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Speakeasy-style cafe to join DeSales Corner business boom

 

An art deco style building located at 1535 Madison Rd. on the southwest edge of DeSales Corner will soon be restored to its former charm, welcoming a restaurant and speakeasy-style bar.

“A relaxed alternative to the OTR scene.” That’s how Michael Berry, part-owner of the new bar and restaurant, describes the emerging neighborhood of Walnut Hills. Berry is keeping the name of his new venture under wraps for now.

The owners of Northside bars The Littlefield and Second Place, operating under South Block Properties and LADS Entertainment, purchased the building as a response to the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and the East Walnut Hills Assembly's solicitation for proposals.

The building, which has sat vacant for the past 50 years, was once the site of a bank. Its new owners will be tasked with installing updated mechanics, electricity and plumbing, and restoring the water-damaged coffered plaster ceilings. The team hopes to bring back some of the old bank building’s original style.

The finished product will be a comfortable restaurant serving food from Shoshannah Hafner, the brains behind The Littlefield’s selective menu. Berry says Hafner is excited at the chance to expand upon her culinary skills.

“She was given a tiny kitchen (at The Littlefield) and has created a menu that we believe represents the very best food you can get in a bar anywhere," says Berry. "The new place will be a full restaurant where Shoshannah will be given a proper kitchen to really expand our offerings.”

The food will favor The Littlefield’s approach to American cuisine accented with combinations of Mediterranean, Asian and Spanish flavors.

Below the restaurant will be an intimate, underground bar.

“Think speakeasy vibe with low light and a comfortable lived-in environment,” Berry says.

The bar will feature a robust wine list; a variety of draft beer; house-made cocktails and an extensive spirit selection with attention to vodka, gin and classic cocktails developed by John Ford, another of the bar's co-owners. Ford's creations at The Littlefield and Second Place have been praised for their one-of-a-kind flavors.

After they opened Second Place — appropriately named, as it was the their second endeavor — LADS and South Block felt drawn to Walnut Hills’ similar vibe to Northside.

“We’re mostly Northsiders," Berry says. "While we have a lot of affection for our neighborhood, we very much like the atmosphere of Walnut Hills. It has a lot of the same characteristics we like about Northside, like the strong art scene. The opportunity to create something in that bank building was too good to pass up. It is certainly a challenge, but when we are finished with the space, it will be one of the truly unique dining experiences in the region.”

The new addition to DeSales Corner is set to open next spring or summer, and organizers hope the new addition will complement the neighborhood and aid in ongoing efforts to breathe life back into the Walnut Hills community.


Deschutes Brewery brings its street pub concept to town for a one-day fundraiser


Breweries are abuzz in Greater Cincinnati. As independent labels, entrepreneurs and growing companies make their mark on Cincinnati with one-of-a-kind beers, one one out-of-town brewery is ready to make its mark.

Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery is bringing its Street Pub to Cincinnati this weekend. For one day only, beer lovers can come to this one-stop shop to try more than 50 beers on tap with food creations that pair perfectly.

While a large selection of Deschutes craft beers — such as Black Butte Anniversary Series, Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Fresh Squeezed IPA — will be on tap, as well as local favorites from Moerlein Lager House and Blake’s Hard Cider.

Deschutes’ Corporate Executive Chef, Jeff Usinowicz, is teaming up with Cincinnati’s own Chef Joe Lanni, co-founder of the Thunderdome Group, and Chef Jared Bennett of Metropole, to provide tasty cuisine for the event.

Over the past two years, the 400-foot-long bar tour across the United States has raised more than $835,000; that money has been spread among charities specific to the areas visited. While in Cincinnati, Deschutes will be raising funds for the Starfire Council, which focuses on connecting the community to people with disabilities, as well as The Schubert-Martin IBD Center at Cincinnati Children’s, which cares for patients with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

The brewery partners with organizations that share its philanthropic goals and culture within the communities the Street Pub visits.

Other cities on this year’s tour include Roanoke, Milwaukee, Portland and Sacremento. According to the marketing team at Deschutes, more than 140,000 people were in attendance among the seven events held on last year’s tour.

"All of the communities where we have taken Street Pub have responded with overwhelming support," says Joey Pleich, Deschutes' brewery field marketing manager.

Local bands will also be featured at the event, including The Buzzard Kings, HEBDO, CLUBHOUSE and Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas. The event is family-friendly, and activities like the Hydro Flask’s Skee Ball Challenge and Hydration Station (made by Black Dog Salvage of DIY Network’s "Salvage Dawgs"); Humm Kombucha’s Creation Station for collaborative art projects and activities; and KEEN Footwear’s activism center and lounge, photo booth, games and free shoe raffles will be scattered around the Street Pub. Karen Eland Art will also be on-site with a live art demonstration painted with beer.

While admission is free for all ages, $5 tokens will be available for purchase for those who wish to try the beers, which will be 14-oz. pours.

The event is from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on June 24 at The Banks (Second and Vine). A “soft-opening” will be held at 11 a.m. for pride parade viewing and a preview of some of the beers.

For presale tokens, VIP tickets and more information, visit the event page or the Deschutes Brewery Street Pub Facebook page. If you are interested in volunteering at the event, you can sign up here.
 


Preschool Promise: A Q&A with Anne Sesler


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


New Montessori school will invest in more than just education


Caroline Caldwell imagined a school for her daughter where the focus was kindness rather than performance. “I just felt like I wanted something very specific for her,” she says.

Caldwell, along with Anna Ferguson, Brett Hornberger, Nayana Shah and Mark Stroud, founded Heärt Montessori, a school that will prioritize empathy and compassion, intertwined with core academics.

“It’s not that other schools don’t teach empathy and compassion but we wanted it to be the focus,” Caldwell says.

Heärt will educate children in a typical Montessori style, with an emphasis on developing higher self-esteem and high self-acceptance through yoga, meditation, mindfulness, art and music. Caldwell says it’s important for children to learn tools to be kinder human beings.

“The main impetus is for students to manifest the most exquisite version of themselves,” says Caldwell. “Now more than ever with kids being bullied and kids having low self-esteem, integrating practices like yoga, mindfulness and meditation helps kids deal with stress and pressure in a healthy way rather than taking it out on others.”

Heärt plans to start its inaugural pre-school/kindergarten learning group in Jan. 2018. Meanwhile, the school building, located at 268 Ludlow Ave., is undergoing renovations that reflect its philosophy of living in harmony with the earth.

“Sustainability is important,” Caldwell says. The renovations use sustainable, green materials whenever possible, like painting the interior walls with clay-based paint.

Green living and sustainability will permeate many aspects of the school’s programs and curriculum. After spending the first two hours of the morning on typical Montessori work, children will have extended “outside time.” Students can expect to learn using natural materials, exploring Burnet Woods and learning to tend the school’s garden.

“I get so excited for that opportunity for my daughter,” Caldwell says.

Heärt will provide healthy, organic, plant-based lunches and snacks for its students using the produce from the school's garden. Mark Stroud, one of the founders, is an acclaimed vegan chef who will prepare the nutritious meals.

“Optimally, we’ll be cooking food that we grow in season,” says Caldwell. “We’ll have healthy, plant-based meals that are organic and amazing.”

In the afternoons, students might take a nap, have one-on-one time with their teacher or take time for yoga, art, music or meditation.

Heärt is a private school and parents can enroll their children online via its website. Caldwell encouraged interested parents to attend an open house to learn more.
 


LEED silver townhomes add to ongoing resurgence of Court Street


Following a period where barren landscape and vacant storefronts dominated the area, new life is being brought to Court Street as many new businesses, restaurants and residential options are beginning to open.

In the last several years, Urban Expansion has helped bolster the redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine. The group is heading up a redevelopment project that will bring more residential opportunities to the area on and around Court Street.

Urban Expansion is a leading developer of LEED-certified projects, which focuses on green building leadership. Not only do these projects save money and resources, but they also promote renewable, clean energy within a development.

According to Chris Reckman, president of Urban Expansion, building a LEED home is not only good for the environment but an excellent selling point, one that has been the focus of Cincinnati projects over the last few years. “Generally, there are a lot of LEED benefits out there, which we as a builder/developer would certainly agree with.”

As another focal selling point for the project, Court Street is historically an underutilized connector between OTR and the Central Business District, something that Reckman believes is changing.

“There's a lot of potential here and a natural bridge to the CBD,” he says. “It's really ‘downtown-near,’ and this location in particular is close to Washington Park, the School for Creative and Performing Arts, Queen City Radio, the new YMCA, the streetcar, Cincy Red Bike and more.”

The newly renovated townhomes, located at 1008 and 1010 Elm St. near the Court Street corridor, are currently on the market for $575,000. Vertical in style, the 2,050-square-foot homes each boast three bedrooms, two full baths and two half baths. Fourth-floor roof decks and wet bars are at the disposal of the buyers.

Also featured in the refurbished homes are custom closets, second-floor master suites and large, clean basements that could act as storage or be turned into additional living space.

As just a small part of the green aspect of the project, upcycled joists salvaged from blighted buildings have been used as shelving, and the original staircases were refurbished.

As the area continues to grow, residential living spaces will be in high demand, something that Reckman and Urban Expansion plan to take advantage of.

New bars and restaurants are sprouting up on Court and Kroger is building the new apartment building/grocery store at the other end, as well as a test kitchen facility down the block from this project, and this area seems poised to take off," he says.

For more information on the townhomes, pricing, availability and the benefits of LEED homes, view the listing on Coldwell Banker or visit www.usgbc.org/articles/green-building-facts.
 


Walnut Hills selected as finalist for national placemaking grant


As part of its ongoing efforts to transform the future of Walnut Hills, the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation will compete for a highly competitive national placemaking grant.

The National Creative Placemaking Fund is made possible by ArtPlace America, a 10-year collaboration between 16 partner foundations, eight federal agencies and six financial institutions. This year, judges reviewed 987 applications from communities across the country that are investing money in arts and culture to help drive community development.

“The National Grants Program is actively building a portfolio that reflects the full breadth of our country’s arts and cultural sector, as well as the community planning and development field,” says ArtPlace’s Director of National Grantmaking F. Javier Torres. “Knowing that these projects, and the hundreds of others who applied, are using arts and culture strategies to make the communities across this country healthier and stronger is inspirational.”

Last week, Walnut Hills was announced as one of just 70 finalists for the award, based on the WHRF’s presentation of a plan that would use creative placemaking to tackle the issues surrounding Kroger’s departure from the community last year — a move that now classifies Walnut Hills as a food desert.

"Walnut Hills is an extremely resilient community and this proves that," said WHRF executive director Kevin Wright. "We're excited about this opportunity, it's the first of many steps were taking to ensure our residents have sustainable access to healthy food and groceries."

WHRF’s proposed project, CoMotion, will attempt to lessen the hardship of Walnut Hills residents post-Kroger through the use of creative placemaking measures that include providing a “welcoming, inclusive place within our $20 million Paramount Square project where people can get healthy, locally-grown produce, grab a nutritious drink with friends and hold community meetings, as well as participate in meaningful creative and social activities."

“This creative placemaking grant would allow us at the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation to build an inclusive grocery store and meeting place as part of the $20 million Paramount Square project,” says WHRF's healthy outreach coordinator Gary Dangel. “It will be designed by artists and be part of our strategy to address being a food desert.”

ArtPlace America director Javier Torres will be traveling for the next 12 weeks, visiting each of the 70 finalists and getting to know their projects prior to further narrowing the field of candidates.

“The National Grants Program is actively building a portfolio that reflects the full breadth of our country’s arts and cultural sector, as well as the community planning and development field,” says Torres. “Knowing that these projects, and the hundreds of others who applied, are using arts and culture strategies to make the communities across this country healthier and stronger is inspirational.”

Find a complete list of the 2017 applicants here.


The Mockbee is the place to be for local artists and musicians


In this dynamic time for Cincinnati, new bars, restaurants, parks and venues are popping up like weeds. But the venue at 2260 Central Parkway is a little different.

The first floor of the Mockbee Building, which is level with the Parkway, consists of two tunnel-like, white-washed rooms. Entering gives the sense that you're part of some hip secret. The walls trippily echo music unlike any other space in the city, and the white brick provides a stellar canvas for light shows.

While this isn’t the place to go for fancy cocktails, the bar features the best in local beers and weekly specials. The Mockbee hosts a variety of events, including music, comedy, art shows and community discussions — the intention is to provide a place for the local alternative.

The Mockbee has served Cincinnati in multiple ways before becoming the hub for local artists that is it today. What began as a brewery that sent its beer along the Miami-Erie Canal and hosted wine in its cool dark caverns, it then became C.M. Mockbee Steel.

Now in its next life, The Mockbee has morphed into a fluid underground artists’ space and is finally gaining stability and street cred. The unique and complex building on the hill is a one-of-a-kind venue. Its premise: locals only. While that rule isn’t law, it is the idea.

When Jon Stevens and Cory Magnas purchased the building in Nov. 2015, they wanted to contribute to the expanding culture of Cincinnati and focus on Cincinnati artists. “Weird art, weird parties, a local place,” Stevens says. “We’re not going to be a Bogart's. We’re not going to be a Woodward.”

Local musician Ben Pitz, who has been playing shows since before the reign of The Mockbee's new owners, says it’s continually his first choice. “By far my favorite venue in Cincinnati. The tough part is the draw.”

It’s not too well known — yet.

The Mockbee strives to be all inclusive. Stevens says that there is diversity from night to night and even within nights. Genres include but are not limited to electronic, EDM, hip-hop, ambient, some punk and rock. The cool thing, he says, is that some people are crossing over. People going to the hip-hop shows are going to the electronic shows and so on.

As the project expands, they are trying to get the word out. “Most people don’t even know we have a sound system. We have a sound system,” Stevens assures.

They are currently working to expand the venue to the second floor, which is larger with arched windows that overlook the West End. Stevens explains that all their energy is on that floor right now. Eventually, apartments will be available. They also have held some wedding receptions and private parties.

Those involved want The Mockbee to be the essence and the true heart of Cincinnati. Pitz thoughtfully comments: “This could be the start of the first truly dedicated artist space in Cincinnati.”

Upcoming events include:

  • Off Tha Block Mondays: A weekly open mic freestyle cypher
  • Speak: A monthly event held every third Thursday
  • Queen City Soul Club: All vinyl dance party held monthly
  • June 9: Prince’s Birthday Dance Party

And many, many more. Check out The Mockbee's Facebook page for a full list of events.
 


Old KY Makers Market returns to Bellevue for summer series starting June 17


A popular series of outdoor events will return to Bellevue this summer, celebrating community with locally made food, music, drinks, handmade goods for sale and more.

The Old Kentucky Makers Market was created by Kevin Wright and Joe Nickol, a pair of Bellevue residents who last year authored The Neighborhood Playbook, a field guide for activating spaces and spurring neighborhood growth. Nickol serves as senior associate for MKSK design firm and Wright is executive director of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation.

"Development shouldn’t happen to a place, but with a place, and with the residents, and we're using The Neighborhood Playbook to make that happen in the town we love," says OKMM organizer Karla Baker. "What better way to showcase everything great going on in Bellevue than with a series of summer parties?"

Last year’s Makers Market events featured food from local favorites Eli’s BBQ, craft brews from Braxton Brewing Company, unique crafts and jewelry from local artisans and a chance for residents to gather and get acquainted in one of Greater Cincinnati’s most charming community settings.

"The goal is to create an event that brings together our Bellevue neighbors and friends, and also brings folks from all over the region to check out the awesomeness that Bellevue has to offer," says OKMM organizer Anna Hogan. “We've got great shops, restaurants, Darkness Brewing and new businesses opening all the time. We want people to know that all this exists, just five minutes from downtown."

This year’s series kicks off at 5 p.m. on June 17 and will feature the Comet Bluegrass All Stars and Kentucky-brewed beer from West 6th Brewing Company. The event will take place in Johnson Alley, behind the old Transitions Building in the 700 block of Fairfield Avenue.

Additional food and artisan vendors will be announced in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to the Old KY Makers Market Facebook page for details.

Interested vendors should apply here for OKMM events in June, August and October.
 


Upcoming Westwood Second Saturdays to showcase local flavor


Westwood is ready to party in the streets, thanks to the upcoming Second Saturdays festival series. Brought to Cincinnati’s largest neighborhood by the event organizers at Westwood Works, Second Saturdays aims to showcase local flavors and talent to the community and beyond.

The series, as the name implies, will be held on the second Saturday of every month on Harrison Avenue in front of Westwood Town Hall. Each month will feature a different theme, with this month’s theme of “Taste” promising to highlight a bevy of delicious treats and creations from local Westwood businesses.

Food will be provided by Avocados Mexican Restaurant and Bar, Diane's Cake Candy & Cookie Supplies, Dojo Gelato, Emma's All In One Occasions (Real Soul Food), Fireside Pizza Walnut Hills and U-Lucky DAWG food truck; beer will be provided by Blank Slate Brewing Company.

This year's events will feature a fun installment —  a 200-foot long table designed to encourage festival goers to forge new friendships. Guests who choose to participate have the option of assigned seating at the table, so as to sit next to new faces — all part of the community enrichment behind Westwood Works' mission.

Musical entertainment is courtesy of Young Heirlooms, Aprina Johnson and Skirt and Boots with Music MAN DJ Flyin' Brian Hellmann.

Second Saturdays comes at a time of revitalization for Westwood, with the neighborhood's central business district seeing a spate of new and exciting shops. Westwood Works, in conjunction with community stakeholders and donors, helps to connect locals with pertinent business strategies with an overall goal of further improving Westwood.

This party isn’t just for Westwood residents; admission is free to all. Second Saturdays aims to be a family-friendly event while serving the neighborhood and beyond.

This month's event is from 5 to 10 p.m. on June 10. The next Second Saturdays are July 8 ("Play"), Aug. 12 ("Splash") and Sept. 9 ("Create").

For more information on the Second Saturday series and future Westwood events, follow the group's Facebook page.
 


National Geographic Photo Ark on display at Cincinnati Zoo


Some of the most compelling photos of animals from zoos and aquariums around the globe are currently being featured at the Cincinnati Zoo.

National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore believes keeping the public engaged in the natural world through education, funding and other measures will help keep our most at-risk species alive. The photos Sartore took for the current exhibit — which will be on display now through Aug. 20 — were taken at Cincinnati Zoo, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and the Dallas Zoo.

Cincinnati is fortunate to have been selected for the debut tour of the Photo Ark. Sartore spoke at the zoo on May 31 about traveling the globe to photograph the unique animals that make up the exhibit.

“Joel’s work is phenomenal — he has an open invitation to photograph animals here,” says Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard. “His photos send the message that it is not too late to save some of the world’s most endangered species. This project has the power to inspire people to care.”

One unique aspect of this showcase is that it highlights conservation efforts that Cincinnati has maintained for several years. Six panels in the Cincinnati Zoo exhibition highlight conservation projects that the zoo funds or supports in other ways. These include:

- Sumatran Rhinos: The first Sumatran rhino to be bred and born in a zoo in over a century became part of the Cincinnati Zoo in 2001
- African Lion: The zoo runs Rebuilding the Pride, a community-based conservation program
- Western Lowland Gorilla: Through a partnership with the Republic of Congo, the zoo has helped to protect gorillas through research, education and more
- Cheetahs: The zoo is a leader in cheetah conservation efforts

Sartore estimates the completed National Geographic Photo Ark will include portraits of more than 12,000 species representing several animal classes, including birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. It will be the largest single archive of biodiversity photographs to date. More than 50 of these photos will be featured at the zoo.

While the Ark focuses mainly on conservation efforts in zoos around the world, it is built upon the idea that the public can continue to be educated about the species and how they can get involved. Free educational materials and activities are available to enhance the viewing experience during the exhibition, and photo books are available for purchase in the gift shop as well.

Entry into the exhibit is free with general admission into the zoo.
 


Recovering addicts celebrate substance-free life through Flying Pig Marathon


This year, 53 men and women recovering from addiction ran the Flying Pig Marathon, thanks to Step Forward, a program from City Gospel Mission.

“Our goal with Step Forward is to show men and women God’s love by training for the Flying Pig Marathon,” says Step Forward director David Pinson.

Participants train two days a week for three months with volunteers from the community. Pinson says that the relationships built during the practices are beneficial to everyone.

“The volunteers are telling me that this a part of my journey now,” says Pinson. “They say ‘I saw a life literally change in front of me.’”

One of those volunteers is former U.S. Representative Jean Schmidt. Though she has run more than 130 marathons in her 39-year running career, she says this program and race are special. “They’re giving back to me as much as I’m giving to them."

Amanda Graves never thought she would be a runner. After a three-year addiction to heroin, a family member encouraged Graves to apply to Having the Courage to Change, a women’s residential recovery program at City Gospel Mission. Graves says once she was there, she learned she could be loved and accepted.

“For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged somewhere,” Graves says.

That sense of belonging inspired her to start running with Step Forward. After befriending a few volunteers, Graves says the group “tricked” her into running a 10K. Now she’s completed three Flying Pig 10K races.

“I finally got my life back,” she says.

Joseph Wright is also grateful to have his life back.

Two years ago, Wright was a full-time heroin addict. “My whole life revolved around heroin,” he says. “It was pretty hopeless, honestly.”

While spending time in jail for a probation violation, Wright applied to Exodus, the men’s residential recovery program at City Gospel Mission.

"My first week in Exodus was the first time I had ever ran,” says Wright. Building relationships with the volunteers helped him succeed. “They didn’t want to know about my past. They never held my past against me.”

During his time in Exodus, Wright completed the Flying Pig 10K. This year, he returned to Step Forward as a participant in the Flying Pig Half Marathon. He says running is the perfect metaphor for recovery.

“At the end of the day, we’re all trying to cross that finish line,” Wright says. “It doesn’t matter how fast you’re getting there or slow you’re getting there, what matters is that you get there.”
 


Hungry Bros. food truck to make Taste of Cincy debut


The 39th annual Taste of Cincinnati food festival will take place this Memorial Day weekend, featuring new additions and a goal of breaking last year’s record-tying attendance of 550,000.

More than 25 percent of Taste's offerings this year are brand new to the festival, with nine new restaurants and five new food trucks, according to festival director Cynthia Oxley.

Hungry Bros. food truck is one of those newcomers, and the popular mobile restaurant is coming strong out of the gate with three "Best of Taste" awards already secured.

With first-place finishes in the festival's food truck "Best Dessert" and "Best Go Vibrant!" categories, as well as a third-place finishin the "Best Appetizer" food truck category, Hungry Bros.' culinary director Matthew Neumann says he is “elated” and slightly intimidated by the honor.

This is the first year we have been invited to participate in the Taste, and we are beyond stoked to be a part of it,” says Neumann.

Festival goers who choose to sample Hungry Bros.’ winning fried cheesecake dish should also be pretty stoked, as Neumann himself is not hesitant to admit how good it is. It's a dish he and his partners wanted to put on the menu for quite some time, but it wasn’t until this year, when the team's third Taste entry was accepted, that they were forced to make it happen.

“It wasn't until two hours before (applying) that we actually dropped a piece of cheesecake in the graham cracker tempura batter and deep fried it," says Neumann. "We hoped, at the very least, it was going to be good enough that we weren't going to embarrass ourselves, but after tasting it, we knew we had just made something beautiful. It's real tragic for a chef to proclaim how good their food is — but this thing is stupid-good.”

Dishes from Hungry Bros. make up a fraction of the more than 250 menu items that will be available at this year's Taste.

Ohio’s oldest surviving municipal market, Findlay Market, will also make its first-ever Taste appearance, with vendors and “foodpreneurs” from Findlay Kitchen serving fresh, new flavors.

There will also be new beers, new signature cocktails and new, local sponsors.

For Neumann, it’s a chance for individuals to come out to see and sample everything that makes Cincinnati great.

“We want our food to show how much we love this business and how much we love the city,” he says. “Cincinnati is a constant theme in all of our lives, so how could we not be enamored with it and want to be a part of every cool thing and every event that's going on in this town?”

 


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Artist puts unique twist on house revitalization in Camp Washington


Tucked away in Camp Washington sits a small piece of paradise that a local artist spent about three years transforming.

Builder/artist and Cincinnati native Mark Dejong has been transforming the word “art” in Cincinnati for years. In 2012, he purchased a house in Camp Washington for a mere $5,000. It's now known as the Circle House for its overall theme of circles that run throughout the house's walls and décor.

Similarly, Dejong's renovation of the Square House in Northside turned it into a work of art, transforming the house into a thematic element.

His latest work of art, however, takes the cake. Dejong purchased a three-story house on Avon Place in Camp Washington a few years ago and began the process of transforming the house, this time removing all floors and walls.

You may be asking, “What kind of revitalization project is that?”

The house now contains a swing, something that captures not only the essence of its historic architecture but also takes you through “time and space." By removing all of the floors and walls, Dejong enabled the swing to float from the front of the house to the back in a fluid motion. Not only does the house provide a sculptural invention that hasn't been seen anywhere else in the country, but parts of it were repurposed as artwork and structures that highlight the history and material of the old three-flight staircase.

The inspiration for the design came from memories of Dejong’s childhood flat that overlooked Mill Creek but also sat below hillsides looking the other direction, giving a sense of vertigo. He wanted to convey this in the Swing House design.

As the focal point of the house and inspiration for the name, the 30-foot long swing is attached to ropes that are secured to an iron beam that runs across the ceiling. The floor boards are skewed at a 5-degree angle, giving the sense that the building is moving a bit while walking through it. Although it has only been open to the public for special occasions a few times, Dejong plans to further launch his innovative project via open houses this summer (to be announced via media and social media at a later date).

In lieu of the architectural masterpiece slowly but surely becoming the talk of innovative art in the area, the Swing House has also been selected as a feature in the Contemporary Arts Center's 2017-2018 season. This particular exhibit runs until May 20, 2018, and will showcase some of the unique structures formed from the salvaged materials during construction, as well as artist-led tours of the house.

The CAC claims that Dejong has “joined the lineage of artists like Gordon Matta-Clark, Georges Rousse and Theaster Gates in the illuminating re-visioning of built space into poetic and performative interventions,” something that few artists in the area have achieved.

While the Swing House isn’t regularly open to the public, special occasions and tours will be available later this summer. To keep up with the news and happenings regarding the Swing House, visit the CAC exhibition webpage or the pages specifically geared toward the Circle/5k House and Square house, and keep up with Dejong on social media.
 

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