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State housing credits pave way for $12.4M renovation of historic Anna Louise Inn

For 101 years, the Anna Louise Inn has provided safe, affordable housing for women in downtown Cincinnati.  In need of renovation work and various upgrades, Cincinnati Union Bethel and Over-the-Rhine Community Housing have successfully landed $10 million worth of housing credits to renovate the Inn.

"A project like this is a real boost to businesses and the economy because it will produce jobs," said project manager Mary Carol Melton.  "We're working now to secure the final funding through a variety of sources, but we're excited to now be able to improve and enhance the quality of life for women looking to find safe and affordable housing."

The tax credits come from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, and will be worth $1 million annually over the next ten years.  Project officials say that this tax credit will allow renovation work to begin on the historic structure in June 2011.

When the Charles Taft family originally built and donated the structure, their intent was to provide housing to the many women coming to downtown Cincinnati for work from rural areas.  And while times have changed, Melton says that the mission and need for such housing has not.

Part of the changing population includes changing needs at the historic Anna Louise Inn.  The $12.4 million renovation project will allow for bathrooms and kitchens to be added to 85 units.  The addition means expanded living areas for residents, and thus fewer total units.

"There will be a slight decrease in the number of units due to the upgrades, but our goal is to preserve the safe and affordable housing needed for women today," Melton explained.  "We're going to work with residents during the renovation to make this as least disruptive as possible, and we are currently looking at a phased renovation process to be able to do just that."

Project officials expect that even with any phased renovation approach, the project should be complete in around fall 2012.  The end result will be a modernized Anna Louise Inn  with a 152-person capacity and larger rooms that include private bathrooms and kitchens in a convenient location.

"The amenities of being in downtown Cincinnati are great.  Our residents benefit from great access to transportation, employment, and they also enjoy using Lytle Park located right outside.  It's really nice for our residents to be able to take advantage of all these amenties provided downtown."

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy

Gangster tour operators open OTR Civil War tour

At the corner of 12th and vine streets in Over-the-Rhine, a tall man in a black vest and top hat commands the attention of a few dozen suburban-looking Cincinnatians.

"We're no Antietam, Gettysburg or Shiloh, but I guarantee you that this place was a battleground," he says. "It was a battlefield for the hearts and minds of Cincinnatians…who had to sleep with one eye open for four years."

Mac Cooley was delivering the opening lines of "Cincinnati Civil War; Heroes, Halls and Holy Houses," a new walking tour exploring Civil War History in Over-the-Rhine. The tour will start every Saturday in September in front of Mica 12/v on Vine Street.  It is the third tour that Cooley, Jerry Gels and their friends and family operate in the Greater Cincinnati Area - and the second in Over-the-Rhine.

While the other tours - Newport Gangster Tours and Queen City Underground - cover salacious topics like prostitution and beer, Gels said he thinks the history in this tour is the most significant they've covered yet.

It doesn't get any bigger than people who follow the Civil War and want to hear Civil War stories, so our goal is to put Cincinnati on the map for that," Gels said.

The tour begins on Vine Street and heads to Washington Park beneath a monument for the 9th Ohio Volunteer Infantry - the Dutch Devils - an all German speaking group from Over-the-Rhine. It moves into Memorial Hall, and then over to the Emery Theatre which sits on the site of the Eagle Ironworks, where as many as 3,000 muskets a day were rifled for Union Troops. The tour ends at Old St. Mary's Church.

Though no battles were fought in Cincinnati, much of the city's history was shaped by the war, and it provided a number of characters - like William Lytle, Powhatan Beaty and Sister Mary Anthony O'Connell -whose legendary actions figure prominently into Civil War history.

Gels teaches Biology and Cooley teaches English at Hughes High School in Covington. Gels won a Next Generation Leadership Award (NGLA) for the work he does in the classroom and mission trips he leads to Jamaica. The business began when Gels and Cooley, then amateur history buffs, decided to hold a Gangster tour in Newport as a fundraiser for the mission trips. The tours were a hit, and the rest is history.

They are now investigating commercial spaces in Over-the-Rhine for a potential new home.

"We're interested in having a bricks and mortar place in Over-the-Rhine," Cooley said. "It's the largest historic district in America, people love heritage tourism and that's what we're good at."

Writer: Henry Sweets
Photography by Scott Beseler

Study hopes to guide casino's impact on surrounding neighborhoods

When a new casino opens at Broadway Commons in 2012, its presence will change the face of the surrounding neighborhood, and could influence the character of Cincinnati's entire downtown.

The exact nature of those changes remains to be seen, but a study announced last week by the community-based non-profit Bridging Broadway is designed to bring as much of the surrounding community into the planning process as possible.

"Our overall goal is to make sure that the casino development is a catalyst for improving the quality of life for downtown," Bridging Broadway's director and founder Stephen Samuels said. "It's about connecting people and places and developing a district. In doing that, we realized we'd have to be at the front of the research that was taking place."

Samuels said that his group is pooling outside resources to ensure a level of openness and inclusiveness that a cash-strapped city planning department could only hope to provide with a study. The first major step for the study will be one of three "community dialogue envisioning sessions," that will be held in late October, he said.

"People can walk the area and we'll ask them questions about what they see now and what they want to see in the future," he said.

Samuels said he hopes the new district, known as the Broadway Commons District, will become a 24-hour multi-use district where people can "live and work and play." The study could impact everything from the type of businesses that are encouraged on the surrounding streets to the way they are lit. Street performances, public art, and even a place for buskers to play could be included in the recommendations made to the city, Samuels said.

Samuels began working on the casino issue during a class project at the Niehoff Urban Studio, which led to the creation of Bridging Broadway. His professor in that class, Frank Russell, will be another principle on the study along with fellow UC professor Michaele Pride. Funding for the project will be provided by Bridging Broadway, UC's Community Design Center and the City of Cincinnati. Some UC students will be employed to research case studies of similar development projects in other cities.

Samuels said the study could set an example for major development projects in American downtowns, and he hopes it can help link together Cincinnati's growing districts that are now separated by poorly lit, un-inviting streetscapes.

"We really have the opportunity here to transform the dark spaces of downtown around the Broadway Commons site, so that they disappear, so that it becomes very fluid to walk from Main St. to Broadway commons or from Fountain Square to Broadway Commons or, for that matter, from Fountain Square to Vine," Samuels said. "Let's eliminate the darkness."

Writer: Henry Sweets
Photography by Scott Beseler

Gourmet hot dog restaurant, music venue opens on Short Vine

In his years touring around the world as a Hip Hop DJ, Brad "Mr. Dibbs" Forste would always grab a hot dog after the show.

"Literally all around the world, whether it was [the U.S], Japan, Australia, Germany - that was the one thing on tour that I clinched on, finding the hot dog," Forste said.

He eventually used that international experience to hone his own recipes for specialty hot dogs and, along with his wife and brother, opened Flop Johnson's last Tuesday in a vacant restaurant space above Daniel's Bar on Short Vine Street in Clifton.

Forste, wife Kristin Rose and brother Chris Alsip hope to make the space, which had been empty for years, into a restaurant and music venue where Emcee's, DJ's and bands can perform into the wee hours while patrons consume hot dog creations and drinks purchased from friend and collaborator Will Webb at Daniel's Bar downstairs. They hope it will be part of a re-emergence of the once vibrant scene on Short Vine where a cross section of Cincinnati's counter cultures would eat, drink and listen to live music, they said.

Last Saturday night DJ Raw Milk played early hip hop hits and funk obscurities while a steady crowd - including tattooed youth, UC athletes and a leopard-print clad woman in her sixties - ate hot dogs and drank soda, PBR and cocktails. Many were friends of the owners, but some just happened in after reading their sign on the street that read: "come look at our wieners."

Forste and company have designed sixteen specialty hot dogs, but initially will offer four or five at a time. All dogs are served with french fries or tater tots. Rose's homemade vegan chili, an optional addition free of charge, has sold out every night since they opened. Other toppings include pizza sauce, cole slaw, dill pickle spears, chopped onions, pepperoni and bacon. The beef dogs cost $4.50 and the Raw Dog, a vegan option, $5.00.

Flop Johnson's will be open Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 7 p.m. until 1:30 a.m., with the potential for lunch hours once UC is back in session. They will also hold official after parties for concerts at Bogart's, just a block away, and other venues in town.

Alsip, a former member of a local hardcore band, said the restaurant will be a melting pot of sub-cultures, with a spectrum of musical genres playing there and downstairs at Daniel's.

But it's not just about the music and diversity.

Alsip, who along with his brother is a freemason, pointed to a freemason tattoo on his forearm to make the point.

"Freemasonry is supposed to make you a better man, better people," he said. "We're trying to venture forward and make better hotdogs."

Writer: Henry Sweets
Photography by Scott Beseler

Cincinnati Development Fund wins $750k grant from Treasury Department

The Cincinnati Development Fund (CDF) was awarded a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Treasury Department's Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) grant program last week.

Officials with CDF say that the organization applied for $2 million, but received the maximum amount awarded to any one organization that received funding.

The money comes at an important time for the organization as it works to provide loan capital for real estate development projects that are currently under-served by traditional lenders.  To make projects more appealing, CDF injects loan capital to help diversify the investment, thus reducing a traditional lender's risk.

"This will provide much needed loan capital for our projects in an environment that has not been good," said Joseph Huber, Chief Operating Officer, Cincinnati Development Fund.  "This helps tremendously at providing the loan capital we need to support our loan funds."

Cincinnati Development Fund officials say that the money will not go to support operating costs for the non-profit, but instead will go completely into the organization's loan fund.

Presently, CDF is trying to build the next loan fund to $15 million with the help of grants, tax credits, and other partners.  So far CDF has raised close to $5 million of that total, but officials expect that gap to close quickly once commitments are reached with financial institutions.  The next three year loan pool will begin September 2010, and is expected to include a number of new financial institutions including Cheviot Savings Bank.

Huber notes that the money has not been earmarked for any particular project, but could go to support any number of projects occurring within the Cincinnati Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) which includes parts of southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky, and southeast Indiana.

"CDF has a great history, and there is a real challenge when it comes to quality affordable housing," said U.S. Representative Steve Driehaus (D-OH).  "There tends to be housing available, but it has often been neglected.  Organizations like CDF help to provide the needed quality affordable housing, and the gap financing they provide is really key to the process."

Recent projects benefited by the Cincinnati Development Fund include City West in the West End, Schoolhouse Lofts in Walnut Hills, and the Dandridge Studio Townhomes in Pendleton.

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy

3CDC to partner with city to save at-risk historic church in Over-the-Rhine

Those familiar with Over-the-Rhine know that the historic church located at 15th and Race Streets has seen better days.  Over the past two years the vacant church has been badly damaged by separate wind and lightening storms which have put the structure into a vulnerable situation.

The structure's roof is bowing such that it's severely at-risk for the upcoming winter and the snow it usually brings.  As a result, the City of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) have partnered to stabilize the structure in the coming weeks.

"Ideally we would like to save all of the buildings in Over-The-Rhine," said Christy Samad, Communications Assistant, 3CDC.  "Although the church is further north than our current developments we noticed it was deteriorating quickly and we had to go in and save it."

The partnership will include $300,000 from the City, and another $400-450,000 from 3CDC depending on final cost estimates.  Officials hope to start stabilization work in the coming weeks so that the structure is secure long before the threatening winter months approach.

The structure is located on the northern edge of $70 million worth of development currently taking place on or nearby this stretch of Race Street.  Those developments will eventually include 200 housing units, 63,000 square feet of commercial space, and 300 parking spaces which should all be completed by February 2011.  Along Race Street itself, 3CDC owns or controls a total of 33 buildings from Central Parkway to Liberty Street.

"I believe this is the third oldest church in Cincinnati, and its importance to the fabric of OTR can't be overstated," said Danny Klingler, Director, OTR ADOPT.  "It has a really massive presence at the corner of Race and 15th, and anchors a very highly intact stretch of historic buildings.  The building has a kind of noble presence that has to be experienced up close, and I am very relieved to hear it will be saved."

Once stabilized, the building will need an adaptive reuse plan in place before the development corporation proceeds on any redevelopment.  The challenge with this structure is the difficulty of reuse.  Consequently, 3CDC is asking the public to submit their ideas on how to reuse the 100-plus year-old church structure to Christy Samad at csamad@3cdc.org.

"We are trying to figure out what should be done with the structure, and we're also looking to find old pictures of the churches steeples before they were destroyed so that we can accurately restore them.  We really want to preserve its historic feel and maintain this important piece of OTR's historic architecture."

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy

First-ever Price Hill Cultural Heritage Fest to celebrate west side neighborhood

Price Hill is one of Cincinnati's largest neighborhoods, and one of the city's most diverse.  Originally settled by Italian, Greek, Irish, and German immigrants, Price Hill is now seeing an influx of Guatemalan, African-Americans, and Hispanic populations.  To celebrate that rich history and strong diversity, neighborhood leaders thought a festival was in order.

For the first time ever, the west side will celebrate the Price Hill Cultural Heritage Festival.  The Festival will take place on Saturday, August 28 from noon to 6pm at historic St. Lawrence Corner.  Festival organizers say that the event will include 21 artists from all over the city, six live music performances, food and drink, and a number of events meant to celebrate their diversity.

"As we're looking at our neighborhood we are realizing its strong history and the new people moving in," said Kara Ray from Price Hill Will.

The diversity will be highlighted through the artists displaying their work on photography, oil paintings, digital art, jewelery, watercolor, mixed media, and work from the Wells Art Group.  The music will include performances of Bluegrass to celebrate the neighborhood's Appalachian population, as well as Latin Jazz, Celtic, and hip-hop featuring K-Drama.  The festival will also include 30-minute Haitian dance lessons for $10 at 1:30pm and 2:30pm, and the new Refuge Coffee Bar will be serving up their coffee specialties.

According to Ray, the formation of the East Price Hill Business Association in 2009, and the Arts Community Action Team of Price Hill Will helped to finally make the festival a reality.  She says that the festival's sponsors, an anonymous donor, and proceeds from the festival's beer and wine tastings will help fund next year's festival.

The festival will take place on St. Lawrence, Enright, Warsaw, and Olive streets (map), and utilize the Kroger parking lot nearby.

"We initially thought they would be more than big enough for our needs, but we got an overwhelming response from artists from all over the city who wanted to participate," Ray said.

The Price Hill Cultural Heritage Festival is free and open to the public.  Event organizers encourage those who attend to visit the community booth inside the Kroger parking lot to get all the information on events and offerings at the festival.

"We're going to show that Price Hill is an integrated, livable community, and the festival will allow people to come together for one day, at one event to embrace each others cultures."

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy

Al-Amir Cafe opens in downtown Cincinnati's 8th Street Design District

Downtown Cincinnati's 8th Street Design District has a relatively new food option.  Al-Amir Cafe is now open inside the small space previously occupied by the 8th Street Deli Cafe, and is serving up authentic Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine.

Located at 326 E. 8th Street, Al-Amir offers everything from sharwarma, kabobs, gryos, and falafels to burgers, chicken, fish, and salads.  Appetizers include a similarly diverse collection of items like baba ghanoush, foule, grape leaves, and onion rings, fries, breaded mushrooms and chicken tenders.

The restaurant is located within an 85-year-old structure immediately east of the popular Blue Wisp Jazz Club, and the 1,460 square-foot restaurant space includes both indoor and outdoor seating.

What has most downtown residents happy is the restaurant's hours of operation and affordable prices.  Al-Amir is currently open Monday through Friday from 10:30am to 10pm; Saturdays from 10:30am to 11pm; and Sundays from 12pm to 7pm.

Food prices range from $4 for an appetizer, $5-8 for a kabob, and $12-19 for certain entree dishes.  Those looking for a quick bite over lunch can grab a meal for $5 to $20 that includes the entree, fries and a drink.

Al-Amir currently offers both catering and carryout.  Orders can be placed by calling (513) 721-9299.

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy

Brighton's Brush Factory opens new retail operation in Oakley

In Cincinnati's historic Brighton arts district, a West End haven for young artists and designers, Rosie Kovacs and Hayes Shanesy make and sell their designs in an old brush and janitorial supply factory. They call the studio The Brush Factory.

In their showroom they display spice-dyed shirts, handmade dresses and repurposed vintage jackets alongside wooden jewelry, accessories and home furnishings. Resting on shelves and racks that were crafted in a bygone era, and surrounded by the smell of antique wood, the goods seem permeated by the peculiar magic of that factory's well-preserved history. But despite the fine aesthetic, the location has a major drawback - a lack of customers walking past.

"In Brighton, we weren't getting much traffic at all," Kovacs said. "So we had to make a move."
The two young designers will open a retail store at 3227 Madison Road in Oakley on September 3 with an opening reception from 7 to 10 p.m. The Brighton location will become a design and production space, open to the public only for special events.

The store in Oakley will focus on women's fashion and wooden home furnishings, eventually carrying clothing labels from New York and San Francisco but opening with the Brush Factory and Undone/Re-done labels that Kovacs designs and fabricates in her studio. The lines reflect Kovacs' fascination with the chemistry of natural dyes, and the simple cuts inspired by Japanese pattern books, she said.

"Handmade doesn't have to be kitschy and ugly, it's supposed to be simple and elegant with garments that have a real story behind them, that are affordable," she said. "I'm always looking for something that doesn't look like anything else, and by hand-dying something you get a color that you won't find in any store."

Kovacs decided shortly after graduating from UC's DAAP program in 2009 to produce her own designs, which is uncommon for a young designer. She worked as a tailor at Nordstrom's to fund the idea and gain the experience necessary to open the Brush Factory in December, 2009.

"I don't have any money so the only way it was going to get done was if I did it myself," Kovacs said. "And I think it makes more sense, as a whole, to have the capabilities and facilities to make clothes from scratch in one place, instead of shipping everything around."

The move to Oakley will bring her clothes to an established shopping district that has plenty of room to grow, but doesn't yet have a personality that would cast any pre-conceived notions on her store, she said. The neighborhood's main square is currently undergoing a major renovation.

"Oakley doesn't really have a look or a vibe or a character about it yet," she said. "But I feel like something is starting there."

Writer: Henry Sweets
Photography by Scott Beseler

Licking River Greenway wins $80,000 grant

A vision to create an urban greenway from the mouth of the Licking River to the I-275 loop in Northern Kentucky took a large step forward earlier this month when officials learned that they had won an $80,000 Recreational Trails Program Grant from the Kentucky Department for Local Government.

Thanks to the grant, construction is expected to begin on the $267,000 first phase of the project, which includes paved trails atop the river's levee walls, in late 2011.  The grant was awarded to the City of Covington which was the first of the member cities to officially adopt the Licking River Greenway Master Plan in 2008.

"With the current Licking River Greenway progress, Covington is ecstatic to hear the news about the Recreational Trails Program Grant," said Natalie Gardner, Covington Recreation Director.  "This phase one portion of the trail will begin at Clayton-Meyer Park on Thomas Street and travel south to Levassor Avenue.  First steps will be to properly engineer the trails, as well as gain the proper permits needed for a levee top trail."

Developed through Vision 2015, the master plan calls for a continuous green corridor through communities like Newport, Covington, Wilder, and Taylor Mill.  Once fully developed, the plan will stabilize riverbanks, remove invasive species and restore native wildlife, and create a new multi-level system of nature, paved, and water trails.

Officials supporting the five-mile corridor plan say that it will improve public safety, increase property values, and connect neighborhoods and businesses along the corridor.

The $80,000 matching grant adds to the $20,000 grant that the Greater Cincinnati Foundation awarded in spring 2010 to develop a Habitat Restoration Work Plan that will help with the removal of invasive species and make room for new native plants this fall.

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy

Fresh food delivery options becoming increasingly popular among urban residents

As more residents repopulate Cincinnati's urban core, the demand for fresh food grows. However, fresh food options can often be hard to come by as many urban neighborhoods have no grocery store or are severely under-served.

Residents of Cincinnati's greater downtown area have the benefit of being located within a relatively short distance of Findlay Market which is open year-round.  However, some patrons note that the hours are not convenient, nor the product offerings diverse enough for Findlay Market to fully replace the need for a full service grocery.  As a result, many residents are looking to a new business model that delivers fresh food options directly to the customer's home.

"They [food delivery options] provide a convenience factor that I can't get yet from places like Findlay by delivering a variety of groceries to my door," said Kate Cook.  "They offer a bit more selection produce-wise, especially during the winter months.  But one of the biggest pluses is the variety of groceries they carry.  I can get yogurt, milk, cheeses, eggs, breads, and more from Farm Fresh Delivery in one quick order."

Cook went on to say that merchants like Daisy Mae's at Findlay Market are doing a good job at leveling the playing field by offering delivery and call-ahead ordering options, but that many merchants are not doing the same thing.  Additionally, Cook states that the unpredictability of certain products like eggs or milk, while part of a farmers market's charm, also make it slightly less convenient on those busy weeks where one might not have the time to put towards a search. The convenience of going to a large chain, or a new delivery service, are what now seem to be troubling local farmers markets as urban dwellers are increasingly looking for quick and easy access to healthy food.

At the same time, local farmers have the potential to benefit from both services if they appropriately diversify their sales.  Carriage House Farm, which sells to local farmers markets, restaurants and Farm Fresh Delivery is one example.  And as long as food delivery services are transparent about where they are getting their products, shoppers like Cook are satisfied.

"I personally would love it if Findlay could serve all of my shopping needs, but the bottom line is that I like to use Farm Fresh and Findlay together for my grocery needs," Cook said.  "I don't see Farm Fresh as taking away from farmers markets.  I see it as taking away from big grocery retailers."

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy

Basil's Caribe Carryout offering up authentic Caribbean cuisine on Cincinnati's west side

Cincinnati's west side is known for its neighborhood-grown food icons like Price Hill Chili, LaRosa's, Sebastian's, and Skyline Chili.  It's not often that the west side is thought of as a place to find authentic Caribbean cuisine, but Basil's Caribe Carryout changed that earlier this year when it opened in West Price Hill near St. Teresa.

"I have lived at the end of the street and have had the idea for the restaurant for nearly 20 years," said Caribe Carryout owner Basil Dalian.  "Over this time I really wanted to start a fast-food Caribbean place because I had not seen anything like that outside of somewhere like Miami."

Located at 1221 Rulison Avenue, Caribe Carryout is located in a 900 square-foot space - Dalian has a five-year lease.  He says that remodeling the space took some time, but the work has been well worth it due to the great response he has received. 

"So far we have had a lot of neighborhood residents stopping in, and we have received a surprisingly supportive community in this area."

The menu is intentionally small so that customers can try authentic Caribbean cuisine like beef, pork, or vegetarian empanadas; four kinds of stews including one vegetarian option; potato cakes; tostones; Caribbean drinks; flan; and rice pudding.  Prices range from $2 for a stew; $2.25 for an empanada; or $3.50 for a combo that includes a stew with rice, empanada, and a choice of potato cake or tostones.

"If you've been to the Caribbean you'll know our food, if you haven't, then it will prepare you for a trip there one day," Dalian stated.

Basil's Caribe Carryout is currently open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1pm to 8pm, and Fridays and Saturdays from 12pm to 9pm.  Dalian says that hours may be expanded in the future, and that the menu may grow, but the best way to stay connected for now is to come in and visit or become a fan on Facebook.  The restaurant can be reached by calling (513) 236-0260.

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy

Covington settling in with first-ever Community Development Director

Jackson Kinney officially got started as the Director of Covington's newly created Community Development Department.  With academic roots in Ohio and professional experience from the Midwest and West Coast, Kinney was seen as a particularly ideal candidate for the job overseeing 12 to 15 full- and part-time staffers.

"Mr. Kinney has a strong and diverse background in community development working for large municipalities. The knowledge, experience, and planning background that he brings to this position will propel Covington's economic and housing development efforts to new heights." stated Larry Klein, Covington City Manager.

Kinney has a Journalism degree from Ohio University, and a Masters of Urban Planning from the University of Akron. He served as the Director of Community Development in Oshkosh, WI for close to 26 years, and during that time oversaw planning, economic development, housing, and downtown revitalization efforts for the city's nearly 63,000 residents. He has also served in a number of planning positions throughout several communities in the Midwest and California prior to his service in Oshkosh, WI.

Kinney started his new role in Covington on Monday, July 19th and has been reviewing what has already been accomplished in terms of comprehensive and economic development planning.  He hopes to use that knowledge to work with stakeholders and develop a comprehensive program that wraps all of the existing work into one clear approach.

"There is lots of energy and we just need to pull it together to create a unifying plan and strategy for the downtown area,"  said Kinney.  "The goal is to create a vibrant area that has more jobs and more housing opportunities."

Kinney hopes to strengthen public-private partnerships that can enhance six key areas including community planning, land use regulations, economic development, housing, historic preservation, and public infrastructure programming.

"The real secret to success is creating strong framework to support public-private partnerships," Kinney stated.  "I really love this opportunity in Covington because of all this potential that just needs to be tapped.  There is a great riverfront to work with, historic architecture, and very distinctive neighborhoods."

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy

12th Street mural will connect the dots in OTR

The asphalt of Twelfth Street in Over-the-Rhine will become a canvas for one of the world's largest paint-by-number projects this fall. Tonight the artists who will design the work are asking residents what that mural should be about.

At a meeting in the lecture hall at the Art Academy, DAAP professor Michaele Pride will moderate a discussion between local residents and the five artists charged with designing the 12th Street painting. On September 26, the artists will draw a chalk outline on the street and oversee 500 volunteer painters during a one-day "paint party" on 12th Street from Main to Central Parkway.

Organizers at the Fine Arts Fund (FAF) hope the "art mob" that paints the mural will set a world record for a paint-by-number event, but they also hope they'll create a finished product that will become an attraction for the neighborhood, FAF vice president for the Arts and Culture partnership Margy Waller said.

The painting could also become a physical art-bond between the Main St. and Vine St. districts of Over-the-Rhine, and codify the neighborhood's status as Cincinnati's unofficial arts district with art schools, theatres, galleries and arts organizations lining either side of the street.

The mural will have five or six "design bursts," or concentrated areas of color, as it stretches along seven city blocks. Waller said that street paintings typically last 6 months to 2 years, depending on the amount of street traffic, but added that streetcar construction could remove the mural before it has a chance to fade.

The project comes with its share of hurdles; the street must be closed, 500 different creative personalities must be harmonized by 5 different lead artists and the design must address the topics du jour on local residents' minds while having curb appeal to make it an asset to the district.

The five artists charged with the task of designing and executing the mural have a breadth of style and backgrounds, and years of experience creating public art in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

Matt Dayler and Danny Babcock have been painting the south side of the Know Theatre for the last three years of the Fringe Festival, and recently received a flurry of press coverage for a mural of T.O., Ochocinco and Chris Henry on the side of All About Colors Autobody at the corner of Ravine and Central Parkway.

Pam Kravetz, Carla Lamb, and Karen Saunders worked on the Fine Arts Fund bus murals last year, and designed the Artworks "art rack" bicycle rack in front of the downtown Coffee Emporium together.

Volunteers who wish to join the "art mob" can sign up here and those who would like to share their ideas with the artists can do so between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Art Academy, 1212 Jackson Street.

Writer: Henry Sweets
Photography by Scott Beseler

New hybrid vehicles for Cincinnati Parks to cut costs, benefit environment

The Cincinnati Park Board is adding four hybrid vehicles to its fleet thanks to a $122,000 grant from Clean Fuels Ohio.  The new vehicles were obtained in partnership with the City of Cincinnati Department of Public Services, Fleet Management Division.

According to city officials, the new Toyota Prius hybrid cars are replacing four sport utility vehicles that were at the end of their serviceable life cycle.

"We evaluated the benefits of the SUV versus their operational cost, and found that the winter benefits could not justify the much higher costs," explained Gerald Checco, Superintendent, Cincinnati Park Board.  "The upkeep and gas costs associated with the sport utility vehicles could not be justified by the five to ten days of snow conditions annually."

Beyond the $3,000 of annual cost savings, the new hybrid vehicles are expected to make a considerable environmental improvement over the previous vehicles.  City officials estimate that a Toyota Prius emits an average of 3.4 tons-equivalent of CO2 annually, compared to 7.5 tons emitted by the previous sport utility vehicles.  The environmental benefit, officials say, is the clean air equivalent to planting a six-acre forest.

"Our research found the Prius is especially liked because of its stellar fuel economy, relatively uncompromised driving and acceleration characteristics and reasonable price," said Checco who went on to say that the vehicles will be used by administrative staff.

The new vehicles for the Cincinnati Park Board join a growing hybrid fleet for the City of Cincinnati.  Most recently, the City added six hybrid Toyota Highlanders to the Police Department's fleet, and another four hybrid vehicles for its Public Services division.  City officials are also now researching the use of hybrid aerial boom trucks.

Park Board officials state that eight trucks powered by propane fuel will be added later this year to further incorporate "green" initiatives outlined in Mayor Mallory's Green Cincinnati Plan.  To date, the Cincinnati Park Board has installed solar-powered trash cans, rain gardens, geothermal units, and 28 other "green" park projects.

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy
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