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People's Liberty, Let's Dance Academy


Kathye Lewis and Gregory Norman have a shared passion for ballroom dancing, which led them to cofound Let’s Dance Academy in November 2015. They received a $10,000 grant from People’s Liberty to make their dreams a reality.
 
When the pair started Let’s Dance, they focused on teaching fifth and sixth graders at South Avondale Elementary School how to ballroom dance.
 
“We wanted to bring culture to the kids at South Avondale, and show them a different way to dance,” Norman said. “We also wanted to help them understand the history around the dance and where it came from.”
 
Norman has been ballroom dancing for the past 10 years, and was taught by instructors in both Detroit and Los Angeles. He has also studied ballroom dancing on his own to learn the history, various styles and importance to the African American community on a national and international level.
 
Lewis doesn’t have an official background in ballroom dancing, but has been a dancer for her entire life. She’s taken classes and workshops, and has come to know a national community of ballroom dancers.
 
Over the past 10 years, Dancing with the Stars has brought more exposure to ballroom dancing. According to Norman, the ‘70s and ‘80s saw partner dances like the hustle, but the ‘90s and early ‘00s didn’t have a lot of partner dances. Now there is a renewed interested in ballroom dancing.
 
“The dominant driving force for us is to get young people into ballroom dancing so that culture doesn’t die again,” he said.
 
Lewis and Norman did an initial two sessions with the students, providing meals and dance costumes for them through the People’s Liberty grant. They also held a graduation ceremony, where they handed out trophies and invited the students’ family members and the community.
 
At the moment, Let’s Dance is focusing on teaching adults how to ballroom dance.
 
“We’re trying to grow classes and are expanding our reach within the adult community,” Lewis said.
 
Ultimately, they want to expand classes and offer them at different locations throughout the city. Classes are $5, and are currently held at the College Hill Recreation Center.
 

PAR Projects opens new space to art installations


Since its inception in 2010, PAR Projects has had many different homes in Northside, but never one that the organization has owned outright, until now. PAR’s new space, which is located in an old lumberyard at 1662 Hoffner St., will undergo a complete transformation within the next year.

The organization's goal is to create a space for exhibits, arts education and an outdoor movie theater, all made entirely from shipping containers.

Lisa Walcott’s “Swarms” is the first installation in PAR’s 1,100-square-foot gallery, called The Nook. Her whole exhibit, Making Space, is on display at PAR through Nov. 27.
 
PAR purchased the two-story, 6,000-square-foot building and surrounding lot in 2014. They originally planned to demolish the building and start from scratch, but after discovering that the roof wasn’t as bad as originally thought, they decided to keep the building and renovate it.
 
A few years ago, PAR started a traveling art gallery — Makers Mobile — in a shipping container. The container is currently sitting at the Hoffner site, and houses another part of Walcott’s exhibit. It will become the first piece of a new building that will be built entirely from shipping containers.
 
Another two shipping containers will be stacked to create the outdoor theater screen, by next spring, PAR hopes to start showing movies. The group wants to add two more containers to create classrooms for the media arts.  
 

People's Liberty grantees create mammoth bean bag art installation


Amy Scarpello and Abby Cornelius share a unique love: bean bags.

“We’ve both been bean bag enthusiasts for the bulk of our lives,” Scarpello said. The two artists met while studying sculpture at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

The pair were brainstorming project ideas one night when the idea to create a giant 20-foot bean bag as a pop-up public art installation was born. Though it was initially an off-hand idea, the concept persisted.

“We had both made small soft sculptures, but nothing to that scale, so we knew it would be a new endeavor," Scarpello said.

The idea continued to develop, but the duo also realized that the materials to create their giant bean bag would not be cheap.

On a whim, Scarpello and Cornelius decided to apply to People’s Liberty for a $10,000 grant to fund their project, which they called Plop! To their delight, they were awarded funding.

“We’re probably the least likely people that received it,” Scarpello joked.

Instead of a single giant bag, the idea evolved into a family of three oversized bean bags, affectionately named Hex, Pal and Wedge after the bags' various shapes. The bags were so large that creating them “was kind of a ridiculous process,” Scarpello said.

Designing the bags and determining the volume of filling for them required a thorough comprehension of geometry. “My high school math teacher would be proud."

After completing the design process, the pair ordered filler beads and marine-grade vinyl that is weather-resistant and anti-microbial. Rosie Kovacks, owner of the soon-to-open Over-the-Rhine furniture shop Brush Factory, helped them fabricate the shells using a specialized sewing machine that could stand up to the weight of the fabric.

Once the bags were created, the pair carted them around to public spaces where they were placed for up to five consecutive days. Plop! popped up at locations throughout the area, including Art off Pike in Covington, the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Fountain Square and The Mockbee.


“It was really exciting to watch how different groups of people would interact with it throughout the day," Scarpello said. "We would have business people having lunch on it like a picnic, later kids would play on it and later in the evening people on dates would be eating ice cream on it. It’s so satisfying to see people actually use them and be excited by it.”

Plop! is now retired for the winter, but Scarpello hopes to continue the project during the spring and summer of 2017. To stay up-to-date on 2017 appearances of Plop!, visit its website or follow Plop! on Facebook or Instagram.

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.

 

Local filmmaker screens films in OTR on sprawl, spatial segregation


On Nov. 2, local documentary filmmaker Andrea Torrice will showcase three of her films at the Mini Microcinema. Divided We Spra
wl,” The New Metropolis: A Crack in the Pavement and Trees in Trouble all have to do with issues that impact cities and suburbs in the United States.
 
Divided We Sprawl” focuses on spatial segregation in Gary, Ind., where much of the industry has left and moved to the suburbs. Torrice chose Gary because it’s a reflection of many cities in the Northeast and Midwest like it. In the film, she looks at how a city like Gary rebuilds, as well as the economic upheaval and abandonment by people, policy and government.
 
“I’m really interested in the meaning of a city or place, and how the meaning is changing,” Torrice said. “The intersection between place and income disparity impacts the community, and personal decisions and how decisions about transportation and economic growth dramatically impact our lives. We don’t always see that — I call it the invisible hand.”
 
The New Metropolis: A Crack in the Pavement” is about Cincinnati’s older suburbs, and the pattern of people moving to the suburbs, new suburbs cropping up and people moving out of the inner suburbs to the outer suburbs. Downtown is now going through a rebirth, and people are moving from the suburbs back to the urban core.
 
“I like to tell these stories because I like to put a human face on how public policies impact our lives,” Torrice said.
 
Cincinnati is also the case study for “Trees in Trouble” because like many Midwest cities, its streets are lined with ash trees, and the Emerald Ash Borer has invaded and is killing the ash trees in the United States.
 
Over the last 30 years, the city has planted about 12,000 ash trees, and they’re now all dead or dying. Torrice looks at how the city is responding to that, and the value of a tree in our community.
 
“Trees play important roles in cities for many reasons — they’re part of the infrastructure and quality of life,” she said.
 
Torrice is an award-winning documentary and public TV producer/writer whose work spans a range of contemporary issues, including spatial segregation and suburban flight.
 
“These films are important because it helps us understand more about our community and how we’re connected to other communities throughout the nation,” Torrice said. “We have some of the same problems, and these films will help spark dialogue on how to make all communities more vibrant and resilient places.”
 
Torrice made the film on Gary six years ago, but this will be the first time it will be shown in Cincinnati. The other two films have been broadcast on PBS, with “Trees in Trouble” most recently in April upon its release.
 
Doors open at 7 p.m., and the films will be shown one after the other beginning at 7:30.
 

People's Liberty grantee takes spirit of Carnival to the streets


Larry Malott is taking art and creativity to the streets with Amazing Urban Adventures. Earlier this year, he received a $10,000 People’s Liberty grant to help jumpstart his project, which had a soft launch at Northside’s Fourth of July parade.
 
Malott was inspired by Carnival and similar events that celebrate, parade and dance in the street while wearing a mask and costume.
 
“I sought funding from People’s Liberty because they fund individuals and projects that engage the public, and they’re willing to fund projects that are a bit out of the ordinary, so it just seemed like the perfect fit,” Malott said.
 
Amazing Urban Adventures features people dressed up in costumes made from reusable materials like trash bags, aluminum and cardboard boxes. It also encourages kids of all ages to get creative through mask-making workshops.
 
“This is the natural evolution of my public performance artwork, and builds upon my previous work by engaging more people and encourages them to join in the celebration and performance instead of just being a viewer,” Malott said.
 
The official launch was at Riverfest, where Amazing Urban Adventures performed on the P&G Pavilion stage and then paraded across the Purple People Bridge. Since then, Malott has taken his project to Art Off Pike and the most recently the Mini Maker Faire.
 
In the next few months, Malott will be doing parades and performances around downtown, especially around the holidays. There will also be a kids’ mask making workshop and parade on Dec. 28 at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Malott has a larger event in the works for the beginning of March.
 
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.
 

Wasson Way bike trail receives $750,000 to connect Hyde Park to Evanston


The City of Cincinnati recently received $750,000 in federal Transportation Alternatives grant funding for the construction of Phase 2A of the Wasson Way Trail. That portion of the trail will extend from Floral Avenue in Evanston to Tamarack Avenue in Hyde Park.
 
Previously, the city received grant funding from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for the construction of Phase 1 of the trail, which will extend from Tamarack Avenue to Madison Road. Construction of Phase 1 is slated to begin in 2017, and funding for Phase 2A will be available for construction to begin in 2018.
 
In June, the city committed to purchasing the right-of-way to a 4.1-mile stretch of railroad tracks that are part of the Norfolk-Southern Railroad Company. The tracks haven’t been used for years, and will become part of the Wasson Way Trail network.
 
Once completed, the Wasson Way will be 7.6 miles, extending from Victory Parkway near Xavier University, through 11 neighborhoods (Avondale, Walnut Hills, Evanston, Norwood, Hyde Park, Oakley, Mt. Lookout, Fairfax, Newtown, Mariemont and Madisonville) to eventually connect with the Little Miami Bike Trail. The Wasson Way is estimated to cost anywhere from $7.5 to $11.2 million.
 
With connecting trails, Greater Cincinnati will have over 30 miles of off-road bikeways that will go from Coney Island to downtown, from Lunken Airport to Milford and eventually connecting Cincinnati to northern Ohio.
 
In the near future, those living in the suburbs could be able to leave their cars at home and bike to work downtown. The Wasson Way won’t just be a source of recreation, but a main avenue for transportation that will allow 100,000 residents better access to education and jobs.
 
 

People's Liberty grantee takes his mobile science lab to streets


Aaron Greene has a passion for science. As the program chair for bioscience technology at Cincinnati State, his work “encapsulates everything from pharmaceuticals to environmental biology.” Bioscience technology is applied to things as varied as the creation of insulin for diabetics, techniques for cleaning up the Mill Creek watershed and the development of new foods and flavors.

Though Greene is well-versed in the many applications of science in our everyday lives, he recognizes that not everyone shares his understanding, and that many people regard science as intimidating.

“What I hear is that ‘science isn’t for me, I’m not good at it’,” he said. “But it’s not something for somebody else, and it’s not something you’re good at to start with. It’s for everyone.”

A desire to dispel the misconceptions about science led Greene to apply for a $10,000 People’s Liberty grant for a project he calls It’s Just Science.

“My main goal is to show people that it’s not scary," Greene said. "It’s much more accessible than people give it a chance to be.”

When he applied for the grant, he had to clarify exactly how he’d make science approachable for the general public.

“How do we get it out there and into the hands of people?” Greene briefly considered using a tent or a pop-up camper to house a portable science lab. “But we really wanted to reinforce the accessibility and make it as mobile as possible, so we settled on a tricycle.”

Greene worked with a custom tricycle company based in Oregon to create a collapsible lab on wheels. The trike includes fold-out shelves on the side, which Greene will pack with microscopes and DNA extraction kits as he travels throughout the city.

Greene is busy reaching out to local libraries, community centers, events and even breweries to bring his mobile lab to learners of all ages and experience levels. “The trike is to break down the initial barrier, lowering the hurdles to the public," he said.

“Demystifying science is at the heart of this whole project,” Greene said. The soft launch of the It’s Just Science tricycle will happen in the coming weeks, but Greene already has his sights set on big goals for the future.

“I’m looking at a physical presence in an unused storefront to do a larger launch,” he shared. Ultimately, Greene has dreams of establishing a community lab where people can explore science in a less stressful environment than the classroom, under the supervision of scientists and graduate students who know science and can answer questions.

“As a scientist, I already understand the uses for these technologies,” Greene said.

But he anticipates that engaging people from different backgrounds in scientific exploration could yield new approaches to old problems. “I’ll be interested to see what comes out of it. When you think outside the box and let new minds come in, that’s where you get a lot of new innovation.”

To get up-to-date information on upcoming It’s Just Science appearances and find out where you can catch it next, visit its Facebook page.

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.

 

Ludlow mixed-use development to pay homage to region's past


At the Ludlow: Beyond the Curb event earlier this month, Hub + Weber Architects revealed its plans for a new mixed-use project along the railroad tracks in the city’s industrial east end. Ludlow Yards will feature residential, commercial and retail all in one spot to help create a more vibrant community.
 
The four-story development will be built on land across from Ludlow’s Municipal Building that is currently owned by the City of Ludlow. It will serve as a gateway to the city’s main business district, and will pay homage to the region’s railroad and industrial history.
 
Hub + Weber spent days looking at historic photos of Ludlow, including buildings in the former railroad yards, as well as photos of redeveloped warehouses like Longworth Hall.
 
Ludlow Yards will feature public plazas and street-level retail with residential units and offices on the upper floors. Hub + Weber also envisions a craft brewery, events center or history museum for the site.
 
A vacant lot across the street will be redeveloped to create 45 parking spaces for the development. There will be a train-viewing platform adjacent to the Norfolk Southern Line and a public area surrounding a city-owned fountain, as well as a tree grove with seating and a space that could be used for events.
 
The building’s plaza could feature an old railroad turntable that was used in the former railroad roundhouse that still stands in Ludlow.
 
An estimated cost isn’t currently available, and a timeline for the project hasn’t yet been announced. The City of Ludlow will work with the Catalytic Fund of Northern Kentucky to promote the project to potential developers.
 
If you’re interested in Ludlow Yards, please contact city administrator Elishia Chamberlain at 859-491-1233 or echamberlain@ludlow.org.
 

Historic downtown bank building to be redeveloped into 60 apartments


Indianapolis-based Anderson Birkla Investment Partners plans to buy and redevelop the Second National Bank Building, located at 830 Main St. downtown, as well as the adjacent parking lot. Both properties are currently under contract, with plans to close on the deal before the end of the year.
 
Anderson Birkla — the firm behind the AT580 building — says the price point on this project will be more affordable, and more geared toward millenials.
 
The 61,000-square-foot Second National Bank Building will be redeveloped into 60 apartments. As part of the project, an adjacent parking lot will also be redeveloped into a six-story parking garage with about 200 parking spaces. The public garage would be topped with an additional 40-60 apartments.
 
Built in 1903, the 13-story bank building is of the Beaux Arts Classic style. In May, the building was 64 percent occupied, but many of the 14 tenants are leasing month-to-month, which will make it easy to convert the building from office space to apartments.
 
Anderson Birkla is considering applying for state historic tax credits to help fund the project.
 
 

People's Liberty project grantee, Who 'They' Is


Jasmine Humphries is spending six weeks working with 20 teenagers from all over the city on a creative placemaking project in Avondale. Her idea, Who ‘They’ Is, was funded through a $10,000 People’s Liberty grant.
 
Who ‘They’ Is focuses on “they” as a singular entity, as in: “They said this…” or “They did that…”
 
“The goal is to use different ways to humanize and demystify ‘they’ to empower citizens,” Humphries said.
 
The project officially launched on Oct. 1 at People’s Liberty, and will wrap up with the big reveal scheduled for Nov. 5. During the six-week project, the teens will be exploring the world of planning and design, and will use what they learn to create a park within Lincoln Park in Avondale.
 
“Lincoln Park is underutilized, and I want to help make things happen,” Humphries said. “Other things will happen because of this project.”  
 
Who ‘They’ Is won’t culminate in permanent or semi-permanent construction due to time constraints, but rather in a placemaking event like Parking Day, called Space to Pla(y)ce.
 
Students will learn about the park designing process, including planning, designing, empowering a community and meeting stakeholders. Although Humphries doesn’t have a formal planning background — she has a degree in economics and spent a year as an AmeriCorps vista working at LISC — she believes that everyone should be introduced to planning and design and the different career paths available.
 
The first week, students worked on teambuilding, and the park will grow from those connections and teamwork. The second week included a site visit in Avondale.
 
“First we have to build a social community among ourselves and identify leadership styles,” Humphries said. “Then we will start talking about building the physical community, which is in this case, a park.”
 
Long-term, Humphries wants to focus on diversifying the workforce, and to start to mold socially responsible and culturally aware professionals. She also wants to show the people of Cincinnati and its organizations that young people are capable of designing, and that their opinions and voices are important and valuable.
 
“Through this project, lots of people will see these kids’ designs and their feedback; they’re going to be blown away,” she said. “I want to tap into the human capital, and I feel that kids have a lot of potential. We as adults are asking questions and trying to answer them, but imagine if you gave that problem to a 12-year-old. They will come up with an entirely different solution.”
 
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 festival focuses on Cincinnati's craft spirits scene


Overall, the United States beverage market is a $354.2 billion industry, with distilled spirits making up about 37 percent of the overall alcoholic beverage sales in the country. That doesn't even include bottled spirits that are purchased at the liquor store and taken home for consumption.

Before Cincinnati was a beer lovers paradise, it was home to a number of distilleries. But Prohibition ended much of the distilling (and brewing) that consumers had come to know and love. Local enthusiasts are just now taking their at-home cocktail concoctions to the next level by opening distilleries and bars — New Riff, Northside Distilling Co., Second Sight Spirits and Molly Wellmann's bars, just to name a few.

Cincinnati is taking that to the next level, and will be celebrating its spirits history on Oct. 22 at Proof Cocktail & Spirits. The first ever event will take place at Duke Energy Convention Center from 7-10:30 p.m.
 
Proof will include spirit sampling and small cocktails from 100 local, regional and national spirit makers and bartenders. There will be a number of different popup bars within the festival for ticketholders (except for the Speakeasy, which is for VIP ticket holders only).
 
  • The Tiki Bar will feature 8-foot flamingos and drinks from Wellmann’s Brands, as well as catering from Bottle and Basket.
  • The '80s Bar will have neon lights, day-glow and fun cocktails like cosmos, plus a DJ playing throwback favorites.
  • Bartenders from Scene Ultra Lounge will be serving up drinks at the Night Club, and a Silent Disco where you put on headphones and dance to music only you can hear.
  • 4EG and The Lackman are pairing up for the Log Cabin Bar which will feature snow-covered pine trees and mixologists from The Lackman, who will create cocktails with Absolut Vodka and Jameson Whiskey. Food will be available from Keystone Bar & Grill.

Proof is the largest cocktail and spirits event in the history of Cincinnati, and will have hundreds of spirits on-hand for guests to try. Hosted by Festivals Unlimited (the same company that’s behind Cincy Winter Beerfest), they will showcase the talent of the city's bartenders. 

Guests can sip and sample spirits and learn about the nuances of different spirits from the various brands.

Tickets are still available for Proof, but there are a limited number of VIP Speakeasy tickets, which are $95. Regular admission tickets are $65, and designated driver tickets are $35.

Stay tuned to Proof's Facebook page for more information as the festival gets closer.
 

People's Liberty project grantee, POPPED ART


POPPED ART mobile gallery is on a mission to “increase community interaction using the power of art within public spaces in a unique and vibrant way.” In early 2016, local artists Janet Creekmore, Ben Jason Neal and Melissa Mitchell won a $10,000 People’s Liberty grant to make that vision a reality.

Back in 2013, the trio was running a stationary version of POPPED out of a vacant space on Short Vine in Corryville. According to Creekmore, before POPPED started, that area of Corryville “was a ghost town,” lined with about a dozen vacant buildings. But after creating POPPED, foot traffic to the area increased as people came for openings and events.

Creekmore explained that the vibrancy the popup gallery brought to the area helped to build a sense of community, increase safety on the street, and drive economic development.

The gallery developed a following, but could no longer stay in the same building. “We had all this momentum,” Creekmore said, so they decided to apply for a People’s Liberty grant to take the gallery on the road.

The team converted an original 1963 rainbow camper that had been sitting unused in Neal’s driveway into a mobile art gallery. Mitchell, who has a background in art curation, filled the converted camper with consigned local art from about 30 artists.

According to Creekmore, the gallery highlights “outsider art, art from self-taught artists and more up-and-coming artists.” The majority of the pieces for sale are two-dimensional, such as paintings and drawings, but they also have paper sculptures and jewelry.

“There’s an approachability to our little venue,” Creekmore said. “Like our T-shirts say: it doesn’t have to be in a museum to be art.”

Through making a friendly, engaging space, POPPED seeks to expose local artists and bring artwork to people who haven’t experienced it in this way.

During summer 2016, POPPED appeared at a variety of local events in seven different Cincinnati neighborhoods, including the City Flea, Art Off Pike and the Mini Maker Faire. It also went out on “rogue stops”; the gallery appeared unannounced in a local neighborhood to provide an unexpected opportunity for people to engage with art.

Though the 2016 season has largely concluded, the POPPED team is working on plans to continue in the years to come.

“It’s been so well-received, it seems like it needs to evolve into something,” Creekmore said. “We’ll decide over the next few months exactly what shape it will take.”

Those interested in partnering or seeing if POPPED is available to come out to a specific event are encouraged to reach out. “We will entertain any conversation,” Creekmore said. “We want to continue it, but we need strong community partnerships and financial partnerships, which is what we’re looking for right now.”

To stay up-to-date on all things POPPED, visit its website or follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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.
 

UC Blue Ash to host another Entrepreneur Speaker Series


JTM Food Group, one of the world’s leading food-processing companies, is sponsoring an entrepreneurial class at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash. The fourth installment of the Entrepreneur Speaker Series will feature Tony Maas, president of JTM, whose family started the company more than 50 years ago with a butcher shop.
 
The class is open to business owners, entrepreneurs and anyone who is interested in hearing from an international business leader. During the class, Maas will share secrets to his family’s success.
 
Maas will share details of how in 1960, his father founded Maas Brothers Meats and created a vision for the company and identified growth opportunities. Today, JTM products can be found in delis, restaurants, schools, convenience stores and grocery stores around the world. JTM also provides packaged foods to the U.S. military.
 
 Kent Lutz, UC Blue Ash business/economics professor will interview the speaker on stage and take questions from the audience in this interactive format.
 
Past ESS speakers include Patty Brisben, founder of Pure Romance; Craig Kurz, owner of Honeybaked Ham; Buddy LaRosa, founder of LaRosa’s Pizza; and Jeff Wyler of Wyler Automotive Group.
 
UC Blue Ash College Entrepreneur Speaker Series featuring Maas will be held on Oct. 26 from 7 to 8 p.m., with a reception to follow, in the Muntz Auditorium on the UC Blue Ash Campus. The event and reception are free and open to everyone.
 
Seating is limited and registration is required. To register, visit www.ucblueash.edu/ess, or call 513-936-1632 for more information.

You can watch past ESS events here, as well as view photos.
 

Five retailers to score free rent and $1,000 for holiday pop up shops


This summer, the City of Cincinnati released its Downtown Retail Action Plan. The plan outlines a series of strategies that will help create a more lively retail environment for residents and visitors.
 
Part of that plan includes Cincy Pop Shop, which will open up vacant storefronts during the holiday season to future business owners who may have had trouble finding accessible, affordable and flexible spaces. The city teamed up with Downtown Cincinnati Inc. to help business owners to create, expand and nurture their businesses with relatively low risk.
 
As part of Cincy Pop Shop, applicants will receive free rent from Nov. 1-Dec. 31 in individual or co-op retail spaces in the Central Business District. Exact locations will be announced in the next few weeks, but they will be near other active retail spaces, holiday events and Fountain Square.
 
The city has allocated up to $1,000 for each selected business, with a total of up to $5,000 available for the entire program. Applicants will be able to use the funds, which are made possible through the city’s Community Development Block Grant, for merchandising materials like racks, hangers, shelving, window displays and payment processing equipment.
 
Applications for Cincy Pop Shop will be accepted through Oct. 23, and winning applicants will be announced on Oct. 28. Applicants will be able to move into their retail space on Nov. 1, and a kickoff event will be held on Nov. 25.
 
Interested business owners can download the application here.
 
 

People's Liberty grants $10,000 for The Percussion Park


When drummer and percussionist Ben Sloan saw a video of a drum set made from paint cans, buckets and other reused and recycled materials, he decided to create his own version.
 
“I thought it would be cool to construct a drum set using these materials and techniques, and put it in a place where it would permanently live for people to use,” he says.
 
The Percussion Park will be located in a 12-foot-by-12-foot plot in a vacant lot at the corner of Warsaw and McPherson avenues in Price Hill, less than four blocks from the MYCincinnati firehouse. Sloan teaches percussion and electives to kids ages 5-10 at MYCincinnati, and thought his project would tie in nicely to a program that already exists.
 
“Having The Percussion Park in a neighborhood where there’s already a relationship with students seemed like the right idea,” he says. “It’s a natural extension of what’s already happening.”
 
Before applying for a grant from People’s Liberty — and qualifying for one — Sloan took his idea to Price Hill Will. They’re working with Keep Cincinnati Beautiful on Vacant Lots: Occupied, which includes restoring the lot at Warsaw and McPherson. In his PL grant, Sloan made sure to identify that The Percussion Park would be installed in that lot.
 
“I thought it would be a cool feature for the development of this vacant lot, and it just seemed like all of the stars aligned to make it happen,” he says.
 
Sloan dug the foundation for The Percussion Park last week, and will be pouring the base in the next few weeks. Final installation is scheduled for March.
 
“It’s really going to be a sensory overload, with so many different things to try,” he says, explaining that users will crank or strike objects to produce a sound or tone. “It’s going to be interactive and engaging."
 
The Percussion Park will feature slap tubes made out of different lengths of PVC pipe and metal that when slapped with a hand or paddle produce different pitches. A bass marimba will have a much lower range than the typical marimba, which mimics a piano.
 
Sloan is hanging old oxygen and propane tanks, which will produce long, sustained tones when struck. He’s also working on creating drums from wooden boxes that will have slits cut out of the top. Another feature will be bicycle parts that when pedaled will generate a noise or rhythm.

Sloan envisions The Percussion Park as a community outreach tool; the lot will be a symbolic gathering place that belongs to the community. He also plans to use it as a resource for teaching at MYCincinnati, incorporating it into classes and lesson plans, as well as using it for popup performances.
 
“I really hope The Percussion Park is a fun and exciting place for people to go and play music and connect with each other,” Sloan says.
 
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.
 
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