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City officials looking for potential developers for two downtown sites


The City of Cincinnati is looking for developers who are interested in re-imagining two underutilized downtown sites. One is the western part of the Shillito’s complex at 137 W. Seventh St.; the other is a parking lot across the street from City Hall.
 
The western part of the Shillito’s complex once held the department store that later became Lazarus, which left the site in 1997 and moved to Fountain Square West — it is now Macy’s. The site is 400,000 square feet and includes a 10-story and a six-story building.
 
In 2000, a tech company considered Shillito’s West for a data center, but the company ultimately passed on the location. Before that, the site was considered for demolition to make way for a parking garage; in 1996, it was considered for potential Class B office space.
 
Towne Properties opened The Lofts at Shillito Place in the eastern part of the Shillito’s site in 1999.
 
The parking lot that is being considered for redevelopment is at the northwest corner of Ninth and Plum streets. The .8-acre site currently houses 98 parking space and a 17,290-square-foot building.
 
The city is looking for project proposals that will help boost quality home ownership and rental projects downtown.
 
Developers will be asked to compete in two different phases. The first is a submission of qualifications and preliminary concept plans. Then the city will choose finalists to design more detailed plans, and a final choice will be made. As part of the process, developers are required to talk with residents before submitting their final proposal.
 
City development officials are holding a briefing with potential developers from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 9 to discuss details about the two sites.
 

Downtown building to undergo renovations, solar panel installation


The former Strietmann Biscuit Building, which is located at 221 W. 12th St. in Over-the-Rhine, will soon undergo a $12 million renovation. The project received $1.2 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits; the building will be historically preserved.
 
The 117-year-old, 100,000-square-foot building, which was built in four phases between 1890-1910, was originally the home of the Strietmann Biscuit Co. It served as a bakery, warehouse and offices for the company until the 1970s. Since the 1990s, Western Interiors and Wegman Co. used the building for storage.
 
Renovation plans include 70,000 square feet of Class A office space and 15,000 square feet of street-level retail. The seventh floor of the building will become a conference center with full kitchen and rooftop terrace. The basement of the building will include locker rooms and bike storage.
 
Initial construction will focus on repairing or replacing any deteriorated structural aspects. During renovations, many of the building’s historical aspects will be preserved, including original hardwood, brick and exposed ceiling beams. Modern touches like marble, chrome, concrete and hardwood floors will be added too.
 
A new roof will be added, and Grandin Properties, the building’s owner, is planning to install 144 rooftop solar panels in order to receive LEED certification. The panels will produce about 61,000-kilowatt hours of electricity per year, and will offset lighting, heating and air conditioning needs.
 
HGC Construction is doing the renovation work, and SunRock Solar LLC will install the solar panels.
 
Blue Chip Venture Co. and Grandin Properties have already been named as tenants. Developers are courting marketing firms and other companies that serve Kroger and other Fortune 500 firms.
 

Craft beer enthusiasts opening West Side Brewing in spring 2017


Next spring, a team of four craft beer enthusiasts will bring West Side Brewing to 3044 Harrison Ave. in Westwood, which is the old KS Designs building across from the neighborhood's town hall.

Owners Joe Mumper, Jim and Kurtis Remmel and Brian Willet want to get away from the more experimental and over-hopped styles that are currently dominating the beer market and make beer for everyone.
 
Mumper became interested in craft beer about 15 years ago when his brother gave him a homebrew kit for Christmas. He started talking about opening a brewery, and even looked at the space that is now Rhinegeist. The Remmels and Willet have been working on opening a brewery for about the past two years, and when they met Mumper a year ago, they started to design West Side Brewery.
 
When it opens, West Side will have 12 styles of beer on tap — six of those are already nailed down, with the last six still up in the air and room to expand as more styles are developed. The beers will range in style and will be very drinkable with moderate alcohol contents and hoppiness.
 
The taproom will have a bar at its center that will connect two separate taprooms. One taproom will be close to the street to engage pedestrians and the neighborhood, and the second taproom will be near the brewing equipment, which will give patrons a look at the beer-making process.
 
West Side’s beer will be accompanied with small bites and bar food, but the owners also plan to partner with local food trucks to bring a wider array of dishes to the table.
 
The $1.3 million brewery will have the capacity to brew about 4,000 barrels annually with the ability to add tanks and expand to about 16,000 barrels annually. At launch, West Side will distribute kegs to local bars and restaurant, and the team plans to bottle or can in phase two.
 
Other plans for phase two include a large rooftop deck, which will be added in late 2017 or early 2018.   

Keep tabs on West Side's building renovations and beer brewing on Facebook
 

Holiday popup shops coming to downtown Cincinnati and Covington


This holiday season, shoppers on both sides of the river will have the chance to purchase goods from a number of new retailers. Downtown Cincinnati Inc. is bringing nine retailers to Carew Tower, and Renaissance Covington is helping five small business owners and one artist collaborative open popup shops in Covington.
 
Downtown Cincinnati:
As part of Cincinnati’s Downtown Retail Action Plan, DCI launched the Cincy Pop Shop Program for this holiday season. Small business owners submitted applications for a chance for a retail space downtown, and nine businesses were chosen.
 
The vendors are:
Barcode Glam
Chapeau Couture Hats
Davis Cookie Collection
Flying Pig Marathon
Jenco Brothers’ Candy
Maya Traders
The Sarah Center
Ten Thousand Villages
Tronk Design
 
Each business will receive free rent until Dec. 31 in selected retail spaces on the arcade level of the Carew Tower.
 
The Cincy Pop Shop Program seeks to catalyze retail offerings that are appealing to the diverse Cincinnati market, as well as provide small and unique businesses opportunities to grow and thrive.
 
Covington:
In Covington, five local makers will open popup shops as part of Renaissance Covington’s Make Covington Pop! program. The shops will be located at 33 W. Pike St., and will run from Nov. 26-Dec. 18.
 
A Squared Décor, LDV Vintage, Keep Your Shirt on Covington, Maverick Chocolate and Zip Zoo Apparel will set up their goods in one space, and a number of local artists from The Independent Northern Kentucky Artists and Artisans Education Program will showcase their pieces at the Pike Street Maker’s Mart next door at 31 W. Pike.
 
In previous years, the popup shop program has occupied a vacant storefront in Covington that were later filled with a business that participated in the popup. The goal is to still activate storefronts and support and mentor small businesses, but in a space that is already occupied.
 
Follow Make Covington Pop! on Facebook for hours, programming and special offers. Details about the Pike Street Maker’s Mart Art Gallery can also be found on Facebook.
 

People's Liberty, Brick Gardens


According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a "food desert" is an area where substantial numbers of residents live in poverty and lack access to affordable, nutritious food. Under this federal definition, Cincinnati has several neighborhoods that qualify as food deserts, including Avondale, Bond Hill, Evanston, Northside and South Fairmount.

Domonique Peebles, a 2016 People's Liberty grantee, wanted to do something about it.
 
Peebles first had the idea to activate vacant spaces throughout the city by turning them into urban gardens, and then share the resulting produce with those in need of fresh food. As he began to research his concept, he realized there are already dozens of urban gardens throughout the city, and he didn't want to replicate existing efforts.

Not only that, but traditional gardening has its limitations: the growing season is limited, the weather is unpredictable and garden spaces are not universally accessible. That's when Peebles decided to address food access issues in Cincinnati in a cutting-edge way: vertical farming.
 
Peebles, a resident of Over-the-Rhine, envisioned vacant buildings in his neighborhood as possible locations for vertical farming set-ups.

"There are all kinds of benefits," Peebles said. "Activating empty space in the city, getting rid of blight, getting rid of run-down structures, physically growing food that can be distributed and teaching people how to grow food."
 
Peebles traveled to Detroit to learn from an urban gardener who was using an innovative vertical farming set-up to grow produce year-round. Peebles spent over a year researching methods of how to build vertical farm "stacks," as he refers to them, and he received a $10,000 People's Liberty grant for his project, Brick Gardens.
 
Though vertical farming may sound complex and expensive, the whole process from building the stack to harvesting the produce can be learned in less than an hour. A stack includes trays for the plants, a growing medium, a water reservoir and standard fluorescent lighting. Stacks can be assembled from commercially available components for under $200. Ongoing maintenance of the system is minimal, and it also recycles water, so it is inexpensive to maintain the growing plants.

"It's really hands-off once you get the initial planting done," Peebles said. "It's really just a daily maintenance check. It seems like it's very technical, but once you do it once, you can do it the rest of your life."

Peebles said that a single stack, of a size that could be maintained within one's own home, is able to produce about 56 heads of lettuce in 21 days.

"A person might grow that amount of lettuce on an acre of land, with two harvests per year," Peebles said. With vertical farming, a person could get about seven harvests every three months.
 
Peebles has a working model of a small stack that's suited for home production in his shop Featured, which is on Main Street in OTR. People interested in learning how to create a stack are welcome to reach out and arrange a time to view the model and ask questions.

Peebles has also partnered with the agriculture department at Cincinnati State and has two stacks growing there. With these stacks, Peebles is experimenting with growing different types of crops that are less commonly grown indoors on vertical farms, such as tomatoes. He also maintains six stacks at New Prospect Church in Roselawn.
 
Vertical farming is so much faster and more efficient than traditional methods that Peebles had his first Brick Gardens harvest less than a month after starting seeds.

"I had no idea I would be so successful," he said. "But my very first time was a 100 percent success rate on sprouting."

The stacks continue to flourish: "Once a week we've been going to all the sites and harvesting one to three pounds per site." Brick Gardens donates the harvested produce to community members in Roselawn, to students who help to grow the produce at Cincinnati State and to Gabriel's Place, a nonprofit in Avondale.
 
Peebles has high hopes for turning Brick Gardens into an ongoing enterprise.

"It's something that could be done in multiple neighborhoods," he said. "These could be put anywhere — elementary schools, hospitals, nursing homes."

There are pre-made vertical farming systems currently on the market, but Peebles wants to encourage people to consider going the DIY route. He says that the system he designed is about half the cost of pre-built systems.
 
Peebles ultimately hopes to continue partnering with schools, universities, local neighborhoods and even restaurants in need of access to fresh, local produce year-round.

"The thing with growing food is there's not really competition," he said. "There's always going to be a need for food production. People are always going to need to eat."
 
Those interested in learning more about Brick Gardens are encouraged to visit its website.
 
Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship.

 

Newly renovated Memorial Hall now open to the public


The yearlong, $11 million renovation of Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine is now complete. Although finishing touches are still being added, Memorial Hall opened to the public on Nov. 25 for its first art exhibit, Brickmas. It will be on display through Dec. 30.
 
Memorial Hall sits between Music Hall — which will reopen next fall after a $135 million renovation — and the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s new, $17 million Otto M. Budig Theater, which will open in September 2017.

Built in 1908 by local architecture firm Samuel Hannaford & Sons, the 100-year-old Beaux Arts building was built to honor veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Civil War. The building is currently owned by Hamilton County.
 
It was once used by the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players and the MusicNOW Festival, but the building had been underused in recent decades because it lacked updated amenities like air conditioning, adequate restrooms and backstage areas.
 
Besides restoring the outward appearance of Memorial Hall, many historical details of the building were preserved. The original wrought iron décor is still intact, and the historic hat racks underneath the seats were kept. The building's reception areas feature original stenciling that has also been fully restored.
 
Updates include:
  • Wider seats, which reduced the total number of seats in the theater from 610 to 506. Padding was also added to the wooden seats. Handicap accessible seating areas have been added.
  • New theatrical lighting, a new sound system, a new laser projector and a screen for showing films have been installed. New cushions were added for sound absorption, as well as adjustable, sound absorbing drapes in some doorways.
  • The stage was extended five feet.
  • New glass doors were added to insulate the hall from noise in the marble stairwells.
  • The passenger elevator on the building’s north side remains, and a new service elevator was added. For the first time, a grand piano will be able to be moved on and off the stage with little difficulty.
  • A new outdoor patio area was added, as well as new bars throughout the building, which will allow for light bites, desserts, beer and wine tastings from local restaurants, craft breweries and wine distributors.
The theater itself is being renamed the Annie W. and Elizabeth M. Anderson Theater in honor of the foundation that is underwriting the upcoming concert series.
 
In February, the foundation will launch the Longworth-Anderson Series, featuring concerts from contemporary artists. The winter-spring season will open on Feb. 10 with Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash, with musical collaborator and husband John Leventhal. Other artists include Pink Martini featuring Chyna Forbes on March 9, Richard Thompson on April 7 and Sarah Jarosz on June 9.
 
The Memorial Hall Society will also program up to 10 events each year. There will also be other programs lined up by 3CDC, which oversaw the building’s renovation and manages Memorial Hall, as well as community programs and event rentals.
 
The public is invited to Memorial Hall’s official ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. on Dec. 2. The ribbon cutting will be followed by tours of the building.
 

People's Liberty project grantee, 1Degree of Separation


Kailah Ware was attending a free concert at Washington Park, where she saw a man experiencing homelessness and a man in a suit sitting together on a bench. Although they were in close proximity, they couldn’t have been further apart.
 
That observation got her thinking. She began to brainstorm how to break down those barriers and get people talking to each other.
 
“Everyone has a story or something interesting about them,” Ware said. “Everyone has something to share and something to say.”
 
Ware’s project, 1Degree of Separation, uses community-sourced stories to answer the question: “What do you love about Cincinnati?”
 
When Ware moved back home from college, she knew she wanted to start her own business. She met with 3CDC to pitch her idea for a photography studio and learned about local business accelerators: OCEAN, MORTAR and People’s Liberty. She opted for MORTAR to develop her idea for 1Degree and applied for a People’s Liberty grant, which she received.
 
“I liked the idea of People’s Liberty because so many places only fund nonprofit organizations,” she said.
 
Her interactive project features a touchscreen tablet which plays a story of the viewer's choice. Originally, Ware sought out different types of stories: the overcomer, the success story, the historian, the athlete, the artist, the community leader. She researched organizations comprised of people with similar stories who, in turn, each connected her with another source.
 
1Degree launched at Rhinegeist, and now Ware is in negotiations to display her project at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
 
“Nothing is official yet, but I think it would be cool for people who are maybe moving back to Cincinnati or visiting the city to see why people love it here,” Ware said.
 
1Degree is evolving into something more organic. Ware is still collecting stories, but now there’s a video booth component where people can come and tell their stories. If you want to tell your story, you can email Ware at 1DegreeSep@gmail.com or call her at 513-748-0966.
 
Follow 1Degree on Facebook and on Instagram @1Degree__.

Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.
 

New bar concept coming to renovated Mutual Building in downtown Covington


The team that brought us Over-the-Rhine’s Rhinehaus and Pendleton’s Nation Kitchen and Bar is at it again, but this time, they’re opening a place in Covington. The Hannaford at Pike & Madison, which is located at 619 Madison Ave., will open at 4 p.m. on Nov. 23.
 
“The idea for the name came from our initial exploration of the neighborhood,” said Andrew Salzbrun, who along with Aaron Kohlhepp and Jack Weston, are the Hickory Wald Group. “At the time, the intersection of Pike and Madison was one of the busiest intersections in Kentucky, and we wanted to identify that in our brand.”
 
They’re also paying homage to the life of famed architect Samuel Hannaford, who designed the Mutual Building. The 100-year-old, three-story building is currently undergoing renovations, and will soon be home to upscale apartments, commercial space and The Hannaford.
 
“We saw a lot of opportunity to pay homage to Hannaford and to share some of his original expressions in the space,” Salzbrun said.
 
Hickory Wald is preserving different aspects of the space, including the original mosaic tile flooring and the foundation’s concrete walls. They’re also reusing scrap lumber from the old Coppin’s building — now Hotel Covington — in the bar’s interior.
 
The Hannaford’s drink menu will be seasonal, and will be based on generous, well-composed, traditional cocktails.
 
“Our mission with our venues is to plant flags in neighborhoods by building ‘clubhouses’ for adults,” Salzbrun said. “Just as with our past ventures, we intentionally seek out neighborhoods that are gaining steam in their development, but have an opportunity for a place that fosters conversation and relationship growth.”
 
Keep tabs on The Hannaford’s Facebook page for details regarding its opening.
 

Recently vacant Broadway Building could see apartments in 2017


In January, the Hamilton County Board of Elections is moving to a larger space in Norwood. The former home of the Board of Elections — also known as the Broadway Building because of its location at 824 Broadway — will soon be redeveloped.
 
Rookwood Properties has owned the site for 30 years, and wants to build on the redevelopment successes in Over-the-Rhine and downtown.
 
The Broadway Building could house 50-60 apartments, with additional units constructed in the rear of the building. Rookwood is also working to redevelop a parking lot at the corner of East Court and Walnut streets. The project, which would involve a grocer store, parking garage and apartment tower, could involve Kroger and 3CDC.
 
The proposed $7 million Broadway Building project will go before the city in January, and Rookwood will have a better idea then if and when the project will be moving forward.
 
 
 

People's Liberty project grantee, Your Productions


Robert Wilson, a 2016 People's Liberty project grantee, is also the owner of Sabercomm Productions, a company that handles video and media projects for local public access television, businesses and nonprofit organizations. He saw few  outlets for teen voices and decided to put his production expertise into creating youth media to affect social change.
 
As part of his People's Liberty project, Wilson developed a two-week summer camp called Your Productions to provide at-risk youth with the tools to share their voice through video production and audio public service announcements.

During the summer of 2016, a group of 11 teens from Avondale, ages 12-18, worked together to shoot, produce and edit four short public service announcements about topics that they felt were relevant to their communities.

"It was important to allow young people to talk about what affects them," Wilson said.

Ultimately, the teens selected four issues to focus on: immigration, health, litter and Black Lives Matter and the experiences of young African American women.
 
"They had a deep grasp of what they were facing in their community," Wilson said. "I was blown away by the amount of maturity that they held. So often we think that young people don't have that grasp, we don't even ask their opinions."
 
Wilson and fellow videographer and activist Lamonte Young facilitated the camp and provided technical instruction, but Wilson said that it was always intended to be a student-led effort.

"They vetted these things and worked through problems on their own," he explained. Wilson said that unlike other video camps, Your Productions did not provide a prompt or limitations on the topics they could explore. "A lot of people don't want to get into the hard subjects, so they give them something to do. It's not the freedom to create on their own."
 
Wilson has plans to offer another two-week camp in the coming year.

"We’re going to continue this program whether there is funding for it or not," he said. Ultimately, Wilson wants to use the success of Your Productions to develop it into a model for others who want to run similar programs. "We want to help other people empower young people. Our goal is to create a template with a syllabus so that other people can come to us from other cities, and we can hand it off."  
 
The PSAs from the Your Productions 2016 camp will be screened on local public access channels and can be viewed on Facebook and on the Your Productions website.
 
Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.
 

Newberry Building reopening as lofts in December


In the next few weeks, Ashley Commercial Group will wrap up the rehabilitation of the historic Newberry Building, which is located at the corner of Sixth and Race streets downtown, near Fountain Square and right next to the Cincinnatian Hotel. Construction began on Newberry Lofts in 2014, and is slated to be finished in early December.
 
The 12-story building, which was built in 1912, is attached to a CVS, and has first-floor retail space. It will feature 14 different one-bedroom, one-bathroom floor plans, three of which include bonus lofts. The apartments range from 700-1,400 square feet, with rent starting at $995 per month.
 
All of the units will include luxury finishes like granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances and washers and dryers in each unit. The building will be pet-friendly, and will include a fitness center, bicycle storage and community space. Residents will also have access to maid services, dry cleaning, laundry services and nearby parking.
 
Once completed, Newberry Lofts will earn its designation as a Certified Green Building.
 
Tours are currently underway of the $9 million project, and the deposits are now being accepted for December move-in. About one-third of the 62 apartments are currently reserved.
 

People's Liberty project grantee, Neighborhood Playbook


Kevin Wright and Joe Nickol have years of development experience under their belts from their years with the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and MKSK, respectively. They decided to take that knowledge and create the Neighborhood Playbook, a development tool for neighborhoods and cities, with funding help from People’s Liberty.

“We saw through our work a common theme that is working in neighborhoods,” Wright said. “We saw a connection that others weren’t seeing or being highlighted — using neighborhood activation efforts to spur economic development.”
 
According to Wright, a lot of work has been done around tactical urbanism, which is more about planning and not about developing. The pair saw two problems: that neighborhood residents tended to create a plan, get together and put dots on a map, but then the planning stopped. On the other hand, developers want to develop, but don’t know how or where to enter a market.
 
The Neighborhood Playbook is a way to solve both of those problems.
 
“It’s a way for developers to take a more proactive approach to entering markets, and a way for neighborhoods to take a more proactive approach to spur development,” Wright said.
 
Wright and Nickol wrote a PDF called “Five Ways to Activate Your Neighborhood This Weekend,” which got lots of downloads and attention. From there, they decided to apply for a $10,000 People’s Liberty grant.
 
With the grant, the pair created the two-sided Playbook — one side for neighborhoods and the other for developers. The project officially launched on Sept. 21, where 50 Playbooks were given away for free. They’re now available online for $20.
 
“It’s interesting to see who is buying them and where they’re from,” Wright said. “It was really exciting when we got our first buyer we didn’t know.”
 
Community development corporations, consulting firms, developers and individuals from all over the country have purchased Playbooks.
 
The city of Bellevue is currently beta testing the Playbook for its Old Kentucky Makers Market. Residents are activating an alley and parking lot next to a vacant building, and are trying to develop the area into something positive.
 
“We want to find ways for developers and community members to grow neighborhoods,” Wright said. “
Development shouldn’t happen to a place but with a place, and this is a tool to make that happen.”
 
Wright and Nickol are currently working on the digital side of the Playbook. When a Playbook is purchased, that person gets a password for the Resources portion of the website, which provides them access to other organizations, vendor forms, etc.
 
They are also planning to create a national map of people and organizations who are utilizing the Playbook, and possibly creating a second project out of that.

Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.
 

Duke Energy awards $240,000 to 10 Greater Cincinnati development projects


The Duke Energy Urban Revitalization Program recently awarded about $240,000 to 10 area development projects. The funds will be used for predevelopment work like site analysis and architectural renderings. This year, the majority of the grant money went to projects in Northern Kentucky.
 
Bellevue:
Kent Hardman, who is redeveloping the historic Marianne Theater, received $40,000 through the Catalytic Fund to help with an energy assessment for the Energy Project Assessment District. Through the program, developers receive funds from the city that are then used to help improve energy efficiency. The 7,500-square-foot commercial space will become a special events theater and restaurant that focuses on craft beer and wine.
 
College Hill:
A $14,000 grant was awarded to the College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation for renovations to the National City Bank in the neighborhood’s central business district. Plans for the building, which is across the street from a new apartment complex, include a restaurant or high-end retail store.
 
Covington:
A former Frisch’s at 801 Madison Ave. received $20,000 through the Catalytic Fund, which hopes to move a business into the high-traffic space. The grant will assist with architectural planning and conceptual design.
 
The Center for Great Neighborhoods was awarded $30,000 for its “homes for makers” projects near the Hellmann Creative Center. Three properties along Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard will be restored and sold to small businesses whose owners would live/work on-site. The Center plans to renovate 12 homes like this in Covington.
 
Ludlow:
Through the Catalytic Fund, Second Sight Spirits received $20,000 to expand its offerings into next-door’s Wynners Cup Café. The café will become more of an event center and creative meeting space, with food and adult beverages from Second Sight. Owners Rick Couch and Carus Waggoner hope that the expansion will help them become part of the Kentucky Craft Bourbon Trail.
 
Madisonville:
The Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation received $5,500 for the renovation of the historic Metz building. Once completed, the building will house the neighborhood’s police substation and the MCURC. Both organizations need new spaces because of additional redevelopment nearby, and they hope to help spur additional development with the move.
 
Middletown:
Downtown Middletown, Inc., was awarded $20,000 for the renovation of a former JCPenney’s. The 38,000-square-foot building will become Torchlight Pass, a destination for dining, retail and family entertainment.
 
Newport:
A $25,000 grant was awarded to the rehabilitation of the Holzhauser Drug Store, through the Catalytic Fund. The building has been vacant at 10th and Madison streets for years, and is now owned by Millennium Housing Corporation. Plans include creating a historically accurate façade, and adding retail or offices.
 
Silverton:
The Hamilton County Business Center will use its $20,000 grant for small business coaching. This is the fourth consecutive year that the business center has received a Duke Energy grant. The money will go to providing one-on-one mentoring and coaching to small businesses, as well as efforts to attract, retain and expand small businesses in Silverton.
 
Westwood:
The Westwood Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation received a $45,000 grant for the revitalization and redevelopment of a building in Westwood’s business district. The building is slated for the future home of the West Side Brewery.
 
Since its inception in 2011, the Urban Revitalization program has awarded a total of about $1.6 million in grant money to 48 area projects.
 

People's Liberty funds Space Walk backyard solar system


Josiah Wolf is an unlikely astronomer. A musician who has spent most of his adult life touring, Wolf began to develop an obsession with learning about the solar system.

“I just had the urge to see the scale of the sun and Earth myself,” Wolf explained. A few years ago, he decided to fashion a scale diorama of the solar system from old fence posts and blacklight paint in his backyard. He taught himself interesting facts about space and began offering nighttime tours to friends and family.

Wolf’s friend, Ben Sloan, a People’s Liberty grantee, suggested he apply for a $10,000 grant from the organization to make his backyard model into a permanent installation. With the help of his wife Liz and their project partner, Matt Kotlarcyzk, Wolf applied for a grant and his backyard project became SPACEWALK.

After receiving funding, the trio began the 10-month design process to make SPACEWALK a reality. The design went through many stages but ultimately had to conform to certain restrictions. Wolf knew that he wanted the models to light up at night, which meant they needed to utilize solar panels so that the models could be freestanding and sustainable.

Solar panels must be placed at least 12 feet in the air in order to gather sufficient power, so the design had to incorporate poles to which the panels could be mounted.

After months of trial and error, Wolf settled on a shadowbox design for the models. The small plastic planets sit inside of a case with a hidden, recessed blacklight. The planets were painted by artist Steve Casino, who is known for his miniature paintings on peanuts. The models are a 3.5-billion-to-1 in scale.

Once the design process was completed, the team needed to determine where SPACEWALK would be installed.

“It was hard to find the perfect location,” Wolf said. Because the project is meant to be viewed at night, it was important to find a location with low lighting. It also needed to be a public place with foot traffic to ensure SPACEWALK would be enjoyed by as many passing science-lovers as possible.

After considering a variety of options, Wolf selected Salway Park, which runs along Mill Creek across from Spring Grove Cemetery. The installation spans three-quarters of a mile along the path.

The project has been up for two months and will continue to be freely available for viewing for the indefinite future. Wolf also offers private tours for those interested. To arrange a tour, e-mail SPACEWALK; to stay up-to-date on all things SPACEWALK, visit its website, Twitter or Instagram.

SPACEWALK is currently accepting donations to support the ongoing maintenance of the installation.

Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.
 

Cohousing coming to Over-the-Rhine with Kunsthous


Next summer, a new kind of apartment community will make its debut in Over-the-Rhine called Kunsthous. Cofounders John Blatchford, Michael Fischer, Alyssa McClanahan and Barrett McClish are currently renovating two historic buildings in the neighborhood, and are creating co-living spaces within them.
 
“I’ve been renting for 10 years, and all of the places I’ve lived have had really strong communities,” Blatchford, CEO of Kunsthous, said. “People are moving back to cities and renting more than ever, but many apartments are too big and we’re living in buildings where we don’t know our neighbors. Kunsthous is trying to get away from that suburban seclusion.” Cohousing is popular on the West Coast and other urban areas. Typical cohousing has a smaller footprint, shared common space for building community.
 
The first building the team is renovating is 205 W. McMicken St., which they purchased through OTR Adopt. When finished, it will have six studio and one-bedroom apartments with a shared kitchen on the first floor and a co-working space.
 
Kunsthous units are smaller than typical apartments, and a bit cheaper when compared to other OTR apartments — the average rent for the first six units is $650 per month.
 
“We’re really trying to focus on the idea of co-living in Cincinnati,” Blatchford said.
 
In order to build intentional community, Kunsthous kitchens will have beer and kombucha on tap, and there will be public and private events throughout the year for tenants and the larger community.
 
“There is so much growth going on in Cincinnati, and a lot of that growth is focused in OTR,” Blatchford said. “You can look at larger coastal cities and see where OTR is going — rent is going to get more expensive, and more and more people will be moving in. We need to find a way to provide more affordable apartments, and ways for people moving in to meet others and build a network.”
 
Kunsthous will continue to grow, with seven more apartments planned for the building located at 509 E. 12th St. Blatchford said he and his team are planning to expand their idea within Cincinnati, and are looking at Walnut Hills and Northern Kentucky.
 
By the end of next year, there will be about 20 Kunsthous apartments, and although the buildings aren’t right next to each other and maybe not in the same neighborhood, that sense of community will be there.
 
“A lot of the best things in our lives are the result of the people that we meet,” Blatchford said. “Lots of people are moving back or just moving here, and we need to create more opportunities for people to meet other like themselves, or not like themselves. That’s what makes a city stronger and makes people happier.”
 
There is already interest from potential renters, and if you’re interested in living in Kunsthous, visit its website to sign up.
 
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