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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

Shoe boutique opens on Main Street in downtown Cincinnati

L&L Creative Shoe Boutique has joined the downtown Cincinnati retail scene with a store at 639 Main Street.  The new shoe boutique fills the 465 square-foot space left behind when The Little Mahatma relocated to Over-the-Rhine's Gateway Quarter in 2008.

Store owner Leslie Williams says that she first discovered the available store front while walking around downtown, but then approached Downtown Cincinnati Inc. for more information on the space.  Williams is working with friend and colleague Latrice Mason - the owners' first names give the store its name (Leslie & Latrice).  The two friends have worked together in Christ Hospital's emergency room, and decided that they wanted to invest in the shoe boutique.

"I used to run Deja Shoe on Calhoun Street, which prior to that was located on Race Street downtown," explained Williams.  "When we were on Race Street we did good business because of the wide variety of people you find downtown including business professionals, students and others."

Inside customers will be treated to a comfortable atmosphere - Williams describes it as feeling more like trying on shoes in your living room than in a typical shoe store.  L&L Shoe Boutique has chairs and couches where customers can try on a variety of styles of women's shoes ranging from $19.99 to $39.99.

"We felt that right now there isn't a place to get nice shoes at a reasonable price downtown," Williams said.

The store has only been open since August 2, 2010, but Williams says that once they get fully settled in that they will begin selling other fashion accessories and purses.  She also says that customers will soon be able to pre-order their products from a catalog.

Williams says they have signed a one-year lease on the store front, with a three-year lease option.  L&L Creative Shoe Boutique (map) is currently open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 7pm, and Sunday from 1pm to 5pm.  After the first few weeks they expect to expand Friday and Saturday hours until 10pm.  For more information, contact Leslie Williams at (513) 379-1232.

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

Cincinnati preservationist questions VBML program, suggests changes

Following a series of forums and community meetings, members of the Knox Hill Neighborhood Association located in North Fairmount have said that the city's Vacant Building Maintenance License (VBML) hurts neighborhood development.  Following increased fees passed in 2006, the VBML program has come under scrutiny from the very community in which it was meant to assist.

The VBML program was originally created to deal with troublesome vacant buildings that pose public health and safety concerns.  According to city officials, the program requires building owners to bring properties into a general state of upkeep that preserves the integrity of the building, keeps it structurally sound for police and fire officials, and keep properties from sliding into serious states of blight.  However, some neighbors believe that the program needs to be reexamined.

"Essentially the VBML is no longer an effective tool. Given the foreclosure crisis and difficult economy, the market has changed," said Paul Wilham, President, Knox Hill Neighborhood Association.  "Obviously the City Vacant Building Task Force wants to keep the VBML as it generates limited revenue and they are reluctant to do the hard work of actual enforcement of our building codes as other cities do."

Wilham, and the Knox Hill Neighborhood Association, believe that the VBML should be eliminated entirely and replaced by specific repair orders made by city inspectors.

Edward Cunningham, Division Manager of Property Maintenance Code Enforcement for the City's Community Development Department, says that the license fees are used to offset the high costs of monitoring these at-risk properties, and that many of the fees can be refunded for those with rehabilitation plans in place.

"We try to inspect the properties every 30 days, and it costs a lot of money to deal with these structures," explained Cunningham.  "This program is about preserving properties and getting them used once again.  We're just trying to keep the buildings from deteriorating further."

Under the program, building owners are required to pay an annual VBML fee until the property is brought up to code.  The fee starts at $900 for the first year, and doubles each following year with a maximum of $3,500 annually at year five.  According to Cunningham, the property owner gets a full refund for the current year in which the property is finally brought into code, and since 2008, owners are able to have fees suspended for the first two years with an appropriate rehabilitation plan in place.

"The program is not a silver bullet, but we've got to have a balance," Cunningham said.  "Vice Mayor Qualls is working with a task force that is looking at this program, and others, to determine how we can best preserve our historic building stock."

In the mean time, Wilham is leading a petition drive, calling for the abolition of the VBML program, that will eventually be submitted to Cincinnati City Council.

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

Reformed Cincinnati parking policy increasing rates while upgrading system

Last week, the City of Cincinnati made significant changes to its parking policy that includes increased rates all across the city.  In most areas the rate is doubling in an effort to upgrade the city's parking infrastructure, while also becoming more cost competitive with private rates.

The changes come following analysis of a 2009 parking report completed by Walker Parking Consultants.  The report outlined that Cincinnati's off-street parking facilities, and on-street meters, were priced "well below market rate."  The report will help the City in planning for the following:
  • Increase parking needs as the city continues economic development efforts
  • Address predicted shortage of the city budget's parking fund
  • Provide for increased efficiency in the parking system's administration
The rate increases will make on-street meters in downtown Cincinnati $2 per hour, while city-owned parking garages will also see varying increases.  In six neighborhood business districts, on-street meters will double from 25 cents an hour, to 50 cents an hour.

Even with these increases, more may be on the horizon as the 2009 Walker Parking report called for the city to price its parking spaces within 5 percent of private market rates.  The basis for this recommendation is two-fold as studies indicate that often times public parking spaces are priced artificially low at the detriment of nearby businesses and the immediate environment.

Donald Shoup, Professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, has studied this subject matter extensively, and found that higher parking rates actually benefit local businesses by creating higher turnover.  At the same time, the higher rates, Shoup contends, deter drivers from circling blocks in search of that cheap parking space.  This, in turn, reduces direct emissions and reduces congestion on local roads.

City officials report that the increased meter rates are the first increases in more than ten years, and places Cincinnati within the lower range of of comparable cities like Louisville, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Cleveland.

The increased rates will reportedly help cover maintenance costs associated with parking facilities, and support upgraded on-street parking equipment that will include new solar-powered pay/display stations like those currently found on Court Street and Second Street in downtown Cincinnati.  City officials say that the new pay/display stations will make parking services more efficient, while also reducing maintenance costs long-term.

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

$3.1M Dana Avenue transformation through Evanston underway

Dana Avenue through Evanston is in the midst of a transformation that includes streetscaping and on- and off-ramp improvements at the Interstate-71 interchange. Ramp improvements are currently underway and are expected to be complete this month, while the streetscaping projects are expected to begin this fall.

The Dana Avenue improvements have been made possible through more than $1.7 million in contributions from Neyer Properties, who developed Keystone Parke, and a $1.4 million Ohio Job Ready Sites (JRS) grant. The JRS grant was awarded to the City of Cincinnati because of the grant's ability to compliment Keystone Parke and an emerging commercial development node.

"Positive attributes are that it [Keystone Parke] leverages a small amount of state funds to create a smart office complex of over 460,000 square feet," said Sheena Metzger, administrator for the Ohio JRS program. "The project has excellent visibility from the interstate, and all of the buildings on site are going to be LEED-certified at least to the Silver level."

Trend Construction is expected to complete Dana Avenue's streetscaping projects by spring 2011. Improvements will include new sidewalks, crosswalk lights, and street trees in an attempt to make the roadway more pedestrian-friendly. A middle turn lane will also be added along Dana Avenue (map) where needed, with a landscaped boulevard design included where turn lanes are deemed unnecessary.

"Keystone pushed the idea forward, but these improvements were really needed by the whole community," explained Jeff Chamot, Senior Development Project Manager, Neyer Properties." He adds, "The light poles are not the only thing about this project that is green. Like the light poles, all signage is lit with LED and fluorescent bulbs, landscaping is native and drought-tolerant, and low-flow drip irrigation in the planting beds will be tied into a moisture sensor to ensure unnecessary water usage is minimized."

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Rendering Provided
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy

Ground broken on new $3.8M children's home in Northern Kentucky

On Wednesday, July 28 ground was broken on a $3.8 million expansion to the Diocesan Catholic Children's Home (DCCH) in Ft. Mitchell.  Officials say that the new facility will allow for the children's home to offer expanded programs and services for those that live there.

The DCCH is a treatment center for children between the ages of 6 to 14 that have severe to moderate emotional and/or behavioral problems.  Located on an 83-acre campus just off Interstate-75 in Northern Kentucky, the children's home dates back to the mid-1800s when Kenton County leaders formed the St. John's Orphan Society.

As the organization moves forward with the next phase of its operations, leaders are thankful for the $3.2 million that has been raised thus far to get the project to this stage.

"Guided by the dedicated and passionate service of our board, leadership team and executive committee, we have raised more than $3 million during the most difficult economic downturn since the Depression," said Sister Jean Marie Hoffman, DCCH executive director.  "With more than 83 percent of our goal reached and with the blessings of our many donors, we have entered the construction phase of this long-range endeavor."

The new facility (map) will reportedly expand the DCCH school, meet growing residential needs, create a new treatment center, and include an indoor therapeutic recreational facility.  While much funding progress has been made thus far, officials note that the final $600,000 needed to complete the vision will be raised through the organization's public fund raising phase.

The added room and facilities could not come at a better time as the facility operates at virtual capacity with an average 97 percent occupancy rate.

According to the DCCH, more than $35,000 has been raised as part of the public fund raising phase already.  The $3.8 million expansion is expected to be complete by summer 2011.

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

Officials meet to discuss importance of Brent Spence Bridge project

U.S. Congressman Steve Driehaus (D-OH) and James L. Oberstar (D-MN) were in Cincinnati on Monday, August 2 to discuss the Brent Spence Bridge replacement and rehabilitation project.  The congressmen met with local officials on the 25th floor of the Enquirer Building in downtown Cincinnati overlooking the river span.

Driehaus and Oberstar were joined by Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, City Manager Milton Dohoney, Ohio Department of Transportation director Jolene Molitoris, and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls who also serves as chair of the Livable Communities Committee and Major Transportation & Infrastructure Projects Sub-Committee.  They gathered to discuss the project's economic and transportation impacts on the region.

Completed in 1964, the Brent Spence Bridge is currently exceeding its designed capacity and presents a variety of safety concerns that range from the bridge's lack of emergency break down lanes for motorists, to poor signage partially obstructed by the bridge's support structure.

In March 2010, Brian Cunningham from OKI Regional Council of Governments told Soapbox that the Brent Spence Bridge project is the metropolitan planning organization's number one priority because of the safety concerns and the major transportation choke point it presently causes.

"OKI has estimated that there is a crash along this 8-mile stretch once every three days, and when a crash occurs on that bridge it basically shuts down two interstates," Cunningham detailed.

The Ohio River crossing also represents a major economic linchpin for the region, and nation.  It is presently estimated that $400 billion worth of commodities travel across the bridge every year; a number expected to more than double by 2030 to $815 billion.

Cunningham states that local officials have been very supportive of the project thus far, but that significant amounts of money are still needed to make the $2-3 billion project a reality.  Local officials are hoping that a large portion of that money can come from the federal government with the help of representatives like Congressman Oberstar who serves as chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

According to Oberstar, the present federal transportation bill calls for significant increases for both Ohio and Kentucky's transportation projects.  Due to a plan to jointly fund the project, Ohio and Kentucky's resource boost would mean a tangible boost for the project itself.

The Brent Spence Bridge replacement designs have also been narrowed to three final design options, and officials hope that if the necessary funding is secured that construction can begin on the new span by 2015.

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

Thousands will raise money for neighborhood organizations at 4th annual Downtown Dash

The city's largest block party will take place this Friday, August 6 in downtown Cincinnati.  The fourth annual Downtown Dash & Block Party is expected to attract thousands for the 5k run and post-race festivities.

The now annual summer party was started in 2007 to create both a fun event and a way to raise money for neighborhood community service organizations like the Freestore Foodbank, Downtown Residents Council, Drop Inn Center, Crossroad Health Center, and Kicks for Kids.  Last year's event raised $500 for each of the six charities included.  This year event organizers hope to grow that amount as they raise the profile of the event.

"Our major goal is to host a fun party and a great race in downtown Cincinnati, but in the end we are looking to promote local organizations, businesses and the downtown community in general," said Alex Ewing. 

Not to be confused with a typical fundraiser, organizers emphasize that the Downtown Dash & Block Party is a "for-purpose" event.

"Our goal is to bring people downtown, raise awareness of the great things going on downtown, and give back to the organizations that are working to support the downtown community," Ewing explained.

All of the money raised by this year's event will once again be donated to local community service organizations, and the party will have a distinctly local flavor.

Christian Moerlein will be providing beer, LaRosa's will be serving pizza, Avril-Bleh & Sons will be hosting a $15 rib dinner, live music will be provided by The Websters, and additional food and drink will be provided by other local establishments.  The annual cornhole tournament is also expected to add to the local vibe.

Those interested in participating in the 5k Run can register online.  Run organizers say that the top 1,000 finishers will receive a custom Downtown Dash medal, with the top three men and women finishers receiving awards.

The 2010 Downtown Dash & Block Party will take place adjacent to St. Xavier Church (map) located in the northeast portion of downtown Cincinnati.  Cash automobile parking and free bicycle parking will be available nearby, and the event can be reached by Metro bus service (plan your trip).

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by John Klare
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy

Losantiville Kunstwerkhaus does product design and fabrication in OTR

They were going to open a bike shop on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, but when the realities of bookkeeping, tune-ups, order forms and merchandise sunk in, they opened Losantiville Kunstwerkhaus instead.

The business is a collective studio where five industrial designers and two interns design, fabricate and sell a variety of products.  A gallery in the front of the space holds chairs cut from reclaimed cardboard and a semi-enclosed recumbent trike. Vintage furniture and bicycles, an antique engine lathe and other tools pepper the production space in back where the walls are covered with drawings of potential new products.

The shop loosely mimics those found in Over-the-Rhine in the 19th century, when craftsmen produced and sold products out of buildings called Kunstwerkhauses. Today, old ways of producing locally continue to catch on around the country, and the do-it-yourself concept is back en vogue.

One of the business' founders, John Burnham Dixon, brought the idea back from New York where he saw independent designers banding together to split high rents. In other cities with top industrial design programs, he said, it's common for designers to support themselves with jobs in unrelated fields after graduation so they can pursue their goals of designing and/or producing their own products. In Cincinnati, he said, it seems most of his fellow University of Cincinnati Design Art Architecture and Planning (DAAP) industrial design graduates either go straight into jobs with a few major corporations here, or move away to find work.

Dixon works in a machine shop during the day and designs furniture in the evenings. He also makes and sells wooden bike handlebars and leather coffee cup holders. He and business partners David Parrot, Noel Gauthier, Matt Anthony and Chris Heckman all hold or are pursuing industrial design degrees - all but one from DAAP.

Losantiville does not provide a primary source of income for him or the others, but it allows them to pursue their interests, goals and dreams without breaking their banks. It also allows them to cross-promote one-another. A sixth member is joining them next month, and there is room for others.

Some proponents of development on Main Street might consider Losantiville to be in a "hobby business" stage, since it doesn't have regular storefront hours or, as of yet, produce enough salable products to support those hours. But Losantiville presents a model that could catch on in Over-the-Rhine, where inexpensive rents can land a collective of creatives a commercial storefront at an affordable price.

The collective is currently looking for larger spaces in Over-the-Rhine where one-ton presses, lathes or mills could help bring their fabrication to the next level - and maybe let at least one of them quit their day jobs.

Writer: Henry Sweets

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