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Cincinnati Innovates' winners collect $100K in awards

One is a soccer dad tired of suffering on the sidelines. Another is a savvy entrepreneur with a plan to help professionals who have said “yes” to one too many find a safe and convenient way home. Still another is a mom inspired by healthy living.

This year’s Cincinnati Innovates winners encompass an impressive range of ideas and strategies to improve quality of life and health.

Rick Pescovitz of Under-the-weather.com won one of the top awards, the $25,000 CPG Strategies Award, for his all-purpose tent built to fit soccer chairs and protect fans from extreme weather. The other $25,000 winner, Brooke Griffin of Skinny Mom, has built a network of more than 70 mom-bloggers around the world. She won investment help from CincyTech.

Another winner, Jon Amster of 321RIDE.com, received a $5,000 Taft Legal/Patent Award for his innovative approach to his membership-based designated driver service already used by the Cincinnati Reds and Dunhumby USA.

In its third year, the Cincinnati Innovates competition awarded $100,000 in funding and in-kind services to entrepreneurs representing 12 business ideas. Since its inception, the competition has sparked millions of dollars of investments in companies with local connections.

More than 200 entries vied for support this year, with awards given in a variety of categories. Commercialization award winners were selected by their sponsors (CincyTech, LPK) with help from a team of judges; in-kind services awards were chosen by sponsors with help from judges; community choice award winners were chosen by the public.

Browse this year’s innovative entries here

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter.

 

West McMicken shows off 'streetcar suburb' history

Tucked at the bottom of the Clifton hillside, the West McMicken neighborhood features historic housing stock in an isolated area easily overlooked by passersby.

But its well-maintained greenspaces and award-winning beautification programs offer a glimpse of the dedication of its neighbors, which will be on full display during the Cincinnati Preservation Association’s first “Fall into Restoration” series next month.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” says Margo Warminski, CPA’s restoration director. 

The program features a tour of a restoration-in-progress—an 1885 Queen Anne that once served as the home of a streetcar conductor, is in the process of being restored to its original state. 

“It’s a glimpse of late Victorian middle-class life,” Warminski says of the house, which was part of the neighborhood that grew up along Cincinnati’s original streetcar line. “We are very excited to be able to do this program.”

She notes that members of the West McMicken Improvement Association will be on hand to discuss their work to keep their community green and flourishing. In addition to reclaiming abandoned buildings in the University Heights neighborhood, members have also fought off an intrusive highway plan and are currently working with Spring in our Steps volunteers to beautify the Warner Street steps.

For more information about the neighborhood and the Sept. 22 tour, visit the Cincinnati Preservation Association.

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter
 

DAAP first-year fuses design brand of her own

How do you wear beauty? Fuse Theory has some ideas…

University of Cincinnati College of Design Architecture Art and Planning (DAAP) student Alexandra Scott has an eye for beauty found in the “ugly and unusual” and some inspired ideas about the expression of individuality.

That’s why only a year into her college career, she decided to launch her own line of hand-designed, dyed and screen printed apparel and accessories based on the premise that “everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

Scott is the creator, owner-operator and designer for her brand, Fuse Theory, a line of clothing and accessories for men and women that she developed after just one year in the DAAP program’s fashion design and product development track.

A native Cincinnatian and graduate of Walnut Hills High School, Scott says she has always been interested in art and fashion, but wasn’t sure at first how to combine the two.

“I wanted to find a way to open people’s eyes to the beauty found in the unexpected,” she says.

Scott derives inspiration from the fusion of ideas and concepts into an aesthetic that reaches a little deeper to connect beauty with individuality.

The brand name Fuse Theory unifies this connection with wearable pieces of art that are as comfortable as they are interesting. The brand seeks to combine color, texture and emotion to find beauty in life’s imperfections. Her trademark eye image, which can be found on her designs, symbolizes both her aesthetic and philosophy.

Although Scott’s designs are grounded in the basics, they’re far from unremarkable.

“My designs are not about impressing others,” she says. “It’s more about expressing the emotional side of fashion.”

She focuses on comfortable pieces that allow the wearer to be creative. “I don’t want my customers to be walking billboards for my brand,” she says. “I want them to buy my designs because they mean something.”

Both artisan and entrepreneur, Scott’s merchandise is a work of art from the initial design concept to the hand dying and screen-printing that bring pieces to life. Any flaws in the process contribute to the individualistic and emotional intent of her work.

Currently, Scott is collaborating with local graffiti artists on a new collection that incorporates street art onto men’s and women’s apparel. Look for these new designs online in late August.

In the meantime, Scott’s handiwork can be found online at fusetheoryapparel.com, or in the community on Aug. 25 at the Price Hill Cultural Heritage Festival, at Second Sunday on Main in Over-the-Rhine or at the West Chester Art Market every other Saturday.

Scott says she would like to feature her brand with local retailers and eventually open her own store. She will graduate in 2014, and the possibilities are likely to expand. We can’t wait to see what’s next.

By Deidra Wiley Necco


Cincinnati Children's to break ground on $180 million addition

Soon the Cincinnati Children's Hospital's Burnet campus will have an impressive new addition. The hospital will expand its research arm with a new 15-story clinical services building.

The ground reaking will be in June, and the building is set to open in 2015. Cincinnati-based Messer Construction is the project's general contractor; architects are GBBN, GPR and HDR.

The new $180 million, 425,000-square-foot facility will house:

• New labs
• An outpatient clinic
• Imaging facility for clinical trials and research
• Office space
• Supporting infrastructure

The building will be financed through a combination of operating cash and investments, future operating cash flows and philanthropy, hospital officials say. It will be located along Sabin Way, next to the research building finished in 2007.

Physically, the building will also connect research and patient care.

“The new clinical sciences building will create a physical link between the discoveries in our current research facility and their application to patient care in our clinical locations,” says said Arnold Strauss, MD, director of the Cincinnati Children's Research Foundation, in an announcement.

The new building will allow the hospital to hire up to 100 new research faculty over the next five years.

"Expanding our research space is essential to supporting our world-class faculty investigators. These investigators are developing and evaluating breakthrough discoveries for patients. They work closely with clinical staff to apply those discoveries to improving the health of children here and throughout the world," Strauss adds.

By Feoshia Henderson
Follow Feoshia on Twitter

UC students take stroke detection device global

A team of UC students that has won several awards for their stroke-detection device, Ischiban, are in the hunt for bigger awards and more recognition. 
 
The team includes biomedical and computer engineers and an industrial designer: Pooja Kadambi, Joe Lovelace, Scott Robinson and Alex Androski. They developed the device, comprised of an elastic headband connected to an electronic diagnostic device, which can quickly determine the type of stroke a patient is suffering from. This allows for quick diagnosis and faster treatment for better recovery rates, according to the developers.
 
Currently, such stoke differentiation is done by a CT scan, which is costly and time-consuming. Ischiban can be used by EMTs at a patient's home or during an ambulance ride. Early detection is important because patients whose stoke is caused by a blood clot who are treated within three hours of symptoms are significantly more likely to survive and recover.
 
Most recently, the team took first place at the Oregon New Venture Championship, which included a $3,000 prize. Teams are judged on their ideas, business plans and pitches, as well as how quickly they can adjust to feedback from various judges, says Charles H. Matthews, executive director of UC’s Center for Entrepreneurship Education and Research, professor of management and a team adviser.
 
“The NVC is one of the best, but also one of the toughest competitions,” Matthews says. “Everyone was talking about their innovative approach to early stroke detection.”
 
The other prizes the team have won for their device include first place at the Innov8 Health Idea Expo at GE Aviation Learning Centre and runner-up in the Spirit of Enterprise Competition. After winning the Oregon competition, the group is on its way to the Venture Labs Investment Competition in Texas, May 3-6, which only allows 40 teams from around the world to compete. 
 
Prizes include $135,000 in seed funding, feedback from investors and faculty and an opportunity to gain interest about their product or business. The competition is designed to mimic the real world process of garnering venture capital. 
 
By Evan Wallis & Feoshia Henderson

Wanted: GOOD designers to work on city issues

In Silicon Valley, GOOD Ideas for Cities spurred development of new transit plans for buses with wi-fi, comfy seats and bike racks traveling business-friendly express routes. In Los Angeles and New York, and just this month in Portland, Ore., like-minded sessions have paired the area’s top design minds with pressing city concerns in an effort to reinvigorate civic problem-solving.

Cincinnati marks the next stop of the GOOD Ideas for Cities tour, which pairs designers with city problems proposed by urban leaders and spotlights solutions at public forums. The University of Cincinnati’s Niehoff Urban Studio hosts the program, which will culminate with a public event May 16.

“Cincinnati is the perfect city for us to go to next as part of the GOOD Ideas for Cities program,” says Alissa Walker, Los Angeles-based writer and community members at GOOD. “We're seeing many of the challenges there that other mid-sized cities are facing, issues around urban renewal, transportation, and fresh food access. But there's also such a vibrant and established creative community that's already so engaged in the city.”

Frank Russell, director of the Niehoff Urban Studio, has begun looking for civic-minded designers who want to be a part of the program. “Cincinnati has the benefit of a tremendous pool of design talent due to its place as a design and brand hub as well as its world-class design educational institutions,” he says. “I am excited to invite these emerging leaders to engage with GOOD to envision creative solutions for Cincinnati.”

Since 2008, GOOD has hosted 10 of these events in three cities and at three schools. Last year, GOOD added the urban think tank CEOs for Cities to the mix and changed the name to GOOD Ideas for Cities. This year’s outreach into five mid-sized cities is funded in part by ArtPlace, a collaboration of national foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts and other federal agencies.

“We hope GOOD Ideas for Cities will be able to connect these creatives with local urban leaders to design some innovative and exciting ideas for Cincinnati,” Walker says. “We also hope to see some of those ideas become reality, as we've seen happen at several of our events across the country so far.”

For examples of previous GOOD Ideas for Cities projects, click here.

To apply to be one of Cincinnati’s GOOD Ideas for Cities’ civic-minded designers or design teams, email Frank Russell.

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter.


Student-designed compactor heads to finals of Acara challenge

Four University of Cincinnati students won the bronze at the Acara Challenge in Minnesota on Feb. 3, advancing the team to the final round in India this summer. They were awarded two paid scholarships, as well as up to $1,000 in matching funds to attend the final round.

The four students, all enrolled in a multidisciplinary course at UC, proposed the “Renew Trash Compactor,” a new product and service that reduces trash, increases recycling, improves sanitation and generates income for the Padli Gujar village in India.

Read the full story of their journey to the finals here.

DAAP students bring home design prizes

University of Cincinnati interior design students brought home more prizes than any other school in the world after the Planning and Visual Education Partnership.

Fourth-year interior design students Liz Baverman of Green Township, and fellow student Kayla Reinbold, brought home two of three prizes awarded in the Store Design Category of the contest, which asked design students across the nation to envision, research and design new retail environments for beauty retailer Sephora.

Baverman won $5,000 for first place, and Reinbold won $2,500 for second place. Fellow student Joanna Chen won second place in the competition’s Visual Merchandising Category, earning $2,500, while student Diana Stercula of Medina, Ohio, received an Honorable Mention and $500 in prize money.

Further money, $3,000, will be given to DAAP because of the students' outstanding performance in a field of almost 500 entrants.

“While the prize money is appreciated since it will help fund my current cooperative education quarter in San Francisco, the gala itself was an incredible experience,” Baverman says. “We made professional contacts, and we were able to see that professionals in the field appreciated our work, valued our ideas and, overall, validated our potential. It encouraged me to continue in what is becoming a retail design specialty.”

The challenge was to design a 1,000-square-foot environment for a typical Sephora store, the sponsor of the competition, but as a more temporary, concentrated brand experience. Baverman’s first-place entry was a pop-up store and beauty bar that could be set up on college campuses.

The UC students not only had to envision improved retail environments and tools on behalf of Sephora for the contest, they also had to conduct research to determine the feasibility of their plans.

By Evan Wallis

CCM adds new degree to esteemed program

University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music has added another degree to its already nationally esteemed programs for the upcoming fall semester.

Applications have come in from all over the world for CCM’s newly announced Commercial Music Production degree. The highly selective program will only enroll about 10 students per year. The degree will mix music theory, composition, studio techniques and film scoring and be paired with a minor in music business entrepreneurship aimed to give graduates all the training they need to run their own, studio.

“They will learn how to write music from the ground up,” says Scott Belck, director of the commercial music production program. “In a strong sense, it’s a music writing degree, but then they will know how to go out and be their own recording studio.”

The possibilities for careers after completing the degree are varied, but Belck says many graduates might produce original content for use that could range from movies to commercials to albums.

“So much of the technology needed to make music is accessible and affordable anymore,” Belck says. “A graduate will be able to work on their own in whatever space they have.”

Three weeks after opening up the application process, CCM has received applications from all over the world. Faculty is looking for the best young potential in the world. Applicants have sent Youtube videos of their singing/songwriting style, while one applicant from Thailand sent a fully completed film score.

“We’re going to prepare them to be successful in the recording business,” Belck says. “We’ll follow their creative side, regardless of style.”

While some schools such as Belmont New York University and USC have programs similar to the Commercial Production degree, Belck says it is the first of its kind in the region.

By Evan Wallis

CPS summer school makeover gets attention

While summer might be fading from your mind as temperatures dip and leaves fall, one of its less pleasant remnants continues to impact children and teachers around the region—summer brain drain, or the loss of knowledge through weeks outside of the structured learning environment of schools.

Community and school leaders gather this week to talk about "summer slide," part of Cincinnati Public Schools efforts after being one of only six school districts in the country to receive Wallace Foundation funding for summer learning initiatives.

CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan will be joined by policy researchers and foundation executives for the forum. Talk will center around the district’s innovative Fifth Quarter program, launched in 2009 as a non-mandatory four-week full-day extension of the school year. The Wallace Foundation funding was awarded to support the curriculum development and design of Fifth Quarter and ensure that students’ progress is monitored closely. "We see the Fifth Quarter as the best way to allow learning to continue right after the regular school year ends,” Ronan says.

Cited as a national success story, the non-mandatory (it bears repeating, non-required summer school!) Fifth Quarter combines academic rigor with community partnerships. After mornings of learning, students in 16 participating schools enjoy fine arts, technology, fitness and environmental education activities -- all at no cost (it bears repeating--no cost!) to the district.

During the forum, Ronan will be joined by Strive Partnership’s Greg Landsman, Jennifer Sloan McCombs of the RAND Corporation and Ed Pauly of the Wallace Foundation in a discussion of best practices and why summer learning matters.

By Elissa Yancey

ZipCars add fast, fun transit option for all

You don’t have to be a UC student or faculty member to take a spin in one of the region’s first ZipCars, convenient alternatives to owning a car in an urban setting. Now, in addition to about 300,000 people in the city limits of Cincinnati, add four ZipCars. Their names are Footsies, Iyana, Felicia and Moto.

Pull up the map on ZipCar’s website, and you’ll see the East coat is full of the easy in-city rentals. They operate out of universities and cities. Even Indiana has ZipCars at four different universities. Ohio, on the other hand, has only had them available in Cleveland. Until now.

The four new cars sit in two separate places on UC’s Clifton campus. But don’t let the university location fool you. ZipCars are available for public rental and while UC students and faculty get discounted prices, the cost is still reasonable for the general public.

Once you sign up for and pay the annual fee, which differs based on the plans, you receive a ZipCard. With the card in hand, you can reserve a car for a couple of hours or the whole day. Walk up to the car, swipe your ZipCard past the windshield, and a new mode of transportation is open to you.

With its proximity to downtown, ZipCar expects to draw users beyond the university. According to ZipCar sales operation managers Bill Connolly, many users in other cities are reporters.

As a reporter without a car, I make my way around town via public transit and a bicycle. Frequently, this means I have to pass up opportunities to do in-person interviews because I can’t make it to locations outside of the city. I jumped on the opportunity to use ZipCar and rent a car for around $7 an hour, including gas and insurance.

The car sharing program can replace a seldom used car, or even owning a car altogether. The benefits are enticing. Hop on a bus to UC, swipe your ZipCard and don’t ever worry about taking your car to get the oil changed or paying $400 for new tires.

By Evan Wallis


Green Learning Station programs set to bloom

When the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati cuts the ribbon Aug. 20 to open its Green Learning Station, it will do more than add a new exhibit to its facility on Reading Road. The nonprofit center, which has provided horticultural education and resources to green-thumbed Cincinnatians since the 1940s, will offer new services, education and scientific information.

The $1.2 million Green Learning station showcases a wide range of environmentally friendly technology, including a composting facility, a green roof and pervious pavers to control water runoff.

"We've got all of this technology concentrated in a very small area," says CGC program manager Ryan Mooney-Bullock.

The technology allows the CGC to expand its educational offerings. Along with its traditional programs focused on growing flowers, fruits and vegetables, the center can now offer courses on composting, rainwater management as well as other environmental topics that shape quality of life. Consequently, the center's long-standing field-trip programming now includes options for middle-and high-school students, and Mooney-Bullock says professional development courses are being created for landscape architects, builders and green professionals.

CGC board member and Green Learning Station project manager Betsy Townsend says this spirit of going above and beyond springs from the very process that launched the station. Input from the variety of granting agencies that funded the project, such as the Metropolitan Sewer District, which supported the project through a $400,000 grant, helped determine its final focus.

"The details of the project expanded," Townsend says. "We were able to incorporate elements that weren't in our original budget."

Some of those elements include research, a new avenue for CGC to pursue with its facilities. Environmental sensor supplier UrbanAlta provided equipment and expertise that turned the Green Learning Station's exhibits into measurable test pieces for environmental technology. Mooney-Bullock explains that students from the University of Cincinnati and environmental engineers are using the sensors to track how the station's green roof, pervious pavers and other rainwater control measures perform on a near-real-time basis. The data collected could help improve the city's runoff management, a major issue for the MSD.

"They really need that data to make the case to install the technology on a wide scale, and to support policy changes," she says.

Townsend adds that the Green Learning Station will continue the CGC's mission of public education as well, through self-guided tours. And as this year's plants take root and begin to flourish in 2012, she says the CGC will work to reach out to more members of the public than ever.

"That's a piece we will really be pushing next spring," she says.

By Matt Cunningham

Follow Matt on Twitter @cunningcontent



Cincinnati Development Fund earns $1.5M federal grant

The Cincinnati Development Fund has been a financial resource for affordable housing development in the city's neighborhoods for 23 years. And that long track record of helping spur development -- and redevelopment -- in some of Cincinnati's underserved areas recently earned the CDF a $1.5 million federal grant to support its mission.

The grant comes from the U.S. Treasury's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI). The CDFI awarded $142,302,667 to 155 community development financial institutions -- like CDF -- nationwide. CDF received $750,000 from the fund in 2010, making this year's award a very pleasant surprise, says CDF president and CEO Jeanne Golliher.

"We were really expecting something along the lines of what we got last year," she says.

The $1.5 million sum is the maximum any single organization could receive from the CDFI. Golliher credits CDF's long-standing role in the community as reason for the high award.

"We're really in touch," she says. "We know where the needs are."

A main focus of CDF's efforts, she explains, are smaller developers -- sometimes individual homeowners, sometimes development companies focusing on one or two buildings -- who wish to revitalize property in parts of the city suffering from high foreclosure and vacancy rates. The smaller developers fit a niche that complements larger development organizations, such as the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), which is in the midst of redeveloping a large portion of Over-the-Rhine. Golliher refers to many of CDF's borrowers as "urban pioneers:" people willing to be early redevelopers in areas that have yet to see widespread revitalization.

"We've had so much activity with our small loan program," she says. "There are a lot of cases where people want to buy and fix up a building on their own, and they come to us."

Golliher says her team is in the process of planning how to best use the grant funds. Some of it may be used as matching funds for $3.3 million in low-interest funding CDF has requested from the U.S. Treasury to help fund small business development in the city.  She plans to present a proposal for how the funds will be used at CDF's August board meeting. In the meantime, she says she and her team are thrilled by this recent show of federal support.

"I think it speaks to our track record," she says.

By Matt Cunningham

Follow Matt on Twitter @cunningcontent


Streetcar design to respect FONSI guidelines, OTR history

The Cincinnati Streetcar could soon become one of the first projects in the country to be funded by the Federal government's Urban Circulator grant program. The city of Cincnnati announced June 10 that the project received a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a final step needed before the project could access the Urban Circulator funds it won in June 2010.

According to Streetcar Project Manager Chris Eilerman, a key to passing that government-mandated standard has been a commitment to protecting not only the physical environment, but the cultural one as well.

"Because this project extends into Over-the-Rhine, which is pretty heavily regulated, we were really sensitive when looking at the impact," he said. "We want to make sure we don't produce a negative impact on the historic properties."

Over-the-Rhine's historic collection of Italianate architecture is as much a part of the environment as air and water quality - at least in terms of what the EPA's environmental assessment evaluates. Eilerman said as part of the assessment, the city has promised to work closely with the Ohio Historic Preservation Office. The office will review designs for platforms, transmission wire poles and other streetcar facilities, to ensure they complement the historic neighborhood's overall look and feel.

"This is a neighborhood that grew up around streetcar transit," Eilerman said. "We view the resurgence in this type of transit as something that could make the neighborhood better, and we want to make sure we do that."

He explained that, now that the FONSI is on the records, the project will work to complete initial design work and right-of-way negotiations. Throughout the process - especially in the design department - the Ohio Historic Preservation Office will provide review and oversight, to make sure Cincinnati's streetcar fits in with the past as it moves the city into the future.

Writer:  Matt Cunningham

New "Dive Bar" opens on Short Vine

Short Vine in Corryville, once a hot spot for electic night spots, gets a a new bar and restaurant that replaces a former drug hot spot.

Dive Bar owner Joe Pedro, a Columbus native and business owner of two bars near Ohio State University, said choosing the site for the Dive Bar came down to the old real estate maxim: Location, location, location.

"We like the proximity to the college campus and to the hospitals," he said. "There is a lot of people around the area who are good for our services. We also immediately fell in love with the history and character that Short Vine has to offer."

Although in recent years this stretch of Short Vine has been known more for drug activity than business opportunities, Pedro said the past serves as a model for what the street could again become.

"The drug activity is a concern that we are aware of, but we are making an effort to get involved right away with the community and other business members to take hold of the street for the community and push out those elements that no one really cares for," he explained. "Over the past eight months we've seen more businesses coming through as well as more involvement with the community business association and city officials that have made changes that everyone has longed for and wants for the area."

Construction of the bar took six months and involved completely gutting and renovating the whole space, leaving exposed brick throughout. Pedro also installed wood floors and new counter tops. The impetus for the work? Pedro's, and his partners', desire for the personality - and affordable cost - of an older building.

Beth Robinson, President and CEO of The Uptown Consortium, is extremely supportive and thrilled about the new local hangout.

"We've made great strides in the past couple of years on Short Vine with continuous police control and increased activity of businesses and residents on Short Vine," she explained. "The bad image is starting to fade into the past as we start to have more businesses open in the area, which will help attract people back on the street and customers back to the area."

Writer: Lisa Ensminger
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