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Q&A with Karen Arnett of the Mt. Healthy Renaissance Project


The Main Theater may be a treasured landmark in Mt. Healthy, but it needs renovations before new memories can be made under its roof. Karen Arnett of the Mt. Healthy Renaissance Project is part of a concentrated local effort to restore the theater to working condition after more than a decade of neglect. She answered some questions for Soapbox concerning the building’s ultimate fate and how The Main Theater can fit into a modern Mt. Healthy.

How and from whom did you acquire the property?
The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority acquired it in 2015 through the Hamilton County Land Reutilization Corp. (Landbank), which it manages, and spent nearly $41,000 on repairs — fixes to protect it from further deterioration, such as boarding up windows, gutting the interior and making roof repairs.

What was the Main Theater’s condition before your involvement?
The building had been empty for 10-15 years. Structurally, it is in surprisingly good condition. It was looking a bit rough around the edges when the Port did its stabilization. The Port had the front façade/cornice repainted, and it really glows now. The City has not done any work on the building as of yet, other than to replace a broken front window. We are still in the process of exploring possibilities for renovation, and haven’t yet developed a specific road map for funding or construction. Currently, we are moving forward to nominate The Main Theater for the National Register of Historic Places, and don’t want to do any construction work prematurely that might endanger our ability to secure the historic tax credits that will accompany the historic designation.

How much work and time has your organization invested in The Main?
When we learned that the City would be acquiring The Main Theater, the Mt. Healthy Renaissance Project put together a working group to lead the charge. Mayor Wolf and a Mt. Healthy city councilmember, Jenni Moody, are a part of the group, along with several members of the Renaissance Project. So it turns out that this won’t be a charge so much as a steady walk. Reclaiming and repurposing The Main Theater will be a long process, perhaps taking a few years.

Something rewarding last fall was that the UC/DAAP historic preservation class, under Prof. Jeff Tillman, included The Main and three other Mt. Healthy buildings in their practicum class. They took measurements and inspected the building and mapped current conditions.

What kind of work is still needed?
We are in phase one of this mid- to long-term project. Everything is ahead of us: getting an architectural plan in place and fundraising for the renovation. Phase I is a kind of friend-raising period. This year, we will be opening a pop-up shop in the intact storefront. We will be open weekly, hopefully a few hours each weekend, from May-September. The pop-up will be a fun experiment: we want to bring people to The Main, to let them know what’s in the works and to energize the building. We hope to have the work of local artists and artisans for sale, along with temporary art exhibits by our local community groups. In honor of Mt. Healthy’s bicentennial, we’ll offer some special wares. The pop-up will also be a performance space. We have some community members who want to bring spoken word, acoustic music and that kind of thing. We’ll also have some freshly brewed and locally roasted Deeper Roots coffee for folks to sip.

Another exciting thing in the works is that we are working with Elementz on a mural for the front entry wall of The Main Theater. The mural artist, Ben Thomas, is going to do the work, and it is going to make the place look vibrant. We expect that will be completed by the pop-up opening in May.

What is the plan for The Main's future use after revitalization?
Although things could change, our current vision on which the working group unanimously agrees is that we want the space to return to being an entertainment hub for our community. The theater was a mainstay in the lives of thousands of folks who grew up in and around Mt. Healthy, and those folks have many good memories of this theater. We think that Mt. Healthy deserves to have such a hub once again, though this time around, it will not be solely for movies. We envision it being a place for a mix of live theater, live music concerts, some film and other events. We’d be happy to find a theater group that might want to make The Main its home base.

What do you think is important for our readers to know about the theater?
The Main Theater had an incredibly long run — it was one of the longest-lived movie theaters in Cincinnati. The Blum family ran this movie theater from 1915-1971. It has a rich history and there are lots of stories. One fun story is that when the film broke during a movie, which it used to sometimes do in the celluloid days, the owner would go down to the front and play the banjo to entertain the audience until the movie resumed. And his cousin, who was a local Catholic church organist, played the piano for the silent movies before the talkies took over. The stories about The Show, as many locals still call it, are absolute gems.

You can follow the progress of The Main Theater, and find out more about the pop-up, by joining its Facebook group.
 


Second Sight Spirits looking forward to new products, expansion and the Bourbon Trail


This week, we're exploring the burgeoning craft beer and spirits industry in Ludlow, Ky. Check out our story about Bircus Brewing here.

Rick Couch and Carus Waggoner, founders of Second Sight Spirits, shared an innovative dream. They knew what it took to make a world-class product, as their earlier careers involved creating Las Vegas shows Cirque du Soleil LOVE and Viva Elvis. The sights and sounds of their roots are the inspiration behind Second Sight and the unique and creative experience it has brought to Northern Kentucky since it opened in 2015.

Second Sight originally offered white rum, but has since expanded to include spiced rum and bourbon barrel rum, as well as several flavors of Villa Hillbillies moonshine. New products and projects are in the works for 2017 and 2018, says Couch.

“We will be releasing several new products this year, including a smoked cherry rum, dark rum and bourbon,” he says. “We are also working with local officials and other businesses to develop a local bourbon themed experience.”

A recent expansion has allowed for Second Sight to further connect with other local businesses. The $70,000 expansion, which included turning the 1,200-square-foot facility into a 3,500-square-foot operating space, connected the distillery with neighboring Wynner’s Cup Café for special events. It was partially funded by a Duke Energy grant.

Driven by the passage of Kentucky Senate Bill 11 in July 2016 that allows distilleries to operate more like breweries (in terms of what they can sell and what size samples they can offer), the expansion will allow the distillery to operate an event space, meeting space, cocktail bar and more.

Second Sight has also recently launched a new bourbon program where customers can invest $500 in grain and barrels to make a batch of bourbon and be involved in the distilling process. In doing so, the customers can taste their product during the aging process and be part of the bottling party where they can sign each bottle of bourbon that they helped produce. The original $500 can then be used to purchase a bottle of bourbon and the barrel it was aged in.

This is just one of the many elements of Second Sight that set it apart from other local and national distilleries. The process, in addition to the atmosphere, help to build a one-of-a-kind experience for customers.

“We have taken the idea of craft distilling a step further by not only handcrafting spirits from high-quality ingredients but by constructing our own still and the theatrical elements in our tasting room as well,” Waggoner says. “We developed a theme based on the future and designed our still to look like a fortune teller with a custom crystal ball condenser. We think we may have created the world’s first themed art still.”

Couch says that Second Sight will be increasing its bourbon production this year in hopes of joining the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 2018.

Second Sight's tasting room is open from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays, and from noon to 8 p.m on Fridays and Saturdays. Tours are given at 12:30, 2 and 4 p.m. on Thursdays and at 12:30, 2, 4 and 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Tastings and tours are free. For more information, call 702-510-6075 or visit Second Sight's website.
 


Bircus Brewing serves first beer, focuses on community partnership

 

This week, we're exploring the burgeoning craft beer and spirits industry in Ludlow, Ky. Check out our story about Second Sight Spirits here.

A local clown is taking major steps to rejuvenate and nurture Ludlow's business interests, and he’s not joking around.

Paul Miller, a.k.a. Pauly the Clown from Circus Mojo, is a forward-thinking businessman. His newest venture into beer brewing, Bircus (pronounced beer-cuss) Brewing Co., is projected to be a means to an end for his already existing circus education program that provides both job training and entertainment to Ludlow’s residents.

Bircus thinks, acts and spends locally. Inhabiting the old Ludlow Theater, Miller and his troupe aim to invert the old idiom of “the circus comes to town,” and instead, bring the town to the circus.

“We are not going to worry about canning, bottling or putting Bircus on grocery shelves," Miller says. "The goal is to become a destination. For seven years, we’ve been doing events in Ludlow, but we’ve been selling other people’s beer. The margins just aren’t there.”

Mixing hospitality with live entertainment, this business model is nothing new. Miller has collaborated with Matthias Vermael of Circus Planeet, a similar brewhouse-circus venture in Ghent, Belgium. The intent is to mix the theatrics of circus performance and the concessions of a brewery to maximize showtime profits.

The first public batch of Bircus beers was recently sold in the brewery’s parking lot patio area during this past weekend's Shop in Ludlow event.

Crowdfunding is the primary source of income for the fledgling brewery, whose funds currently stand near $300,000 of the $500,000 goal. Bircus is the first brewery under a new section of federal law that allows crowdfunding investors to buy equity.

“I did that so I can maintain control because I don’t want to argue with someone about whether or not 'bellydance night' made sense, or something like that,” says Miller. “I’ve said no to money for a long time, where people have said ‘I’ll give you all the money you want, I just want 50/50.’”

The goal, he says, is to keep the heart of the business beating and to refuse any notions of straying from the best interests of his circus and his local community of investors.

“I don’t want to be a Rhinegeist, I don’t want to buy 8,000 kegs and 40 trucks, there’s no reason. I can’t depreciate what I didn’t spend and I don’t have any loans, so there’s no amortization. Our self-distribution will be the biggest turnaround. Instead of making maybe fifty cents each six-pack, we hope to be making four or five bucks a pour.”

Bircus has signed a three-year lease with Norfolk Southern for a parking lot near the brewery to ensure convenience for visitors. This was procured so the brewery’s adjacent parking lot can be utilized for outdoor patio space.

The brewery is still under construction with no established opening day yet announced. Keep tabs on its Facebook page for up-to-date information.
 


The Center hosting two-night pop-up restaurant featuring local home chef


On April 7 and 8, The Center for Great Neighborhoods will host a pop-up restaurant featuring Covington resident and home chef, Chako. It will be a culinary dining experience in omotenashi, or the Japanese art of hospitality.

“When people eat my food, I want them to experience omotenashi, a concept intrinsically attached to the Japanese culture,” Chako says. “In English, it’s translated as hospitality, but to us Japanese, it involves so much more. Cooking and baking are my passion, therefore, I want my customers to be pleased and feel satisfied in all of their senses. I want them to feel welcomed, excited, unique and special.”

The two-day pop-up restaurant is the culmination of The Center’s pilot Chef Fellowship Program, which was funded by a FreshLo grant from The Kresge Foundation. Grants were given to organizations that were developing programs to help create healthy, vibrant communities strengthened by the deliberate integration of creative placemaking and food-oriented development.

The Chef Fellowship Program is a two-month kitchen and art workforce development internship that gives a home-based cook who is interested in starting a restaurant the chance to experience what it would be like to run one.

The Center also partnered with the Life Learning Center to provide interns with a real-world hospitality training program that includes learning hospitality skills, cooking techniques and arts-related skills. The interns will be the ones running the popup’s front of house, as well as helping Chako in the kitchen.

“It’s important to us to support local entrepreneurs and help them get the tools and resources to turn their ideas into a reality,” says Kate Greene, The Center’s program manager for community development.

For $45, guests will receive an authentic Japanese meal featuring salad, miso soup, housemade Japanese pickles, Japanese-style potato salad, chirashi zushi (scattered sushi) and two entrée choices — pork cooked in black tea topped with a fragrant sauce or agedashi tofu, which is deep fried and topped with tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, fried eggplant and a green onion sauce. The main course will be followed by wasanbon mousse, which is a Japanese dessert made in the traditional Shikoku method.

Guests 21 and over will be able to taste different types of Japanese beer or they can purchase a handcrafted sake glass for an additional $10, which comes with a sample of sake.

Chako uses fresh products and ingredients sourced locally or imported from around the world to achieve the taste and texture that she’s looking for.

“When I cook or bake, I try to anticipate what it will take to please my clients: first their sight, then taste and touch,” she says. “When they eat, I strive to make them feel as never before. I want my food to be a special gift for each person individually.”

Seatings are at 5:30 and 8 p.m. each night, and are limited to 25 people each seating. Tickets can be purchased here until April 1.
 


Landlocked Social House to bring coffee and craft beer community spot to Walnut Hills


Anne and Andrew Decker have always dreamed of opening a place that would allow them the freedom to independently explore their passions while also running a business together. Their ideal venture would allow them to share information about their passions with others who share the same interest. Landlocked Social House, the newest craft beer and coffee bar coming to Cincinnati, will do that and more.

Located on E. McMillan Street in Walnut Hills, the bar will offer something for everyone, as the Deckers understand that coffee and beer are not necessarily for everyone. They plan to incorporate other talented food and beverage businesses into the bar, which is set to open early this summer.

The couple plans to have pastries from a few bakers around town, as well as curated meat and cheese boards and pickled items. They plan to work with two bakers and a bagel maker to fill Landlocked's pastry cases, and bring in cocktail veterans to create a small in-house list of drinks.

“Aside from those options, we will be a bring-your-own-food establishment and have the occasional food truck in our beer garden," says Decker.

Fifteen craft beers and an assortment of sodas, cider, white and red wine and cold brew coffee will also be available on the custom tap system.

The idea of having a neighborhood coffee bar where you can run into friends and family on a regular basis was an important aspect in the selection of Walnut Hills for Landlocked's location.

“We chose Walnut Hills in large part because it is being thoughtfully developed by people who love this neighborhood and that is something we want to be a part of,” Decker says. “I will say that it would have in fact been easier on us to open in another building and another part of town, but we like it here.”

Landlocked is just minutes away from Eden Park, Clifton, Pendleton and Over-the-Rhine, with easy access to I-71 as well. The diversity and history of the area led the Deckers to lay their foundation there. “There is a lot of heart and hard work in this part of town," Decker says. "We hope the neighborhood will feel the same about us as we do our best to be a positive addition.”

The Deckers started a Kickstarter campaign that ran from Feb. 1 to March 8 to provide financial stability — on top of private funding and bank loans — to get the Landlocked project up and running. The building, owned by Becki and Jeremiah Griswold (who also own White Whale Tattoo and are friends of the Deckers), was previously abandoned and needed a lot of work.

With the help of friends, the Deckers renovated the building, exposing the original brick interior, installing new flooring, the tap system, adding new landscaping and more. Remaining projects include a new storefront window, drain and sink installation, minor electric work and a few other small projects. According to the Kickstarter page, the projects should all be completed in time for the summer opening.

While the Kickstarter campaign has ended, Decker says that donations are still being accepted and will be put to good use as they wrap up the remaining projects before opening.
 


Demolition of its theater to bring about a season of change for Playhouse in the Park


The historic Robert S. Marx Theatre in Eden Park will be demolished following the Playhouse in the Park's 2018-2019 season, as part of an optimistic revisioning that will celebrate the theater's 50th birthday and help the venue better cater to modern audiences.

“The theater was built at a time when there was less technology and the goal was to use as little scenery as possible,” says Playhouse artistic director Blake Robison. “Theater has changed a lot over the last 50 years.”

Currently, the only way to move props on and off stage is through the floor via elevator systems. Compared to many modern theaters, this is highly limiting and can be a hindrance to those accustomed to more versatile theaters that offer clearance for large scenery and props to be navigated from all directions.

“At the time it was built, there was a very minimalist approach, but I think dramaturgy has changed since then and audience expectations have certainly changed,” Robison says. “One of the things that I think Playhouse is known for is its beautiful sets and costumes. You always walk into our theater and experience the surprise of what it’s going to look like next time. So, we want to stay ahead of the eight ball and make sure that we’re bringing Cincinnati the widest variety of plays and musicals that we can. We feel strongly that we need that upgrade in order to keep up with the times.”

While no specific location has been finalized, the Playhouse ensemble will continue to perform during demolition and construction. It’s estimated the construction will displace the troupe for only one season.

“This facility in Eden Park has been so meaningful to people," Robison says. "We want to reassure people the Playhouse is staying in the park where it belongs, but we need to upgrade our home. We’re leaving the shelterhouse completely as-is, except that we’re going to put in more comfortable seats. I guess you could say that in there it’s going from economy to business class.”

The Marx Theatre at Playhouse in the Park recently premiered Jane Eyre, which runs until April 8.

 


Brewing Heritage Trail moving along, new app on the way


Cincinnati loves good beer, and it turns out that that’s nothing new. Thanks to the droves of skilled brewers who immigrated from Germany and settled in Cincinnati prior to Prohibition, it's long been known as a mecca for beer aficionados.

The Brewing Heritage Trail, which will begin in Pendleton and weave its way through OTR and into the Mohawk area, is gradually nearing completion, and will help tell the storied past of the Queen City’s role in the world of brewing. The trail will showcase former brewery buildings, share brewery information and tie all of that beer culture it into Cincinnati history.

Steven Hampton, executive director of the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District Urban Redevelopment Corporation, took some time away from Bockfest festivities to provide updates on the trail and to give some insight to the motivation behind the trail.

How would you describe the Brewing Heritage Trail to a tourist who's never heard of it before?
It is a fun and engaging way to learn and experience our city’s rich brewing heritage through signage, art, digital experiences and guided tours through the streets and historic breweries. It is not just the story of how much beer we made and drank, which was a lot, but the story of Cincinnati and America told through the lens of beer.

Has construction started on the trail? What kind of work needs to be done to complete this project?
In partnership with ArtWorks, there are almost a dozen public art pieces along the trail already. The first 3/4-mile physical segment of the trail, including signage and bronze medallion way finding, will be under construction this summer with completion around September, thanks to funding from the State of Ohio and the City of Cincinnati. We are also just about to launch the first version of the smartphone app for iOS and Android to lead you along the trail digitally and share even more content.

How is the trail organized?
The trail has three initial story segments, of which we are building one plus small portions of the other two as key connectors. The segments generally tell the overall story of brewing beer in Cincinnati, with many sub-stories that are tied to specific locations and buildings along the route.

The first segment we are building is the middle segment, “Glasses and Growlers." During the second half of the 19th century, breweries began playing a controversial role in the proliferation of saloons in cities across the nation. The "Glasses and Growlers" segment of the trail will explore the role that Cincinnati’s hearty beer industry, unregulated saloon trade and thirsty population played in shaping Americans’ relationship with beer.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, the Brewing Heritage Trail will be accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Once the app launches, you can download it for Apple or Android here.


Local firm plans to overhaul entire Mt. Auburn street


A new development in Mt. Auburn will provide much-needed single-family homeownership in the community. Viewpoints on the Hill, a product of Unum Investment Group, will include the construction of four new, single-family homes at 305-309 Seitz St.

The $2.6 million project will feature three- or four-bedroom houses, all sized at about 2,770 square feet. The LEED-certified homes will start at $659,000.

Quante Ferguson and Renee Jefferson of Unum have about a decade of real estate investment and rental management experience under their belts. The pair started out flipping houses and upgrading rental properties, but when the land along Seitz came their way, they were excited for the opportunity to build from the ground up.

Before construction can begin, two of the homes need to be sold. Construction can’t start before that because all four homes will be built on the same foundation. Coldwell Banker is the listing agent for Viewpoints on the Hill; check out current listings for 305 Seitz, 307a and 307b Seitz and 309 Seitz.

Ferguson and Jefferson hope to redevelop the whole block; the next phase of that plan is to convert a number of nearby apartments into condos.

Unum has partnered with B2B Equities to serve as the project advisor and minority partner. B2B has worked on several well known developments in Over-the-Rhine, including B-Side Lofts, Mottainai Lofts and New City Lofts.
 


Orleans Development to bring 13 apartments and first-floor retail space to downtown Covington


In mid-February, a new apartment project was announced to help further enhance Covington's already booming downtown.

Set to open this summer, Madison Flats will be home to 13 one-bedroom apartments and five storefronts. The new development, located in the 800 block of Madison Avenue, is led by local firm Orleans Development.

Each apartment will be of modeled in a modern European style with crisp, clean lines and simple floor plans that will include hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, chrome fixtures and more. A courtyard and other amenities will also be available to residents of the apartment complex. Rent for each apartment is expected to run from $600-875 a month, depending on the floor plan.

One of the unique aspects of the project is the presence of a storefront, which will allow potential startups the opportunity to participate in a rent subsidy program that will refund payroll taxes annually for up to five years. This plan, targeted for new Covington businesses, provides an incentive for property and business owners to lend a hand in redeveloping the area.

Orleans Development, which was founded in 2005, hopes that the Flats will capitalize on the revitalization of downtown Covington, which has seen an increase in residential opportunities over the last several years. Principal Founder Tony Kreutzjans has helped the firm become a leader in rebuilding Northern Kentucky.

According to Kreutzjans, the recent shift from suburban living to being in the hub of a city like Cincinnati or Covington is appealing to millennials and other young professionals. The need for more urban housing is on the rise with startups and new businesses flocking to downtown Covington.

Other Orleans projects include Market Lofts, Pike Street Lofts, PikeStar and bioLOGIC, all of which are adaptive reuse projects that aim to the architectural and historical significance of each building.

Orleans Development is also involved in the redevelopment of the Boone Block building, converting it into nine 3-story townhomes. Although construction has just begun on the project, four homes have already been sold, a trend that Orleans Development expects to see when the Flats apartments are available for rent in a few months.
 


NYC-based traveling story gatherers stopping in Cincinnati


Fourteen years ago, Dave Isay, a reporter and radio personality by trade,  wanted to capture stories, but not by sticking a microphone in people’s faces. So, he installed a recording booth where people could record their own conversations in Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, and StoryCorps was born.
 
“In the beginning, StoryCorps was very grassroots, but the question came up of whose stores were we actually recording,” says Jordan Bullard, associate director of the mobile tour.
 
In 2005, StoryCorps launched a mobile tour starting at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The Airstream trailer is retrofitted with a professional recording studio and allows individuals and their loved ones to have honest conversations with each other, and walk away with a copy of those conversations in their hands.
 
The mobile tour has visited more than 200 cities and 49 states (they haven’t made it to Alaska yet) in 12 years. The bus will make a stop in Cincinnati from April 20-May 19 at a location that is still to be determined.
 
This isn’t the first time StoryCorps has been to Cincinnati — it was here eight years ago. In each city it stops, StoryCorps partners with an NPR affiliate radio station; Cincinnati Public Radio actually asked StoryCorps to come back and visit.
 
“Many of the cities we’re visiting now are on the upswing and are experiencing a renaissance,” Bullard says. “We want to capture the changing dynamic of Cincinnati, as well as the memories and history of the city.”
 
Sharing your story is totally free and open to the public. In each city StoryCorps visits, the Airstream is set up in a central location so it’s easily accessible to everyone. The team is able to record up to seven stories a day, five days a week — a total of 154 stories during their stay in Cincinnati.
 
After stories are recorded, there are multiple ways to access them. Participants receive a free, unedited, broadcast-quality copy before they leave the Airstream. Select clips are broadcast on local NPR affiliated stations, and some clips make it onto NPR’s "Morning Edition," which is broadcast every Friday morning.
 
All stories are archived, with permission, in the Library of Congress, as well as in a local depository, which is still being decided for this visit. The archives are used for academic research, and have increasingly become an important resource for all kinds of reasons.
 
“I hope that StoryCorps brings an opportunity for people to reflect on their own story and reflect on their value and self-worth,” Bullard says. “Maybe it will give people a chance to listen to each other, which is easier said then done. Listening is an act of love — how often do you not pay attention to others?”
 
If you want to have your story on tape, you can sign up online starting April 6. Appointments are on a first-come, first-served basis.
 
There’s also an app, which is available for free in the Google Play and App stores. It allows users to record their stories and archive them at storycorps.me.
 

Bistro Grace owner opens second concept in Northside's CBD


The Hamilton, a new wine bar on Hamilton Avenue in Northside, opened in early February across the street from its sister restaurant, Bistro Grace. Owner Suzanne McGarry had purchased three buildings across from the Bistro several years ago, and along with the Bistro's chef, David Bever, she decided to utilize one of the storefronts for a new concept.

It's a comfy space designed for sipping wine, sharing small dishes and socializing at the bar or in an overstuffed leather chair.

But The Hamilton is more than just a bar. Patrons can stop by to purchase a bottle of wine or craft beer to take home, or stick around and order some food. There's a $10 corkage fee if you stay and open the bottle, but the wine is priced to encourage just that.

The bar also offers a unique assortment of "crafty cocktails." The Kirby, for example, consists of Sauza, fresh lime and simple syrup, topped with Malbec. Or try the Blackberry Kentucky Mule, made with Jim Beam, muddled blackberries, sage simple syrup, fresh lime and ginger beer.

"People can start their night at The Hamilton and have appetizers and sharable plates, and then head over to Bistro Grace for dinner," says Lauren Bradford, dining room manager at the Bistro. "Or they can go to the Bistro first and then find they're not ready to go home, so they head over to The Hamilton."

The space at 4029 Hamilton Ave. was previously occupied by Tacocracy, which was artsy and had an airport theme. McGarry changed the decor to a comfortable industrial/modern feel with exposed ductwork and unfinished walls that reveal the brick underneath.

"It makes you feel at home," Bradford says. The small space only holds about 45 people, adding to the intimate atmosphere.

Chef Bever says that The Hamilton's food is meant to be flavorful and light, and that it's meant to complement the Bistro's menu. The small menu includes calamari and potatoes, tofu salad, salmon two ways, a trio of eggplant and a modern fondue. Prices range from $9-15.

The wine selection will eventually have over 50 wines, along with a mix of craft beers.

The Hamilton is open 4-11 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.
 

Annual festival to celebrate 150 years of the Roebling Bridge


This summer's RoeblingFest will celebrate 150 years of the iconic bridge that connects Covington and Cincinnati.

The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge opened in 1867; it spans a record 1,057 feet across the Ohio River. Roebling, who was selected by the Covington-Cincinnati Bridge Company in 1846 as chief engineer to design and build the bridge, estimated the final cost of the project to be $1.8 million. Until 1963, it ran under toll collection, and 10 years later, the bridge was purchased by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1975.

RoeblingFest, an annual event that celebrates the history and architecture of the bridge, aims to bring people to Covington to witness the bridge and learn more about the surrounding area.

The event was started by the Roebling Point Business Association, in conjunction with the Covington-Cincinnati Suspension Bridge Committee, the organization that's dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the bridge. The CCSBC has been recognized for the decorative lighting that lines the bridge, which was installed in 1984.

Historic and educational tours, exhibits from local museums, presentations, arts and crafts exhibits and sales, dancers and other personalities, food and drinks, live music by DevouGrass and more will be a part of this year's event. All tours and presentations will be free, including the Historic Walking Tours of Covington and historical presentations from regional historians and Kris Roebling, a descendant of the bridge's architect.

A silent auction and raffle will be held to win a “Trip of a Trip” of the bridge (with more information to come later). Also included will be the annual RoeblingFest Photo Contest, where locals and visitors can submit their photos of the bridge. There will be calendars for sale for $12, featuring photos of the Roebling Bridge taken by the community.

One of the special aspects of RoeblingFest is Hands Across the Ohio, where people link hands from the Kentucky side of the bridge to the Ohio side — now 2,162 feet from shore to shore — around noon. This human chain includes local organizations, schools, residents, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. A photograph will be taken to document the entire chain on the bridge.

In contrast with previous years, the CCSBC sees 2017's RoeblingFest as more of a gala event, marking 150 years of the history, architecture and preservation of the Roebling Bridge.

RoeblingFest 2017 will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on June 17, at Third and Court streets, with attendance estimated to be anywhere from 1,000-1,200 people.

Information on the event can be found here as it becomes available.
 

CDF/IFF nonprofit loan program leads to community reinvestment


In 2015, the Cincinnati Development Fund teamed up with IFF (and the JP Morgan Chase Foundation) to provide loans to nonprofits in Greater Cincinnati and Dayton. The facilities and equipment loan program was designed for nonprofits that served low-income neighborhoods and special-needs populations. 
 
“This has been an incredible opportunity, and we’ve lifted this partnership up as a model for CDFI collaboration across the region,” says Kirby Burkholder, vice president and executive director for the Eastern Region of IFF.
 
Eight area nonprofits — Bi-Okoto Drum and Dance Co., The Center for Great Neighborhoods, Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky, DECA Preparatory Academy, Findlay Kitchen, Kennedy Heights Arts Center, United Way and the Washing Well — have all received loans through the program, totaling more than $6.6 million.
 
Development highlights that were the direct result of these loans include:
  • The Corporation for Findlay Market borrowed $980,000 to buy, renovate and equip Findlay Kitchen.
  • The Center borrowed $1.75 million to convert the historic Hellmann Lumber building in Covington to a headquarters that now includes community meeting and event space and eight artist studios.
  • A $140,000 loan allowed Opportunity Matters to turn a vacant storefront into a nonprofit laundromat for Lower Price Hill residents.
The partnership has resulted in impact beyond the loan fund, says Jeanne Golliher, executive director of CDF. For example, IFF has brought $6 million in New Market Tax Credits to the area to help support the development of the Shelterhouse Men’s Center on Gest Street in Over-the-Rhine.
 
IFF also participated in a loan with CDF to help develop Market Square near Findlay Market.
 
“IFF has also opened the doors to a new funding partner, which resulted in $2 million in additional capital for us that can be used for additional IFF partner loans or for our direct lending,” Golliher says.
 
Initial grant funds have been expended, but Golliher and Burkholder both say that their respective organizations plan to continue their partnership. They’re also working with the community to help fill gaps and to better understand need.
 
“We want to continue to explore opportunities to refine and grow together,” Burkholder says.
 
Check out a video about the program here.
 

The Art of Food ignites nuclear-themed food and art


French chocolatier Shalini Latour, founder of Chocolats Latour and co-owner of Northside’s sweet shop The Chocolate Bee, faced a conundrum when she learned of the theme of The Carnegie’s upcoming event, The Art of Food.
 
“This year’s theme is the '50s, the atomic age,” Latour says. “Thinking about TV dinners, The Joy of Cooking — it was actually a hard theme for me because this is contrary to what I usually do.”
 
Latour has been in the chocolate business for seven years, and in that time, she’s been recognized for her commitment to locally sourced, fresh, natural ingredients. Her interpretation of 1950s cuisine was that everything was mechanized for ease and convenience, which is in complete contrast to her general culinary outlook and handmade chocolates. So, she partnered with Kate Cook, garden manager of Carriage House Farm, to accept the challenge posed by The Carnegie.
 
“The two of us sat down and brainstormed,” Latour says. “We’re going to be making Atomic Truffles, which will be real spicy, made with scorpion peppers Kate grew.” The truffles will be molded in the shape of atomic bombs. Latour is also planning to use unusual ingredients to make a chocolate that she might name "Radioactive Sludge."

The 11th annual Art of Food event will feature a total of 20 local chefs creating dishes around the 1950s theme, and guests will enjoy art exhibitions and performances that will bring the '50s to life. This is the second year that The Art of Food will be stretched over two nights, with the first night reserved for an intimate-style dinner. (Space is limited and reservations are required.)
 
"One reason I really like this event is because every year there is a different theme and it pushes us to try new things maybe I wouldn’t think of otherwise," Latour says.  “People are there to enjoy themselves and eat good food, so people are laughing and joking and enjoying music. It’s just a big party.”
 
The Art of Food takes place 6-9 p.m. on Feb. 23 and 24. Tickets for Thursday night are $100 ($75 for members); Friday night tickets are $50 ($35 for members). Tickets are available through The Carnegie's box office, open noon-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, by phone at 859-957-1940 or online.
 

Wyoming Historical Society teams up with Cincinnati Preservation Association for spring home tour


In partnership with the Wyoming Historical Society for the celebration of its 30th anniversary, the Cincinnati Preservation Association is hosting a spring house tour in the neighborhood to highlight some of its historic buildings and residences.

First listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, the Wyoming Historic District is home to more than 300 buildings including homes, churches, businesses and more. The Ohio Historical Preservation Office calls it “a one-of-a-kind community with an extremely impressive array of architecture.”

The neighborhood has 19th- and 20th-century homes in Victorian and Tudor styles.

Self-guided walking tours are available in the district, with resources provided by the Wyoming Historical Society. Although self-guided tours of the village don’t take tourists into the buildings, the brochure provided through the Wyoming Historical Society takes you through each historical step from previous farmland to colonial-style homes. Going this route, you have access to the historical architecture of the area’s homes, churches, businesses and schools.

The Spring House Tour, in partnership with the CPA, will take visitors through the heart of Wyoming’s village area, touring through five homes and two churches along the way.

According to Ashleigh Finke, board member of the CPA and co-chair of the tour, the event highlights architectural variety by featuring five homes ranging from an Italianate built in 1865 to a charming bungalow constructed in 1925.

The Palmer-Stearn House, a High Italianate mansion atop a rolling 1.6-acre estate, will be one of the stops on the tour. The mansion was fully restored and is known as one of the oldest and most historically important homes in Wyoming. The tour will cap off with a visit to two local churches — one a Victorian-Gothic style and the other a Mid-Century Modern.

The event, sponsored by Cincinnati Historic Homes and the Sanregret Team, will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. on May 13. Will call will be available at the Wyoming Civic Center, but advance purchase is recommended. Tickets are $30 for CPA and WHS members, $35 for nonmembers if purchased in advance and $40 for a full day of touring.

Tickets can be purchased by calling 513-721-4506 or by visiting www.cincinnatipreservation.org.
 
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