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Lunar first to open in new bar and restaurant complex downtown

The creative team behind popular bar FB's will unveil their next project, a two-story space-themed lounge and nightclub called Lunar, at 435 Elm St. on December 10.

According to Bill Foster, an owner, the plan is to add a restaurant and outdoor concert pavilion to the complex by next summer.

Foster's first foray into the bar industry was with FB's, the richly-decorated downtown Cincinnati lounge that also hosts a basement dance club called "The Rabbit Hole." To open the establishment, Foster partnered with Cincinnati nightclub veteran Scott Sheridan. Sheridan had developed the concept after years managing local nightclubs including Club Clau and Purgatory. Foster, who has built a national warehousing business from Cincinnati in the last decade, provided the drive to put it into action, he said.
"We started out small just to get the kinks worked out, and now we're ready for a larger project like this," Foster said. "We're going to have a whole campus on this block."

The men partnered with Ryan Goldschmidt and Ron Goldschmidt, the building's owners, to create the complex. Their fifth partner is Jimmy Gibson, who worked for a decade as a chef for Jeff Ruby. He will design the menu for Lunar Lounge and direct the upcoming restaurant. 

Lunar's lounge and nightclub will maintain a futuristic, space-travel theme. Foster said bare concrete walls and an expansive lighting system with a liberal dose of LED's and chandeliers will be the defining decorative elements.

"We're bringing a lot of new technology to the area," he said. 

Lunar will also blur the lines between social networking and real-live-partying as an employee will scan twitter feeds of Lunar's guests and display them on monitors throughout the bar. The men also have plans for a rooftop bar that would open in about two years, Foster said.

The downstairs portion of the bar, called Lunar Lounge, will be open seven days a week, with the larger upstairs portion open Thursday, Friday and Saturday as well as for special events.

Writer: Henry Sweets
Photography by Scott Beseler.

GCWW's new facility enhanced by UV technology

To every outdoorsman, germophobe and gadget geek who has looked skeptically at UV water purifiers, consider this: The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati will soon use the same basic technology as products like the Steripen purifier to disinfect the city's water.

Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) is on track to open a 19,600 square-foot UV disinfection facility at its Richard Miller Treatment Plant on Kellogg Avenue by the end of 2012. According to Calgon Carbon, the company building the UV units for the plant, the $30 million facility will be able to treat up to 240 million gallons of water a day.

The UV treatment will actually be the third step in the plant's disinfection process. Water first flows through a sand filtration system; just like it sounds, sand traps larger particles as the water is forced through it. The water then flows through a Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filter, which uses a type of charcoal to pull more chemicals out of the water.

Both of these systems are effective and time-tested, but they can't catch some of the worst drinking water contaminants: microorganisms and viruses that can cause diseases like gastroenteritis, typhoid fever and cholera. Until now, most water utilities have relied on a system in which chlorine is added to - then removed from - the water. It's effective, but can't kill all the microorganisms, and leaves trace amounts of chlorine (a deadly gas in its pure form) in the drinking water.

While UV disinfection won't eliminate the need to use chlorine in Cincinnati's water, it will add another layer of protection. UV disrupts the internal mechanisms in microorganisms and certain viruses, leaving them unable to multiply or killing them outright.

So why add the large, sophisticated, $30 million extra layer of protection for Cincinnati water drinkers? The city has not seen an outbreak of a waterborne disease such as Giardia or Cryptosporidium in the recent past, after all.

According to a GCWW report, part of the reason is that there's been cause for concern about just such a problem occurring. A wastewater treatment plant in Alexandria, Kentucky, releases treated water into the Ohio River 11 miles upstream of the Richard Miller facility. And while GCWW doesn't report concerns about the Kentucky treatment facility's ability to do its job, it's taking a "trust, but verify" approach to the issue.

"New or unexpected contaminants are sure to be discovered in our source water in the future," reports the GCWW. "UV disinfection, combined with GCWW's current treatment processes, provides an extra layer of protection against those contaminants. This is an important step in insuring public health now and for future generations."

Writer: Matt Cunningham
Photography provided

Cincy Unchained's independent businesses building better neighborhoods

The holiday shopping season is officially underway and this year Cincinnatians are being encouraged to buy locally.  Sean Fisher, founder of BuyCincy.com, has planned Cincinnati Unchained for Saturday, November 20th.  Fisher has coordinated with local independent businesses within the city in twelve Cincinnati neighborhoods to offer special discounts, door buster specials, or donate a portion of the day's sales to their favorite charity.

Lisa Kagen, storeowner of Melt and Picnic & Pantry in Northside, thinks consumers who seek out independent retailers are choosing to support their local economy first. And that's good for the neighborhoods where independent businesses are located.

"This is the only way we can be patient with our economy and rebuild it by reinvesting in our local economy instead of chain businesses," Kagen said. "It is not a trend, but a movement back to how a real economy used to work."

Kagen opened Picnic & Pantry in May of this year. She found the need to add a local grocery and market in Northside and loved the area because of its diverse atmosphere, affordability, and historic appeal. Always attracted to neighborhoods on the cusp of blossoming, Kagen finds that Northside, along with other areas in Cincinnati, provide a lot of opportunity for independent shops to thrive. Kagen explained that she has no trouble finding local resources and that other businesses are willing to communicate and support one another.

Another thriving neighborhood for entrepreneurs is Over-the-Rhine with forty-seven new businesses in the past two years. Brian Tiffany, President of the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce, supports the Cincinnati Unchained event, and views it as a great opportunity to demonstrate that buying local during the holidays offers shoppers a unique alternative. According to Tiffany, Over-the-Rhine businesses attract a variety of age groups ranging from the younger community to the "empty-nesters" looking for something new in the historic area.

"The younger community is a lot faster at embracing the change and opportunity, but as the word gets out a wide variety of people seem to visit the neighborhood," Tiffany said.

Tiffany explains that Over-the-Rhine is attractive to new businesses due to the changes taking place in the neighborhood, including Washington Park's overhaul and SCPA's new facility, and the Chamber's Business First grant program. So much affordable opportunity is available for small businesses as well as for home ownership.

"For once in a long time, I feel like the planets are aligning in Over-the-Rhine. I think the neighborhood has been challenged for so many years, and now it is moving into its own and starting to recognize its full potential," Tiffany said.

Writer: Lisa Ensminger
Photography by Scott Beseler.
Picnic & Pantry

World planning day brings new ideas to Amberley Village

To celebrate World Planning Day in Hamilton County, ninety planners and planning students gathered in Amberley Village to brainstorm how the town might utilize vacant green space that would fulfill the community's goals.

The annual event, organized by the Hamilton County Planning Department and Cincinnati's chapter of the American Planning Association, helps one community think through their major planning issues each year.

The Amberley town government owns a vacant golf course and swim club, and the neighborhood also has an unused school. A town where young families are moving in and new ways of thinking are on the rise, Amberly hopes to improve its community dynamic while also staying green.

At the World Planning Day charette, planners gathered into groups to address the vacant properties, as well as the lack of sidewalks and bike paths in the community. At the end of the day they presented their ideas to the mayor and town council.

Mayor Merrie Stillpass said that almost all of the town is built-out except for the 133 acre golf course, Amberley Green, that is currently used by residents for walking and running, and its future is a hot issue in the small community.

"We are currently working on ideas - which this World Planning Day event helped us look at with a different lens - to develop it as a mixed use area," Stillpass said. "We've turned down some previously proposed developments because we're looking for the right mix and right density that adds value, is an amenity to the community and doesn't have negative impacts."

The planning group covering Amberley Green suggested one idea, or a combination of ideas, that stuck out to Stillpass.

"For the Amberley Green property there were some thoughts about having an interdisciplinary program that might be supported by a couple of the local college programs," she said. "A research facility that could become a sustainability center with an agricultural component and maybe a residential component, or a banquet center - something that could generate revenue for the Village but perpetuate the higher calling of sustainability."

Another big issue in Amberley is the lack of sidewalks or bike paths, and one group of planners suggested a hierarchy of pathways that could be built to begin connecting the Village's different neighborhoods to community gathering spots.

In a couple of weeks the ideas gathered that day will be posted on a website hosted by the Hamilton County Planning Department, and at that point Amberley's Mayor and Town Council will start sifting through the ideas to see which ones are worth future investigation, Stillpass said.

Hamilton County's director of planning, Todd Kinskey, said Wednesday's event had the highest turnout in the eleven years his office has helped to sponsor the event. Community's that are interested in hosting a World Planning Day charrette can contact his office for more information.

Writer: Henry Sweets
Illustration provided
The approval by Village Council of a plan to landscape the intersection of Ronald Reagan Highway and Ridge Road

Local author's history of Cincinnati's incomplete subway looks to future developments

When Jacob Mecklenborg set out to write a book about the two miles of empty subway tunnel that lie beneath downtown Cincinnati - a catacombish network of concrete that has never heard the clang of a rail car - he had no idea how much history he would uncover.

"I made the mistake of thinking because I had written an article on it ten years earlier that I had a really big head start, but that was not the case," he said at a book signing at Neon's in Over-the-Rhine. "So much of this story had never been told," he added.
His new book  "Cincinnati's Incomplete Subway; The Complete History," covers 150 years of rail development in Cincinnati, most famously one called the Rapid Transit Loop which included the two-mile subway tunnel. The bond issue that funded it did not provide enough money to complete the project once material costs skyrocketed after WWI and, as Mecklenborg's book follows in meticulous detail, repeated efforts to resurrect the tunnel over the next 90 years failed as well.
Mecklenborg argues that while pro-automobile federal policy exacerbated efforts to build the line, local smear-campaigns and inaccurate media coverage were what effectively killed it.

A photographer and graphic designer by training, Mecklenborg was commissioned by the History Press to write the book after one of their editors read an article about the subway that he wrote and published on his website.

A transit-enthusiast, Mecklenborg warned that the same problems that kept the subway from being built still threaten transit issues in Cincinnati.

"The struggle for all of us who are interested in improving the public transportation situation in Cincinnati is that the local media does not report state law, federal law, and the transit situation here in an accurate way," Mecklenborg said. "People can say whatever misinformation they want, and they don't get rebuked or fact-checked."

One common misconception that the subway failed because rail cars wouldn't fit, is entirely false but still persists, he said. That particular myth was promoted by a group of young politicians who were trying to embarrass the political establishment that built the tunnel.

Mecklenborg attributed the recent success of Cincinnati's streetcar campaign to the advent of "fact-checking" web sites that informed local voters about where funding for the system would come.  He believes the original subway tunnel might still be used to house light rail transit someday, and tells his readers what infrastructure improvements would be required to do so.

Mecklenborg, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of local transit history, sums up his hopes for the future in the book's introduction:

"I believe that this book will help clear the fog surrounding the subject, and in doing so remove the subway's construction and nonuse as a dependable 'argument' of anti-rail, anti-city forces."

Mecklenborg's book is available through History Press.
Link to the new video !!!
Writer: Henry Sweets
Photography provided.

Wind turbine at Zoo about more than just electricity

Since June, visitors to the Cincinnati Zoo have had a unique, but non-animal, attraction to see: the zoo's new, 30-foot vertical-axis wind turbine, or VAWT.

The turbine, is the first such unit installed at a zoo, and produces an estimated 2000 kilowatts of energy per year - enough to run a typical dishwasher and refrigerator for a year, according to the Zoo.  The turbine and a series of solar panels are providing a third of the power needed to run the Zoo's ticketing building.

It's a nifty concept, and an aesthetically interesting one to boot: Rather than the propeller/windmill shape many have come to know as typical for wind turbines, the VAWT looks more like an elongated eggbeater blade, or some type of kinetic sculpture. Videos on the zoo's website show the aerodynamic blades turning slowly in this summer's light breezes, looking more like a child's mobile than an efficient generator.

And the videos show another side of the turbine, too. Comments on one, accessed through YouTube, harp on the zoo for spending a significant amount of money on a turbine that produces very little power (the actual cost of the turbine is not listed, but smaller residential units retail for roughly $4,000). In a sense, the comment has a point: why raise a turbine - in an area not known for consistent wind - that can only power a fraction of one building on a very large, very energy-costly campus? Is that really money well spent?

A little digging suggests two responses: first, it's not about electricity. Second, in that light it's money very well spent.

Visit the Zoo's website and peruse its medial information about the turbine, and it's clear that the installation is less about producing energy than it is about education. There are videos describing the vertical axis design, and showing it at work. There are pdf brochures and pages of information about residential use of wind generators and solar arrays. There is coverage of the Zoo's efforts to save polar bears, whose habitats are at risk due to global warming. And pages throughout the site feature the phrase "what can I do to go green?"

The Zoo's turbine is about education. It's a unique eye-catcher, and a touchstone for Zoo media staff to use when connecting visitors to its other, more action- and results-oriented sustainability efforts. The Greenest Zoo in America may not have the most powerful, cost-effective wind turbine on the planet, from a purely numbers standpoint, but taken in larger context, it's a valuable player in a larger effort to produce sustainable, environmentally friendly change in Cincinnati.

Writer: Matt Cunningham
Images pulled from Cincinnati Zoo video.

Fabricate finds a new home in Northside

Fabricate, a local boutique and gallery owned by Aileen McGrath and Chris Salley, relocated to 4037 Hamilton Avenue in Northside, and will be holding their one-year anniversary and grand reopening on November 13th from, 7-11 p.m.

Fabricate opened exactly a year ago, sharing a space with friends at Red Polly but they always had dreamed of finding their own space along Hamilton Avenue to obtain future goals and have a greater retail presence.

"We constantly looked along Hamilton Avenue and finally we found the right fit in a perfect spot located near stores and restaurants with a lot of traffic," Aileen McGrath said. "Our first space was a little more hidden and off the beaten path, now we have our own store front window and street presence."

The almost move-in-ready store consists of teal blue walls, hardwood floors and handmade furniture created by storeowner Aileen McGrath. Conveniently located near other shops including Cluxton Alley Coffee Roasters, Take the Cake, and Shop Therapy, Fabricate's new location allows customers to roam freely from shop to shop and increases retail traffic for the store. McGrath hopes to see future sales rise with the new location and will use the larger space to feature more local artists. Fabricate features locally crafted items, ranging from artwork, handmade clothes, t-shirts, soaps, jewelry, stationary, accessories, purses, hats, furniture, and lighting. Any item bought at Fabricate is one of a kind and unique.

McGrath finds artists through word of mouth, social media networks such as Facebook, and the Crafty Supermarket

"If the work of local artists meets our aesthetic, we showcase their artwork in our store," McGrath explained. Fabricate is geared towards a modern "indie" style, where the items are free to be "out of the norm" or "quirky," which is extremely encouraged by the owners.

Every second Saturday, Fabricate holds a group art show where they feature new artists' artwork with beverages and a DJ. This month's group art show will be unique, celebrating the grand reopening and the one-year anniversary with an after-party following the show at Mayday. The show, titled Microcosm, will feature 4 x 6 works of art by favorite past artists, as well as new artists that they will be showcasing in the coming year. Customers are free to browse, enjoy the event, and also buy anything on display.

McGrath wants to continue to promote and sell items locally crafted and recycled to better serve the community. In the future, she hopes to start a gallery hop in Northside, featuring artwork in all the surrounding shops, restaurants, and bars.

"We love the community here and we are excited to have our own shop. Last year was awesome, and this year will be even better," McGrath noted.

Writer: Lisan Ensminger
Photography by Scott Beseler.

OTR "question cart" looks at redevelopment using art, community input

Ethan Philbrick, a University of Cincinnati graduate student and artist, received an individual artist grant award from the city of Cincinnati in 2009 to fund Project CincinnatUS - a year long series of public performance events tackling societal issues in downtown and Over-the-Rhine.  Project CincinnatUS has already featured collaborations between cultural workers and artists and Philbrick's most recent effort, "The Over-the-Rhine Question Cart," engages residents living in Over-the-Rhine and questions their feelings about redevelopment in their neighborhood.

Philbrick collaborated with sculpture artist, Chloe Paisley, to create a mobile cart and the resulting short film about the project. Philbrick and Paisley rode around the neighborhood and asked residents questions about the potential in the area and their thoughts concerning redevelopment. The film shows a diverse collection of people as they each share different opinions and stories.

In creating the project, Philbrick, a three-year resident of Over-the-Rhine, noted intense feelings associated with redevelopment in the neighborhood. He had heard mixed responses about how renovation was great for the city, but sometimes difficult and emotional for those who have roots in the area. He decided to make the film to capture those thoughts and emotions.

While many residents expressed excitement about the potential in Over-the-Rhine and efforts to make it a better place, some OTR residents shared stories about their fear of having to relocate and not having a place to live in suburban areas where affordable housing is scant. Others shared concerns that redeveloping may not fix the problem of poverty but only disperse it throughout the city. Philbrick wanted to put multiple voices together and see how it made the viewer feel overall.

"The message of the film was supposed to be complex and not a perfect picture of how a lot of people are relating to this neighborhood in different ways," Philbrick explained. 

Philbrick has been showing the film around Cincinnati - you can see it now on Project CincinnatUS's website - and said he wants viewers to engage in more complex thinking about future decision-making in Over-the-Rhine.

"I don't want to think about Over-the-Rhine in a polarized manner," Phibrick said. "I wanted to make it quickly and see what kind of work it can do in the world at this moment."

Writer: Lisa Ensminger
Photography by Ashley Walton.

Riverfront Park progress shows signs of things to come

The construction of Cincinnati's Riverfront Park reached a milestone last week when a newly-relocated stretch of Mehring Way opened to the public.

The road's relocation required immense infrastructure work, including new foundations for the Roebling bridge, but was integral to the success of the park, project manager Dave Prather said. It was one of many major planning hurdles overcome in the 13 years since the project began.

"I can still remember the magic marker arcs drawn on a napkin," Prather said. "We had been asking 'how are we going to build a river-front park with a road so close to the river?"

The road's new location, a few hundred feet north of the old one, will make room for a large green space, bike path, labyrinth, fountain and other public gathering spaces near the bank of the river. But the features just to the north of the new Mehring Way will be completed first, by next fall. Those will include three levels of public space. At the top level, an event lawn will gently slope from the future Moerlein Brew House to an event stage, bordering the commercial and residential development called The Banks that is being constructed in tandem with the park.

Two stories below the lawn, with parking in between, will be more water features and a large set of stairs flanking the Roebling Bridge. A geo-thermally heated visitor's center and bicycle center will also be constructed on that level.

"If you want to commute into town, you'll be able to bring your bike into the garage, swipe your card, go into men's or women's showers and locker rooms and walk to work," Prather said. "Or that could be your lunchtime workout."

Prather, who has nurtured the project along since it's planning began in 1997, said all the massive changes to the riverfront in recent years, including two new stadiums and the re-engineering of Fort Washington Way, have allowed the park to vie for the land and money needed to become the 40-acre project it is today.

"I'm really glad we didn't build the ideas we had 12 years ago," he said. "There are many more features now."

Though he said the project was "on schedule," Prather said several major steps were reached earlier than initially planned due to the availability of federal stimulus money. After the remaining cash comes in, and the adjacent Lot Two parking garage is opened, much of the asphalt to the west of the Roebling Bridge will become green space too.

Writer: Henry Sweets
Images provided

Energy Alliance spreads efficiency gospel in Covington

The Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance (GCEA) hit the streets of Covington last Saturday to distribute home energy efficiency kits and spread the word about programs that provide financial assistance to Kentucky homeowners interested in making energy efficiency improvements to their home.

The canvassing campaign was the first in a month-long GCEA effort to reduce energy bills for residents, and generate work for contractors, in Northern Kentucky.

A new program called Kentucky Home Performance provides assistance to Kentucky homeowners in addition to the federal and private money that GCEA already offers.

"It's a program that just came on line literally in the last couple of weeks, so this will be the first real roll-off for it in Northern Kentucky," GCEA executive director Andy Holzhauser said.

Working with the Center for Great Neighborhoods, a community development organization in Covington, the GCEA selected about 1,000 homes in the Peaselburg, Levassor Park and Wallace Woods neighborhoods to be visited by volunteer canvassers. The volunteers passed out energy efficiency kits which include compact fluorescent light bulbs and water-saving aerators, and spoke with residents about the benefits of a home energy audits and energy efficiency retrofits.

"We're bringing to people the message that virtually every home that we've looked at so far, whether it's five-years-old or 105-years-old, has one or a couple of what we call the low hanging green fruit," Holzhauser said. "And those are inadequate insulation, air infiltration reduction, and duct sealing."

Lilah Glick, GCEA's marketing director, said that a typical retrofit can produce savings of between 20 and 30 percent of home heating and cooling costs.

Between the two funding sources, GCEA volunteers offered homeowners $150 towards a $200 energy efficiency assessment, and 35% of the cost of retrofits recommended in the assessment. Depending on the work being done, and amount of energy saved, the GCEA will also help homeowners locate additional incentives offered by Duke Energy, and federal tax credits.

"We do as much as we can to be that personal advisor, if you will, for the customer to ensure that their support is maximized and their project is as affordable as it can be, given all the potential resources out there," Holzhauser said.

Fifty eight home energy assessments were requested during the Covington canvas.

The GCEA will be attending community council meetings at Ritte's East on November 11, Levassor Park and West Latonia on November 15, and Peaselburg on November 22, to continue providing information to Kentucky homeowners about energy efficiency programs.

The Covington campaign was the GCEA's third canvas since it began community outreach work this summer. It is the group's first major outreach effort in Kentucky.

Writer: Henry Sweets
Photo of Andy Holzhauser by Scott Beseler

Camp Washington warehouse lofts go green

New green lofts in the warehouse district of Spring Grove are now open for business.

Conveniently located at the edge of downtown in a quiet industrial area,Tommy's Lofts, developed by Woody Jee, are environmentally friendly 'green' apartments.  Jee transformed the entire Harrison Terminal Building (1220 Spring Grove Ave.) using green practices and materials.

"I am really excited about doing this and being one of the first ones, but at the same time, it has been difficult," Jee said. Unfortunately, not long after the building was purchased and renovation began, the bottom fell out of the U.S. economy.  With help from the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, a grant was received from the Clean Ohio Assistance Fund to help defray many of the costs associated with a required environmental site assessment at the property.

Renovating and reusing the previously vacant warehouse was not the only 'green' part of Jee's development plan. Jee started with the foundation, keeping solid brick and concrete walls along with the warehouse's original large wood beams. He reused everything from the original building including the metal doors, frames, fiberglass insulation, and wood from the ceiling for the trim in each of the units. A water retention pond adjacent to the development recyles water for the apartment complex.

"I have a dumpster but I rarely call Rumpke because I constantly recycle and have very little waste," Jee said. He even takes the empty cardboard boxes from appliances to a cardboard recycling center, and takes any unused metal to a junkyard on Green Street. 

The 18-unit apartment complex contains Energy Star stainless steel appliances, high efficiency heating and air conditioning equipment, energy star rated windows, and fluorescent lighting. The building also has 1,000 feet of commercial space on the first floor.

Jee thinks the apartments will attract tenants in their mid-twenties and mid-thirties.

"Younger people are more green conscious and want to get away from suburb living," Jee noted. 

Five apartments are available beginning in November. Interested renters can contact Woody Jee at 513-328-2567.

Writer: Lisa Ensminger
Photography by Scott Beseler
and supplied interior photo

Forest Square first LEED project for seniors

The Forest Square Project, designed by Model Group, is the first LEED certified affordable housing for seniors in Cincinnati.

The project embraced the challenge of the Burnet Avenue Revitalization effort to update and restore the historic neighborhood of Avondale. The LEED certified-silver level apartments is a $4.3 million dollar project partnering Model with the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, Ohio Housing Finance Agency, the City of Cincinnati, Key Bank, LISC, Uptown Consortium, and Avondale Community Council. 

Model Group consciously made environmental friendly choices during and after construction. The 21-unit apartment complex's construction site contained one dumpster for garbage and one dumpster for recycling, leaving little for the landfill. For Model Group, sustainability is a business ethic that they embrace.

"We are really excited about Forest Square because it transformed a blighted corner in the community into quality housing for local seniors. Forest Square also contributes to neighborhood revitalization in Avondale by implementing a residential portion of the Burnet Avenue Urban Renewal Plan." Jen Walke, Model Group's Project Manager said.

Each unit includes energy efficient mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, high efficiency furnaces and air conditioning, and Energy Star appliances. The units are well insulated and the walls have been painted with low VOC paint.

"The LEED amenities will provide a higher indoor air quality which will benefit residents with respiratory illnesses." Walke added. 

The Forest Square project also include a community room with a fireplace and a kitchenette, lobby areas on each floor, two outdoor patios, and gardening beds for residents.

The apartments visibly stand out in the neighborhood with vibrant colors of orange and green, not only adding diversity to the area, but a visible sign of development and progress.

An open house will be held on November 12 at 10 a.m. Units range from $566-$625.

Writer: Lisa Ensminger

Strata-G to continue partnership with community arts organizations

Strata-G Communications last year offered more than $75,000 in financial and pro-bono communications services to arts organizations across Cincinnati. That work for organizations including the Clifton Cultural Arts Center and Summerfair, has earned the downtown Cincinnati firm a top spot in the Americans for the Arts' annual "Business Committee for the Arts (BCA) Ten" competition.

The designation is awarded to companies for their "exceptional support of the arts in the United States." Strata-G is the only Cincinnati-based companies on the list, and one of few mid-sized companies named in the award. Other winners include: BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, ConocoPhilips and Devon Energy Corporation.

"We strongly believe in the power of the arts to inspire our employees, not only to enhance their own creative abilities but to play a larger role in enhancing the cultural opportunities available throughout the region," explained managing partner Jeff Eberlein.

To celebrate the award, the 43-person company will soon launch a campaign offering a year of pro-bono services to two arts organizations in the Cincinnati area.

"Being nominated for and winning the BCA 10 award further reinforced in us the role that business can play in supporting area non-profits. We wanted to step up once again and show our gratitude to and support worthy arts organizations," Eberlein said.

Among Strata-G most long standing pro-bono arts relationships is with the Clifton Cultural Arts Center. Strata-G has worked with the non-profit since 2006 by building its initial branding and identity, including designing a logo and web site.  

CCAC was founded in 2004 around saving two historic building the Clifton School and McDonald Estate Carriage house after Cincinnati Public Schools announced it was closing the school. The CCAC turned those facilities, which sit on nine-acres, into an urban campus for arts education and exhibits. The organization contacted Strata-G for its expertise, which kicked off the relationship. Since then, Strata-G has continued provides ongoing Web site maintenance, e-mail campaigns, direct mail and PR.

CCAC executive director Ruth Dickey credits Strata-G with helping the organization stand out and attract supporters.

"As a budding organization in an already vibrant arts community, we needed to partner with a team of creative and insightful professional marketers to share our remarkable story with the community and promote how members of the Greater Cincinnati community can get involved. Strata-G continues to go above and beyond to truly help the CCAC become a reality," Dickey said.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Barbara Flick, Strata-G Communications
Photography by Scott Beseler
You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiawrites

"Scene" set to open in Backstage District

Downtown Cincinnati's "backstage district" will have a new nightlife offering this winter when Scene opens in the vacant space between the former Bootsy's (currently undergoing a renovation/renaming) and Righteous Room, across from the Aronoff Center for the Arts. Scene's grand opening is scheduled for December 3.

Patrick Dye, a 25-year-old former manager at Black Finn, is one of the club's owners. He said he wanted to conjure the feel of a "New York style lounge" with upscale trappings like bottle service and wine lockers, but still remain affordable.

"I'm keeping it very unique but I'm not going overboard," he said.

The bar will not charge a cover, the kitchen will offer $5 small plates and drinks will be priced beneath other high-end establishments downtown, he said.

A construction crew is working seven days a week to finish substantial improvements to the space in time for the grand opening. Brick walls have been exposed, and soon hardwood floors will be installed and custom-made furniture will arrive. The revamped space will have a DJ booth and the bar itself will have a unique design feature that "will blow people away," Dye said, but he said it would remain a surprise.

Dye got his start in the bar business at the age of eighteen as a promoter in Charlotte, N.C. and he said he was managing a bar before he turned 21. He worked in Charlotte for the parent company of BlackFinn, who moved him to Cincinnati three years ago for that bar's opening. Rather than move to another city to manage another bar for the group, he decided to try his hand at ownership of his own bar and add to Cincinnati's growing nightlife scene.

"They were going to transfer me to another city, but I decided to stay here and do it on my own," he said.

The bar will be a bit of a family affair. Dye's mother - a designer in Charlotte, NC - has designed the space and his uncle is his business partner. The two partners plan to open another bar called Scene in Indianapolis in 18 months, Dye said.

Writer: Henry Sweets
Photography by Henry Sweets

County launches sustainable planning workshop series

Sometimes, being "green" is about more than cutting energy consumption or increasing the amount of leftovers that hit the recycling bin. In fact, some of the most powerful aspects of the sustainable/environmentally-friendly movement are focused on another aspect entirely: the revitalization and renewal of existing resources, rather than the environmentally costly demolition and new construction that was once the norm.

This is a fact not lost on Hamilton County, as evidenced by the recently launched seminar series, "Sustainable Hamilton County: Reinventing our Communities." According to the Hamilton County Planning Partnership, the four-event series is designed to "provide factual data and leading research findings, encourage critical thinking, and promote discussion and collaborative action to achieve sustainable development in Hamilton County."

The first session of the series, "The Built Environment: Retrofitting Cities, Communities and Neighborhoods," took place Friday at the Anderson Township Center. Keynote and panel speakers provided a deep bench of expertise on sustainable development: from architects to designers, community planners to experts on aging in the community, the presenters covered many of the topics that arise as Hamilton County works to redefine itself as a sustainable, vibrant community.

Keynote speaker June Williamson discussed strategies for - and successful examples of - suburban communities that broke from the stagnant, high-consumption model of feeders to an urban area to become sustainable communities in their own rights. As a counterpoint, Model Group Vice President of Development and OTR Chamber of Commerce Vice President Bobby Maly discussed the revitalization taking place in that historic Cincinnati neighborhood.

According to Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission Senior Planner Catalina Landivar, the event and the three to follow are intended to bring together disparate parts of the community: academics and members of Cincinnati's educational community, business leaders and local residents. The seminars give these various stakeholders information and a common touchstone around which to discuss how to best move Hamilton County forward.

And with just the first event under its belt, the series can already claim success of sorts; Landivar says planners had to close registration, after a rush of participants booked all the available seats for the event.

The next session in the Sustainable Hamilton County series, "Trends that are Changing our Communities: Housing, Transportation, Health," takes place 8 a.m. to noon Friday, Nov. 19 at Techsolve, 6705 Steger Drive.

The third session, "Fiscal Sustainability and Quality of Life of Our Communities," takes place Friday, Jan. 21. A final follow-up session, "Sustainable Hamilton County: We Can Do It!" is scheduled for March 11, and will give participants the chance to discuss their thoughts about the sessions and suggest what the community needs to do to move forward with a sustainable revitalization plan.

For more information on the Sustainable Hamilton County series, contact Catalina Landivar, Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission Senior Planner, at (513) 946-4455 or catalina.landivar@hamilton-co.org.

Writer: Matt Cunningham
Photo of June Williamson, provided
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