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BBQ food truck expands its repertoire with physical location in Mt. Washington


Mt. Washington has a new spot to satisfy cravings for all things delicious, as Sweets & Meats BBQ made its mark with a ribbon cutting for a new brick and mortar location on July 12. The physical locaiton is in addition to its food truck, which has been operating since 2014.

Sweets & Meats is female-owned and specializes in smoked meats, homemade sides and desserts.

“My significant other has always had a passion for good food and BBQ in particular,” says Kristen Bailey, co-owner. “I, on the other hand, am a social butterfly and love to entertain. We started out hosting cookouts in our backyard, and what started out as a hobby developed into a business.”

The cookouts were followed by a setup on the weekends in the neighborhood Creamy Whip parking lot, then a food truck and a rented commercial shared kitchen. The new space will help Sweets & Meats expand to catering and carry out.

“We bootstrapped and kept reinvesting,” Bailey says. “Our partners have been tremendous resources for us, but all of this has required blood, sweat and tears — literally.”

Without traditional financing to get the ball rolling, Bailey says things have been in that “bootstrap mode” since the very beginning.

The store’s opening was even delayed as a result, but on the day of Sweets & Meats’ ribbon cutting, they served more than 200 customers in just two hours.

“It was an incredible day filled with love, anticipation and excitement,” Bailey says.

Pop-up restaurant dates will be posted to Sweets & Meats’ Facebook page, and the official grand opening is set for Aug. 6. Until then, the business will finish out the season catering and servicing guests via its food truck.

For Bailey, a sense of accomplishment has set in, and she says a huge weight has been lifted.

“We felt like vampires after working in the building with brown paper on the windows for nearly seven months as we figured everything out and built up the space,” she says. “Now the sun is shining, and our future is bright.”

Follow Sweets & Meats' Facebook page to keep up-to-date on the restaurant opening.
 


New establishments are filling in holes in the Pleasant Ridge business district


While seasoned staples like Gas Light Café, Everybody’s Records, Pleasant Ridge Chili, the Loving Hut and Queen City Comics have kept the Pleasant Ridge business district afloat, the strip of Montgomery at Ridge Road with its vacant buildings has remained somewhat sleepy.

In the past few years though, new establishments including Nine Giant Brewing, Share: Cheesebar, Casa Figueroa, Molly Malone's, The Overlook Lodge and Red Balloon Café + Play have joined the community. Over-the-Rhine restaurant Revolution Rotisserie recently announced it will be opening in PR.

Emily Frank of Share: Cheesebar, which is set to open in August, has lived in Pleasant Ridge for the past four years. After moving back to Cincinnati to be with her family, she started a food truck (C'est Cheese), and her love for all things cheese lead her to open the Cheesebar in her neighborhood.

These plans were put on hold after a horrific accident that led to a trying recovery. Yet, she was encouraged by her Pleasant Ridge neighbors. She says the “community was insanely supportive” throughout her long recovery. 

Frank is a self-proclaimed “Ridger” through and through and couldn’t be happier about the developments.

Brandon Hughes, co-owner of Nine Giant, landed in Pleasant Ridge in what he calls a “Goldilocks” situation. The space and the neighborhood were just what he and his brother-in-law were looking for. Huges felt that at the time, the business district was underserved.

"We wanted to be part of a community and liked the idea of a revitalization,” he says. Nine Giant recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.

While newer businesses are filling in the gaps, the senior establishments have been standing strong for decades.

Matt Parmenper who’s been with Queen City Comic almost since it opened in 1987, is encouraging yet skeptical of all of the booming new businesses. “It’s great. It does seem trendy. Hopefully they do well.”

Longtime resident Dave Smith grew up in Pleasant Ridge, and he still lives there with his wife Debbie. “I’m excited about the city in general. It’s fun to see it coming back to life; fun to see people and businesses moving back here.”

Smith has watched the business district thin out. Although it’s never been totally empty, he describes the Pleasant Ridge he grew up in as a vibrant business district that declined with the opening of Kenwood Mall.

"Gaslight Café is a favorite watering spot of the locals, and Everybody’s Records has been there a long time too." 

There are still open spaces and local businesses are showing more interest. While parking is tough, there are plans for more strategic public parking in the making.

The neighborhood is hosting its Pleasant Ridge Day/Night from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Check out the event's Facebook page for more info.


Entrepreneurs dream up tasty food trucks featuring best-of dishes


Cincinnati's foodie scene continues to expand, with long-time Vine Street staple Senate opening a second location in Blue Ash, and Thunderdome Restaurant Group branching out and opening local favorites in Indianapolis and Columbus. 

But not every food entrepreneur opens a restaurant — some go the food truck route. Our food truck culinary adventure started in 2014 at the beginning of the food truck frenzy, with a roundup of 30 trucks, carts and trailers. In just three years, that number has doubled, and we know we're only brushing the surface of the new businesses that have burst on the scene.

These mobile chefs are preapring top-notch best dishes out of some of the city's smallest kitchens. Here's our second installment of newer food trucks, featuring Venezuelan street food, unique comfort food and world-class BBQ. (Click here to read the first mini-roundup of food trucks.)

Empanadas Aqui
Known for: Bad Girl Empanada, The Hairy Arepa and tostones (fried plantains), all of which have received awards
Owners: Pat Fettig and Brett and Dadni Johnson
Launched: June 2014

How did you come up with the name?
“It means ‘empanadas here,’” says Fettig. “We sell empanadas, arepas and tostones — Venezuelan street food.”

What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
“The uniqueness of our food sets us apart from other food trucks. We also have fun, friendly, respectful owners and staff.”

Follow Empanadas Aqui on Facebook and @EmpanadasAqui on Twitter

Street Chef Brigade
Known for: Street Chef Burger and Fried Crushed Potatoes; more creative dishes like Porketta' bout it and the Insane Pastrami are close seconds
Owner: Shane Coffey
Launched: June 2015

What's next for Street Chef Brigade?
“The plan is to get the Street Chef Brigade brand out there and associate it with quality, creativity and edgy comfort food. I'm currently building my second truck, which will assume a new name as a part of The Street Chef Brigade along with my current truck.”

What sets you apart?
“A highly trained executive chef that headed very popular restaurants in New York City, Aspen and the Turks and Caicos."

Street Chef Brigade specializes in edgy comfort food that is showcased in its creative, diverse and veggie-friendly menu.

Follow Street Chef Brigade on Facebook, Twitter (@StreetChef513) and Instagram (@StreetChefBrigade) Facebook: Street Chef Brigade

Sweets & Meats BBQ
Known for: Sliced brisket and mac 'n' cheese
Owners: Kristen Bailey and Anton Gaffney
Launched: March 2016

How did you come up with the name?
“We were having drinks in our backyard at a cookout among friends in the summer of 2014 and were talking about our dream of opening a BBQ restaurant,” says Bailey. “We were talking about what it would look like and I remember saying how it would be perfect if our restaurant had really good desserts too. Everyone gets a sweet tooth and no other BBQ restaurant was really making it a focus. Hence, Sweets & Meats was born.”

What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
“We try to deliver the full BBQ culinary experience. Not only do we have the best in smoked meats, but we also focus on made-from-scratch sides and desserts. Quality is always important and customer service is second to none.”

Sweets & Meats menu features ribs and brisket, plus rotating dishes like smoked meatloaf, the BBQ 4-Way, the Triple Bypass Sandwich, smoked pork belly, rib tips and bacon wrapped pork loin. Homemade sides include mac 'n' cheese and sweet potato casserole, and you can't forget the desserts.

Follow Sweets & Meats on Facebook, Twitter (@SweetsandMeats) and Instagram (@SweetsandMeatsBBQ)

Stay tuned for our third and final portion of new-to-you food trucks next week!
 


Price Hill coffee staple relocating but staying in loyal neighborhood


The locally beloved BLOC Coffee Company in Price Hill is moving, but it won’t be going far. When the coffee house first announced the move in early 2017, residents worried about the potential loss of their award-winning coffee shop.

As proud Price Hill business owners for over a decade, BLOC has no plans to leave the community. It will move just a few blocks away from its long-time location at 1801 Price Ave., to 801 Mt. Hope, at the corner of W. Eighth St.

Since Roger Rose took over as general manager and executive chef of BLOC in Feb. 2016, sales have doubled.

He brought in new style, décor and a menu featuring famous breakfast sandwiches, overnight oats, house-made sauces and seasonal dishes.

Owners hope the new location will better fit the needs of both BLOC employees and patrons.

With a full kitchen, the new BLOC Coffee House will feature all-day breakfast, diverse styles of eggs, Sunday brunch and more. BLOC has also secured a liquor license to accommodate wines and bourbons, barrel-aged cocktails and local beers. The new location will also feature expanded hours.

But this won’t be a party scene. Rose aims to maintain the current comforting community feel of the coffee house with low lighting and small personal places.

The 2,000-square-foot historic red brick building boasts hardwood floors, tall ceilings and large windows for plenty of natural light.

Rose says relocating has been a journey. There have been lots of hoops to jump through — and some still to go — but BLOC hopes to open this fall in its new home.

The top floors of the building will hold residential lofts. Future project phases will include a small deck or patio.

The longer forecast includes a rooftop deck view that will add to Price Hill’s famous views overlooking downtown, Clifton, West End, Ohio River and Northern Kentucky.

The current location will remain open until the move is complete.
 


Food truck scene expands to include variety of frozen treat mobiles


It's been a few years since we feature 30 of Cincinnati's must-try food trucks, but that doesn't mean the mobile food trend is going out of style. Some of the city's most sought-after trucks often frequent the City Flea, local breweries and the Troy Strauss Market on Fountain Square. Plus, you can find a plethora of food trucks at festivals like Bunbury, the CFTA Food Festival, the Summit Park Food Truck Festival and Taste of Cincinnati.

We know all about cult favorites like C'est Cheese, Catch-a-Fire Pizza, Marty's Waffles and Red Sesame, but what about the trucks that are newer to the street scene?

The miniLDW
Known for: creamy soft serve ice cream
Owners: Rick and Teresa Morgan
Launched: April 2016
Most popular item: Chocolate lovers like the Chocolate Mountain; caramel lovers like the Turtle Parfait; and the Hot Fudge Brownie is also a winner

How did you come up with the name?
“It's a play on words, as our concession trailer is a mini Loveland Dairy Whip, which is our soft-serve ice cream shop in Loveland,” says Rick. “The miniLDW is not only a mini but it also offers the same desserts as the Loveland Dairy Whip, just a smaller menu.”

What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
"The mini LDW has an extensive menu, including ice cream cones, banana boats, six parfaits and kids' favorites like the Gummy Monster and the Clown Sundae."

Follow the miniLDW on Facebook and Twitter @the_ldw

Power Blendz Smoothie Truck
Known for: The Perfect Fruit Smoothie
Launched: May 2016
Owner: Power Blendz Nutrition
Most popular item: Strawberry and Banana Perfect Fruit Smoothie

How did you come up with the name?
“The Power Blendz Smoothie Truck got its name as an extension of the brand Power Blendz The Fitness Fuel,” says Sadie Boyle, account manager for Power Blendz. “Developed for the military as a great tasting, top quality, nutritional and performance supplement, The Fitness Fuel was the result of countless hours in the kitchen and in the labs, formulating a product that even our commander-in-chief would love.”

What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
“We developed and perfected our Pure Protein powder used in all Perfect Fruit Smoothies. The recipes were created and tested by us with the goal of great taste and your health in mind."

Follow Power Blendz Smoothie Truck on Facebook

Rhino's Frozen Yogurt & Soft Serve
Launched: July 2016
Owners: The Miller Family
Most popular item: vanilla ice cream

How did you come up with the name?
“We are a family owned business, and the truck is named after my brother Ryan,” says Rick Miller, manager for Rhino’s. “His nickname growing up was Rhino.”

What are you known for?
“We spent many months driving around to different ice cream shows to find the best quality and delicious product we could find. Our product is smooth, creamy and delicious.”

What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
“The customer has the ability to create their own treat just the way they want it. We offer six different flavors of soft serve and 25 toppings on the truck. We are sure to satisfy every taste bud.”

Follow Rhino’s Frozen Yogurt on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram @RhinosFroYo

Stay tuned for Part II next week!
 


Local coffee staple Deeper Roots moving to the West End


Deeper Roots Coffee, which currently operates a roasterie in Mt. Healthy and a coffee bar in Oakley, will soon occupy 2108 Colerain in the West End.

“We first looked at the building in June of last year; it’s been a long time coming, but it’s totally worth the wait,” says Adam Shaw, Deeper Roots' lead roaster.

While the Mt. Healthy roasterie served Deeper Roots well, it became too small for the budding business.

Shaw explains that the main issue of the Mt. Healthy roasterie was storage. There are machines and green coffee everywhere, and there is little space for meetings.

The new roasterie will take up a quarter of the 40,000-square-foot building, which is almost double that of the Mt. Healthy roasterie. 

On top of roasting coffee, Shaw also plays the role of green coffee buyer, buying from trusted importers and farmers from almost everywhere coffee is grown, including Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, Ethiopia and Sumatra.

These resources are known for their artisan blends, and Deeper Roots knows that it's responsibly sourcing its coffee.

For now, the new location will center on roasting coffee and providing a meeting space for the team. Eventually, there could be more. Shaw explains that the opening of a coffee spot will happen “when the dust is settled and we think the neighborhood is ready.”

Until that time, West Enders will be able to purchase fresh beans during designated community hours at the roasterie. Deeper Roots is also looking to open another coffee bar on Race Street in Over-the-Rhine. It has a projected opening date of mid-fall, and will bring the distinct and diverse flavors of Deeper Roots' coffee to another neighborhood.

You can contact Deeper Roots for a tour of the new facility and stay tuned to its Facebook page for information on the new OTR location.
 


New residential and commercial projects are making Madisonville a destination neighborhood


As part of a major overhaul that is drawing attention in the area, more than $355 million is being put toward the redevelopment of Madisonville, making the neighborhood a hotspot for new residents and visitors alike.

According to the Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, the transformation of Madisonville will be headlined with a $200 million project at the corner of Madison and Red Bank roads. The mixed-use space, all built on the 27-acre campus of the research company Medpace, will feature housing units and office and retail space.

“It’s really a gateway for a lot of people from Madisonville with tens of thousands of cars going through there every day,” says Matt Strauss with MCURC. “Maybe some of them that didn’t stop before will stop there now.”

Along with other city leaders, Strauss says that Madisonville isn’t trying to compete with other localities; they want to be recognized for being Madisonville, not Oakley, Hyde Park, etc.

The center of the new development will be the Dolce Hotel — renamed the Summit Hotel — a first for Cincinnati. The $80 million hotel is a high-end brand that will specialize in local conferences. It will feature 239 rooms with over 34,000 square feet of meeting space that will include 11,000 square feet of terrace and gardens. It is currently under construction on top of the former Medpace parking garage and the old NuTone factory.

Wyndham Hotel Management Group, which owns the Dolce Hotel brand, is already fielding calls from groups interested in using the hotel. The Summit is expected to be completed and will open in spring 2018.

Another large project in the transformation of Madisonville includes the redevelopment near Madison Road and Whetsel Avenue. The old Fifth Third Bank building, vacant for many years, is now home to restaurant space along with two second-story apartments. Lala’s Blissful Bites, a bakery and dessert shop, opened on the shared first-floor space in 2016.

For years, many of the properties along Madison and Whetsel were underused or vacant, acting as more of an eyesore to the area than a focal point. Since that time, Ackermann Group has worked on the redevelopment of three blocks within the area. This part of the project will include 185 residential units with 32 private residential garages, plus space for retail, amenities and leasable office space.

City Manager Harry Black and the City of Cincinnati city council outlined additions, including more public plaza areas, streetscape improvements and other public infrastructure improvements, in 2016.

Other areas of Madisonville are also seeing their own improvements, such as the addition of 20 homes within a subdivision off of Duck Creek Road, and the new Tap and Screw Brewery. It recenlty closed the doors on its Westwood location, but opened a microbrewery location on Red Bank Road last week.

Aside from major redevelopment projects that will provide jobs and a new spark to the neighborhood, Madisonville is also home to the Cincinnati Jazz and BBQ festival and the Madisonville 5K, both of which will be held at the intersection of Madison and Whetsel on Sept. 9.

Keep an eye out for more updates on construction and redevelopment in Madisonville, as well as local events and happenings, here.
 


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.
 

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