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Longtime Oakley business moving down the street to continue investing in neighborhood


Sandra Gross and Dr. John Hutton, the owners of several Oakley businesses, are reinvesting in their neighborhood in a big way. Their daughter, Blythe Gross-Hutton, and her company BAM Realty Group are behind a new development at 3094 Madison Rd. — and her parents plan to move their flagship business, Blue Manatee Children's Bookstore, into it.

The $1.5 million, LEED Silver, mixed-use project, which includes the construction of a new 5,600-square-foot building and 20 parking spaces behind it, is slated to be finished in February.
 
The site used to be home to a 2,000-square-foot building that was demolished after it had been vacant for about two years. BAM Realty Group purchased the site in April 2014, and construction began on it last fall.
 
Blue Manatee will move from its current location at 3054 Madison to occupy a first-floor retail space in the new building. It will also house a salon, offices for Sleepy Bee Café (also owned by the couple), Blue Manatee’s publishing company and its online baby gift businesses, Blue Manatee Boxes.
 
Artists from nearby Brazee Street Studios (also owned by Gross and Hutton) are helping design the new space, which will include hands-on activities for kids and custom artwork on the walls.
 
Terrex Development & Construction are doing the build-out on the building, and the drawing dept is the project’s architect.

Long-awaited Clifton Market to celebrate grand opening this weekend


It's been three years since planning began, but Clifton Market had its soft opening on Sunday. The store, which is housed in the former Keller’s IGA on Ludlow Avenue, will celebrate its long-awaited debut this weekend with three days of festivities.

Since Keller's closed in 2011, Clifton has been without a fresh food grocery store. The neighborhood is considered a food desert because residents don't have ready access to fresh, healthy foods. For many, going to the grocery store is an all-day effort that includes changing buses and carting bags of food to and from the store. 

The $5.6 million project is a result of a collaborative community effort that was made possible by investments from about 1,400 community shareowners. Community investment totaled $1.8 million, with the remaining funds coming from financial organizations like National Cooperative Bank and Shared Capital Cooperative.

The significant fundraising effort was needed to remodel the space, which had been gutted and stripped of copper before the project began.

Clifton Market has completely revived the space, outfitting it with efficient coolers and refrigerators, LED lighting and restoring the building's original tin ceiling tiles. The market offers a full suite of grocery options, including a cafe, juice bar, artisan bakery, salad bar and prepared foods, cheese bar, bulk foods and a Brewery District with an emphasis on local craft beers.

General manager Keith Brock says the project is “where passion and purpose come together.”

Brock, who has been in the grocery business for 23 years and helped open Fresh Thyme Farmers Market stores around the Cincinnati area, says that the store is adding 81 new jobs to the neighborhood.

According to Clifton Market board member and fundraising committee chair Marilyn Hyland, market analysis projects that 15,000 visitors will frequent the shop each week.

Visitors are encouraged to join Clifton Market in celebrating its launch beginning on Thursday. The evening’s festivities will include a store-wide scavenger hunt and food tasting for adults and kids. On Friday, the store is hosting a Blue Jeans to Black Tie Gala from 6 p.m. to midnight. The free event will feature a silent auction, a Taste of Clifton Market that will showcase each department, a treasure hunt and live music by Mike Grathwold of the Modulators.

The three-day launch will culminate on Saturday with an official ribbon cutting ceremony, proclamations and a 135-cart parade through the streets of Clifton.

“We’re not a pin on a map for a national company,” says Hyland. “We’re here for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.”

Visit Clifton Market's website and follow Clifton Market on Facebook to stay up-to-date with the launch and future market events.
 

Proposed Oakley transit center aims to improve rider experience


The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority recently approved a contract to build a new transit center in Oakley. Like the proposed Northside transit center, the Oakley hub will provide improved connections and amenities for riders, and will make using public transit more convenient.
 
The transit center will be located at the intersection of Marburg and Ibsen avenues. It will be served by two Metro crosstown routes, the 41 and the 51, which connect the east and west sides of town; two local routes, the 4 and the 11; and one express route, the 12X, which services downtown.
 
Features of the transit center will include four boarding bays, off-street commuter parking, enhanced shelters and streetscaping, wayfinding maps and real-time information screens.
 
The $1.1 million project is being funded by a grant from the Federal Surface Transportation Program and local funds.
 
Ford Development Corporation was chosen to develop the site, and hopes to break ground this spring.
 
The Oakley Transit Center was designed by the Transportation Planning and Urban Design section of the city’s Department of Transportation and Engineering, in partnership with SORTA, the Ohio Department of Transportation, the OKI Regional Council of Governments, the city and the Federal Transit Administration.
 

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.
 

Midwest Sustainability Summit helps start dialogue in Cincinnati and beyond


On June 9, Cincinnati will once again host the Midwest Sustainability Summit at Xavier’s Cintas Center. The event will feature a keynote speaker, awards ceremony and breakout sessions.
 
This year, the Summit will explore new areas of environmental sustainability while taking a deeper look at equity in sustainability.
 
The Summit’s goal is to bring together a broad audience of professionals — Fortune 100 businesses, small business owners, government agencies, academia and NGOs — who want to engage in thoughtful discussion, share best practices and celebrate the sustainability work that is currently being done throughout the Midwest. The Summit will also help identify areas for future regional collaborations.
 
Van Jones, a leader in building an equitable green economy, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Summit. He’s started problem-solving organizations like The Dream Corps, Green for All and Rebuild the Dream, and will share his wealth of knowledge and experience in linking the economy, environment and social justice.
 
A lunchtime awards ceremony will honor local small business leaders that have incorporated sustainability into their business practices. The breakout sessions will allow attendees to dive deeper into issues like energy conservation, water quality, local food access, outdoor recreation, sustainable business supply chains and waste reduction.
 
Tickets will go on sale in February. Early bird student admission is $15; Green Umbrella members are $45; and general admission is $65.
 

Kresge Foundation lends $5 million to Port Authority for CBD development


A new commercial real estate fund has been developed in Greater Cincinnati to rehab rundown properties and attract new businesses.

The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority established the loan fund and in return received $5 million in initial capital from The Kresge Foundation to supplement a 10-year span. According to Gail Paul, the director of communication strategy for the Port Authority, the loan project is part of a development to help bring revitalization to blighted residential and commercial areas in order to broaden arts and culture, retail and enterprise in the area.

“The Port Authority will administer the fund and develop the program through The Kresge Foundation donation," Paul says. "We will announce the first project in the next couple of months. It will be in a neighborhood in which we are already working — Evanston or Bond Hill."

Susan Thomas, executive vice president for the Port Authority, gave a presentation in mid-December detailing the commercial development loan fund to the Port Authority's board members. The meeting was successful, as the board members approved the establishment of the project.

“The overall goal of the Fund is to act as a unique financial tool, not compete with commercial banks or other local lenders,” Thomas says.

In redeveloping the neighborhood business districts in and around Cincinnati, the fund will be transformative in how capital is raised over time to lend a hand to further development.

The initial idea came about through Kresge, which is based in Detroit. Development finance agencies like the Port Authority and foundations can work together on projects (such as the loan fund) for investing in funds for important revitalization work. Kresge’s mission is to expand opportunities for low-income residents in America’s cities through grantmaking and social investing.

Laura Brunner, president and CEO of the Port Authority, says the organization anticipates announcing a 2017 real estate project that is facilitated by this loan fund. Nationally, Kresge’s investment is among the first partnerships between a national foundation and a development finance agency.

Having previously worked in neighborhoods needing the attention, the Port Authority was on Kresge’s radar as a business alignment and source of encouragement. Striving to be the top development partner, the Port Authority is actively engaged in the Cincinnati area, frequently meeting with community leaders, business owners, shareholders and organizations on how to positively join and impact the area’s economic development.
 

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.
 

Nine local nonprofits and individuals receive funding from NEA for creative projects


For its first round of grant funding in 2017, the National Endowment for the Arts doled out more than $300 million to nonprofits and individuals in 48 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
 
This year’s grants cross all artistic disciplines, and fall into one of the four grant categories: Art Works, Art Works: Creativity Connects, Challenge America and Creative Writing Fellowships.
 
Nine local organizations and one individual received a total of $180,000 in this round of funding.
 
Center for Great Neighborhoods
The Center received $20,000 in funding, which will be used for the design and art commissions for the lobby at the new Hellmann Creative Center. The goal is to turn the lobby into a work of art; additional funds will be used for collaborative art pieces, open workshops and artist or resident-led classes.

Cincinnati Ballet
Hip-hop choreographer Jennifer Archibald, as part of the Kaplan New Works Series, will use the Ballet's $20,000 grant to help support the creation of a new piece. New Works is an all-female choreographic production that will explore poverty, hope, finding beauty in surprising places and shared connections between choreographer and artist. Performances will be held at the Aronoff Center for the Arts later in the year.
 
Cincinnati Opera
The $20,000 NEA grant will support the Opera's performance of “The Magic Flute” by Mozart. Music will come to life through larger-than-life animation and visual storytelling, and concerts will combine film, performance and music to give the traditional piece a fresh and unique look. Up to three performances will take place at the Aronoff this summer.
 
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park
The $10,000 grant will go toward the premiere of “All the Roads Home” by Jen Silverman. The production will feature three generations of women and the legacies they inherit, which aligns with the Playhouse’s mission to produce new work to help support the evolution of the American theater canon, as well as its continued commitment to celebrating women’s stories and the issues they deal with. Performances will be held at the Shelterhouse Theatre this spring.
 
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
The $10,000 in grant funds will be used for PROJECT38, an arts and education initiative. Throughout the year, students will explore Shakespeare’s canon, and students from local schools will work with Cincinnati Shakespeare’s Resident Ensemble of teaching artists to co-create 38 interpretations — dramatic, musical, visual and dance — of his 38 plays. The project will culminate in a weekend festival where students will come together to share what they’ve created with family, friends and the community.
 
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
The $40,000 NEA grant will support the CSO's Classical Roots concert, which will feature guest artists and the Classical Roots Community Mass Choir. The concert will be held at Crossroads Church, and will serve as a community-wide celebration of African-American musical heritage.
 
Contemporary Arts Center
The CAC received $25,000, which will be used for Ugo Rondinone's “Vocabulary of Solitude” series — an immersive experience that will combine a variety of materials and objects, gallery architecture and visitors as collaborators. The installation will feature a neon rainbow, colored gels on windows, floating mandalas, paintings, painted windows, life-sized clown sculptures and public programming that will be developed in partnership with a variety of community organizations. There are plans for the piece to be recreated in several other venues.
 
Contemporary Dance Theater
The $10,000 grant will be used to support the presentation of CDT’s 44th and 45th Guest Artist Series. In addition to performances, artists will share a variety of activities with the community, such as classes, lectures, workshops and receptions. Performances will be at the Aronoff in partnership with the Cincinnati Arts Association.
 
Corey Van Landingham received $25,000 for a creative writing fellowship.
 

Buzzworthy beginnings for the bee hives at the Cincinnati Zoo


Tucked away in Warren County is one of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s top conservation projects: bee hives. And according to Melanie Evans, one of the founders of the zoo’s Pollen Nation, the honey could become a source of homegrown revenue in the future. 

Established as a contribution to the area’s population, the bee apiary can be found on the zoo's 650-acre Bowyer Farm in Turtlecreek Township. Along with the beekeeping exhibit at the zoo, there are about 24 bee hives that hold over one million honeybees. The farm is owned and run by zoo staff and volunteers, but what makes the site so unique is the environment in which the bees exist.

“We chose to have our full-sized apiary on our farm since we had the pollen support for them to feed from," Evans says. "It would also be beneficial to the native wetland farming projects we have going on out there to receive the pollination services. The two on the zoo grounds are primarily there for exhibition and educational purposes.”

In addition to boosting the honeybee population, the farm uses the bees for pollination for one-third of its crops. In utilizing this natural system with the crops ranging from berries to zucchini, the use of harmful pesticides and the presence of parasites is greatly reduced.

More than 100 acres of the property are farmed organically. As news of the zoo's beekeeping spreads across the region and beyond, it has sparked an interest in backyard beekeeping and promoting an increase in the bee population. By planting more wildflowers and refraining from harmful pesticide use, individuals can impact bee conservation over time.

With the expectation of a large winter turnout and high survival rate, members of Pollen Nation expect that the honey will be for sale in the zoo’s gift shop sometime next fall. Once the colonies get going, hundreds of pounds of honey could be harvested. For now, Evans, along with VP of zoo facilities, planning and sustainability Mark Fisher, say that the few pounds of honey produced in 2016 were distributed to the beekeepers and a small handful of donors.

"Bee" on the lookout for more news about the Cincinnati Zoo’s honeybee conservation project later in 2017!
 

Creative placemaking efforts to launch in five Cincinnati neighborhoods


Throughout fall 2016, a coalition of local arts organizations, nonprofit leaders and community members came together to form a creative placemaking network that will bring arts and cultural events and initiatives to Cincinnati in 2017. Creative placemaking is the strategic shaping of neighborhoods around arts and cultural activities.

At its heart, creative placemaking is a collaborative process, and according to Kristen Baker, senior program officer with Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Cincinnati is on the cutting edge of creative placemaking efforts in the United States.

The network will focus its placemaking projects on five Cincinnati neighborhoods: Covington, Price Hill, Walnut Hills, Madisonville and the West End. Each of the participating neighborhoods are part of LISC’s Place Matters initiative, which is a citizen-led partnership to transform key Greater Cincinnati communities.

Lead project partners LISC and ArtsWave secured $35,000 in grant funding from the National Endowment for the Arts to make the creative placemaking work possible. Over the course of five months, interdisciplinary teams completed a project design process led by Design Impact, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit design firm. Project concepts varied by neighborhood, but each focused on using arts and culture to develop community:
  • Covington: The Center for Great Neighborhoods worked with Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park in Hamilton to develop the concept for a sculptural installation that incorporates the stories of community members.
  • Price Hill: Price Hill Will and other partners will help create opportunities for neighborhood residents to install art pieces on their properties.
  • Walnut Hills: Frederick Douglas Elementary School will partner with community organizations to activate a vacant green space beside the school, turning it into a community hub.
  • Madisonville: Arts organizations and neighborhood residents will equip the underutilized Bramble Park with materials to encourage play, music-making and increased engagement.
  • West End: Efforts will focus around increasing community cohesion through arts programming and public events.
Each participating neighborhood team received $4,000 to launch their projects, which will happen throughout 2017. Baker underscores the potential for good that creative placemaking can bring to Cincinnati.

“The great thing about creative placemaking is that it is not deficit-focused, it brings to light the cultural activity in neighborhoods that makes them good," she says. "It’s a positive thing for communities, and it’s an affirming message for communities that might see themselves negatively reflected in the headlines.”

To stay up-to-date on the launch of creative placemaking network projects, visit the events pages for ArtsWave and LISC. LISC will also post updates from the creative placemaking network on its Twitter and Facebook pages throughout the year.   
 

Catalytic Fund takes first steps toward redeveloping Covington's historic Bradford Building


The 15,000-square-foot Bradford Building is named for Bradford Shinkle, Covington’s wealthiest man, who died in 1909. He was the son of Amos Shinkle, a businessman and philanthropist who played a large role in developing the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky and Roebling Suspension Bridge.
 
The building has been abandoned for years, and its most recent tenants included a strip club and a restaurant. It was recently deemed a historically significant property, which prompted The Catalytic Fund to purchase it.
 
Purchasing the Bradford is the first step toward restoring and redeveloping the space. The Catalytic Fund’s initial plans include stabilizing and securing the building to help prevent further deterioration.
 
Although details aren’t official, proposed plans include five condos on the upper floors that will be available for sale, as well as street-level commercial space.
 
The Catalytic Fund is known for spearheading, planning and helping finance some of Northern Kentucky’s most important urban redevelopment projects, including the Boone Block and Hotel Covington.
 

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.
 
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