throughout the city by turning them into urban gardens, and then share the resulting produce with those in need of fresh food. As he began to research his concept, he realized there are already dozens of urban gardens throughout the city, and he didn't want to replicate existing efforts.

Not only that, but traditional gardening has its limitations: the growing season is limited, the weather is unpredictable and garden spaces are not universally accessible. That's when Peebles decided to address food access issues in Cincinnati in a cutting-edge way: vertical farming.
 
Peebles, a resident of Over-the-Rhine, envisioned vacant buildings in his neighborhood as possible locations for vertical farming set-ups.

"There are all kinds of benefits," Peebles said. "Activating empty space in the city, getting rid of blight, getting rid of run-down structures, physically growing food that can be distributed and teaching people how to grow food."
 
Peebles traveled to Detroit to learn from an urban gardener who was using an innovative vertical farming set-up to grow produce year-round. Peebles spent over a year researching methods of how to build vertical farm "stacks," as he refers to them, and he received a $10,000 People's Liberty grant for his project, Brick Gardens.
 
Though vertical farming may sound complex and expensive, the whole process from building the stack to harvesting the produce can be learned in less than an hour. A stack includes trays for the plants, a growing medium, a water reservoir and standard fluorescent lighting. Stacks can be assembled from commercially available components for under $200. Ongoing maintenance of the system is minimal, and it also recycles water, so it is inexpensive to maintain the growing plants.

"It's really hands-off once you get the initial planting done," Peebles said. "It's really just a daily maintenance check. It seems like it's very technical, but once you do it once, you can do it the rest of your life."

Peebles said that a single stack, of a size that could be maintained within one's own home, is able to produce about 56 heads of lettuce in 21 days.

"A person might grow that amount of lettuce on an acre of land, with two harvests per year," Peebles said. With vertical farming, a person could get about seven harvests every three months.
 
Peebles has a working model of a small stack that's suited for home production in his shop Featured, which is on Main Street in OTR. People interested in learning how to create a stack are welcome to reach out and arrange a time to view the model and ask questions.

Peebles has also partnered with the agriculture department at Cincinnati State and has two stacks growing there. With these stacks, Peebles is experimenting with growing different types of crops that are less commonly grown indoors on vertical farms, such as tomatoes. He also maintains six stacks at New Prospect Church in Roselawn.
 
Vertical farming is so much faster and more efficient than traditional methods that Peebles had his first Brick Gardens harvest less than a month after starting seeds.

"I had no idea I would be so successful," he said. "But my very first time was a 100 percent success rate on sprouting."

The stacks continue to flourish: "Once a week we've been going to all the sites and harvesting one to three pounds per site." Brick Gardens donates the harvested produce to community members in Roselawn, to students who help to grow the produce at Cincinnati State and to Gabriel's Place, a nonprofit in Avondale.
 
Peebles has high hopes for turning Brick Gardens into an ongoing enterprise.

"It's something that could be done in multiple neighborhoods," he said. "These could be put anywhere — elementary schools, hospitals, nursing homes."

There are pre-made vertical farming systems currently on the market, but Peebles wants to encourage people to consider going the DIY route. He says that the system he designed is about half the cost of pre-built systems.
 
Peebles ultimately hopes to continue partnering with schools, universities, local neighborhoods and even restaurants in need of access to fresh, local produce year-round.

"The thing with growing food is there's not really competition," he said. "There's always going to be a need for food production. People are always going to need to eat."
 
Those interested in learning more about Brick Gardens are encouraged to visit its website.
 
Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship.

 

Newly renovated Memorial Hall now open to the public


The yearlong, $11 million renovation of Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine is now complete. Although finishing touches are still being added, Memorial Hall opened to the public on Nov. 25 for its first art exhibit, Brickmas. It will be on display through Dec. 30.
 
Memorial Hall sits between Music Hall — which will reopen next fall after a $135 million renovation — and the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s new, $17 million Otto M. Budig Theater, which will open in September 2017.

Built in 1908 by local architecture firm Samuel Hannaford & Sons, the 100-year-old Beaux Arts building was built to honor veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Civil War. The building is currently owned by Hamilton County.
 
It was once used by the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players and the MusicNOW Festival, but the building had been underused in recent decades because it lacked updated amenities like air conditioning, adequate restrooms and backstage areas.
 
Besides restoring the outward appearance of Memorial Hall, many historical details of the building were preserved. The original wrought iron décor is still intact, and the historic hat racks underneath the seats were kept. The building's reception areas feature original stenciling that has also been fully restored.
 
Updates include:
  • Wider seats, which reduced the total number of seats in the theater from 610 to 506. Padding was also added to the wooden seats. Handicap accessible seating areas have been added.
  • New theatrical lighting, a new sound system, a new laser projector and a screen for showing films have been installed. New cushions were added for sound absorption, as well as adjustable, sound absorbing drapes in some doorways.
  • The stage was extended five feet.
  • New glass doors were added to insulate the hall from noise in the marble stairwells.
  • The passenger elevator on the building’s north side remains, and a new service elevator was added. For the first time, a grand piano will be able to be moved on and off the stage with little difficulty.
  • A new outdoor patio area was added, as well as new bars throughout the building, which will allow for light bites, desserts, beer and wine tastings from local restaurants, craft breweries and wine distributors.
The theater itself is being renamed the Annie W. and Elizabeth M. Anderson Theater in honor of the foundation that is underwriting the upcoming concert series.
 
In February, the foundation will launch the Longworth-Anderson Series, featuring concerts from contemporary artists. The winter-spring season will open on Feb. 10 with Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash, with musical collaborator and husband John Leventhal. Other artists include Pink Martini featuring Chyna Forbes on March 9, Richard Thompson on April 7 and Sarah Jarosz on June 9.
 
The Memorial Hall Society will also program up to 10 events each year. There will also be other programs lined up by 3CDC, which oversaw the building’s renovation and manages Memorial Hall, as well as community programs and event rentals.
 
The public is invited to Memorial Hall’s official ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. on Dec. 2. The ribbon cutting will be followed by tours of the building.
 

Cohousing coming to Over-the-Rhine with Kunsthous


Next summer, a new kind of apartment community will make its debut in Over-the-Rhine called Kunsthous. Cofounders John Blatchford, Michael Fischer, Alyssa McClanahan and Barrett McClish are currently renovating two historic buildings in the neighborhood, and are creating co-living spaces within them.
 
“I’ve been renting for 10 years, and all of the places I’ve lived have had really strong communities,” Blatchford, CEO of Kunsthous, said. “People are moving back to cities and renting more than ever, but many apartments are too big and we’re living in buildings where we don’t know our neighbors. Kunsthous is trying to get away from that suburban seclusion.” Cohousing is popular on the West Coast and other urban areas. Typical cohousing has a smaller footprint, shared common space for building community.
 
The first building the team is renovating is 205 W. McMicken St., which they purchased through OTR Adopt. When finished, it will have six studio and one-bedroom apartments with a shared kitchen on the first floor and a co-working space.
 
Kunsthous units are smaller than typical apartments, and a bit cheaper when compared to other OTR apartments — the average rent for the first six units is $650 per month.
 
“We’re really trying to focus on the idea of co-living in Cincinnati,” Blatchford said.
 
In order to build intentional community, Kunsthous kitchens will have beer and kombucha on tap, and there will be public and private events throughout the year for tenants and the larger community.
 
“There is so much growth going on in Cincinnati, and a lot of that growth is focused in OTR,” Blatchford said. “You can look at larger coastal cities and see where OTR is going — rent is going to get more expensive, and more and more people will be moving in. We need to find a way to provide more affordable apartments, and ways for people moving in to meet others and build a network.”
 
Kunsthous will continue to grow, with seven more apartments planned for the building located at 509 E. 12th St. Blatchford said he and his team are planning to expand their idea within Cincinnati, and are looking at Walnut Hills and Northern Kentucky.
 
By the end of next year, there will be about 20 Kunsthous apartments, and although the buildings aren’t right next to each other and maybe not in the same neighborhood, that sense of community will be there.
 
“A lot of the best things in our lives are the result of the people that we meet,” Blatchford said. “Lots of people are moving back or just moving here, and we need to create more opportunities for people to meet other like themselves, or not like themselves. That’s what makes a city stronger and makes people happier.”
 
There is already interest from potential renters, and if you’re interested in living in Kunsthous, visit its website to sign up.
 
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