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Design firm relocates to the heart of downtown Newport


Notice any changes on Monmouth Street near Ebert’s Meats? Following a historic building remodel in what used to be a pet grooming business, another firm has set its foundation in Northern Kentucky.

Eighty Twenty Design Group, owned by Fort Thomas resident Michael Smith, is now headquartered in Newport. The building was purchased last October, and renovations led up to a grand opening held earlier this month.

Eighty Twenty is a residential and commercial interior design company specializing in residential room makeovers, remodel planning and design and commercial design consulting. The firm was founded by Smith in 2013 and has grown with the area, becoming one of the most innovative and balanced design companies around. While the company isn’t necessarily new, the presence it will have in Northern Kentucky continues to highlight the area's business boom.

The design firm's core offerings include startup and commercial interior design, residential interior design, paint and accessories, furniture placement and installation, antique furniture restoration and custom-made furniture. A unique feature of Eighty Twenty is that it doesn’t rely on a single supplier, which allows for an infinite selection of styles and retailers. Smith prefers customers to be involved in the process so that they can learn simple techniques to upkeep the design over time.

Using design software, Eighty Twenty can implement the desired design techniques and know exactly how a room or home is going to look before the item is purchased and renovations even begin. High-definition, 3D and virtual reality renderings take customers on a virtual tour through their redesigned home or office space.

Eighty Twenty's portfolio is extensive, from exterior residential painting and hardwood floor restoration to house flips and custom made built-in furniture and storage. You can view some of its past interior design projects here.

The Newport location will house the firm’s office and design studio, along with a retail home store and event space, "Headquarters” will sell home décor, accessories and furniture, as well as host DIY workshops and other events. Products from the home store are available both online and in-store.

If you missed the grand opening on Sept. 2, be sure to catch a glimpse of the projects and products available when Eighty Twenty is featured on the Newport Beyond The Curb Urban Living Tour on Oct. 1. Tickets are available for the self-guided walking tour here.
 


Living walls blooming in two central neighborhoods


Urban Blooms is growing something beautiful in the heart of two Cincinnati neighborhoods. Last Friday, construction began on a 1,500-square-foot living wall at 4912 Reading Rd. in the Bond Hill business district. A similar project will begin in Corryville this fall.

Tyler Wolf, executive director of Urban Blooms, says the organization really wanted to connect its mission of sustainable green living to neighborhood development. The result is the Cincinnati Grows program, a $25,000 matching funds grant that gives neighborhoods the chance to apply for a living wall installation in their community.

Living walls are essentially a ‘wall of plants’ — a vertical hydroponic system with automated irrigation.

“It’s a great way to bring a natural aesthetic in any space,” Wolf says. “One of the big goals is to create more walkable communities.”

Seven neighborhoods applied for the installation but Corryville and Bond Hill were ultimately chosen. The walls in both neighborhoods will feature thousands of plants that will bring color to the neighborhood year-round.

“We wanted to make the largest impact possible,” Wolf says. Along with beautifying the space, the living walls have many other benefits for the community. They increase the biodiversity of urban areas by providing a safe haven for pollinators like butterflies and bees. The walls also create healthier environments for local residents.

“The walls are actually cleaning the air we breathe — they’re great at removing particulate matter from the air,” Wolf adds.

The living walls help keep the buildings they inhabit cooler, which reduces energy costs for the inhabitants. Brandon Gumm, a development associate with the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority says that’s great news for Bond Hill. “As we move businesses into Bond Hill, any cost saving measures we can provide are beneficial."

The living walls will also serve as educational opportunities for residents. “We want to open kids’ minds up to new possibilities and technologies,” says Wolf. “We see education going beyond any programming. We want to show that people don’t need to make sacrifices to live a more sustainable life.”

The living wall in Bond Hill will be unveiled at the inaugural Placemaker Pacer 5k Race and Fun Run on Aug. 26.
 


PassivHaus brings unique approach to Cincy sustainability


A 2016 Xavier University grad is shaking up the region’s building industry by dramatically reducing building energy expenses and consumption. And in a day and age where Cincinnati is gearing toward a future of sustainability and environmental savviness, this couldn’t have come at a better time.


Ronald Vieira, founder of PassivHaus, has been conducting research to figure out how to decrease the extra expenses people have to pay for in order to build a "passive house." While there are several passive houses currently being constructed in Cincinnati, they have yet to be certified.

What is so important about incorporating environmental consciousness into area homes? According to Vieira, PassivHaus is doing things a little bit differently.

“There’s a lot of people trying to figure this out, but what we are doing differently is approaching this issue with a cost-effective mindset without compromising ideal energy performance,” he says. “All of our efforts are in place to take away the champion title that buildings have for being the most polluting in the whole country; more than transportation and industry. To reach minimal (and zero) status, we are reducing emissions with innovative and efficient design and then generating electricity on-site as much as possible.”

So what is a passive house?

Vieira says that it's a series of building standards that, if followed properly, will reduce up to 90 percent of the heating load of your house, building or facility. Overall, it reduces up to 75 percent of a building's overall energy consumption.

The main principle behind a passive house is the use of super insulation — or continuous insulation — because the idea is to isolate the inside temperature of the house from the outside environment. Whether the outside is hot or cold, mild or humid, the goal is to preserve the indoor environment to the best of the indoor’s ability. In turn, this requires a high-powered, high-quality air filter to maintain the stabilized inside climate without the air getting stale.

Vieira says that one PassivHaus is already in the works, but many of the details are underwraps. It's the first in Cincinnati, and is a single-family building that will be at least 75 percent more efficient than a built-to-code home. “This project will depict how we believe that sustainability must come at no compromise.”

Implementing passive houses on a broad scale is more complex than it may seem. The houses require more material, as well as high-driven (and certified) talent to design the buildings. Most architects and builders don’t yet understand the new materials and ideas associated with a passive house.


Growing up in Venezuela and having experience with extreme poverty, Vieira felt he was more qualified to tackle a non-social challenge following his college career at Xavier. In researching energy efficiency, he wanted to know more about how to get people to generate energy in an environmentally-friendly way. 

The property tax abatement for 15 years on certified passive houses in Cincinnati is huge. Plus systems are bought in bulk thanks to the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, and Cincinnati is one of the best cities for startups.

“We are designing customs homes in Cincinnati along with running research on construction techniques and materials to make green building affordable across the housing stock in the Cincinnati area,” Vieira says. “For the future, our objective is to make Cincinnati and the world cleaner places to live. We are tackling pollutants by their dimensions; in this case, buildings being the largest one. Getting a large organization like 3CDC in charge of redeveloping a lot of buildings is the goal.”

If you are looking for a new home and are curious about energy efficiency and how it helps you save money, check out PassivHaus or email the Vieira at ron@passivhauscincy.com.
 


OTR A.D.O.P.T. organizes clean-up of vacant West End church for new concept


Local redevelopment organization OTR A.D.O.P.T. has begun rehabbing the church at 1815 Freeman Ave. It's been vacant for over 30 years, and the hope is that it will become the first climbing gym in the city of Cincinnati.

On Saturday, volunteers gathered at the church to clear out the trash and begin basic refurbishment work.

Constructed in the 1880s, the intricate structure has sat vacant since the 1970s, and was filled with trash with graffiti covering the walls.

OTR A.D.O.P.T has been involved with the church building for about five years, but the project is just getting to the beginning stages. Brenden Regan, project manager for OTR A.D.O.P.T. says, "If it’s going to be anything, it’s got to be watertight. The main goal is to get the building stable, dry and secure by winter."

The development is in the very early stages, and the climbing gym concept is still young. The gym is the first viable offer OTR A.D.O.P.T. has received. Other options included a music venue and doctor’s office, but the stakeholders were unable to pursue the project.

A big room with 30-foot ceilings is a difficult space to work with. But a climbing gym could be just the right match for the historic building.

OTR A.D.O.P.T is a nonprofit organization that looks to historic buildings that have long been empty and ignored. To save these dilapidated structures, it takes notice of and fixes them up in the hopes that they will be more attractive to a buyer. According to its website, OTR A.D.O.P.T. matches "deteriorating historic buildings in Cincinnati’s core neighborhoods with new owners."

Right now, the organization is working with around 10 properties. And contrary to its name, OTR A.D.O.P.T. is branching outside of Over-the-Rhine, and has worked in a number of developing neighborhoods, including Covington, Mt. Auburn, Camp Washington and Walnut Hills.

As for the West End? "It has a lot of great buildings that deserve to be fixed up," Regan says.
 


Speakeasy-style cafe to join DeSales Corner business boom

 

An art deco style building located at 1535 Madison Rd. on the southwest edge of DeSales Corner will soon be restored to its former charm, welcoming a restaurant and speakeasy-style bar.

“A relaxed alternative to the OTR scene.” That’s how Michael Berry, part-owner of the new bar and restaurant, describes the emerging neighborhood of Walnut Hills. Berry is keeping the name of his new venture under wraps for now.

The owners of Northside bars The Littlefield and Second Place, operating under South Block Properties and LADS Entertainment, purchased the building as a response to the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and the East Walnut Hills Assembly's solicitation for proposals.

The building, which has sat vacant for the past 50 years, was once the site of a bank. Its new owners will be tasked with installing updated mechanics, electricity and plumbing, and restoring the water-damaged coffered plaster ceilings. The team hopes to bring back some of the old bank building’s original style.

The finished product will be a comfortable restaurant serving food from Shoshannah Hafner, the brains behind The Littlefield’s selective menu. Berry says Hafner is excited at the chance to expand upon her culinary skills.

“She was given a tiny kitchen (at The Littlefield) and has created a menu that we believe represents the very best food you can get in a bar anywhere," says Berry. "The new place will be a full restaurant where Shoshannah will be given a proper kitchen to really expand our offerings.”

The food will favor The Littlefield’s approach to American cuisine accented with combinations of Mediterranean, Asian and Spanish flavors.

Below the restaurant will be an intimate, underground bar.

“Think speakeasy vibe with low light and a comfortable lived-in environment,” Berry says.

The bar will feature a robust wine list; a variety of draft beer; house-made cocktails and an extensive spirit selection with attention to vodka, gin and classic cocktails developed by John Ford, another of the bar's co-owners. Ford's creations at The Littlefield and Second Place have been praised for their one-of-a-kind flavors.

After they opened Second Place — appropriately named, as it was the their second endeavor — LADS and South Block felt drawn to Walnut Hills’ similar vibe to Northside.

“We’re mostly Northsiders," Berry says. "While we have a lot of affection for our neighborhood, we very much like the atmosphere of Walnut Hills. It has a lot of the same characteristics we like about Northside, like the strong art scene. The opportunity to create something in that bank building was too good to pass up. It is certainly a challenge, but when we are finished with the space, it will be one of the truly unique dining experiences in the region.”

The new addition to DeSales Corner is set to open next spring or summer, and organizers hope the new addition will complement the neighborhood and aid in ongoing efforts to breathe life back into the Walnut Hills community.


LEED silver townhomes add to ongoing resurgence of Court Street


Following a period where barren landscape and vacant storefronts dominated the area, new life is being brought to Court Street as many new businesses, restaurants and residential options are beginning to open.

In the last several years, Urban Expansion has helped bolster the redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine. The group is heading up a redevelopment project that will bring more residential opportunities to the area on and around Court Street.

Urban Expansion is a leading developer of LEED-certified projects, which focuses on green building leadership. Not only do these projects save money and resources, but they also promote renewable, clean energy within a development.

According to Chris Reckman, president of Urban Expansion, building a LEED home is not only good for the environment but an excellent selling point, one that has been the focus of Cincinnati projects over the last few years. “Generally, there are a lot of LEED benefits out there, which we as a builder/developer would certainly agree with.”

As another focal selling point for the project, Court Street is historically an underutilized connector between OTR and the Central Business District, something that Reckman believes is changing.

“There's a lot of potential here and a natural bridge to the CBD,” he says. “It's really ‘downtown-near,’ and this location in particular is close to Washington Park, the School for Creative and Performing Arts, Queen City Radio, the new YMCA, the streetcar, Cincy Red Bike and more.”

The newly renovated townhomes, located at 1008 and 1010 Elm St. near the Court Street corridor, are currently on the market for $575,000. Vertical in style, the 2,050-square-foot homes each boast three bedrooms, two full baths and two half baths. Fourth-floor roof decks and wet bars are at the disposal of the buyers.

Also featured in the refurbished homes are custom closets, second-floor master suites and large, clean basements that could act as storage or be turned into additional living space.

As just a small part of the green aspect of the project, upcycled joists salvaged from blighted buildings have been used as shelving, and the original staircases were refurbished.

As the area continues to grow, residential living spaces will be in high demand, something that Reckman and Urban Expansion plan to take advantage of.

New bars and restaurants are sprouting up on Court and Kroger is building the new apartment building/grocery store at the other end, as well as a test kitchen facility down the block from this project, and this area seems poised to take off," he says.

For more information on the townhomes, pricing, availability and the benefits of LEED homes, view the listing on Coldwell Banker or visit www.usgbc.org/articles/green-building-facts.
 


Historic Mohawk area the next up-and-coming section of OTR?


With the ongoing rehabilitation and redevelopment of Cincinnati, specifically Over-the-Rhine, the consideration of businesses, residents and growth opportunities are a must.

This was just one of the many aspects that became the forefront of the discussion for the Mohawk Area Plan, which is geared toward not only enhancing the Mohawk Area of OTR, but also to engage those involved.

Also known as the Mohawk District, the neighborhood runs the full length of Central Parkway as its western boundary with eastern boundaries running along Clifton Avenue, Zier Place and Klotter Avenue. The northern boundary is at Brighton Bridge Approach, and the southern boundary extends well into OTR along Findlay Street.

To coincide with a strategy already in place for properties, businesses and residences, the City of Cincinnati formed a committee to take on the task of forming maps, a collection of assets and opportunities and sections that need attention. The Steering Committee held three meetings between Nov. 2016 and March 2017 to draft strategies with the assistance of Brewery District leadership, city planning leaders and business executives.

The public was able to weigh in through a series of meetings — public forums were held between July 2016 and May 2017 to get input on both the progress of the neighborhood and the challenges it could face in the future.

According to the city, two "open house" working group meetings were held in July and Sept. 2016, where residents and stakeholders came together for an interactive mapping exercise. Using a variety of multimedia annotations, attendees identified where they lived, worked or owned property, as well as areas they felt were assets, opportunities or in need of help.

According to residents and committee members, one of the biggest challenges faced in OTR both past and present has been a concern of safety. The Mohawk Area Plan hones in on developing a safe and walkable entertainment district, making the area more pedestrian-friendly.

Construction will undoubtedly play a role in this part of the plan, as the Brighton Approach connector is set for demolition, and another connector route will need to be put in place. This also opened the table for discussion on how public transit could help to enhance the neighborhood. According to the Plan, ideas like Cincy Red Bike, bus stops and streetcar stops could be beneficial for visitors and residents. Additional surface parking lots are also being considered.

In terms of economic development, the goal is to show people why the neighborhood is the place to be. By highlighting neighborhood assets like parks (Hanna Park, Bellevue Park, Cincinnati Open Space and Fairview Park), breweries (Rhinegeist, Cliffside and Jackson), entertainment venues (the Imperial Theatre, which is readily undergoing renovations; Mockbee Arts Building; and Dunlap Café) and businesses (the APEX building, Rookwood Pottery and Robin Imaging), investors and startups could be more drawn to the area with the proper economic investment and amenities/space to grow readily available to them.

The residential goal is to make use of abandoned space along Renner and Hastings while maintaining the historic structural components of the neighborhood and establishing a network of open communication for residents

In alignment with the 2002 OTR Comprehensive Plan, and similar to the Brewery District Plan, the future of the Mohawk area is starting to take shape. The general timeline for approval by the city won't take place until later this summer, but residents and community leaders are ready to reshape the future of the neighborhood.
 


Four Cincinnati icons chosen as CPC Impact Buildings of the Year


The Cincinnati Preservation Collective wants to save the historical architecture that makes the Queen City special.

Justin Leach, president of the CPC's board, moved to Cincinnati eight years ago from Columbus. “I immediately fell in love with the historic infrastructure of Cincinnati,” he says. “It defines Cincinnati from other Midwestern cities.”

Each year, the CPC chooses four buildings as part of its annual Impact Buildings Program. The program directs its advocacy efforts to the chosen buildings through promotion, fundraising and helping the community imagine the future with these historic sites.

“We’ve got a very diverse community with a lot of different talents,” Leach says.

In March, members of the collective were invited to a caucus at The Mockbee where representatives for each building could pitch their reasons why their site should be chosen. CPC members then voted on which four buildings they would focus on for the upcoming year.

Though the program in only a year in length, the CPC considers themselves “stewards” of the buildings and will often stay involved after the year has concluded.

Plans are still in the early stages for the four buildings chosen for 2017:

First German Reformed Church, 1815 Freeman St.
The CPC will focus on raising awareness and support for the church. Leach says the West End is a passionate and active community that grows every year.

The CPC is open to working with anyone who wants to develop the property, as long as they have a positive vision for the community.

Lafayette Bloom Middle School, 1941 Baymiller St.
Built in 1920, the Lafayette Bloom Middle School could also be a place for new businesses or organization to grow in the West End.

Cincinnati Federation of Colored Women’s Clubhouse (also known as the C.H. Burroughs House), 1010 Chapel St.
Built in 1888, the Cincinnati Federation of Colored Women purchased the house in 1925 after working for 10 years to secure a down payment. After another 20 years, the group paid off the mortgage. Leach says it was significant that the CFCC owned the building since housing policies and practices at the time often excluded African Americans. The next step is to coordinate with the CFCC to understand what their vision is for the building.

“The most ideal situation is reaching out to the owners and developing a partnership, hearing what their needs are and how our organization can help,” Leach says.

City of Cincinnati Island Lamps or The Turtle Lamps
Though not technically a building, the City of Cincinnati Island Lamps are known as Turtle Lamps, thanks to their dome-like shape. Leach says the unique light fixtures were recently added to Atlas Obscura, a website that aggregates local oddities and places of interest.

“Our plan is to get more information about the lamps from the city and to see what protections can be put in place for existing lamps,” he says.

The CPC is always looking for volunteers; contact friends@preservethenati.org for more information.


Fourteen Cincinnati projects chase after Ohio historic tax credits


With just one month remaining in the application review period, 14 Cincinnati projects are after over $26 million from the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program.

The program is highly competitive program and contributes to economic development all over the state. It provides a tax credit to development projects in order to influence the private redevelopment of the state’s many historic buildings.

In the previous 15 funding rounds of the program, tax credits have been approved for 284 projects to rehabilitate 398 historic buildings in 52 different communities. The program is geared toward owners of historically designated buildings who wish to undertake a rehabilitation project.

But what makes a building eligible?

A building is eligible if it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; contributes to a National Register Historic District, National Park Service Certified Historic District or Certified Local Government historic district; or is listed as a local landmark by a Certified Local Government.

The 48 applications received in the current round range from historic theater renovations to the restoration of a single storefront.

Notable projects that have requested tax credits in the Cincinnati area this round include:
  • The Traction Company building, a 60,230-square-foot building that Parkes Companies, Inc., plans to convert into a mixed-use property
  • Union Terminal, which is asking for the maximum $5 million in tax credits to assist with the $212 million renovation
  • First National Bank (under the ownership of NewcretImage, LLC.), which is also asking for the maximum $5 million to assist with converting the building into a contemporary lifestyle hotel
  • Smaller projects, like the conversion of 620 and 622 Vine St. into a large commercial space with upper apartments (Sieber Vine Holding LLC), are also in the mix

Other developments in major cities like Cleveland and Columbus have requested millions in tax credits in hopes of redeveloping and/or restoring buildings like Cleveland’s Terminal Tower, The Palace Theatre in Columbus, the Louis Sullivan Building in Newark and more.

Statewide, the total request of historic tax credits for the March round is over $75 million. Round 18 applications were due March 31, and approved applications will be announced on or before June 30. Applications will be received for the September round later this summer.
 


Beyond the Curb returns to showcase Covington's diverse and iconic spaces


For the second consecutive year, Beyond the Curb Urban Living Tour returns to Covington, and as Northern Kentucky’s largest city, the recent rehabilitation and redevelopment projects occurring in the area will be a major highlight of the event.

For one day only, self-guided tours will feature a variety of Covington’s finest urban living aspects, from completed and in-progress historic homes to luxury condos and apartment complexes that have created endless possibilities for living in the heart of Northern Kentucky.

“This is not your typical home tour,” says Jill Morenz of The Catalytic Fund, which sponsors the Beyond the Curb events. “In addition to beautifully finished homes, we included projects that are in progress to encourage visitors to imagine the possibilities in the gorgeous old buildings of Covington. We’re also highlighting the amenities that Covington has to offer, including world-class public art, quirky shops and charming gardens and trails.”

The recent redevelopments in Covington will likely make this one of the top Beyond the Curb tours to date. Madison Flats, the new 13 one-bedroom apartments that are set to open this summer also holds first-floor retail/business space for potential startups in the area. And since its grand opening in September 2016, Hotel Covington has seen a major influx of locals and tourists alike.

The self-guided urban living tour will focus on 16 unique homes and businesses in a wide variety of neighborhoods within the city. The mix of property types will offer viewers not only a different neighborhood vibe, architecture and amenities, but also a range of prices that makes Covington approachable for people from all walks of life.

Featured Covington neighborhoods will include:

  • Pike Street Corridor: 114 W. Pike St.; 10 W. Pike St.; 110 W. Pike St.; 902 Banklick St.; 317 Orchard St.; 115 W. Robbins St.; 605 Madison Ave.; 1023 Russell St.; 1 Innovation Alley; Hotel Covington, 638 Madison Ave.; 502 Madison Ave.
  • Historic Licking Riverside/Roebling Point: Boone Block, 420 Scott St.; 124 Garrard St.; Amos Shinkle Carriage House, 215 Garrard St.; The Ascent at Roebling Bridge, 1 Roebling Way; 124 Garrard St.
  • MainStrasse Village: 114 11th St.

Highlights of these buildings include a 10,000-square-foot Greek revival home built in 1847, Covington’s first skyscraper (1910), a 130-year-old row house and a former sewing machine factory.

Beyond the Curb will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 30. Early bird tickets are $15 and are available online at www.beyondthecurb.org until April 29. Tickets will also be available for purchase at Hotel Covington the day of the event for $20. All ticket holders must register at Hotel Covington the day of to receive a map of the route.
 


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.
 


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.
 


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.
 

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.
 

Former Newport school to become 200 residential units and first-floor commercial space


Until spring 2016, Newport Intermediate School on Fourth Street in Newport housed 450 students in grades 3-5. Thanks to a redevelopment project by CRG Residential, the school will now be home to new tenants.

The building was constructed in 1939 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s public works project. It was purchased for $2.6 million in June 2015, and is being redeveloped into Academy on Fourth apartments. Many original pieces from inside the school will be saved for historical purposes, and one of the outside walls will remain.

CRG's Vice President of Development David George is very excited for the project to begin and believes it will add great value to the Newport area.

“We are excited about the opportunity to be part of the Newport community,” he says. “CRG Residential and our development partner, Barrett & Stokely, have developed several properties in the Cincinnati region. However, this will be our first project in the Newport market.”

The current layout of the project includes 200 market-rate apartments, as well as commercial space on the ground floor, along Monmouth Street. Each unit will include granite counters, stainless steel appliances and the same finishes as other new residential projects in the Cincinnati region. 

Other features for the project are being worked out by the company as well. Underground parking, an interior exercise facility and a common area that will look out onto a large, central courtyard are in the works, as well as a pool and other gathering areas.

The redevelopment design is currently in the works, according to Joe Langebartels, vice president of construction for CRG. Groundbreaking and building demolition will occur this spring, and construction will last about a year and a half.

In January, the Newport City Commission agreed to issue up to $32 million in industrial revenue bonds to assist CRG with the project, alongside what CRG has already allotted in its budget.

In selling the property, Newport schools will have the capability to not only purchase updated technology but also pay tribute to a historic school and district. According to George, this high-end development will do that and more.

“Our project will also include several rehabilitation measures to the historic Southgate School, which is immediately east of our project site,” he says. “This will include upgrades to their façade.” That building will be part of an ongoing project as it is converted into a museum.

CRG, based in Carmel, Ind., plans for the 200 units in the four-story apartment complex to be available for rent in late 2018. Other notable CRG projects in Cincinnati include the renovation of One Lytle Place and the redevelopment of the Alumni Lofts.
 
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