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Walnut Hills / E. Walnut Hills : Development News

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Cincinnati's first minority-owned brewery coming to Walnut Hills in 2018


Beer is big in Cincinnati — it’s not exactly news. As breweries spring up around the Tristate, each one has to work hard to differentiate itself from a crowded craft beer market.

Recently announced Esoteric Brewing Company has several tactics for setting itself apart from others, starting with the fact that it will be the first minority-owned brewery in the city. Founder and CEO Brian Jackson honed his skills at MadTree before deciding to set off on his own; he's also a MORTAR grad.

“'Esoteric' means 'sophistication,'” says Jackson. “We’re trying to elevate the palates of customers and the entire experience of people coming to breweries in Cincinnati.”

He plans to offer a diverse selection of brews, which will include local favorites like traditional American IPAs and stouts, as well as more complex beers like his award-winning Belgian quadruple, Nirvana.

Jackson picked a location that matches that sense of style and sophistication: the historic Paramount building in Walnut Hills, which was once known as Cincinnati's “second downtown.”

The beautiful Art Deco-style building from 1910 has sat empty for a decade, but was purchased last year by the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, and is currently undergoing renovations. Partnering with several community organizations, Esoteric plans to use the roaring '20s vibe of the space to create a modern speakeasy.

“It’ll have the beautiful, rustic feel of a speakeasy with partitions to create little pockets of intimate conversation,” Jackson explains.

Esoteric is not only committed to improving and updating the Paramount, but the community of Walnut Hills at large. Jackson and his marketing guru, Marvin Abrinica, are both minorities who appreciate the challenges of reviving a struggling neighborhood.

“Walnut Hills is such a metaphor for what’s going on in Cincinnati,” says Abrinica. “We chose a lotus as our logo because it’s a beautiful thing that grows from dark places.”

Adds Jackson: “It’s a complex problem. But our partners are committed to revitalization without kicking people out [of the neighborhood.”]

In fact, Esoteric’s business model is banking, literally, on community investment. The brewery plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign this winter that will offer equity in Esoteric. “We are a minority-owned business funded by the people for the people,” Abrinica says.

Esoteric is projected to open next winter. Abrinica says the best way to follow their progress is via Esoteric's website, Facebook or Instagram (@esotericbrewing).
 


Sixteen projects receive NOFA money from the City


Thanks to the City of Cincinnati's Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) program, 12 current and future local neighborhood projects will become the subject of funded development. 

NOFA allows developers, individuals, for-profit and nonprofit organizations to apply for city funds, which then allows them to create opportunities for homeownership and rental properties that have positive and lasting impacts.

This year’s NOFA funding totaled $6.4 million — $2 million more than last year’s — and has been awarded to 16 of 20 applicants. As a result, the city will see 528 new housing units, 80 percent of which will be classified as affordable.

It’s all part of PLAN Cincinnati’s goal: to provide vision for full-spectrum housing options to all individuals, regardless of income or stage of life.

“The City of Cincinnati wants quality, diversified housing options for all of our residents,” says Vice Mayor David Mann.“It is a pleasure to be able to incorporate $2 million in additional funding for affordable housing across our neighborhoods.”

Not only have these city funds increased, but funding from investors has exceeded city funding by a ratio of 16:1 for a total of $103.5 million, more than doubling the 2016 total and quadrupling that of 2014.

“Providing quality, diversified housing options for our residents is integral to our community development strategy,” says City Manager Harry Black. “Through these NOFA projects, we look forward to leveraging public-private partnerships to enhance the quality of life for thousands of residents across our neighborhoods."

Recipients of NOFA funding include the following:

  • Copelen/5 Points Alley project, Walnut Hills
  • Evanston HURC, 3476 Woodburn
  • Price Hill Homesteading
  • South Block Home, Northside
  • South Cumminsville Urban Village
  • Cedar Corridor Phase IIII, College Hill
  • Torrence Station, East End
  • Scholar House, E. Walnut Hills
  • Crosley Apartments, Camp Washington
  • Madison Villa, Madisonville
  • 821 Flats Housing, Over-the-Rhine
  • 1420 & 1422 Knowlton, Northside
  • 1714 Vine St., OTR
  • 57 E. McMicken, OTR
  • College Hill Revitalization
  • Halstead Apartments, Clifton/CUF

Writers join together for bi-monthly social engagement series


This July, Union Institute & University launched its Live Reading Series to offer a free event for the public where writers, journalists and poets can converge to read and speak about their works — all of which target important societal issues. The new series is also meant to help start a dialogue that furthers knowledge and initiates forward thinking.

The university, which has campuses in five states, specializes in adult education and offers a curriculum that takes flexibility into account with online, hybrid and face-to-face course options.

Ohio’s campus is located in Walnut Hills and seeks to not only deliver high-quality education to its students, but also play a prominent role within the community.

“We chose topics for our series that touch or impact everyone’s life,” says Donna Gruber, executive director of Cincinnati’s Academic Center. “The series is designed to open dialogue in a non-threatening way.”

The series occurs bimonthly. Last month’s topic was “Women’s Issues in Society,” and featured Bhumika Patel, a regional coalition specialist for the Salvation Army's Anti-Human Trafficking Program.

“Bhumika sees human trafficking as an issue that is often misunderstood and unrecognized in our community and seeks to address misconceptions and offer resources,” Gruber says.

Lo Kwa Mei-en, a poet and author, was another featured speaker at the Sept. 29 event. She addressed trauma and survival.

“The community doesn’t have to come up with solutions, but think and reflect on what they hear,” Gruber says. “Often change comes from within.”

Upcoming Live Reading Series events are Nov. 17, Mental Health Issues in Society, and Jan. 26,  Business, Industry and Leadership in Society. The next event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at Union's Cincinnati Center.
 


Vision 2020 works to offer CPS students real-world experience


The Vision 2020 initiative strives to improve the city's public schools by offering students real-world experience at an early age to better prepare them to be successful students and contributing members of the community.

Established in 2016, Vision 2020 started specialized programming at seven Cincinnati Public Schools with focuses based in the surrounding community — high tech, student enterprise and environmental science.

This year, nine schools have been added to the list, along with updated programming.

CPS asked stakeholders what they would like to see improved in neighborhood schools, and Vision 2020 was born.

The perception is that magnet schools are better, says Dawn Grady, public affairs officer for CPS.

Magnet schools with specialized programming were established in the 1970s to diversify and integrate Cincinnati’s public schools. Vision 2020 brings that specialized programming to neighborhood schools to help increase learning outside the classroom and strengthen the community.

The goal is that by the year 2020, neighborhood schools will offer improved programming that offers relevant programs to get students immersed in the community, while reinforcing what they’re learning in the classroom.

Near Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the Cincinnati Zoo, Avondale's Rockdale Academy specializes in global conservation. Students venture on field trips to learn about consciously taking care of themselves, their community and the environment.

Rothenburg Preparatory Academy in Over-the-Rhine learns from its proximity to the neighborhod's booming business district. Specializing in entrepreneurship, the school hosted a pop-up shop last year to sell coasters designed by students.

The West End's Hays-Porter School focuses on new technology to prepare students for the fast-moving technological world. Students work on designing and programming, along with the typical everyday classwork.

With the updates to Vision 2020, additional schools are beginning to specialize in subjects, including environmental science, high technology, expeditionary learning, contemplative arts and sciences, global environmental literacy and math and science discovery.

“Vision 2020 is about achieving equity, making sure everyone has access to programs at magnet schools,” Grady says. Hearing something in a classroom is only part of it. “If you can apply those skills, that means you can actually learn it.”

The initiative allows students to connect the dots with what they learn in the classroom to how it relates to the real world in an effort to better prepare them.

“It’s all about real-world experiences and starting it young,” Grady says.

The initial seven schools include Chase School in Northside, Woodford Paideia Academy in Kennedy Heights, Pleasant Hill Academy in College Hill, Gifted Academy West at Cheviot School, Hays-Porter, Rothenberg Prep and Westwood School.

The nine schools added to Vision 2020 this year are South Avondale School, Frederick Douglass School in Walnut Hills, College Hill Fundamental Academy, Mt. Washington School, Rockdale Academy in Avondale, John P. Parker School in Mariemont, Roll Hill Academy in East Westwood, Bond Hill Academy and Ethel M. Taylor Academy in Millvale.

 


Fifth Third focuses new Neighborhood Growth Fund on six Cincy neighborhoods


As part of Fifth Third Bank's community investment commitment, Fifth Third recently signed a five-year, $30 billion investment plan to help improve neighborhoods in 10 different states, including Ohio.

Eleven billion dollars will go toward mortgage lending, $10 billion toward small business lending and $9 billion toward community development lending.

More specifically, Fifth Third will be helping transform underdeveloped neighborhoods in the Cincinnati area.

In May, Fifth Third donated $100,000 in seed money to the Community Development Corporations Association of Greater Cincinnati to help build underdeveloped neighborhoods in the region.

Cincinnati is our hometown and we felt it was important to help spur revitalization and community development,” says Mark Walton, director of community and economic development for Fifth Third.

The CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati manages the Growth Development Fund and is an umbrella company that supports local organizations, such as the Community Development Corporations, Community Urban Redevelopment Corporations and Community Housing Development Organizations, throughout the city.

The money will be used to create the Neighborhood Growth Fund, which will help develop cleaner, safer and stronger neighborhoods.

Helping to build strong communities is part of Fifth Third’s DNA,” Walton says. “We are always looking for the most effective ways to support community growth.”

As part of that community growth, the CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati will target development in burgeoning neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods have not yet been announced, but they're working on the process for the development efforts.

“The grant is a good faith grant that demonstrates confidence in the CDC Association of Cincinnati’s ability to allocate resources to the communities that can most easily be helped,” Walton says.

Exact plans for these neighborhoods are still in the works, but development projects will be inline with work that the CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati has done in College Hill and Walnut Hills.


The organization helped spur develop at the intersection of Hamilton Avenue and North Bend Road, as well as get the ball rolling on the restoration of historical Walnut Hills buildings that are now apartments and restaurants.

Although this isn't an annual grant, Fifth Third will continue to support the community and the CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati.
 


Speakeasy-style cafe to join DeSales Corner business boom

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below the restaurant will be an intimate, underground bar.

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

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

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

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

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


Walnut Hills selected as finalist for national placemaking grant


As part of its ongoing efforts to transform the future of Walnut Hills, the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation will compete for a highly competitive national placemaking grant.

The National Creative Placemaking Fund is made possible by ArtPlace America, a 10-year collaboration between 16 partner foundations, eight federal agencies and six financial institutions. This year, judges reviewed 987 applications from communities across the country that are investing money in arts and culture to help drive community development.

“The National Grants Program is actively building a portfolio that reflects the full breadth of our country’s arts and cultural sector, as well as the community planning and development field,” says ArtPlace’s Director of National Grantmaking F. Javier Torres. “Knowing that these projects, and the hundreds of others who applied, are using arts and culture strategies to make the communities across this country healthier and stronger is inspirational.”

Last week, Walnut Hills was announced as one of just 70 finalists for the award, based on the WHRF’s presentation of a plan that would use creative placemaking to tackle the issues surrounding Kroger’s departure from the community last year — a move that now classifies Walnut Hills as a food desert.

"Walnut Hills is an extremely resilient community and this proves that," said WHRF executive director Kevin Wright. "We're excited about this opportunity, it's the first of many steps were taking to ensure our residents have sustainable access to healthy food and groceries."

WHRF’s proposed project, CoMotion, will attempt to lessen the hardship of Walnut Hills residents post-Kroger through the use of creative placemaking measures that include providing a “welcoming, inclusive place within our $20 million Paramount Square project where people can get healthy, locally-grown produce, grab a nutritious drink with friends and hold community meetings, as well as participate in meaningful creative and social activities."

“This creative placemaking grant would allow us at the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation to build an inclusive grocery store and meeting place as part of the $20 million Paramount Square project,” says WHRF's healthy outreach coordinator Gary Dangel. “It will be designed by artists and be part of our strategy to address being a food desert.”

ArtPlace America director Javier Torres will be traveling for the next 12 weeks, visiting each of the 70 finalists and getting to know their projects prior to further narrowing the field of candidates.

“The National Grants Program is actively building a portfolio that reflects the full breadth of our country’s arts and cultural sector, as well as the community planning and development field,” says Torres. “Knowing that these projects, and the hundreds of others who applied, are using arts and culture strategies to make the communities across this country healthier and stronger is inspirational.”

Find a complete list of the 2017 applicants here.


Gorilla Cinema is launching a new brand strategy that's sure to shake things up


Gorilla Cinema, the masterminds behind The Overlook Lodge, The Video Archive and Pop Art Con (its newest concept), have launched a possibly radical new marketing plan: abandoning the over-crowded newsfeeds of Facebook.

“It’s a process and evolution for how we use Facebook,” says Jacob Trevino, owner. “We’re moving away from regular posts toward more video marketing about the experiences we provide. We still want people to be actively engaged with the brand, we just don’t want to be the only ones shouting.”

Facebook users won’t see an abrupt departure but more of a gradual exit over the next year and a half. Meanwhile, Gorilla Cinema will ramp up its events and emphasize its uniqueness through other outlets.

“Life is hard, and we want to give people an escape from the every day — where the world can come to you,” Trevino says. “We want to create more experiences outside of our bars. Experiences that everyone wants to talk about because they surprise our audiences.”

For Trevino, it’s also about creating an expectation of excellence and an engaged staff. “We don’t hire ‘just’ bartenders. We look for creatives and forward thinkers who make people feel welcome and create amazing experiences, but who can also make picture-perfect drinks.”

Gorilla Cinema has several big announcements planned for the coming months, including more details on its largest cinema event to-date, which is scheduled for Aug. 2 at Washington Park, as well as more movie pop-ups and the 2018 Pop Art Con.

So if there will be fewer posts on Facebook, how will you know when there's an event?

“If people really want to be the first to know, they should visit the bars since we make announcements there first, plus the bartenders often let something slip early,” Trevino says. “We’re focusing our social media efforts on Instagram, but look for new videos on our website and Facebook too.”

For Trevino, movies are something that can bring people together to share common experiences. He's built his bars around cinematic concepts and creating a sense of community.

“We want to take people on a new adventure and get people into exploring new places,” he says. "But we also want our bars to be for the people who already live in the neighborhood. We try to be active in the community because it’s important that the neighbors and other businesses know and love us first.”

As Gorilla Cinema ramps up its new marketing efforts, Cincinnatians can expect to see more events and experiences outside of Pleasant Ridge and Walnut Hills (where The Overlook and The Video Archive are), as Trevino and his team bring their love of cinema magic to larger audiences.
 


Local musician opening coffee shop and jazz club in Walnut Hills

 

Walnut Hills is quickly redeveloping into one of the top places to find food, beverage and entertainment in Greater Cincinnati. With that, it has become the foundation for many new businesses, making it a destination neighborhood not only for residents but also tourists.

In a move to make Walnut Hills the center of jazz in Cincinnati, Brent Gallaher and his wife are opening Caffe Vivace, a combined coffeehouse and jazz lounge, on the first floor of the Trevarren Flats development on E. McMillan.

Slated to open this fall, Caffe Vivace will provide drinks, bites and a constant flow of music, highlighting the rich jazz heritage in the area. "Caffe" is Italian for coffee and "vivace" is a musical term that means lively, so the literal English translation is "lively coffee,” a phrase that resides in the core of what the Gallahers hope to bring to Walnut Hills.

Their concept was inspired by Brent's own jazz career — he broke into the jazz scene at the former Blue Wisp.

He plays three instruments (saxophone, flute and clarinet) while also being a leader in the local jazz community by teaching, composing and leading a local band. He currently holds positions with both the Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra and the Blue Wisp Big Band, which now plays Wednesday nights at Urban Artifact in Northside.

As the focal point of the business, jazz music will be constant, as Gallaher plans for live performances Monday-Saturday with local school groups and talent performing early in the week and more seasoned jazz musicians slated to play on the weekends. Students and other local talents will have the opportunity to showcase their skills and passion for music, something that the area is no stranger to.

From the first recordings of Louis Armstrong to the lengthy shows of Bix Beiderbecke and Walnut Hills' graduate Frank Foster, who wrote the hit “Shiny Stockings,” Cincinnati has seen many jazz greats shape the genre.

Walnut Hills is also home to longtime jazz club The Greenwich, maintaining not only the presence of jazz music but also poetry readings and visual arts over the last several decades.

Aside from being a jazz club, Caffe Vivace will also serve as a bar and restaurant. It will offer coffee and espresso drinks from Carabello Coffee, as well as maintain a full liquor license to serve mixed drinks and craft beers. In terms of a menu, the club will offer breakfast sandwiches and bagels in the morning and salads and sandwiches for lunch. There will also be a separate, smaller menu for dinner. Gallaher plans to keep it simple and use local vendors and bakers for most of the menu items.

For more information regarding Caffe Vivace or to keep up with announcements on an opening date, visit its Facebook page.
 

Four Cincinnati icons chosen as CPC Impact Buildings of the Year


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


NKU Six @ Six lecture series showcasing Appalachian arts, culture and talent


With success in its previous Six @ Six interactive lecture series, which began in 2010, Northern Kentucky University’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement is in the midst of its next series, held in conjunction with the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Titled Appalachia: An American Story, this series focuses on workshops, readings and discussions showcasing Appalachia’s traditions and ongoing contributions to the world of literature and art. According to the Center for Civic Engagement, the region has been an especially powerful artistic lens for novelists, poets, essayists, painters, photographers, musicians and others to interpret the American character and spirit.

The staple event of the six-part series will be a symposium at the CAM on April 28, when five artists who have depicted Appalachia in unique ways will take the stage. According to Mark Neikirk, the executive director at the Center for Civic Engagement, this is the fourth year that NKU has connected with the CAM for such an event.

“We began with a discussion of Machiavelli on the 500th anniversary of The Prince, the next year our topic was Moby-Dick and last year it was the environment as a muse to writers and other artists,” Neikirk says. “The topic changes each year. The constant is our collaboration with the Art Museum to host our discussion. The Art Museum symposium is a way for us to export the University’s intellectual capacity to community audiences — and to give the Greater Cincinnati community a taste of the rich life of the mind at NKU.”

Neikirk says the planning committee believes that the discussion of Appalachia, the mountains, mountain people and understanding mountain art should be of importance to people outside of the mountains themselves. The title of the series shows this as it reflects themes that are held by many Americans: love of kin, love of land, love of place, love of individual independence and love of neighbors.

Why Cincinnati and not the actual mountain area?

Neikirk says they hope to present a broader picture of Appalachia with more depth and a variety of voices. “No, I would not consider Cincinnati Appalachia, but yes, there are strong Appalachia ties here," he says. "Many of us, myself included, are descended from mountain families. People came here for jobs and opportunity, and we brought that heritage with us. There is a very active Appalachian community in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, including around the arts.”

While the CAM symposium is the main event of the series, there are other events scheduled that will feature poets, literature figures, artists and more. Some of these events are open to the public, while others are only offered to NKU students. The lectures and events are free of charge (with the exception of the photography workshop) as a method of getting people involved and interested in what the history of Appalachia entails.

Be sure to check out NKU’s Six @ Six lecture series in the events listed below:


• April 22, 1 p.m.: Readings by poets and writers and a discussion at Kenton County Public Library, Covington branch

• April 25-27: Malcolm J. Wilson photography workshop at Baker Hunt Art & Cultural Center, Covington

• April 28: Robert Gipe, writing workshop, NKU (students only)

• April 28, 6:45 p.m.: Symposium, CAM (tickets are available here)

• May 2, 6:30 p.m.: Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman, reading and discussion, Grant County Public Library, Williamstown

• May 18, 7 p.m.: Poets' reading and discussion, Center for Great Neighborhoods, Covington

• June 17, noon: Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman, memoir writing workshop, Roebling Point Books & Coffee, Covington
 


Landlocked Social House to bring coffee and craft beer community spot to Walnut Hills


Anne and Andrew Decker have always dreamed of opening a place that would allow them the freedom to independently explore their passions while also running a business together. Their ideal venture would allow them to share information about their passions with others who share the same interest. Landlocked Social House, the newest craft beer and coffee bar coming to Cincinnati, will do that and more.

Located on E. McMillan Street in Walnut Hills, the bar will offer something for everyone, as the Deckers understand that coffee and beer are not necessarily for everyone. They plan to incorporate other talented food and beverage businesses into the bar, which is set to open early this summer.

The couple plans to have pastries from a few bakers around town, as well as curated meat and cheese boards and pickled items. They plan to work with two bakers and a bagel maker to fill Landlocked's pastry cases, and bring in cocktail veterans to create a small in-house list of drinks.

“Aside from those options, we will be a bring-your-own-food establishment and have the occasional food truck in our beer garden," says Decker.

Fifteen craft beers and an assortment of sodas, cider, white and red wine and cold brew coffee will also be available on the custom tap system.

The idea of having a neighborhood coffee bar where you can run into friends and family on a regular basis was an important aspect in the selection of Walnut Hills for Landlocked's location.

“We chose Walnut Hills in large part because it is being thoughtfully developed by people who love this neighborhood and that is something we want to be a part of,” Decker says. “I will say that it would have in fact been easier on us to open in another building and another part of town, but we like it here.”

Landlocked is just minutes away from Eden Park, Clifton, Pendleton and Over-the-Rhine, with easy access to I-71 as well. The diversity and history of the area led the Deckers to lay their foundation there. “There is a lot of heart and hard work in this part of town," Decker says. "We hope the neighborhood will feel the same about us as we do our best to be a positive addition.”

The Deckers started a Kickstarter campaign that ran from Feb. 1 to March 8 to provide financial stability — on top of private funding and bank loans — to get the Landlocked project up and running. The building, owned by Becki and Jeremiah Griswold (who also own White Whale Tattoo and are friends of the Deckers), was previously abandoned and needed a lot of work.

With the help of friends, the Deckers renovated the building, exposing the original brick interior, installing new flooring, the tap system, adding new landscaping and more. Remaining projects include a new storefront window, drain and sink installation, minor electric work and a few other small projects. According to the Kickstarter page, the projects should all be completed in time for the summer opening.

While the Kickstarter campaign has ended, Decker says that donations are still being accepted and will be put to good use as they wrap up the remaining projects before opening.
 


Demolition of its theater to bring about a season of change for Playhouse in the Park


The historic Robert S. Marx Theatre in Eden Park will be demolished following the Playhouse in the Park's 2018-2019 season, as part of an optimistic revisioning that will celebrate the theater's 50th birthday and help the venue better cater to modern audiences.

“The theater was built at a time when there was less technology and the goal was to use as little scenery as possible,” says Playhouse artistic director Blake Robison. “Theater has changed a lot over the last 50 years.”

Currently, the only way to move props on and off stage is through the floor via elevator systems. Compared to many modern theaters, this is highly limiting and can be a hindrance to those accustomed to more versatile theaters that offer clearance for large scenery and props to be navigated from all directions.

“At the time it was built, there was a very minimalist approach, but I think dramaturgy has changed since then and audience expectations have certainly changed,” Robison says. “One of the things that I think Playhouse is known for is its beautiful sets and costumes. You always walk into our theater and experience the surprise of what it’s going to look like next time. So, we want to stay ahead of the eight ball and make sure that we’re bringing Cincinnati the widest variety of plays and musicals that we can. We feel strongly that we need that upgrade in order to keep up with the times.”

While no specific location has been finalized, the Playhouse ensemble will continue to perform during demolition and construction. It’s estimated the construction will displace the troupe for only one season.

“This facility in Eden Park has been so meaningful to people," Robison says. "We want to reassure people the Playhouse is staying in the park where it belongs, but we need to upgrade our home. We’re leaving the shelterhouse completely as-is, except that we’re going to put in more comfortable seats. I guess you could say that in there it’s going from economy to business class.”

The Marx Theatre at Playhouse in the Park recently premiered Jane Eyre, which runs until April 8.

 


Creative placemaking efforts to launch in five Cincinnati neighborhoods


Throughout fall 2016, a coalition of local arts organizations, nonprofit leaders and community members came together to form a creative placemaking network that will bring arts and cultural events and initiatives to Cincinnati in 2017. Creative placemaking is the strategic shaping of neighborhoods around arts and cultural activities.

At its heart, creative placemaking is a collaborative process, and according to Kristen Baker, senior program officer with Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Cincinnati is on the cutting edge of creative placemaking efforts in the United States.

The network will focus its placemaking projects on five Cincinnati neighborhoods: Covington, Price Hill, Walnut Hills, Madisonville and the West End. Each of the participating neighborhoods are part of LISC’s Place Matters initiative, which is a citizen-led partnership to transform key Greater Cincinnati communities.

Lead project partners LISC and ArtsWave secured $35,000 in grant funding from the National Endowment for the Arts to make the creative placemaking work possible. Over the course of five months, interdisciplinary teams completed a project design process led by Design Impact, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit design firm. Project concepts varied by neighborhood, but each focused on using arts and culture to develop community:
  • Covington: The Center for Great Neighborhoods worked with Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park in Hamilton to develop the concept for a sculptural installation that incorporates the stories of community members.
  • Price Hill: Price Hill Will and other partners will help create opportunities for neighborhood residents to install art pieces on their properties.
  • Walnut Hills: Frederick Douglas Elementary School will partner with community organizations to activate a vacant green space beside the school, turning it into a community hub.
  • Madisonville: Arts organizations and neighborhood residents will equip the underutilized Bramble Park with materials to encourage play, music-making and increased engagement.
  • West End: Efforts will focus around increasing community cohesion through arts programming and public events.
Each participating neighborhood team received $4,000 to launch their projects, which will happen throughout 2017. Baker underscores the potential for good that creative placemaking can bring to Cincinnati.

“The great thing about creative placemaking is that it is not deficit-focused, it brings to light the cultural activity in neighborhoods that makes them good," she says. "It’s a positive thing for communities, and it’s an affirming message for communities that might see themselves negatively reflected in the headlines.”

To stay up-to-date on the launch of creative placemaking network projects, visit the events pages for ArtsWave and LISC. LISC will also post updates from the creative placemaking network on its Twitter and Facebook pages throughout the year.   
 

Three Cincinnati development organizations receive New Market Tax Credits


This year, a total of $7 billion in New Market Tax Credits were awarded to 120 organizations around the country from the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, which is made possible by the U.S. Treasury Department. Three Cincinnati development organizations received $125 million of that money.
 
The Cincinnati Development Fund received $65 million in NMTC. The organization plans to utilize the money to help kickstart development efforts in College Hill, Madisonville, Northside and Walnut Hills, all of which have business districts that are undergoing rejuvenations.
 
This is the largest award CDF has received through the NMTC program.
 
The Kroger Community Development Entity LLC received $15 million through the program, and Uptown Consortium received $45 million.
 
Since its inception in 2000, a total of $50.5 billion has been doled out to community development organizations. For every dollar invested by the federal government, it has helped leverage about $8 billion in private investment.
 
The NMTC program allows investors to reduce tax liability by purchasing federal tax credits from community development groups, which then use the funds to help close financing gaps. Overall, the goal of the program is to further redevelopment in blighted neighborhoods.
 
 

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


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

Four Cincinnati buildings to be added to the National Register of Historic Places


Four Cincinnati buildings — the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Building, the First National Bank Building, the Reakirt Building and the former Eastern Hills YMCA — are on the short list to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. The City of Cincinnati already recognizes the four buildings as historic, but now they’re waiting on the national distinction from the National Park Service, which oversees the registry. The final decision is expected in the next three months.
 
While actual “landmark” designation is typically for buildings like Music Hall and Union Terminal, other buildings can be listed for their importance to American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture.
 
Brunswick-Balke-Collender Building, 130-132 E. Sixth St., downtown
The six-story commercial building was completed in 1891 for the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co., which is one of the biggest manufacturers of billiards tables, billiard accessories, bar fixtures and bar furniture in the United States.
 
The building served as the company’s showroom until 1916, and is the only building in Cincinnati today that is associated with the firm. It has local architectural significance as an example of the 1890s Commercial style, with a riveted iron front and huge showroom windows on the second and third floors, as well as Romanesque details throughout.
 
First National Bank Building (Fourth and Walnut Centre), 105 E. Fourth St., downtown
Completed in 1904, the 19-story building was designed by Chicago architect and planner Daniel Burnham. It was one of Cincinnati’s earliest skyscrapers, and is one of the purest examples of the Chicago Commercial style. Its steel skeleton and masonry curtain walls, neoclassical details and distinctive three-part “Chicago-style” windows are all evident in early Chicago skyscrapers.
 
Reakirt Building, 126-128 E. Sixth St., downtown
Designed by Cincinnati architect Samuel S. Godley and completed in 1924, the Reakirt Building is an example of the early 20th century Chicago Commercial style. The 10-story, concrete-frame office building has brick curtain walls and limestone details, as well as stone ornamentation, copper cornices and large expanses of glass. It also has some of the best-preserved early 20th century interior features.
 
Former Eastern Hills YMCA, 1228 E. McMillan St., E. Walnut Hills
Completed in 1930, the former YMCA building served as a branch of the Cincinnati YMCA until 2011. The four-story, red brick building has limestone trim, a slate roof and a Tudor-style interior. It was designed by Cincinnati architect Charles F. Cellarius, who also supervised the architecture of the village of Mariemont from 1924-1941.
 
Being added to the National Register can help raise community awareness of the buildings, but it doesn’t obligate owners to repair or improve the properties. The listing also doesn’t prevent owners from remodeling, altering, selling or demolishing the buildings. However, owners of long-term tenants of the buildings who rehabilitate them can qualify for federal income tax credits. In Ohio, the state offers a 25 percent income tax credit for historic preservation projects.
 

Fifth annual Cincinnati Street Food Festival brings food trucks and music to Walnut Hills


The Cincinnati Street Food Festival is in its fifth year, and will be part of the larger We Are Walnut Hills Weekend on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Seventeen of Cincinnati’s favorite food trucks will be on hand, and beer from the newly opened Woodburn Brewery will be available for sale.
 
“The festival promotes not only Cincinnati food trucks and local entertainers and artists, but it also shows the promise and potential of Walnut Hills,” says Sondra Palivoda, development co-op for the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation. “Change is happening in Walnut Hills, and we want to show that development is possible and necessary, but so is community utilization and celebration.”
 
One of the major areas for redevelopment in the neighborhood is along E. McMillan, right where the festival is being held.
 
This year, the Street Food Festival will include interactive artists from Chase Public, the Cincinnati Art Museum, Head Start, the Walnut Hills Historical Society in partnership with Cincy Stories, the Walnut Hills Area Council and WordPlay, as well as a stiltwalker and a screen-printing poster station.
 
Sledge from WNKU will be at the festival hosting games and handing out prizes, and there will be a petting zoo featuring a kangaroo and a camel. As for music, four bands will take the stage with DJ Carl Hunt entertaining in between sets.
 
Food trucks include: Adena’s Beefstroll, Andy’s Mediterranean, C’est Cheese, The Chili Hut, Contini's Pizza, Dojo Gelato, Empanadas Aqui, Hungry Bros., Just Jerks, Red Sesame, Slice Slice Baby, Street Chef Brigade, Streetpops, U-Lucky DAWG, Urban Vistro, Waffo and Wicked Hickory.
 
The Street Food Festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 1 on E. McMillan Street between Concord and Copelen streets.
 
Also that weekend is the Five Points Mural Dedication and Art Out Loud Biergarten at 7 p.m. on Sept. 30. There is an open call for artists and performance artists who want to showcase their work during the event. For more information, check out WHRF’s Facebook page.

An after party and Music Off McMillan will be happening at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 1 after the Street Food Festival. The biergarten will be in Five Points Alley and there will be music from HuTown Holler.
 

NOFA program allows developers to complete rehabs in eight neighborhoods


Ten residential development projects will receive a total of about $4.4 million in city funds through the Notice of Funding Availability program. The program was designed to help the city achieve PLAN Cincinnati’s goal of having a variety of quality housing options for people of all income levels and stages of life.
 
Each phase of funding will target a different set of neighborhoods. This round of funding includes projects in four targeted neighborhoods: College Hill, Madisonville, Northside and Walnut Hills, as well as projects in Camp Washington, Over-the-Rhine, Roselawn and South Cumminsville.
 
The money comes from a two-year surge in gap funding, and will help developers, individuals, partnerships, for-profit and nonprofit entities complete the rehabilitation of housing units in Cincinnati neighborhoods.
 
City funding is being exceeded by a ratio of 12:1 by funds from developers and other stakeholders, for a total of about $57 million in investment in the eight neighborhoods.
 
Projects that received NOFA funds in this round are:
 
  • Camp Washington Works — the rehabilitation of four single-family, affordable units in the heart of Camp Washington.
  • Working in Neighborhoods — three new, affordable, single-family homes and one market-rate unit in College Hill, called Cedar Corridor.
  • Madisonville New Homes — four new, market-rate, single-family homes.
  • 1865 Chase Ave. in Northside — seven market-rate rental units.
  • Abington, Race and Pleasant Apartments in Over-the-Rhine — the historic renovation of 50 affordable rental units.
  • Morgan Apartments in OTR — the renovation of 47 affordable rental units at 1900 Vine St., 1902-1904 Vine, 2 E. McMicken Ave., 53 E. Clifton Ave. and 19-27 W. Clifton Ave.
  • Roselawn Senior Apartments — 50 new affordable housing units for seniors.
  • The Commons at South Cumminsville — will add 80 one-bedroom supportive housing units to the neighborhood.
  • E. 771 and 772 McMillan St. in Walnut Hills — the renovation of seven rental units of market-rate housing.
  • Gateway at McMillan — the renovation of 12 market-rate rental units, as well as three storefronts, in Walnut Hills.

Tarantino-inspired video store concept coming to Walnut Hills


The team at The Overlook Lodge is bringing its second concept, The Video Archive, to Walnut Hills. Jacob Trevino, along with co-owners Otto Baum and Katie Fraser, are aiming for a fall opening.
 
“We’ve always loved cinema, and with everything we’ve done it’s always about the experience of movies,” Trevino says.
 
The Video Archive will be a Quentin Tarantino-inspired 100-square-foot video store featuring Grind-house, Indie and cult classic videos for rent and purchase. Like Gorilla Cinema and The Overlook Lodge, this concept will have its surprises too.
 
“Tarantino is the ultimate lover of cinema, and we thought it would be a cool idea to incorporate him into our idea,” Trevino says. “The Video Archive is the full circle representation of everything we’ve done over the past two years.”
 
The 1,500-square-foot space, which will be located at 965 E. McMillan St., is being redeveloped by Model Group and Urban Fast Forward.
 
“Model Group was looking for something like us for the space, and when we pitched them our ‘interesting’ idea they jumped all over it,” Trevino says.
 
The Video Archive will add to the energy in Walnut Hills’ business district, joining the likes of Firehouse Pizza, Gomez Salsa, The Growler House, Just Q’in and Myrtle’s Punch House.
 
“We’re very excited for this next idea and hope it really surprises Walnut Hills and Cincinnati in general,” Trevino says.
 

Five Cincinnati projects receive over $9 million in state historic tax credits


The Ohio Development Services Agency recently awarded $27.8 million in state historic tax credits. Twenty-six organizations across the state plan to rehab a total of 39 buildings, which on the state level, will leverage about $261.4 million in private investment.
 
Many of the buildings that received Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits in this round are vacant and generate little to no economic activity.
 
Five high-profile projects in Cincinnati received a total of just over $9.3 million in state historic tax credits.  
 
Crosley Building, 1333 Arlington St., Camp Washington
Received $5 million in tax credits
Built in 1930 by Samuel Hannaford and Sons, 1333 Arlington housed the headquarters of the Crosley Radio Corporation. The nine-story, 300,000-square-foot building (and an adjacent building) will be redeveloped into 324 market-rate apartments. This is the first state historic tax credit awarded to Camp Washington.
 
Film Center Building, 1632 Central Parkway, Over-the-Rhine
Received $1.07 million in tax credits
In its heyday, the Film Center Building was one of several buildings in OTR that served the film industry. Urban Sites plans to redevelop the first floor of the now vacant building into office and restaurant space. The upper floors will house 46 rental units with a mixture of studio, and one- and two-bedroom apartments.
 
Market Square II, 1807-1830 Elm St., 127 Findlay St., 1827 Logan St., OTR
Received $1.7 million in tax credits
The second phase of Model Group’s Market Square will include the renovation of 10 historic buildings, as well as one new build. This phase of the project will include 55 apartments, plus 24,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space.
 
Strietmann Biscuit Company Building, 223-235 W. 12th St., OTR
Received $1.2 million in tax credits
Built in 1899, these buildings used to house the Strietmann Biscuit Company. After the company moved to a new facility in the 1940s, the building became home to a number of mixed-use and small businesses. It now sits vacant, but Grandin Properties plans to rehabilitate it into office space for 10-15 businesses, with a first-floor restaurant space.
 
771 and 772 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills
Received $250,000 in tax credits
Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and a few private developers will be working to redevelop three buildings, two of which are historic. The Hamilton Building, located at 771 McMillan, was built in 1883 as a single-family residence. It was converted into apartments, and has been vacant since 1981. 772 McMillan is a mixed-use building with three commercial spaces on the ground floor and apartments above; the apartments have been vacant since the mid-1970s, and the ground floor since 2004. Plans include seven apartments and a restaurant or bar at street level. The third, non-historic building is 2504 Chatham St., which will see the rehabilitation of six vacant apartments.
 
 
 

What's on Tap: When the next round of craft breweries will open their doors


Over the past year or so, the Development section has provided the lowdown on new craft breweries that are planning to open in the Greater Cincinnati area. A few have come to fruition — sometimes even ahead of schedule — while others, it seems, have kept us waiting for beer for way too long.
 
We’ve rounded up the updates and opening dates for breweries closing in on the finish line.
 
Darkness Brewing, 224 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue
Darkness opened to the public for the first time on June 10, but its grand opening won’t be until mid-July, when its first batch of beer will be tapped and ready for drinking. Darkness plans to open with a Kentucky common ale, a black IPA and a milk stout. Until then, the taproom will be open 4-11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 1-8 p.m. on Sundays. So head on over to NKY to check out the space and have a pint from Darkness’ curated list of guest taps.
 
Nine Giant Brewing, 6095 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge
Opening day is June 25 at 12 noon. Nine Giant will have a number of beers on tap as well as guest taps from local breweries, plus wine for those who don’t love beer. The brewery’s kitchen, The Snackery, will be serving upscale bar eats, and there will be special events throughout the day featuring unique one-off beers from Nine Giant and other breweries. Be there!
 
The Woodburn Brewery, 2800 Woodburn Ave., Walnut Hills
You may have visited Woodburn Brewery during a Walk on Woodburn or gotten a sneak peek during the Flying Pig Marathon, but it won’t be officially open and pouring its own beer until later this year. The 4,000-square-foot space will have 36 taps, and beehives for Queen City Bee Co. were just added to its roof.
 
Bircus Brewing Company, Ludlow
Bircus took a unique angle to fund its venture, utilizing the crowdsourcing platform Seed Invest, and was approved last week to officially produce beer at the Ludlow Theatre. Head brewer Alex Clemens will begin brewing soon using Belgian-inspired recipes. Bircus is also dedicating sales from 26 Mondays to community organizations and the other 26 Mondays to the Circus Mojo Foundation to help fund innovative circus programs and scholarships. (The Ludlow Theatre is owned by Paul Miller, founder of Circus Mojo, and is also a shared practice space for the circus and the brewery.)

Brink Brewing, 5905 Hamilton Ave., College Hill
Announced in February, Brink began the remodeling of its 3,200-square-foot taproom and brewery last week. It’s currently under construction and is slated to open in September.
 

ArtWorks adding 23 more murals to Cincinnati this summer


ArtWorks staff and youth apprentices will work on 23 mural projects around Great Cincinnati this summer. A project kickoff will be held on June 20 on Pleasant Street in front of the future home of the Rosemary Clooney mural.
 
New murals coming to a wall near you this summer include:
 
Annie “Little Sure Shot” Oakley Mural, 3211 Madison Road, Oakley
The mural will pay homage to Annie Oakley, who performed in a number of sharp shooter contests in Cincinnati (though Oakley is not named for her). It’s supported by Voltage Furniture and Vandercar Holdings, and the community can donate to a matching funds campaign with Sara M. and Michelle Vance Waddell here.
 
Female Legend Vote Mural, 1606 Pleasant St., Over-the-Rhine
This mural will honor singer and actress Rosemary Clooney, who was born in Maysville, Ky., and won a spot to sing on WLW radio with her sister Betty back in the 1940s. The mural will be part of the Cincinnati Legends Series, is in partnership with 3CDC and is supported by School Outfitters. The community can donate to a matching funds campaign with 1919 Investment Counsel here.
 
Kennedy Heights Art Center Annex Mural, 6620 Montgomery Road, Kennedy Heights
Lead artist Casey Millard and 14 youth apprentices will create a multi-medial mural on the facade of the new Carl, Robert, Richard and Dorothy Lindner Annex at KHAC. The community can donate to a matching funds campaign with American Scaffolding here.
 
Prost to Cincinnati Installation Series
ArtWorks once again partnered with the Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation on this series of six murals that will help drive development along the Brewing Heritage Trail. The multi-media pieces will depict love and honor for the city’s brewing history and will be installed by a variety of artists. The community can donate to a matching funds campaign through Power2Give here.
 
Walnut Hills “This Is 5 Points” Mural, 2429 Gilbert Ave., Walnut Hills
This is the final mural in a series of five wayfinding pieces that identify and enliven the redeveloped Five Points Alley. It will be completed in partnership with BLDG.
 
Winsor McCay Mural, 917 Main St., OTR
McCay moved to Cincinnati in 1891 and created the first comic strip for The Enquirer in 1903. Panels from his most famous cartoon, “Little Nemo,” will be recreated on the Main Street building in partnership with 917 Partners. The mural is part of the Cincinnati Masters Mural Series, along with work by Charley Harper, John Ruthven and Tom Wesselmann.
 
Other mural projects this summer include a new Cincinnati Heritage Series that honors Kenner Products and the city’s toy design history; an art installation in the main lobby of Duke Energy Convention Center that will explore the theme of Cincinnati or the Ohio River; and a mural by local artist Jim Effler that will span two walls on Central Parkway to depict the creation of Ohio’s canal system.
 
Through a partnership with Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, ArtWorks also plans to create 12 new murals — New Lines OTR Alleyways Project — in Over-the-Rhine alleyways in an area bordered by Main, 13th, Sycamore and Liberty streets. The goal is to transform the more neglected spaces into works of art while making the alleys safe and more walkable.
 

Towne Properties adding second phase to DeSales Flats project


A new $13.5 million apartment project is in the works for Evanston. Towne Properties is planning Phase II of DeSales Flats at the northwest corner of Lincoln and Woodburn avenues next to the original DeSales Flats, which is actually located in East Walnut Hills.
 
The project will yield 92 market-rate units: 44 one-bedroom apartments, averaging about 740 square feet; 36 one-bedroom-with-den apartments, averaging about 825 square feet; eight two-bedroom apartments, averaging about 1,115 square feet; and four two-bedroom-plus-den units, averaging 1,215 square feet.
 
All apartments will have high-speed WiFi, full-sized stacked washer and dryer, quartz countertops and soaking tubs in the bathrooms. Towne is also seeking LEED Gold certification on the development, which would be its first building with that LEED level. Rent hasn’t been set yet but will be similar to rates at DeSales Flats.
 
DeSales Flats Phase II will also have a 119-space parking lot with bicycle parking and an electric car charging station. Other community amenities include a clubroom with fireplace, full kitchen and coffee bar, fitness center, outdoor saltwater pool with sundeck, outdoor firepit and outdoor lounge area with a water feature.
 
Construction is slated to being this summer, with units available as soon as spring or early summer 2017.

Check out the project's layout here.
 

Cincy Stories launches new community-building project through storytelling


Cincy Stories storytelling producers are launching a multi-media website project, Street Stories, to feature stories from each of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods, starting in Walnut Hills in partnership with Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and LISC.
 
“When Cincy Stories started, our plan was to build community through story, which has given us room to grow and evolve and innovate in ways we didn’t originally anticipate,” founder Shawn Braley says.
 
Cincy Stories originated as a series of live events in order to get people together to share stories. As it has grown, Braley has been cataloging stories of the city in short, documentary-style segments for the website. Cincy Stories also recently launched a podcast, and now Street Stories will expand the program’s reach even further.
 
“We’re hoping that we can gather more stories from more people, especially those who maybe aren’t going to find us but still have stories to share,” Braley says. “We see this as continuing to get our hands dirtier, digging deeper into the exploration of how story and community are intricately connected.”
 
The Walnut Hills portion of Street Stories will feature an interactive Story Gallery at 961 E. McMillan St. It will be an art gallery for storytelling, complete with video gallery, timeline of the history of Walnut Hills and a place where people can get together and share stories.
 
The gallery is being made possible through a LISC placemaking grant, and Model Group is providing the gallery space.
 
The Story Gallery is a way for Cincy Stories to engage the community on the ground and invite them into the space for events and to share stories.
 
Cincy Stories will capture Walnut Hills stories over the next few months, and then in July there will be a party to unveil the website. The next neighborhood hasn’t been announced yet, but it needs to be a partnership between Cincy Stories and the community.
 
Braley says it made sense to team up with the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, which is working to connect people and build a diverse, inclusive and vibrant community, and doing it creatively.
 
“We have this crazy notion that if we all just shared our stories, any tension or wall or misconception that hinders the community would fall, and empathy and understanding would be built in its place,” he says.
 
The gallery will open on June 1, with regular hours of 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. There will be a Street Stories gallery opening party from 6-10 p.m. on June 10.
 

Entrepreneur plans to open deli/retail storefront in Walnut Hills


Gary Leybman, a trained chef, has been smoking meat and pickling vegetables for years. In 2013, his hobby grew into Smoky Bones, all-natural beef femur bones that are slow-smoked for dog treats. That business evolved into The Pickled Pig, which specializes in smoked meats, pickles, fermented vegetables and the smoked dog bones.
 
For the past few years, Leybman has been selling these items at a number of retail locations and farmers markets in the area. Leybman and his wife Libby recently purchased the building at 645 McMillan St. in Walnut Hills, and they plan to open a deli/retail location for The Pickled Pig within the year.
 
“It’s an up-and-coming neighborhood and due to its location is a great fit for us,” he says.
 
Leybman recently moved The Pickled Pig into the Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen. He had been utilizing a restaurant’s kitchen, but the building was recently sold, so he had to find a new location. Once his own space is up and running, The Pickled Pig won’t have to move around.
 
The 1,300-square-foot building will have a deli counter where everything will be made from scratch. Leybman plans to focus on smoked pork and chicken, which can be served on locally made breads. There will also be space for The Pickled Pig’s fermented Napa kimchee, carrot kimchee, caraway kraut, dill kraut, sour pickles, kimchee pickles, garlic beets, Georgian cabbage and pickled cauliflower.
 
“Even with the storefront, I would love to still have a presence at the farmers markets,” Leybman says. “It’s great to be in the community and getting the word out about our business.”
 
In the back of the building is a patio, which will house Leybman’s smoker. He plans to set up picnic tables and have an outdoor seating area to give the building a sense of place and atmosphere.

Stay tuned to The Pickled Pig's Facebook page for future announcements.
 

Five Points Alley mural pays homage to Walnut Hills


Five Points Alley in Walnut Hills has undergone a major facelift over the past year. The area was resurfaced with a stable, pervious aggregate, and electricity and lighting were installed. It hosts the Five Points Alley Biergarten, it will soon be the home of Gomez Salsa and it’s the site of a new mural from BLDG.
 
The mural, titled Wind!, portrays chaste and stoic faces of Walnut Hills residents that over time are chipped away by wind to reveal the windblown faces of the same residents. BLDG knew of a similar project by local photographer Jon Bob; designers blew it up and created a larger-than-life project that’s now installed on the walls of Five Points Alley.
 
Wind! is a reminder to look underneath what is readily apparent in order to find the bright, playful and whimsical potential underneath,” says Sarah Dotter, events and public outreach coordinator for Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation.
 
Before its redevelopment, Five Points Alley was a forgotten space that has been reclaimed and rejuvenated by Walnut Hills.
 
“Under all of the litter, brush, illegal dumping and criminal activity was a space waiting to become a place,” Dotter says.
 
More art will be coming to Five Points Alley in the next few months. BLDG plans to paint a large mural on the side of Gomez Salsa, and this summer ArtWorks will paint the last of its five wayfinding murals (designed by international artists and installed by BLDG) on the side of the Race Refrigeration building, which faces downtown.
 
The mural will be unveiled May 5 during the Cinco at Cinco at Cinco event at Five Points Alley. There will be tacos and turtles from Gomez Salsa, Rhinegeist and Urban Artifact beer for sale and live music by Mambo Combo from 5 to 9 p.m. The Walnut Hills qualifier of Supersize Jenga for the Cincinnati Neighborhood Games will also take place during the event.
 

Neyer Properties to begin redevelopment of Baldwin Piano site in May


Plans have been in the works since 2014 for renovating the almost 100-year-old Baldwin Piano buildings located at 625 and 655 Eden Park Dr. in Walnut Hills. Neyer Properties purchased them at auction for $17.1 million and has been working with a number of organizations, including the Cincinnati Park Board and neighborhood groups, to determine the buildings’ best reuse.
 
The $100-million project includes the redevelopment of the two buildings — the 180,000-square-foot Grand Baldwin building and the 200,000-square-foot Baldwin 200 office tower — that sit on about five acres, as well as a 1,250-space parking deck. Neyer plans to redevelop the site into 190 loft-style apartments, a hotel, restaurant space and pocket park.
 
Construction is slated to begin in May, with apartments move-in ready by Spring 2017.
 
Dwight Hamilton Baldwin started out as a music teacher, opening a piano store in 1862. He began manufacturing pianos in Walnut Hills in the late 19th Century and built the seven-story Italianate Renaissance building in 1921.
 
The building that is today known as Grand Baldwin served as the company’s headquarters until 1984. Covington-based Corporex Cos. converted the building into Class A office space in 1987 and developed the adjacent 12-story Baldwin 200 building in 1990.

 

Gomez Salsa owner opening brick-and-mortar store in Walnut Hills


Andrew Gomez, owner of the Gomez Salsa walk-up window in Over-the-Rhine, is investing in his own neighborhood and opening a second location in Walnut Hills. The restaurant will be in the old Angst Coffee space at 2437 Gilbert Ave. and will open onto the Five Points Alley public gathering space.
 
Gomez, a self-taught cook and University of Cincinnati graduate, started Gomez Salsa by hosting mobile taco nights in Mt. Adams and Montgomery. From there, he toyed with the idea of a food truck, but an opportunity came up for the kitchen space at HalfCut and he jumped at the idea.
 
Now he’s taking his walk-up taco window to new heights. The menu in Walnut Hills will be the same, including chicken, fish, carnitas, tofu, fajita and chorizo tacos; taco bowls; chips and salsa; and Gomez’s signature Turtle Shell, a tortilla stuffed with rice, beans, cheese, a tostada, sour cream, lettuce, meat and salsa and then wrapped up.
 
The restaurant will also have a liquor license and will serve beer, and there’s a beverage program in the works that might include wine and liquor.
 
The Gomez Salsa window in OTR is recognizable by its mural painted by BLDG. Gomez is thinking of having BLDG paint a mural on the north wall of the Walnut Hills restaurant as well.
 
Gomez hopes the new restaurant will be open by June.
 

Melt and Neon's getting brunch, Myrtle's Punch House adding food menu


Molly Wellmann acquired Melt and Picnic & Pantry in January with an eye toward bringing food to Wellmann’s Brands bars such as Myrtle’s Punch House and Neon’s, which will happen in April, as will a relaunch of brunch at Melt.
 
Brunch at Melt and Neon’s will start April 3, with favorites from Melt’s old brunch menu. Not every item will be available at both locations, but a few highlights include banana French toast, the Northside hot brown and the Southwest tofu scramble.
 
Myrtle’s will start serving food April 15, which coincides with Walk on Woodburn. Wellmann’s Brands Executive Chef Lisa Kagen, former owner of Melt and Picnic & Pantry, curated the menu around small plates and shareable items, much like the idea of the punch bowl.
 
Menus at each table will allow customers to pick and choose what they want to order. The menu isn’t finalized yet, but there will be vegan, vegetarian, meat, fish and “iron-pressed” options to appeal to everyone. Kagen is bringing in items from other local food purveyors, too, including chips from Hen of the Woods, The Pickled Pig’s smoked pork tenderloin and flatbreads served on Fireside Pizza’s wood-fired dough.
 
Brunch will be served on Neon’s patio, weather permitting, 12-4 p.m. every Sunday. Melt will serve brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m. every Sunday. Food will be served at Myrtle’s Thursday-Sunday, with plans to expand to seven days a week in the near future.
 

Walnut Hills event connects neighborhood's history to current redevelopment


The Walnut Hills Historical Society will host a March 19 event called “Walk McMillan with the McDevitts” to recognize a typical turn-of-the-century, middle-class, Irish-American family who had success in business in Walnut Hills and to celebrate the business district’s redevelopment.
 
“Historians have spent a lot of time illuminating the lives of some of the world’s more extraordinary people while the more ordinary are passed over,” says Sue Plummer of the Historical Society. “To understand how a neighborhood like Walnut Hills operated, many different types of people need to be considered, and the McDevitts are one sliver of our history.”
 
Pat McDevitt, great-grandson of founder James McDevitt, has been working with the Historical Society to bring his extended family together to revisit the former store as well as share photos and history with the public.
 
McDevitt opened his dry goods/men’s clothing store in 1896 in Walnut Hills. Over the years, the store operated in several locations along East McMillan Avenue, with its most historically significant and last location being in the Paramount Building at Peebles Corner at Gilbert and McMillan. McDevitt’s closed in 1970 due to the advent of shopping malls and the riots of the 1960s.  
 
At the time, Peebles Corner was a major transportation hub for people who were traveling between downtown and outlying neighborhoods as well as for those moving across town. Most Cincinnatians were familiar with Peebles Corner and had either seen it or shopped there.
 
The Paramount Building stands at the center of the neighborhood and was at one point in time the site of Peebles Grocery store, a high-end retail business. It was also the Paramount Theater for three decades and is today a CVS pharmacy. Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation recently acquired the building, with plans to redevelop it into two floors of commercial space for local small businesses.
 
“As an organization, our main goal is to start collecting the oral histories that connect the neighborhood, and this event will help put us in touch with future oral history subjects,” Plummer says.
 
Limited event tickets are available for $15 here. The cost includes an annual membership to the Historical Society, a walking map of the historic McDevitt’s locations, day-of access to the store space, lunch at Fireside Pizza and happy hour prices at Brew House.
 

First State of Community Development conference to be held March 17


Community Development Corporations Association of Greater Cincinnati will host its first State of Community Development conference March 17 to provide networking opportunities for community developers as well as resources to better connect and market themselves within their respective neighborhoods.
 
Community development corporations, or CDCs, are nonprofits that lead the effort to implement a community’s vision, specifically when it comes to housing and business development. CDCs usually form when the private market has left a neighborhood but there remains a need to improve property values and decrease the number of blighted and vacant buildings.
 
Currently, 36 community development corporations operate within Cincinnati, spurring development projects in the city’s 52 neighborhoods. Here is a sampling of projects that are products of Cincinnati’s CDCs:
 
The Camp Washington Community Board has been working for years to give Camp the housing its residents needs. As of May 2015, the organization had renovated 52 neighborhood houses.
 
The Center for Great Neighborhoods focuses on creative placemaking in Covington, including facilitating arts grants. In September, CGN broke ground on its newest venture, Hellmann Creative Center, which will house community and event space as well as leasable art studios.
 
The Cincinnati Northside Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation changed its name last April to Northsiders Engaged in Sustainable Transformation (NEST). Up to that point, the group had created 17 single-family homes in Northside.
 
College Hill CURC has been working hard over the past year to provide the neighborhood business district on Hamilton Avenue a much-needed facelift. Most recently, CHCURC announced a new brewery will open this summer in a vacant storefront building.
 
The Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation is another CDC working on creative placemaking efforts within its neighborhood. Last year, MCURC hosted its second annual Cincinnati Jazz & BBQ Festival with the help of a $9,000 ArtsWave grant.
 
Last spring, the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation launched a campaign to combat obesity throughout the neighborhood. It started a creative placemaking initiative called Music Off McMillan in August and has hosted regular social events in the Five Points alleyway. WHRF headed up renovation of the high-profile Trevarren Flats apartment building and purchased the old Paramount Building in the core of its struggling McMillan Avenue business district.

Registration for the March 17 event is by invitation only; find more information here.
 

Six local projects awarded $275,900 in Duke Energy Urban Revitalization grants


The Duke Energy Urban Revitalization grant program has doled out $1.3 million to 35 projects since its inception in 2011. Six local projects were recently awarded $275,900 in grant money to help eliminate blight, create jobs and increase business retention and expansion in Covington, Newport, Pleasant Ridge, Price Hill and Walnut Hills.
 
The Catalytic Fund received $30,000 to restore buildings on East Fifth Street in Covington. The project will create 4,000 square feet of move-in ready commercial space as well as five new market-rate apartments. It will also help accommodate The Risk Firm’s rapid expansion by providing 1,000 square feet of additional office space adjacent to its existing building, creating four new jobs.
 
The Catalytic Fund was awarded $42,476 for the expansion of Carabello Coffee in Newport. Justin and Emily Carabello will be purchasing and renovating the vacant 1,800-square-foot building next to their existing business on Monmouth Street. The project will help activate the entire corner and will allow Carabello to create three more permanent jobs.
 
HCDC's Economic Development department received $60,000 for its small business coaching and mentoring program, which this year will be in Mt. Healthy, Cheviot and Westwood. Since 2013, the program has helped small businesses in College Hill, East Walnut Hills, North College Hill, Northside, Pleasant Ridge and Price Hill.
 
Duke Energy awarded the Pleasant Ridge Development Corporation $50,000 to help restore a historic movie theater in the neighborhood. The 7,000-square-foot space on Montgomery Road has been targeted for redevelopment for years and will now become a boutique movie theater and community gathering place. PRDC will partner with an established business that has produced pop-up movie events over the past two years and is ready to expand into a permanent location. Renovation efforts will include removing the boarded-up facade and upgrading the HVAC and water systems.
 
Price Hill Will received $37,424 to restore a building at the heart of the Eighth Street corridor in Lower Price Hill. The Eighth and Depot Project will create a new retail space, six mixed-income live-work units and five new jobs. The building will serve as the anchor project for the corridor’s redevelopment efforts over the next 10-15 years.
 
The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation was awarded a $56,000 grant for the redevelopment of the Century Theater and the Durner Building, which are both on the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings are at the center of Peeble’s Corner and have been vacant for years. Once finished, the project will create a co-working space and 33 permanent jobs.
 

Renovated high-rise in Walnut Hills offers lots of amenities and proximity to downtown


Walnut Hills has seen a recent uptick in rejuvenation, including the opening of new businesses and the redevelopment of previously underutilized spaces. The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation is striving to rebrand the neighborhood as a destination within the city, with easy access to highways and close proximity to Eden Park and downtown.
 
WHRF recently hosted a grand opening for its newest residential project, Trevarren Flats, which is blazing the way for more projects like it.
 
Built in 1966 as a high-rise apartment complex, The Edgecliff Private Residences (2200 Victory Parkway) was converted into 156 condominiums in 2005. Recent renovations by Towne Properties are making the units a hot commodity for young professionals and empty-nesters.
 
Twenty-seven of The Edgecliff’s condos — including the 3,000-square-foot, $1.1 million penthouse — are currently on the market or will be soon. Prices range from $150,000 to $510,000 for studios, one- and two-bedroom units and include allowances for improvements.
 
Each unit has been completely overhauled to include new flooring, HVAC, new interior doors, new closets, high-end European cabinetry and tile, quartz or granite countertops and Bosch appliances. Buyers can select other options prior to closing.
 
Other amenities include an outdoor pool, covered parking, fitness center, guest suite, social room and 24-hour concierge.
 

16 area projects receive total of $11 million in Ohio historic tax credits


In late December, 34 Ohio projects were awarded $285.3 million through the 2015 Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits program, resulting in 55 buildings in 13 cities undergoing renovations to create apartments, offices, retail storefronts and restaurant space.
 
Sixteen proposed Cincinnati projects received a total of about $11 million in state historic tax credits.
 
Brighton
Fromm Building, 286 W. McMicken Ave.
Total cost: $682,394
Tax credit: $108,500
Built in 1865, the Fromm Building was renovated in the early 1930s to house doctor’s offices. Renovation plans include several residential units, with the first-floor unit designed as a live-work space.
 
Downtown
Union Central Life Annex, 309 Vine St.
Total cost: $75,541,592
Tax credit: $5 million
Built in 1928, the now-vacant building originally housed offices. Village Green will renovate it into 294 market-rate apartments, a first-floor grocery store and a rooftop restaurant. There will also be space for a business incubator and offices.
 
Over-the-Rhine
100 W. Elder St.
Total cost: $1,587,987
Tax credit: $220,000
Located across the street from Findlay Market, it once housed apartments and first-floor commercial space. Vacant since the early 2000s, it will be rehabbed into first-floor retail/restaurant space with offices on the upper floors.
 
205 W. McMicken Ave.
Total cost: $375,000
Tax credit: $37,000
Built in the 1870s, it has housed barbers, conductors, shoemakers, bartenders, plasterers and other laborers. It’s been vacant for over 20 years, and OTR Adopt’s rehab plans include first-floor commercial space and one three-bedroom apartment above.
 
1737 Elm St.
Total cost: $1,200,047
Tax credit: $233,799
The two buildings were built in the mid- and late-1800s and will be renovated into small market-rate apartments and first-floor retail.
 
1737 Vine St.
Total cost: $1,316,634
Tax credit: $185,000
The three-story building has been vacant for more than a decade. Plans include seven market-rate units and restaurant space.
 
1814 Race St.
Total cost: $1,983,366
Tax credit: $217,000
Model Group plans to convert the building, which is also across the street from Findlay Market, into five apartments and first-floor commercial space on the front side.
 
Kauffman Building, 1725 Vine St.
Total cost: $2,775,353
Tax credit: $249,999
Built in 1863 to house brewery workers, the Kauffman Building has been vacant since the 1990s. It will be renovated into first-floor commercial space with six apartments above. A new addition will yield six more apartments and parking.
 
Ophthalmic Hospital, 208-214 W. 12th St.
Total cost: $7,366,150
Tax credit: $732,950
The now vacant medical facility will be rehabbed by 3CDC into a boutique hotel with 20 guest rooms, a bar and a restaurant on the first floor.
 
Rutemueller Building, 527 E. 13th St.
Total cost: $1,137,569
Tax credit: $113,500
The former grocery store and tenement apartments will be upgraded into modern living spaces with seven market-rate apartments and first-floor live/work spaces.
 
Schmitthenner Building, 1527 Elm St.
Total cost: $671,870
Tax credit: $82,750
The four-story building will become seven market-rate apartments with one retail storefront.
 
Northside
3936 Spring Grove Ave.
Total cost: $504,843
Tax credit: $71,608
It’s been vacant since the 1980s, and renovations will yield two market-rate apartments upstairs and a bar on the first floor.
 
Pendleton
515 E. 12th St.
Total cost: $1,579,851
Tax credit: $195,000
Part of a larger project, Model Group plans to renovate the building into six market-rate apartments.
 
Broadway Square II, 1126-1211 Broadway, 405-414 E. 12th St., 331 E. 13th St.
Total cost: $13,133,245
Tax credit: $1.3 million
Model Group will renovate the 10 historic buildings into retail space and 37 residential units.
 
Walnut Hills
Central Trust Company East Hills Branch, 1535 Madison Road
Total cost: $1,259,939
Tax credit: $196,007
Built in 1926, it was used as a bank until the 1960s. South Block Properties plans to rehab the building into restaurant space.
 
Paramount Square, 900-921 E. McMillan St., 2436-2454 Gilbert Ave., 2363 St. James St.
Total cost: $20,093,697
Tax credit: $1,999,000
The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and Model Group will renovate six historic and two non-historic buildings into 15 commercial spaces and 44 market-rate apartments.
 

These 11 Cincinnati/NKY businesses are celebrating their first year of operation


Doesn't it seem like more restaurants and retail businesses have opened in Greater Cincinnati in 2015 than in previous years? Entrepreneurship is booming, due in part to organizations like Bad Girl Ventures, The Brandery, Cintrifuse, Mortar and UpTech, which have helped a number of local business owners get their ideas off the ground.
 
Here's a roundup of 11 high-profile businesses that just happen to be celebrating their one-year anniversary or will before the start of the new year.
 
Brick OTR, 1327 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine: Business accelerator Mortar started Brick as a way for business owners to host pop-up shops and expand on their ideas; the holiday pop-up opens on Dec. 12. Mortar recently opened a second pop-up shop in Walnut Hills.
 
DogBerry Brewing, 7865 Cincinnati Dayton Road, West Chester: Since opening in January, DogBerry has had to expand its hours and days of operation due to demand. They’re celebrating their one-year anniversary on Jan. 8; you can purchase tickets for $25 at the taproom.  
 
Folk School Coffee Parlor, 332 Elm St., Ludlow: Folk School serves up Deeper Roots coffee and handmade foods and goods from local retailers and artisans. It also hosts workshops and classes for musicians of all ages and skill levels, plus casual concerts.
 
G. Salzano’s, 201 E. Fourth St., downtown: The son of the founder of Salzano’s barbershop opened a men’s grooming products retail store, where you’ll find everything from razors to cologne.
 
Goodfellas Pizzeria, 1211 Main St., OTR: With two restaurants in Lexington and one in Covington, the OTR location took over the former Mayberry space and serves up pizza in a 1920s speakeasy.
 
The Growler House, 1526 Madison Road, Walnut Hills: This beer haven has been a huge draw in the burgeoning Walnut Hills area and boasts 40 taps, 20 of them with local beers.
 
The Gruff, 129 E. Second St., Covington: Ever heard of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff?” Cross the bridge into Northern Kentucky for brick oven pizzas, but watch out for the troll!
 
Horse & Barrel, 625 Walnut St., downtown: Owned by the same group as Nicholson’s, Horse & Barrel is all about the bourbon and small plates.
 
Tap & Screw Brewery, 5060 Crookshank Road, Western Hills: Tap & Screw rebranded last December, started brewing beer and revamped its menu. They recently hosted TapFest, adding to Cincinnati’s growing beer scene and events.
 
The Weekly Juicery, 2727 Erie Ave., Hyde Park: The Weekly Juicery features cold-pressed juices and a raw food menu. Even if you’ve never tried pressed juices, they want to make you a fan.
 
Woodward Theater, 1404 Main St., OTR: MOTR Pub’s owners added to the local music scene last November by converting this 101-year-old building into a music/events center. The Woodward hosted its first wedding this summer and continues to book nationally touring bands.
 

Two new projects bringing apartments & retail space to Walnut Hills and downtown


Cincinnati is booming with redevelopment projects that increase new businesses and residential properties in the urban core. Two were recently announced at historic buildings: a new apartment complex coming to downtown and two floors of retail space to the Paramount Building in Walnut Hills.
 
309 Vine St., Downtown
Over the past year, Village Green Management has been making plans to purchase and renovate 309 Vine St. into 294 apartments and 45,000 square feet of retail and office space. Other planned features include a rooftop restaurant, a pool, a club room and an 11,000-square-foot, street-level grocery store at the corner of Vine and Ogden Place. There’s also the possibility of a coffee shop and wine bar on the building’s first floor.
 
Earlier this year, the 87-year-old building was added to the West Fourth Street Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. This designation allows the project to seek federal historic preservation tax credits as well as state historic preservation tax credits.
 
Once renovations get underway, the apartments could be ready to occupy in 2017.
 
Paramount Building, Walnut Hills
The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation recently purchased the Paramount Building at Gilbert Avenue and McMillan Street for $750,000 from Morris Investment Group. WHRF has been working to redevelop the McMillan business corridor, with more than $10 million invested in the area.
 
WHRF is working with the Cincinnati Development Foundation and LISC to raise funds for its renovation efforts, which could cost about $3 million. Federal and state historic preservation tax credits and new market tax credits would fund the project.
 
Renovations to the three-story Paramount Building would include repairing ceilings and flooring as well as upgrading the rooms and fixtures. When finished, the building will have two floors of commercial space and will house a number of local small businesses. 
 
The 80-year-old building was developed and owned by the Wurlitzer family. It housed a grocery store and then was operated as the Paramount Theater for three decades before closing in the 1960s, when it was replaced by a pharmacy, which is now a CVS.
 

Roundup of neighborhood festivals through the rest of September


The temperature is finally starting to drop, and signs of fall are just around the corner. In response, Cincinnati gears up for the season with a plethora of arts, beer and music festivals.

Here’s a quick roundup of some of our September favorites!
 
Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, Sept. 18-20
Grab your lederhosen and a stein and head downtown for America’s largest Oktoberfest, which was first held in 1976. The celebration of German-style beer, food and music begins Friday with the Running of the Wieners and includes other events like the Gemuetlichkeit (Goodwill) Games and the World’s Largest Chicken Dance.
 
Fifty Fest, Sept. 19
Fifty West Brewing Company hosts its third annual festival that celebrates not only its beer but beer from all over Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. For a $10 entry fee you can hear 10 bands on three stages and try beers from 20 local breweries. The event is noon to midnight at Fifty West HQ outside of Mariemont.
 
CliftonFest, Sept. 25-27
There are several new features for this year’s CliftonFest, which has been held along the Ludlow Avenue business district for the past four years. Food trucks, local restaurant specials and kids game areas have been added to the traditional lineup of live music, West Sixth craft beer, arts vendors and fun activities for the whole family. Plus it’s free!
 
MidPoint Music Festival, Sept. 25-27
Tickets are still on sale for MPMF, celebrating its 14th year in Cincinnati. The music fest takes place over three days on 10 stages in Over-the-Rhine and downtown, four of which will host all ages shows. Daily passes are $40 and are available on MPMF’s website and on site.
 
Cincy Summer Streets, Sept. 26
For the first time, Cincy Summer Streets will be held in OTR; there have been two events this summer already, one in Northside and the other in Walnut Hills. Pleasant Street will be car-free between Washington Park and Findlay Market 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and feature fun outdoor activities for the whole family as well as food and drinks.
 
Cincinnati Street Food Festival, Sept. 26
Food trucks have become the norm in Cincinnati, and Walnut Hills knows how to celebrate mobile food in style. The fourth annual event will include a number of local food trucks, live music and local craft beer. Keep tabs on the event’s Facebook page for up-to-date vendor information.
 
Art Off Pike, Sept. 27
Covington has become known for its growing community of artists, and the rest of the Tristate is taking notice. Art Off Pike allows art-lovers the opportunity to browse and shop the works of more than 60 local artists and creatives 11 a.m.-5 p.m. as well as join in on the art making. The event had been centered at Madlot at the corner of Seventh and Washington streets, but this year it’s expanded to the Duveneck Triangle and the Pike Street Overpass.
 

Transform Cincinnati announces six finalists, puts them in front of potential funders


Transform Cincinnati, an initiative that connects people with great ideas to those who have the money to make the ideas happen, held its first call for submissions in June. Each submission had to have a measurable, long-lasting impact on Cincinnati, be sustainable, be large enough in scale to be truly transformational and be supported by a group or organization that could see it through.

The program was developed by businessman and arts patron Richard Rosenthal, who realized that since the early 1800s Cincinnati has benefited from the engagement of community “investors,” or people who gave of themselves and their resources to elevate the region.

“While we are fortunate to continue to have many generous individuals, there is a need and an opportunity to enhance the ranks of these significant, individual funders of regional initiatives and to facilitate the development of ideas that inspire, engage and involve new generations of funders and investors,” Rosenthal says.
 
Six proposals were recently announced as Transform Cincinnati finalists from a pool of 150 entries, and those six groups now will pitch their ideas to investors. On Sept. 30, Transform Cincinnati hosts a Marketplace event that will be much like the TV show Shark Tank, where the six finalists will present to a group of investors who could make those ideas become reality.
 
The finalists are:

A Down Payment on the Preschool Promise
4C for Children wants to create a foundation for the educational future of children through Cincinnati Preschool Promise. The program, still in development, aims to ensure that every child in the area has access to two years of high-quality, affordable preschool regardless of income.
 
Activate Ziegler Park
3CDC plans to expand Ziegler Park on Sycamore Street in Over-the-Rhine. The existing park would be renovated into five acres of community space to include a neighborhood green space, a new deep-water swimming pool, a multi-use recreational field and a playground.
 
Cincinnati Neighborhood Equity Fund for Walnut Hills
The Cincinnati Development Fund plans to create a fund to accelerate jobs and redevelopment in urban communities beyond Over-the-Rhine, beginning in Walnut Hills. CDF would support the idea by advising on financing, investing its own money and leveraging other funding sources to complement the initial investment.
 
End Youth Homelessness in Cincinnati by 2020
Lighthouse Youth Services plans to develop a multipurpose center in Walnut Hills that would provide housing and services for youth, including an emergency homeless youth shelter and new units of permanent supportive housing as well as a range of services that are meant to get youth off the streets. The ultimate goal is to eradicate youth homelessness in Cincinnati.
 
Precision Cancer Care
UC Health and its cancer institute want to revolutionize cancer outcomes in Cincinnati by leveraging breakthrough discoveries in genomics, drug discovery and biological model systems. UC’s goal is to rank the city among national leaders in new and personalized cancer-care advances, then spread those discoveries across the world.
 
Venture Building Studio and OPA! Labs
Cintrifuse, in partnership with the Health Collaborative, plans to establish a consumer healthcare venture studio that will be dedicated to attracting the best health innovators and talent to the area in order to incubate, nurture and commercialize ideas.

“We hope that together we can think bigger and do more than we have before,” Rosenthal says. “Transform Cincinnati is working hard to identify and facilitate connections between organizations with big ideas and the investors and funders with between $1 million and $10 million who can help make them happen. We’ve heard from organizations that the process has already helped them to seek new collaborations and to become more focused on how to bring their ideas to life. We’ve heard from investors who never before thought of themselves as having the wherewithal to invest in bigger ideas and now recognize they can do so.

“It’s both gratifying and motivating to recognize that Transform Cincinnati has unlocked a new way to help the region become one of the best places in the country to live, learn, work and play.”

Transform Cincinnati has drawn on the experience and involvement of leading community organizations such as ArtsWave, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation, Interact for Health, the Jewish Federation and United Way.
 
If you’re interested in investing in one of these six ideas, register here before Sept. 28.
 

Music Off McMillan to reinforce creative placemaking in Walnut Hills


On Aug. 8, the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation is launching a new creative placemaking initiative made possible by a two-year $100,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation, which was facilitated through LISC. Price Hill Will also received a grant for similar activities there.

WHRF has created a work plan for initiatives that focus on economic development, physical improvements and cultural awareness.
 
Music Off McMillan will take place on the streets of Walnut Hills every Saturday in August and September, leading up to the Cincinnati Street Food Festival on Sept. 26. Street musicians will perform in front of Brew House, Fireside Pizza and The Greenwich as well as inside the venues.
 
Music Off McMillan will help emphasize the neighborhood’s music culture while boosting pedestrian traffic between local restaurants and bars.
 
“This is the first step in getting people to come back to Walnut Hills and get used to walking the area, visiting local businesses,” says WHRF Development Officer Joe Sandmann.
 
There are already a number of creative placemaking initiatives in Walnut Hills, such as the Five Points Biergarten and the neighborhood’s youth ambassador program.
 
“We are beginning the process of taking a cultural inventory of Walnut Hills to inform our creative placemaking programming,” Sandmann says. “Through this grant, our ability to engage the community will increase.”
 
WHRF is working to identify people in the community who will be valuable stakeholders with a lot to offer but haven’t been very involved with past events. WHRF plans to continue its artist-led, community-focused initiatives that can help with the economic development and creative placemaking going on in the neighborhood.
 

Several local food truck owners taking next step and opening storefronts


Food trucks have become the meal-on-the-go option for Cincinnatians, whether it’s a business lunch or community event. After establishing themselves and their menu offerings, a number of those food truck owners are now expanding their businesses and opening brick-and-mortar locations.
 
Share Cheesebar
6105 Ridge Road, Pleasant Ridge
Emily Frank, owner of C’est Cheese food truck, is planning to open a cheese retail shop this fall in Pleasant Ridge’s Sixty99 development next to Nine Giant Brewing. The shop will be part retail and part cheese bar, with a large selection of products and a rotating variety of cheeses, wine, beer and fresh bread.
 
Frank started C’est Cheese in 2011, when there were about 10 food trucks on the streets of Cincinnati. Today there are about 60, and she decided to use her love of cheese to introduce another venture in the city.
 
“I’ve always been a huge lover of cheese but have always been a bit intimidated by most cheese shops,” she says. “There are so many choices, and sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming and I’m hesitant to ask questions in order to learn more.”
 
Share Cheesebar will have a relaxed atmosphere, where customers can come in and enjoy a cheese or charcuterie plate or a glass of wine. Cheese will also be available for purchase to take to a party or home for dinner.
 
“The name ‘Share’ is really what we want people to do in the space,” Frank says.
 
Even though Frank is starting another venture, she will continue serving up the cheesy goodness from Blanche, her food truck.

Urbana Café
1206 Broadway St., Pendleton/OTR
Daniel Noguera purchased a Vespa Ape in 2013 and converted it into a mobile espresso café that’s a Findlay Market staple on the weekends. Now Noguera plans to open a brick-and-mortar café in October next to Nation Kitchen + Bar in the Pendleton area next to Over-the-Rhine.
 
Urbana Café will serve high-quality espresso-based drinks as well as a limited food menu with both sweet and savory options.
 
Noguera plans to continue his mobile coffee business and currently has two Vespas roaming the streets of Cincinnati. He has plans to expand the mobile side of his business to a nearby city, such as Louisville or Columbus.
 
Che!
1342 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine
Chef Alfio Gulisano and his partner Scott Lambert, owners of Alfio’s Buon Cibo in Hyde Park, recently started a food truck called Che Empanadas. They’re expanding on that concept and planning to open a restaurant based on the Argentinean staple of pizza and empanadas.
 
Che!, which means Hey!, will open its doors in Over-the-Rhine in the fall. The restaurant will feature a large bar with Argentine wines by the glass and craft beer options as well as an outdoor dining area with a parrilla, a large outdoor grill that will feature a rotating variety of grilled meats.
 
The restaurant will also have an ordering window that opens onto the street, where customers can get empanadas and pizza during late-night hours.
 
Catch-A-Fire
5164 Kennedy Ave., Pleasant Ridge
The owners of Catch-A-Fire Pizza opened a café inside of MadTree Brewing in February. It’s an extension of the food truck, and the menu features items infused with MadTree beer.
 
Dojo Gelato
1735 Blue Rock St., Northside
Dojo Gelato has been a staple at Findlay Market for six years, and next spring owner Michael Christner plans to open a stand-alone location in the old J.F. Dairy Corner in Northside.
 
Christner will continue to serve his gelato, which has become a Cincinnati favorite, but will also expand Dojo’s menu with twists on traditional ice cream favorites. That menu will eventually be served at the Findlay Market location as well, as all of Dojo’s production will be moved to the new Northside location.
 
O Pie O
1527 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills
While not a food truck, O Pie O will be expanding beyond its Findlay Market pop-up roots with a brick-and-mortar store opening soon at DeSales Corner. The store is currently hiring workers.
 
The pie shop will feature both sweet and savory options as well as a small menu of soups and salads. Wine, craft beer, coffee and ice cream will also be served as accompaniments.
 

Cincy Summer Streets back for second year, adds event in OTR


Cincy Summer Streets return car-free one-day festivals to Walnut Hills and Northside starting July 18 — after drawing about 4,200 people last year in the two neighborhoods — and will introduce a third version in Over-the-Rhine.
 
“We looked at many neighborhoods and there are so many options for expanding,” says Margy Waller, co-founder of Summer Streets. “This gives people a chance to play in their own neighborhood in a space that’s typically used by cars.”  
 
The areas in Walnut Hills and Northside are slightly different from last year — Walnut Hills will be focused on McMillan Street between Victory Parkway and Chatham Street, while Northside will use Hamilton Avenue between Pullan and Spring Grove avenues. OTR’s event will be held on Pleasant Street, which connects Washington Park and Findlay Market, between 14th Street and Glass Alley.
 
The majority of activities will be held on sidewalks, leaving the streets open to walkers, bicyclists and skateboarders. Many of the same organizations will be back for this year’s events, featuring events like climbing walls, double-dutch jump roping, lawn bowling, mini golf, jousting, hula hooping, yoga, dancing, belly dancing, art and crosswalk painting.
 
With the streets free of cars, people can walk, run, bike, skateboard and roller blade up and down the event space.
 
“Cincy Summer Streets is a celebration of the communities’ largest public spaces, the streets,” Waller says. “We turn the streets into parks for a day and we help connect neighborhoods with their people, while getting those people to enjoy healthy activities and art-making right in their own neighborhoods.”
 
In OTR, Summer Streets is partnering with Findlay Market, which is working with a number of community partners to further activate Pleasant Street to benefit the community. They’re planning to involve Market vendors in the event, which is different from the events in Walnut Hills and Northside.
 
Other community partners include Interact for Health, US Bank/Haile Foundation, Topic Design, Walnut Hills Area Council, Walnut Hills Business Group, Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, Northside Community Council, Northside Business Association, Over-the-Rhine Community Council, Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce, Art on the Streets and Cincinnati Development Fund.
 
“These events help foster civic pride as well as stimulate economic development and help to represent the community’s businesses and government investments,” Waller says. “The city has amazing parks, vibrant local business corridors, arts and artists and active community organizations. Summer Streets provides a chance to highlight all of these assets during safe, fun and free community events.”
 
The first Summer Streets event is July 18 in Walnut Hills. Northside’s event is Aug. 23, and OTR’s is Sept. 26. All three events are scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

Make sure to keep tabs on the Summer Streets website for each event's specific activities and organizations.
 

Ohio announces recipients of state historic tax credits, including six Cincinnati projects


Six Cincinnati projects recently received $7.1 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits. Statewide, 19 projects were chosen to receive funding, totaling more than $27.5 million. The projects range from new apartments to commercial space and are expected to leverage about $280 million in private investment.
 
512 E. 12th St.
Total cost: $700,000; tax credit funds: $76,800
Two Over-the-Rhine residents acquired the building from OTR A.D.O.P.T. and plan to renovate it into seven one-bedroom market-rate apartments.
 
Abington Flats, 33 Green St.
Total cost: $4,855,059; tax credit funds: $482,999
The four-story, 105-year-old building near Findlay Market will be converted into 18 fully accessible apartments and one commercial storefront. Cornerstone Corporation for Shared Equity, Model Group and 3CDC are partnering on the project.
 
Baldwin Piano Company, 655 Eden Park Dr.
Total cost: $39,233,265; tax credit funds: $4,840,000
The eight-story building served as the home of the Baldwin Piano Company until it was converted into offices in 1987. Neyer Properties plans to rehab it into 176 market-rate apartments.
 
Market Square A, 1808-10 Race St.
Total cost: $2,585,377; tax credit funds: $249,999
As part of the larger Market Square development near Findlay Market, the two buildings are over 11,000 square feet. Model Group plans to rehab the space into nine apartments and about 1,500 square feet of commercial space.
 
Market Square B, 101 W. Elder St. and 1812 Race St.
Total cost: $2,568,088; tax credit funds: $249,999
Another part of the Market Square development, the building at 1812 Race and the John and Henry Kruse Dry Goods and Notions Building at 101 W. Elder will become nine apartments and just over 1,500 square feet of commercial space.
 
Merchants Building, 34 W. Sixth St.
Total cost: $9,921,186; tax credit funds: $982,295
Ashley Commercial Group plans to turn the 103-year-old building into 62 market-rate apartments with first-floor commercial space.
 
Warner Brothers Pictures Building, 1600 Central Parkway
Total cost: $1,310,665; tax credit funds: $184,000
Built in 1940, the building has been vacant for a number of years. Grandin Properties has acquired the property and plans to convert it into office space.
 

Brewery culture continues to grow, this time in Walnut Hills


Chris Mitchell, formerly of Listermann Brewing, has been homebrewing for about 15 years. After talking with a number of partners, he decided to pursue opening The Woodburn Brewery, which will debut later this summer at 2800 Woodburn Ave. in Walnut Hills.
 
“The neighborhood is up-and-coming and looks like it will be a nice entertainment district here pretty soon,” Mitchell says.
 
The building, which was built in the early 1900s, is just over 4,000 square feet and is being designed as taproom/brewery with capacity for about 120. Mitchell says they’re going to cater to the taproom experience and customers won’t feel like they’re in a brewery, even though they’ll be able to see the tanks through a giant glass wall.
 
“Lots of breweries feel like you’re sitting in a brew house, but we’re going for a different experience,” he says. “This will be somewhere everyone wants to go.”
 
The Woodburn Brewery will open with 4-6 flagship beers, including a pineapple saison, a cedar IPA and a German pilsner. The recipe and name of the German pilsner, which will be released at opening, comes from Espelkamper Brau in Germany — the owner of that brewery won four gold medals for the pilsner and has signed over the rights and name to The Woodburn Brewery.
 
Mitchell also plans to release seasonal beers and sours as well as bourbon barrel releases, experimental batches and limited-edition bottle releases. The Woodburn Brewery will also be serving from Brite tanks, which means that the beer is carbonated and served from the same tank.
 
There are plans to distribute to bars, restaurants and retail stores, but Mitchell says they’ll start small with a few select spots. When the brewery opens, there won’t be a food menu, but there a light appetizer menu is in the works.
 
The Woodburn Brewery will partner with Firehouse Pizza and local food trucks to feed their customers in the first few months, Mitchell says, and there are talks of a cidery/restaurant in the future.
 
“We’re excited to see the explosion of breweries happening in Cincinnati,” Mitchell says. “We’re also excited to see Cincinnati restored to its original brewery status. In its heyday, there were a ton of breweries here and Cincinnati was known for its beer. We’re excited to be part of it and to see lots of new faces pop up.”
 

SoupCycle delivers healthy food to people without access to it


In December 2011, Harriet Matthey met with a group of homeless people in Over-the-Rhine and saw a real need for healthy food options for those who didn’t have access to it. From those conversations she came up with Oatmobile, a SmartCar that would provide hot porridge to people in Cincinnati’s food deserts.
 
That idea became what is now SoupCycle, a bike that transports soup to community centers, parks and events. Suzy DeYoung of La Soupe has been supplying the soups for about a year, and they’ve been a huge hit with those on the receiving end.
 
“My daughter was a pedi-cab driver in Boston, and she said anyone can pedal 350 pounds thanks to gears,” Matthey says. “So I thought, why not give it a try?”
 
DeYoung’s soup is made with ingredients bought or given from local chefs and discounted produce from grocery stores. Soup is a great way to help people experience healthy eating as well as introduce them to ingredients they’re not familiar with, Matthey says, and SoupCycle also helps kids learn to make more informed eating decisions.
 
Matthey says that engineering students at the University of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky University have helped contribute to SoupCycle, and engineering heads at Purdue University and Ohio State University have also given their time and advice on the project.
 
So far, SoupCycle has shared soup as well as porridge in Avondale, Walnut Hills and downtown. Matthey currently serves soup at 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays in Piatt Park downtown and has plans to take SoupCycle to the May 8 Ride for Reading event, which is part of Bike Month, and the May 16 Health Fair at Riverview East School.
 

Bike Month promotes bicycle safety, healthy lifestyles


The tristate area is increasingly becoming more bike-friendly, with new bicycle lanes in many neighborhoods and Red Bike locations throughout the city, with expansion coming soon. May is Bike Month, a time to reconsider healthy lifestyles and the use of bicycles as transportation.
 
Bike Month is organized by Queen City Bike, but a number of local organizations and businesses offer bike-related deals, lead bike rides and host events throughout the month. Things kicked off May 1 with a poster show at Coffee Emporium that runs through May 26; and on May 2, a ride to various pubs in the basin area.

If you missed these events, though, don’t worry. There are plenty more coming up — 21 below, to be exact.

Bicycle Happy Hour at The Brew House, 1047 E. McMillan, Walnut Hills: Ride your bike to The Brew House and, if you’re wearing a helmet, get a free appetizer during happy hour. May 4, 11 and 18 at 5-8 p.m.

Urban Basin Bicycle Club, meet at Fountain Square: Join the club for a slow, interesting themed ride for all skill levels that begins and ends in the basin. Every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

Hump Day Hill Challenge, meet at greenspace by the old SCPA building in Pendleton/Over-the-Rhine: A difficult ride up and down Cincinnati’s hills. To check out the routes, use the Hill Challenge App in the Google Play Store. Every Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Thursday Night Slow & Steady Ride, meet at Hoffner Park, Northside: These rides are open to anything with wheels and take about 1.5 to 2 hours. Every Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Eastside to Findlay Market Ride, meet at Coffee Emporium, 3316 Erie Ave., Hyde Park. Every Saturday at 8:30 a.m.

Findlay Market Bikegarten, Findlay Market, OTR: Learn more about the bike-friendly changes that are coming to the city, pick up free bike maps and lots more. Every Saturday at 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Ride for Reading, meet at Coffee Emporium Warehouse, 12th and Walnut Streets, OTR: Join in the bike parade, then distribute books to students at Chase Elementary in Northside. May 8 at 10 a.m.

The Color Ride, meet at Washington Park: Grab the kids and dress in a single color from head-to-toe and take a short ride through OTR and downtown. May 9 at 4 p.m.

Element Cycles City Ride, meet at Element Cycles, 2838 Observatory Ave., Hyde Park: This casual ride will end at the Growler House in East Walnut Hills. May 9 at 4 p.m.

Bike Happy Hour, Fries Café, 3247 Jefferson Ave., Clifton. May 12 at 5-7 p.m.

Trivia Fundraiser for Mobo, The Brew House, 1047 E. McMillan, Walnut Hills. May 13 at 7:30 p.m.

Breakfast on the Bridge, Purple People Bridge on the Newport side: Pastries and coffee will be available, and there will also be a station set up with a mechanic to help you fix up your bike. May 15 at 7-9 a.m.

Bike to Work Day: All rides are free on Metro, Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) and Clermont Transportation Connection for those with bicycles. All day May 15.

Bike to Work Day Celebration, MainStrasse, Covington: Rides will be led to Fountain Square and back. May 15 at 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Bike 2 Baseball: Ride to Great American Ball Park for the sixth annual event. A free bike valet will be available, hosted by Red Bike. Tickets must be bought in advance. May 17 at 1 p.m.

Second Annual Preservation Ride, meet at Rhinegeist, 1910 Elm St., OTR: The Cincinnati Preservation Collective is celebrating Bike Month by hosting a slow riding tour of some of the urban basin’s historic sites. May 17 at noon.

Trivia Fundraiser for Queen City Bike, The Brew House, 1047 E. McMillan, Walnut Hills. May 20 at 7:30 p.m.

The Pink Flamingo Bike Ride: Ride from Covington to Bellevue Beach for this family-friendly event that touts Northern Kentucky pride. May 30 at 10 a.m.

Queen City Bike+Dine: Email info@parkandvine.com for more information about the 10th annual event on June 6.
 
There will also be three Blinkie Light Distributions throughout the month:

• Kenton County Health Center, 2022 Madison Ave., Covington, May 10 at 3 p.m.
• Campbell County Health Center, 1098 Monmouth St., Newport, May 17 at 3 p.m.
• Boone County Health Center, 7505 Burlington Pike, Florence, May 24 at 3 p.m.
 

Revisiting recently opened and still-to-come restaurants


Over the past several months, the Soapbox Development News section has covered a large number of restaurants and breweries planning to open all over the region. We thought it was time to provide updates on these new businesses as well as when you can hope to visit those that aren’t quite ready to launch yet. (Links go to our original Development News coverage of each business.)
 
Arcade Legacy
3929 Spring Grove Ave., Northside
The bar and vintage arcade concept plans to open its doors in April.
 
Braxton Brewing
27 W. Seventh St., Covington
The grand opening is at 5 p.m. March 27. There will be four beers on tap, including their flagship Storm Golden Cream Ale and Juniper Hoppy Wheat Ale. Neltner Small Batch will reveal their largest indoor installation, two local bands will be playing, and guests will be able to tour the brewery.
 
Brezel
6 W. 14th St., OTR
The Columbus-based pretzel shop opened its second location in September, offering everything from your traditional salted pretzel to more unique, seasonal creations. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday & Wednesday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
 
E+O Kitchen
3520 Edwards Road, Hyde Park
The Asian restaurant, opening in the former Dancing Wasabi space, doesn’t have a grand opening timeline.
 
The Gruff
129 E. Second St., Covington
The grocer, deli and brick oven pizza restaurant opened on Jan. 14. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday & Saturday.
 
Krueger’s Tavern
1211 Vine St., OTR
The owners of the Bakersfield and The Eagle opened the American-style restaurant, which is known for its house-made sausages and 100 cans of beer, in December. Hours: 4 p.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday & Saturday.
 
Macaron Bar
1206 Main St., OTR
The city's only bakery dedicated to macarons opened Dec. 12. Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
 
O Pie O
DeSales Corner, Walnut Hills
The sweet and savory pie shop is shooting to open in May. Until then, their pies are available each weekend at Findlay Market.
 
Off the Vine
1218 Vine St., OTR
The cold-pressed juice bar opened Nov. 17, offering to-go juices and take-home cleanses. Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends.
 
Revolution Rotisserie & Bar
1106 Race St., OTR
Featuring free range chicken and all-American sides, the restaurant opened March 2. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday & Saturday.
 
Tap & Screw Brewery
5060 Crookshank Road, Westwood
The Westside restaurant changed its name, revamped its menu and added a brewery, reopening Dec. 19. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Monday-Sunday.
 
Tillie’s Lounge
4042 Hamilton Ave., Northside
The turn-of-the-century bar’s grand opening is set for March 19. Hours: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday-Sunday.
 
World Cup
4023 Hamilton Ave., Northside
Owner Alex Kuhns is working with new partners on his sports-themed international restaurant. He plans to open by the end of the year, but an exact date remains up in the air.
 
Zinomobile
The food truck that will serve dishes from the former Cincinnati favorite Zino’s is still finalizing locations where it will serve and could possibly open a brick-and-mortar space, too.
 

Walnut Hills aims for better overall community health with gardens, events


Childhood obesity, and obesity in general, is a growing problem in Walnut Hills. In order to help combat the problem, Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation (WHRF) partnered with numerous organizations to develop a number of community health and wellness initiatives.
 
When Betty Waite was brought on full-time as the organization's CFO, she wanted to organize a community garden in the neighborhood. Over the past year she's helped activate two large community gardens and has two more planned for 2015.
 
The two existing community gardens were designed primarily to provide food for the Open Door Pantry at the Church of the Advent and Walnut Hills Food Kitchen, and there are two community members who have personal plots.
 
“The main purpose is to grow things for the hungry and to build the community around this common goal,” Waite says.
 
The Concord Street Community Garden has room for a total of 75 raised beds — there are currently 25 raised beds in the garden, and Waite says this year they will add 25 more. Volunteers grow everything from peppers and tomatoes to herbs and a variety of greens, including kale and collards. The garden also has two beehives, and viney plants like beans and cucumbers grow up the existing barbed wire topped fence.
 
Volunteers are trying to upcycle whenever possible — they built a retention pond from used tires found during a neighborhood cleanup, and the seven compost bins were built from pallets. A patio was constructed from bricks gathered from neighborhood demolition sites, and this year there are plans to construct a small greenhouse from used windows.
 
Last year, a total of 2,000 volunteer hours were logged in the community gardens. Volunteers come from groups all over the neighborhood, including the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, which organized a group of 10 children to take a class at the Civic Garden Center and then volunteer 16 hours a week for eight weeks in the community gardens; Elevate Walnut Hills; GO Cincinnati; and Keep Cincinnati Beautiful.
 
In 2015, Waite hopes to plant an urban orchard in one of the number of vacant lots in the neighborhood, which will help supply fresh fruit. She also plans to construct a children’s garden across the street from Frederick Douglass School, made possible by a $1,500 grant from the Community Leaders Institute.
 
Another gardening effort is coming in the form of edible landscaping in two pots in Walnut Hills’ business district. Waite says sweet potatoes, sweet peppers and rainbow Swiss chard will be planted in the pots.
 
“We’re going to plant the edibles and see what happens,” she says. “We also plan to plant some edible landscaping in a few of the neighborhood parks and see how that works in an urban setting.”
 
Walnut Hills’ other healthy initiative is Health & Wellness Wednesdays, which began at the end of January. The weekly event is funded through Interact for Health’s Thriving Communities grant.
 
Health & Wellness Wednesdays begin at 4:30 p.m. at the Dilllard Building (719 E. McMillan) and include free know-your-numbers health screenings, yoga classes for beginners and intermediate levels, cooking and nutrition classes, Healing Touch and chair massages, and urban gardening classes. The programs are geared for those 13 years of age and older, and each night is capped off with an unwinding session, which includes citrus-infused water and red wine for those of age.
 
“Studies show that one glass of red wine is good for your health,” Waite says. “We’re trying to cover all bases.”
 
Vitality, which teaches the event’s yoga classes, also offers yoga teacher training. Classes are normally upwards of $3,000, but through the grant classes are only $50, and yogis are expected to volunteer 100 hours in and around Walnut Hills (many volunteer at the community gardens).
 
“We’re really planting the seeds of yoga, and hopefully when the yogis are officially trained they’ll have classes all over Walnut Hills,” Waite says.
 
When the weather gets better, the Findlay Market Farmstand will be part of Health & Wellness Wednesdays, and the Go Vibrant walking routes throughout the neighborhood will yield a walking group. WHRF also plans to partner with Queen City Bike for biking groups.
 
Waite says they’re challenging the Walnut Hills community to do one million minutes of exercise in three months — that’s just 549 people doing 20 minutes of exercise per day.

As a neighborhood, Walnut Hills has a number of other healthy initiatives coming in the next year, so stay tuned!
 

O Pie O opening at DeSales Corner in East Walnut Hills


Cincinnati’s first pie bakery plans to open its doors this spring in East Walnut Hills. O Pie O will occupy the space at 1527 Madison Road at DeSales Corner.
 
“We want to be a gathering place for friends, families and neighbors, and we can’t think of a better place for a pie shop,” Lou Ginocchio II says, O Pie O’s co-founder and marketer.
 
Ginocchio’s partner Ian Sobeck is O Pie O’s chef and baker. The intention all along was to open a physical shop, but Sobeck had to figure out how to make pies for a lot of people. Once he got that figured out, he went down to Findlay Market and set up a tent to start selling.
 
O Pie O’s menu will feature sweet and savory pies that will rotate on a seasonal basis. On the sweet side, there will be fruit, custard and nut pies as well as small pastries made from Sobeck’s pie crust. Pies can be served a la mode or in pie shakes. The savory menu will feature pot pies, quiches and tortas, plus smaller savory options like empanadas and samosas.
 
The pies will be the cornerstone of the menu but will be complimented by soups, salads, wine, craft beer, coffee and ice cream. Lunch and dinner will be served during the week, with brunch in the mornings and a limited late-night menu.
 
O Pie O is currently available at Findlay Market, Sprout Market & Eatery, Park + Vine, Reser Bicycle Outfitters and Clifton Natural Foods. Ginocchio says they plan to continue these relationships after O Pie O opens.
 
“We have a lot in common with them,” he says. “They’re in energized neighborhoods and want the same kind of future in Cincinnati where small businesses not only thrive but are good neighbors.”

O Pie O plans to have an event at their space on Pi Day, which is March 14, even if it's before the shop is officially open.
 

Cincinnati's beer culture still on the rise


Greater Cincinnati has become a craft beer Mecca in recent years. The last quarter of 2014 has seen much of that growth, with new breweries and bottle shops popping up all over the city. The local demand for craft beer is driving growth, of course, but so is each brewer’s passion for making beer.
 
With extended family in town for the holidays, this might be the perfect time to check out some of these places.
 
Blank Slate Brewing Company
4233 Airport Road, East End

Started in 2011 by Scott LaFollette, Blank Slate has grown from a draft-only distribution operation into a taproom. PourHouse opened in late November and features eight rotating taps.
 
The Growler House
1526 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills
The Growler House features 40 taps, 20 of which are dedicated to local breweries. It opened Dec. 2 and allows customers to stop in, sample a beer and then have a pint or fill up a 64-oz. growler to take home.
 
River Ghost
Erlanger, Ky.
Rhinegeist just launched distribution in Northern Kentucky and will be delivering to restaurants and grocery stores in the region. River Ghost will also be delivering wine from an undisclosed customer and plans to distribute beer from other local craft breweries in the near future.
 
Tap and Screw Brewery
5060 Crookshank Road, Covedale
The owners of Tom & Jerry’s Sports Bar added a brewery and taproom onto their existing restaurant. Tap and Screw opened to the public on Dec. 19 and will feature craft beer and local wines. The restaurant revamped its menu, and because the restaurant already has a liquor license the taproom also has a full bar.
 
Keep an eye out for the following ventures, too. They’re not open yet, but there's already a lot of buzz surrounding these spots.
 
Braxton Brewery
27 W. Seventh St., Covington
Evan Rouse, a six-year homebrewer, and brewing veteran Richard Dube are the masterminds behind Braxton Brewery. They plan to have 15-20 beers on tap, with both core and seasonal beers. The opening date is still up in the air, but early 2015 is the plan.
 
Casual Pint
Location TBD
Tennessee-based Casual Pint will offer 30 rotating taps of local and regional beers, which will be available by the pint or in growlers to take home. The food menu will include bar food staples like soft pretzels with beer cheese and wings. It’s slated to open in the third quarter of 2015 and will be the first location outside of Tennessee.
 
DogBerry Brewing
7865 Cincinnati Dayton Road, West Chester
Cincinnati’s first nanobrewery plans to open in the next few weeks. DogBerry will have 10 beers on tap, including their year-round rye pale ale, IPA, Kolsch, brown ale, blonde ale and five seasonals.
 
Fibonacci Brewing Company
1445 Compton Road, Mt. Healthy
Labeled as an ultranano brewery, Fibonacci will have a one-barrel system that will allow for about 300 beers per batch. Owners Bob and Betty Bollas plan to have an Imperial IPA, a Kolsch and an Imperial Stout on tap to start with when the taproom and brewery open in the spring.
 
Geo. Wiedemann Brewing Co.
530 York St., Newport
Wiedemann beer recently came back on the market when Jon Newberry bought the brand rights. He plans to open a brewery and taproom in Newport’s WaterTower Square, which he hopes to have up and running by Reds Opening Day 2015.
 

Frameshop opens Workshop in Walnut Hills

Frameshop recently moved the back end of its framing business to 700 E. McMillan in Walnut Hills. It’s in the same building as Beck Paint and Hardware, and will allow Frameshop the space to do the woodwork and finishing on pieces.
 
Co-owner Jake Baker says they ran out of space to make frames at the Over-the-Rhine location, and needed a place where they could test out their services and maybe develop new products.
 
“We were looking for new opportunities to work with wood,” Baker says. “Walnut Hills is looking to change the dynamic of the neighborhood, and we’re excited about that.”
 
Workshop will be housed in a 1,100-square-foot space on the first floor of the building, but they’re also testing out the third floor, which is about 2,000 square feet. It will solely be a workshop, and Frameshop will continue to offer retail options, with hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and appointments during the week.
 
Baker says they might take appointments at Workshop, as there are customers who like to see the whole framing process, but that’s still up in the air.
 
Frameshop is expanding in other ways, too. Since opening in 2012, they hired two employees, both graduates of the Art Academy of Cincinnati. They also opened a location in Lexington last September, with the intention of moving to a new space in January. The lease at the new location fell through, so Baker and partner Jake Gerth decided to focus on Cincinnati and the new Workshop.
 
“Being active in Walnut Hills and OTR is going to allow us to get to know a new set of people, and introduce each neighborhood to a new set of people,” Baker says. “We’re ambassadors for business and the neighborhood of OTR, and we want to do that for Walnut Hills too.

ArtWorks brings interactive bike racks to city

If you’re a bicyclist, you’ve probably seen the 14 artist-designed bike racks, called Art Racks, throughout Greater Cincinnati. ArtWorks is currently working to help install a 15th in front of The Carnegie in Covington.
 
The new Art Rack will be designed by Michael Stillion, and will feature three ghosts. The Carnegie, ArtWorks and power2give have partnered to bring the new Art Rack to the city.
 
The organizations need to raise $7,000 to pay for the materials and the artist. The NLT Foundation will match all donations dollar-for-dollar. Donors will have the chance to select from a variety of benefits, including a Carnegie membership, tickets to The Carnegie’s annual Art of Food event and bike rack naming rights.

There are also three other power2give campaigns open for Art Racks in Columbia Tusculum, at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and at the Lloyd Library and Museum.
 
Since 2012, ArtWorks has partnered with local artists and organizations to bring artist-designed, functional Art Racks to spaces and add to the streetscape of the neighborhoods.
 
Art Racks can be found at:
  • The Coffee Emporium, 110 E. Central Parkway: Tour de Cincy, designed by Pam Kravetz, Carla Lamb and Karen Saunders; sponsored by the NLT Foundation 
  • Clifton Cultural Arts Center, 3711 Clifton Ave.: designed by Bob Dyehouse; sponsored by Truepoint, Inc. and ArtsWave
  • Duke Energey Convention Center, 525 Elm St.: Humanity Machine Outpost, designed by Edward Casagrande; sponsored by Duke Energy Convention Center
  • YWCA, 898 Walnut St.: designed by Carolyn Watkins; sponsored by Pantene
  • Fifth Third Bank, 38 Fountain Square Plaza: Currents, designed by Claire Darley and Rebecca Seeman; sponsored by goVibrant and Fifth Third Bank
  • Salway Park Trailhead at Mill Creek Trail: Elements, designed by Christopher Daniel; sponsored by ArtsWave and Truepoint, Inc.
  • Studio S, 3456 Michigan Ave.: Circular Logic, designed by Mark Schlacter; sponsored by Studio S
  • 1411 Main St., Ohio?: designed by John Dixon; sponsored by Over-the-Rhine Revitalization Corporation via Urban Sites
  • Hoffner Park, 4104 Hamilton Ave.: Sago Palms, designed by Kate Demske; sponsored by Terry Bazeley and John Castaldi and MoBo Bicycle Co-op
  • Walnut Hills High School, 3250 Victory Parkway: Acanthus Leaves, designed by David Tarbell; sponsored by Walnut Hills High School Alumni Foundation
  • Over-the-Rhine Kroger, 1420 Vine St., and East Price Hill Kroger, 3609 Warsaw Ave.: Fresh Fruit, designed by Maya Drozdz and Michael Stout of VisuaLingual; sponsored by Kroger
  • Smale Riverfront Park, West Mehring Way: designed by David Rice; sponsored by Jan and Wym Portman
  • SCPA, 108 W. Central Parkway: SCPA Octopus, designed by Christian Schmit and students at SCPA; sponsored by ArtsWave, The Johnson Foundation and power2give donors

ArtsWave grant recipient: Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation

ArtsWave recently awarded a total of $45,000 to five LISC Place Matters neighborhoods—Avondale, Covington, Madisonville, Price Hill and Walnut Hills. Each neighborhood received $9,000 in grant money, which will help bring ArtsWave-supported arts activities and organizations to each neighborhood. For five weeks, Soapbox is featuring the five neighborhoods and their plans for the grant money.
 
The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation is using its portion of the grant money to add arts programming to the second annual Cincinnati Street Food Festival, the We Are Walnut Hills Springfest and various upcoming community events in Five Points Alley.
 
The Cincinnati Street Food Festival is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 27, on E. McMillan between Hemlock and Chatham. There will be 15 food trucks and local craft beer, as well as interactive art and live music.
 
Play Cincy is bringing along big chalk to draw on the sidewalks, and featured musicians include DJ Fly Troy and Friends, Black Mountain Throwdown, Eclipse, The Cincy Brass, Tracy Walker, the Randy Villars Quartet and 2nd Wind.
 
The food trucks that will be at the festival are: Andy’s Mediterranean Grille, Bistro de Mohr, C’est Cheese, Catch-a-Fire, Dojo Gelato, East Coast Eatz, Eclectic Comfort Food, Fireside Pizza, Red Sesame, Renegade Street Eats, Scratch House, Streetpops, SugarSnap!, The Chili Hut and Waffo. Beer will be provided by Great Lakes Brewing Company and Rhinegeist.
 
The We Are Walnut Hills Springfest will include performances by Core Clay and Drums for Peach. Programming at Five Points Alley will include the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Elementz and Bi-Okoto.  

Keep tabs on WHRF's Facebook page for upcoming event information.

Ten films showcase the lives of Walnut Hills residents

This summer, Ryan Mulligan, a professor and filmmaker; Sam Meador, a local artist; The Gallery Project; Cincinnati creatives; and citizens of Walnut Hills created 10 short films about the people of the neighborhood. The films will be shown at 9 p.m. on Aug. 15 during the final Walk on Woodburn of the summer.
 
“Walnut Hills is my home, and I love the neighborhood,” Mulligan says. “When Annie Bolling asked me to do a project in her new community-centered art space on Woodburn, I jumped at the opportunity.”
 
The films, called Hilltop Stories, include documentary-style shorts, a silent comedy, a music video and a historical recreation of a couple’s first date and their lives together. Hilltop Stories was made entirely on a volunteer basis, with a grant from FUEL Cincinnati covering the advertising and equipment costs for the screening.
 
A Bollywood-style music video is in honor of Courttney Cooper, a Kroger employee who loves music. He can be seen dancing around the store, and brings music to everyone around him, Mulligan says.
 
Roy and Dee Green have lived in Walnut Hills for more than 50 years, and their love story inspired one of the films. Local teen actors played the Greens, and the film was shot on location in the neighborhood as the actors re-created the couple’s first date, courtship, marriage, and trials and tribulations. 
 
Walk on Woodburn will include a beer garden and food trucks from 6 to 9 p.m., with the films shown afterward for free on a giant 20-foot inflatable screen in the parking lot of 2800 Woodburn.
 
Mulligan says he’s only scratched the surface of the stories in Walnut Hills. During filming, he met a family with a large fence behind their house who have never met their neighbors. Next year, Mulligan is helping host the first ever Backyard Fence Volleyball League, in which the winner cooks dinner. Each block can form a team, and the match and meal will be filmed.
 
“I’m not a filmmaker,” Mulligan says. “I’m just a guy who believes in neighborhoods, and a professor who believes in art for social change.”
 
Next year, Mulligan hopes to take a backseat and help others who want to get behind the camera, but he definitely wants to see Hilltop Stories continue in Walnut Hills and beyond.
 

ArtWalks bring temporary public art to communities

The community was invited to help paint the crosswalk, or ArtWalk, at Main and Melindy streets in Over-the-Rhine during the neighborhood’s Second Sunday on Main. Artists Beth Graves, Pam Kravetz and Carla Morales designed and painted the outline of the crosswalk, aptly named “Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?”
 
About 50 community members painted as little or as much of the crosswalk as they wanted.
 
“The most expensive part of any street painting is closing the street, so Second Sunday was a great time and place to do it,” says Margy Waller, Serendipity Director for Art on the Streets.
 
Another crosswalk will be painted during next month’s event, and Waller says they hope to have one or two painted at every Second Sunday between now and October.
 
Art on the Streets will also have an ArtWalk painting during the Walnut Hills Cincy Summer Streets on July 19, which was designed and outlined by Graves. There are also plans to have an ArtWalk at Northside’s Cincy Summer Streets on Aug. 24.
 
“ArtWalks reflect the vibrancy that the arts bring to neighborhoods, and show how arts bring people together,” Waller says.
 
The Main Street ArtWalks are being funded by a grant from Cincy Sundaes and a matching grant from The Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Big Idea Challenge. The Walnut Hill’s ArtWalk is being funded by Interact for Health and The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation.

Cincy Summer Streets brings car-free fun to Walnut Hills, Northside

Tomorrow, a mile-long stretch of E. McMillan Street and Woodburn Avenue between Gilbert Avenue and Madison Road will be closed to cars, but open to pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders and rollerbladers from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Walnut Hills.
 
Cincy Summer Streets is based on similar events held in cities like Indianapolis, Louisville, New York City, Portland and Chicago to promote local businesses and community—all without cars.
 
Activities, which are free, include sidewalk painting, yoga, belly dancing, pottery, jazz dancing, a flash mob and hula hooping from a variety of local businesses. There will also be an ArtWalk crosswalk painting, held by Art in the Streets, where anyone can help create a piece of temporary public art.
 
The second Cincy Summer Streets will be held on August 24 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Northside. Hamilton Avenue will be closed between Pullan and Spring Grove avenues, and Blue Rock Street will be closed between Cherry Street and Dane Avenue.
 
Northside’s event will include activities from Happen Inc., My Nose Turns Red, Spun Bicycles, Galaxie Skate Shop, Queen City Bike, Wump Mucket Puppets, Word Play, Yoga Ah and more.
 
Each route is situated within the neighborhood’s local business district with locally owned shops and restaurants to enjoy, as well as the street activities. Cincy Summer Streets is accessible in both Walnut Hills and Northside by bike, bus and car, with street parking available nearby.
 
Cincy Summer Streets is sponsored by The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation and Interact for Health.
 
Follow Cincy Summer Streets on Twitter @cincystreets, #cincystreets and on Instagram @cincystreets.

THRIVE development grant to bring businesses to Peebles' Corner

Funded by Fifth Third Bank, Walnut Hills’ THRIVE business development grant was created to attract at least three businesses to Peebles’ Corner. The grant can be for a minimum of $3,000, and up to $15,000; ideally, Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation wants to fund as many businesses as possible.
 
“Historically, Peeble’s Corner has been difficult to repopulate, and we’re doing everything we can to reinvigorate the district,” says Kevin Wright, executive director of WHRF.
 
A committee of stakeholders, including members from the African American Community Council, the Walnut Hills Business Group, Fifth Third and WHRF, oversee the application process and match businesses with storefronts. 
 
The grant can be used for things like equipment, signage and marketing, among other things, but not for payroll or rent. The idea is to get sustainable businesses with solid business plans into Peebles’ Corner, Wright says.
 
“THRIVE is just an additional incentive to bring businesses to Walnut Hills and to give them that last push to open,” he says.
 
WHRF conducted a social capital survey last year and asked the community what types of retail options they wanted to see in the area. When THRIVE applications come through, they’re comparing the survey results to see what they community wants. One of the top requests was for a coffee shop.
 
Angst Coffee, which is located at 2437 Gilbert Ave., is the first THRIVE recipient. It also took advantage of the neighborhood’s Façade Improvement Program and Community Entertainment District program, which helps with liquor licensing.
 
“Our vision for Peebles’ Corner is to bring it back to what it once was—a vibrant, walkable business district,” Wright says.
 

ArtsWave gives $45,000 to five Place Matters neighborhoods

This year, ArtsWave will award grants to five of the Local Initiative Support Corporation’s (LISC) Place Matters neighborhoodsAvondale, Covington, Madisonville, Price Hill and Walnut Hills—totaling $45,000. The partnership, which began in January, will help support arts activities in the neighborhoods.
 
Each neighborhood will use the funds to contract arts organizations that are supported by ArtsWave, or to support activities that include community-building arts programs. Each grant project will also involve local community partners, such as the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, the Urban League of Cincinnati, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, schools, community councils and business associations.
 
Avondale’s Comprehensive Development Corporation will use the grant money to bring the “Kin Killing Kin Art Series” to the neighborhood as part of a strategy to promote alternatives to violence, and help residents connect to the African culture through cooking and performance programs from Bi-Okoto and the Cincinnati Black Theatre Company.
 
In Covington, the Center for Great Neighborhoods will help enhance the 2014 Art Off Pike with “ArtsWave Presents” appearances by Visionaries & Voices and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. Covington will also celebrate its bicentennial next year with site-specific performances by groups like the Cincinnati Opera and the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.
 
The Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation will launch the Madisonville Jazz and BBQ Festival in the fall in the heart of the neighborhood’s business district, adjacent to the Madisonville Arts and Cultural Center.
 
The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation will add arts programming to the We Are Walnut Hills Springfest and the second annual Cincinnati Street Food Festival, and to the community space in Five Points Alley.
 
Price Hill Will and Santa Maria Community Services plan to bring members of their community together to share performances by the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and MYCincinnati in schools and community centers.
 
The initiative falls under ArtsWave’s ArtsWave Presents program, which is an effort to extend arts programming across the region. It follows a partnership with Interact for Health on “Join the Fun,” which launched in February.

Walnut Hills' Five Point Alley event encourages community input

Saturday, Walnut Hills and the University of Cincinnati’s MetroLAB hosted an event to gather community input on the future of Five Points Alley. The neighborhood’s goal is to continue transforming the alleys into a community gathering space, as well as a space for public art.
 
“We wanted to hear the community’s honest opinions,” says Sarah Dotter, events coordinator for Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation. “We wanted to know what they want to see here, and what their ideas are for the space. We wanted them to feel like they’re part of the changes that are happening here.”
 
MetroLAB developed a way for residents to feel involved in the future of Five Points, which is the convergence of Sedalia, Pana, Finch, London and Lindsay alleys between Gilbert Avenue and Copelen Street. The students interpreted the buildings in the area in a different way, and made plexiglass ornaments that represent each of the five overarching themes of the space—play, make, exchange, work and connect.
 
“These are five ways that the space can be used,” Dotter says. “Five Points is a place where people can gather, and it can be whatever they want it to be.”
 
Residents placed the ornaments on a chandelier, which will eventually be hung in Five Points. Based on resident input, MetroLAB will design and implement both permanent and temporary improvements to the space.
 
Throughout the summer, Five Points Alley will be highly programmed by WHRF. Events will include the popular biergartens, neighborhood grill outs, concerts and more.
 
Plans for the future of Five Points will start this summer and continue into the fall, when much of the space’s landscaping will begin.
 
The Five Points project is supported by The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation and an ArtsWave grant that will help fund public art for the space.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Nourish Yourself offers healthy, home-cooked meals to busy clients

After a 15-year career with P&G, Cherylanne Skolnicki became a certified health coach and started teaching people how to eat better. In January 2011, she started Nourish Yourself, a service that will cook dinner for you.
 
“The concept of a home-cooked meal resonates with busy families,” Skolnicki says. “Clients want to feed their families fresh, healthy, unprocessed, seasonal food, but struggle with the time and skills to cook those meals. We take the guesswork and challenge out of it.”
 
Nourish’s core team has three employees who focus on everything from customer care to menu development to marketing. A team of nine cooking partners go into clients’ homes and make the magic happen, Skolnicki says.
 
Clients are matched with a Nourish cooking partner in their area—they shop for and prepare meals in your kitchen. Meals are prepared all at once, and Nourish even cleans up afterward.
 
Nourish offers flexible pricing that starts at $159 per week plus groceries, and you choose the service date. Nourish’s winter menu is available on its website, with 50 entrée choices, many of which are freezable, plus fresh salad greens and homemade dressing.
 
The menu changes seasonally, but favorites include healthy makeovers of restaurant dishes, such as chicken enchiladas, Thai basil chicken and buffalo chicken meatballs. Skolnicki says both Nourish’s risotto with asparagus and peas and bison burger with Cabernet caramelized onions and white cheddar are also popular.
 
“Busy is the new reality for today’s families,” Skolnicki says. “We hope to make dining in the new normal for busy, health-conscious households. And cooking is one of the aspects of a healthy lifestyle that you can now outsource and still get all of the benefits.”
 
Today, Nourish serves the Greater Cincinnati area and northwest Arkansas (because of P&G employees), but Skolnicki hopes to expand to other markets in 2014.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Neighborhood Enhancement Program aims to improve Cincinnati quality of life

Cincinnati’s Neighborhood Enhancement Program, a 90-day collaborative effort between city departments, neighborhood residents and community organizations, focuses on developing the assets of individual neighborhoods.
 
By focusing, integrating and concentrating city service delivery and community redevelopment efforts, the NEP’s goal is to improve the quality of life in Cincinnati. Examples of integrated service delivery include concentrating building code enforcement; identifying and “cooling down” crime hot spots; cleaning up streets, sidewalks and vacant lots; beautifying landscapes, streetscapes and public right-of-ways; and engaging property owners and residents to create and sustain a more livable neighborhood. Targeted areas are identified through an analysis of building code violations, vacant buildings, disorder and drug calls, drug arrests, graffiti, junk autos, litter and weeds.
 
Neighborhoods with the most successful NEPs have taken key steps before the program begins, while it’s taking place and after it has ended. To date, Price Hill, Avondale, Northside, Clifton Heights/University Heights/Fairview, Westwood, Evanston, College Hill, Madisonville, Mt. Washington, Corryville, Over-the-Rhine, Bond Hill, Kennedy Heights, Pendleton, Mt. Airy and Carthage have participated in the NEP program.

East Price Hill and Walnut Hills are participating in the program this year.
 
Before beginning the NEP, a neighborhood must consider its community’s commitment to the program. Stakeholders must agree on what needs to be done in the neighborhood, and want to improve the neighborhood as a whole. An NEP Steering Committee needs to be established, which is made up of a community council representative, a business association representative, a redevelopment agency representative (if applicable) and a resident who lives in the neighborhood, and come up with a list of goals to accomplish within the NEP time frame.
 
The NEP has won numerous awards, including the President’s Award from the Ohio Conference for Community Development.

Check out Soapbox's "Hot 'Hoods" features on Price Hill and Walnut Hills to see NEP practices in action.
 
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Cincinnati Children's plans to reopen Harrison health center

The Cincinnati Children’s health center in Harrison, which was operated by Neighborhood Health Care Inc., was one of four locations closed at the end of 2013. But there are plans to reopen the center on a temporary basis until a permanent operator or solution is found.
 
Along with the Harrison location on New Haven Road, the Cincinnati Children’s health centers in Walnut Hills, Norwood and downtown closed after Neighborhood Health failed to receive a federal grant to continue operation. The nonprofit served about 10,000 children and about as many adults, most of whom were uninsured or on Medicaid.
 
Neighborhood Health also ran school-based health centers at Rockdale Academy, South Avondale and Hughes Center; Children’s has agreed to take over service at each of the school-based sites until the end of the current school year. The hospital is working with Cincinnati Public Schools, Interact for Health and others on a long-term solution.
 
The Harrison location was chosen for reopening because officials felt that children in Walnut Hills and downtown had nearby access to other health care providers, and the Norwood site is currently on hold because of the building lease.
 
UC Health and other local health center operators are working to help adult patients that used to go to Neighborhood Health Care transfer to other providers. The city health department, Crossroads Health Center and UC Health are now accepting former Neighborhood Health patients.
 
The health department has hired additional staff to help field calls from Neighborhood Health patients and is considering expanding its hours. To book appointments, please call 513-357-7320.
 
In the coming weeks, the federal government is expected to announce a grant that would allow health centers to apply for additional money that is needed to serve former Neighborhood Health patients.
 
There is no official date for the reopening of the Harrison health center, but Children’s plans to operate it for three to six months.
 
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Japp's owner looking to East Walnut Hills for new bar

Molly Wellmann, owner of Japp’s and Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar and co-owner of Neon’s, is looking to open a new bar in East Walnut Hills. Myrtle's Punch House will be located at the corner of Woodburn Avenue and Myrtle.
 
The concept for Myrtle's is a punch house, where you can get a punch bowl at your table to share with your friends. Punch will also be available by the glass.
 
“Recipes for punches date back about 500 years; it’s a very old way of drinking,” Wellmann says. “We want to bring that to Cincinnati—there’s such great heritage here, and a great drinking heritage.”
 
There will also be a wine list and craft beer selection. Beer will be served by the glass, pitcher and growler. The focus will be on wine by the bottle or beer by the growler that you can take home and enjoy.
 
Wellmann and her partners hope to offer acoustic music in the basement, as well as a room in the basement that can be rented out for parties.
 
“East Walnut Hills is such a cool neighborhood,” Wellmann says. “It’s waking up, much like Over-the-Rhine was when we opened Neon’s and later Japp’s. We want this bar to be a place for the people of the neighborhood. When you’re looking to start a community, there are always two main things: a place to worship and a tavern. And East Walnut Hills already has a church.”
 
Plans are still in the preliminary stages, but Wellmann is hoping for a late summer opening.
 
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New police substation in Walnut Hills result of partnership, safety efforts

A new police substation at 921 E. McMillan, or Red Point, in Walnut Hills is the result of a partnership between Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, LISC, the City of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Police Department. Through a grant from LISC, WHRF has been able to focus its attention on safety issues and build a relationship with CPD.
 
The substation is part of WHRF’s efforts to redevelop McMillan between Gilbert and Kemper. It used to share an office with WHRF, and is more of a break room for CPD officers and an office for Hamilton County probation officers.
 
“We’ve used the presence of law enforcement to help stabilize the corner,” says Kevin Wright, executive director of WHRF.
 
Red Point was formerly a corner store that became one of the biggest drug houses in the neighborhood. After a homicide in March, police did an undercover drug buy that lead to a raid. WHRF suggested that police take a city code official with them on the raid to check out interior code violations.
 
The building was ordered vacant because of code violations, and the Land Bank could then foreclose on it. WHRF and the city purchased the building as part of a larger development project, and in nine months, Red Point went from a murder scene and drug hotspot to a Hamilton County probation office.
 
“Our partnership with LISC, Place Matters, the City of Cincinnati and CPD has been essential to community development in Walnut Hills,” Wright says. “Our shared objective makes the community stronger and allows us to effect change to make the neighborhood more livable.”
 
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Neighborhood Asset Mapping tool focuses on neighborhoods' strengths

The Community Building Institute recently partnered with Xavier University and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati to develop and launch the Neighborhood Asset Mapping tool. It’s an online resource that allows all 52 Cincinnati neighborhoods to create a profile of community-based assets and resources in the area.
 
NAT was made available to the public this spring,and was in development for six to eight months before that. It’s free, and it promotes engagement and resource-sharing among residents. Residents can add assets to NAT, and they’re immediately available to other users.
 
“If you’re new to the community or thinking of moving to a neighborhood, you can find what’s going on there,” says Trina Jackson, program director of the Community Building Institute. “You can find community councils and neighborhood associations. Lots of people don’t know about grassroots organizations, and Nat allows residents to connect with one another through smaller organizations.”
 
The United Way helps support community development and community-based organizations, and NAT is the community engagement arm for Xavier, Jackson says. “We were focused on getting people connected with each other, and helping them see what’s out there.”
 
For example, in Evanston, many people know about the employment resource center. But if you’re not from the neighborhood, you don’t necessarily know it’s there, so you turn to the computer or your phone to find the things you need.
 
NAT focuses on a neighborhood’s strengths, and doesn’t include crime data or vacant property statistics. It's intened to be used by new and potential residents, entrepreneurs and developers as a tool to help find the best locations to live, work and play.
 
The Community Building Institute plans to host a series of “data entry parties” where people can get together and enter assets into NAT and learn new things about the neighborhood they live in. The first one is planned for Walnut Hills, but the date is to be determined.
 
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Manifest Gallery expanding, offering more to visitors

Manifest Gallery recently added two new galleries, which is a 66 percent increase. It now has a total of five galleries of art for its visitors to enjoy—Main Gallery, Drawing Room, Parallel Space, Central Gallery and North Gallery. The “new” Manifest is celebrating its expansion on Friday, November 8 with a free, public reception from 6 to 9 p.m., coinciding with the monthly Walk on Woodburn event.
 
The Main and North Galleries face the street, and the entrance to Manifest is through the Main Gallery at 2727 Woodburn Ave. Exhibits will vary in terms of how many galleries each occupies. For example, Fresh Paint will be presented in three galleries while Aquachrome is in two, and one will be flanked by the other so visitors will first experience the works in Fresh Paint, then Aquachrome, then Fresh Paint again.
 
“We’ll rarely have all five spaces dedicated to one exhibit because we find that offering a variety of exhibits in combination, including routine solo exhibits, enhances visitor experience,” says Jason Franz, Manifest’s executive director. “Having all five galleries will make the experience from room to room more like a museum or a film—time-based, sequential and hopefully dramatic.”
 
This season, Manifest is also evolving its exhibition catalog publication process from a small color catalog per exhibit, for a total of nine each year, to one large hardcover book that documents the entire season, including every work and artist involved during the year. The Manifest Exhibition Annual is the fourth annual publication that the Manifest Press publishes (others are the International Drawing Annual, the International Painting Annual and the International Photography Annual).
 
“The expansion allows for 25 percent more exhibits this year,” Franz says. “We want to bring the world to Cincinnati and represent Cincinnati to the world one work of art at a time.”
 
Manifest will also showcase a new exhibition program, Regional Showcase Series, which will be shown three or four times per year. The exhibit contains works of art by artists who live in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

In addition to the gallery, Manifest is also behind other initiatives like the Drawing Lab, a studio program that is supported by a grant from the Ohio Arts Council. The Drawing Lab, located at the Manifest Drawing Center in Madisonville, is free to high school and college students, but is open to everyone, from novice to professional, for a nominal membership fee.
 
“We’re not just an art gallery, but also a nonprofit,” Franz says. “We’re intended to be a small, bite-sized, museum-like experience of excellent and varied contemporary art from a wide geographical radius that anyone can take in with a short stroll through the galleries, after dinner or during a visit to the neighborhood. We hope they leave with something more than they arrived with—a sense of wonder for or awareness of what creative people work hard to make in the world.”
 
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Come Home Cincinnati initiative to increase home ownership, redevelop vacant areas

In late September, a new initiative was announced that will help increase home ownership and help to redevelop the Cincinnati neighborhoods that have been hit hardest by vacancy and abandonment. Come Home Cincinnati is a partnership with the Hamilton County Land Bank, private lenders and community development corporations.
 
The initiative will likely require using funds from Focus 52, which finances neighborhood projects. It will establish a loan guarantee pool that will range from $2.5 million to $4.5 million—other aspects will cost $3.4 million, but not all of the funding will come from the city.
 
Come Home Cincinnati will start with 100 homes in the pilot neighborhoods of Evanston and Walnut Hills to leverage existing public and private investment in the housing strategies. Over time, the initiative will expand to other neighborhoods as resources expand.
 
One of the key redevelopment corridors that will be targeted through Come Home Cincinnati is Woodburn Avenue in Evanston.
 
To qualify, owner-occupants will have to meet a minimum credit requirement, agree to live in the rehabbed home for five years, and pay for five percent of the total rehab and acquisition costs as a down payment. After that five years, the loan will be refinanced at the same or a better interest rate.
 
Potential partners for the initiative are the Cincinnati Development Fund, Northside Bank and Trust, Model Group, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, the Cincinnati Preservation Association, the Xavier University Community Building Institute, the University of Cincinnati Community Design Center, Evanston Community Council, Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the Community Development Corporations Association of Greater Cincinnati.
 
Since 2011, the city has worked closely with the Hamilton County Land Bank, which helps combat vacancy and abandonment and helps remove obstacles to redevelopment in all neighborhoods in the county.
 
The Land Bank’s focus neighborhood strategy includes 14 neighborhoods in the county, eight of which are in the city—Avondale, College Hill, Evanston, Madisonville, Northside, Price Hill, South Cumminsville and Walnut Hills. The Moving Ohio Forward demolition grant allows the Land Bank and the city to address the worst blight in these neighborhoods.
 
City Council now needs to approve a motion that gives city administration 60 days to develop a plan and budget for Come Home Cincinnati.

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ArchiNATI festival gives citizens a say in the city's built environment

During the week of Oct. 4–12, Cincinnatians will have the chance to experience the city’s built environment through the third annual ArchiNATI architecture festival. The week will include talks, tours and events throughout the city.
 
This year’s theme is Citizen Space, centering around the concept that every person has a right to the city’s spaces, a stake in its culture and a say in its built environment.
 
“Every year, we choose a theme to highlight one aspect of the city,” says Nick Cristofaro, one of the organizers of this year’s ArchiNATI festival. “This year’s goal is to let everyone know they have a stake in what happens to the city, especially its public spaces. It’s not just about the history of the city, but about celebrating the places we have, both old and new. We want people to see the potential that’s around us every day.”
 
Some highlights of the week include a reception and exhibit at the former Church of Assumption featuring submissions from Place from Space, a design competition in which vacant lots are turned into community spaces. The competition partners with community groups in Over-the-Rhine, Walnut Hills and Price Hill to turn empty spaces into places for the neighborhood. There’s also a dinner, prepared by Chef Stephen Shockley, and an exhibition curated by Daft Galleries at Rhinegeist. Plus, Rookwood Pottery is hosting a reception for the photo scavenger hunt and giving tours of its facility on Vine Street.
 
Most of the week’s events are free and open to the public, but a few of the events will require a small admission fee, tickets or reservations. To see the full list of activities, purchase tickets or make reservations, visit architecturecincy.org or archinati.org.
 
ArchiNATI is sponsored in large part by the Haile Foundation, GBBN Architects, Rookwood Pottery and Listermann Brewing. Each event also has a partner or organization behind it.
 
The Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati is partnering with ArchiNATI for the festival. AFC was founded in 1982, and has enriched the Greater Cincinnati community by connecting people with the places in which they live, learn, work and play. Through programming and educational outreach, AFC strives to involve the public in shaping Cincinnati’s built environment.
 
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New online tool aims to keep Cincinnati residents engaged in their neighborhoods

On July 24, the City of Cincinnati adopted Nextdoor, a free, private social network for you, your neighbors and your community. The goal is to improve community engagement between the City and its residents, and foster neighbor-to-neighbor communications.
 
Each of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods will have its own private Nextdoor neighborhood website, which is accessible only to residents of that neighborhood. City administrations and several city departments will also use Nextdoor to share important news, services, programs, free events and emergency notifications to residents, but they won’t be able to see who is registered to use the site or the conversations among residents.
 
Founded in 2010 in San Francisco, Nextdoor’s mission is to bring back a sense of community to the neighborhood. The site was tested in 175 neighborhoods across the country, and results showed that neighborhoods had some of the same issues, plus a variety of different issues.
 
“We all remember what our neighborhood experience was like as kids, when everyone knew each other, looked out for one another and stayed in the community longer," says Sarah Leary, co-founder of Nextdoor. “We want to invoke that nostalgia for neighborhoods.”
 
To date, Nextdoor is being used by about 17,000 neighborhoods across the country. In June, Nextdoor partnered with New York City and Mayor Bloomberg to communicate with the city’s 8.3 million residents. The site plans to roll out in other major cities like Cincinnati over the course of the next several months.
 
Nextdoor also recently released its iPhone app. “We’re really putting the lifeline of the neighborhood into the palm of the residents’ hands,” says Leary. “The common thread is an interest in using technology to make connections with neighbors. But it doesn’t stop there—once people have an easy way to communicate, they’re more likely to get together in the real world.”
 
You can sign up for Nextdoor on its website, or download the app in the App Store.
 
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Hinge upcycles, recycles vintage pieces

Walnut Hills is now home to Hinge, a vintage home goods and upcycled furniture store, which opened at the end of June.
 
Hinge owners Amanda Wilson and David Piper also do custom projects—they’ll take clients'  furniture and make them fresh again. Piper also creates large-scale murals and custom wallpaper.
 
After high school, Wilson, a Monroe native, moved to Chicago for college. She started working in pharmaceutical research and then became a professional triathlete. She eventually returned to the research industry, working during the day and crafting at night.
 
While in Chicago, Wilson met Piper, a Dallas native and full-time artist. The two realized they could make amazing pieces and decided to start a business together.
 
“Our eye is what sets us apart,” Wilson says. “When we see an old piece of furniture or rusty item, we come up with amazing ideas of what it ‘can’ be.”
 
Hinge has some unique, one-of-a-kind pieces for sale, and Wilson and Piper have gone into people’s homes and offered their design services.
 
“Coming from Chicago, we hope to bring a bit of big city design to Walnut Hills,” Wilson says. “There, we were flooded with ideas and inspiration from our surroundings, museums and the overall city space, and we hope to serve up a bit of contemporary design with rustic edges here.”
 
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City Council adopts form-base code

For five years, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls has been working with the City of Cincinnati to develop form-based code for the city. Last Wednesday, City Council officially approved the Cincinnati Form-Based Code.
 
“Cincinnati now joins hundreds of cities that are using form-based code to build and reinforce walkable places that create value and preserve character,” Qualls says.
 
Cincinnati’s neighborhoods originally developed so residents could easily walk to restaurants, shops and grocery stores in and around business districts. Form-based code will allow neighborhoods to return to that original ideal and reinforce or create places where residents can live, work and play, Qualls says.
 
Current zoning code makes creating mixed-use neighborhoods difficult—the new code will help streamline the development process. To start, form-based code will be applied to business districts and adjacent residential areas in four pilot neighborhoods that volunteered for the chance—College Hill, Madisonville, Walnut Hills and Westwood.
 
The code is a result of six Neighborhood Summit training sessions; five years of neighborhood working group meetings, neighborhood walks and training sessions; five delegations to learn about Nashville’s form-based code; a five-day citywide urban design workshop; a four-day neighborhood urban design workshop; and more than 600 public comments on the draft from residents, stakeholders, neighborhood groups and city departments.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Oasis Rail Transit bound for Cincinnati region

For the first time since 1988, Cincinnati will play host to the 2015 MLB All-Star Game. And by that time, the Greater Cincinnati area could have a rail service, Oasis Rail Transit, which would be part of the Eastern Corridor program of multi-modal transportation improvement projects.
 
The Oasis project is the first proposed leg of the new regional rail system that will provide a new and much-needed transportation alternative for area residents. The Oasis line would span 17 miles between downtown Cincinnati and Milford. There are existing tracks along the route, but a number of miles of new track would be laid as well.
 
According to a press release, using existing track is a less expensive way to build a foundation of regional transportation. It would allow a passenger rail service network to advance more quickly and could serve as a national model for other commuter rail projects.

“Regional passenger rail isn’t a pipe dream, nor is it something for the far-off future,” according to Todd Portune, Hamilton County Commissioner and chair of Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District, in a press release. “It is here. Now. We can make this happen by 2015, but it will take a regional commitment from our local municipalities, chambers of commerce, state agencies and leaders to remove any barriers.”
 
The rail project was awarded funding last fall from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s House Bill 114 to help secure the right-of-way for extending the existing rail line from the Boathouse downtown to the Riverfront Transit Center. HCTID has also been working with local groups to explore joint-use opportunities, such as bicycle and walking paths, within the rail corridors. 
 
There are other rail lines in the works for the region that would connect Hamilton, Clermont, Butler and Warren counties in Ohio, and parts of Northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana as well. The future rail line will travel from Xavier University to Fairfax to Eastgate (Wasson line); along I-71 from Cincinnati/NKY International Airport/Florence to Blue Ash; along I-75 to Union Centre; along the I-471 corridor to Northern Kentucky University; and along western I-74 to Green Township and US-50 to Lawrenceburg.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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City Hall launches app as a community-organizing tool

The City of Cincinnati has taken out the back-and-forth that can occur when residents try to reach them to report issues in their neighborhoods. At the Neighborhood Summit on Feb. 16, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls announced that the Cincinnati City Hall mobile app is available to the public.
 
With the app, residents can look up trash, recycling and street sweeping days, and set reminders; locate and report problems by address; bookmark locations for quick reporting; and track the status of reports. City Hall mobile also has GPS, so users can report issues, even without an address. There’s even a searchable map with property owner information, which enables residents to see if a property is occupied or vacant.
 
A few years ago, residents had to use the Yellow Pages to look up the number for city departments to file complaints, says Kevin Wright, executive director of Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation. The city then implemented a hotline for all complaints, but residents never knew the status of their reports.
 
“It’s amazing how comprehensive the app is,” Wright says. “If you see a broken window, pothole, graffiti, hanging gutter or anything else that is physically wrong with your neighborhood, street or community, you can report it in an instant. It’s a great tool for neighborhood redevelopment.”
 
The app can also be used as a community-organizing tool, Wright says. For example, if there is a property owner who historically hasn’t taken care of his or her property, social media can help organize a community and target the property to enforce codes until the property is fixed, which is what neighborhood councils and organizations like WHRF do.
 
“We’re really putting power in the hands of the citizens of the neighborhoods,” he says.
 
As with most tech programs, the app has room to grow, too. In the future, it could be linked with Facebook or Twitter, so your friends and followers will know who reported problems and where they are.
 
Cincinnati residents can download the app in the Apple App Store or download it through Google Play.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Feel-good, comfort food in O'Bryonville at Eat Well Cafe

The brightly lit restaurant welcomes customers when they walk in. Mismatched coffee mugs, cookbooks and a mural—which was done by chef Renee Schuler's sister, Michelle Heimann—above the lunch counter add a homey feel to Eat Well Café and Takeaway, which is exactly what Schuler was after.
 
“I wanted the restaurant to be like a living thing, which is why there’s so much green,” she says. The café seats about 35 people, and is described as fast casual—instead of table service, customers order at the counter and take a seat or, if they’re in a hurry, take their food with them.
 
Eat Well Café opened Jan. 9 in O’Bryonville in the old What’s for Dinner? space, between The BonBonerie and Enoteca Emilia.

“The neighborhood is full of positive energy,” says Schuler. “There are so many creative people doing what they love in this area, and I wanted to be part of that.”
 
When looking for restaurant space, Schuler searched all over Cincinnati. She decided on O’Bryonville because the community is interested in feeling good and living well, and that’s what food is about, she says.
 
Before opening her catering business, Eat Well Celebrations and Feasts seven and a half years ago, Schuler spent years working in restaurants and catering in New York City. When she came back to Cincinnati, she worked as the executive chef at Murphin Ridge Inn in Adams County for three years.
 
“It was a huge change,” she says. “I went from living in the city to picking out what types of cabbage our gardener would grow for the restaurant.”
 
She loves to help people plan events and create something dramatic (her second major is in theater), but she also wanted to create something accessible to people on a daily basis. Eat Well Café allows her to see some of her regular customers outside of planning events.
 
Eat Well Café’s menu was created with everyone in mind, Schuler says. There are vegetarian and vegan options alongside items like the Dr. Meat, which is a braised beef short rib sandwich. The menu will change seasonally, with spring items set to be added in two or three weeks.
 
“America is a melting pot, and American food is influenced from all over,” says Schuler. “Our menu is a mix of flavors to create something new.” Vietnamese summer rolls and pesto pasta are both menu staples, along with salads and soups.
 
The “takeaway” menu changes daily, and is based on Schuler’s mood, the weather and what she thinks would be good to eat that day. On dreary days, items like soups are takeaway staples.
 
Schuler tries to source most of Eat Well Café’s ingredients from local farmers. She uses a local, family-owned company who gets eggs for the café from an Amish farm in Northern Ohio; the bread is from Blue Oven Bakery; dairy products come from Snowville Creamery; Eckerlin Meats at Findlay Market supplies chicken and other meats. 
 
“I try to keep it as local as that makes sense,” she says. “It’s a constant challenge, especially this time of year.” Schuler’s dream is to have an Eat Well greenhouse down the street to grow all of the restaurant’s salad greens and herbs, but that’s a ways down the road.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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More bike lanes, early planning for cycle track highlight city's Bike Plan

Some of the city's biggest bike-related projects in the works for 2013 are still in the planning stages, but a few will continue and build on the momentum from last year. 

This year, the city's Bicycle Transportation Program includes plans to finish more than two miles of bike lanes along Riverside Drive, a project that was started in 2009. Plans are also in the works to extend the Spring Grove bike lanes from Hopple to Bank Street downtown; proposals have been drafted for rehabilitation projects along Dalton Street, Bank, Western Avenue and Langdon Farm Road. 

The City also hopes to continue its design work on the Ohio River Trail, extending bike-friendly paths from Salem Street to Sutton Road and Collins Avenue to Corbin Street.
 
The City is also in the early stages of looking to put Ohio’s first cycle track on Central Parkway between Ludlow Avenue and Liberty Street. “Cycle tracks aren’t mainstream yet, but New York City and Washington, D.C., have quite a few,” says Melissa McVay, senior city planner in the Division of Transportation & Engineering. “They’re the most family-friendly bike facility you can build.”
 
A cycle track is like a bike trail or shared path, but it’s in the street, for bikes only and separated from cars by a physical barrier, such as planters, trees or a curb. Cycle tracks are meant to keep cars from veering into bicyclists’ paths.
 
“A typical bike lane is usually enough to encourage cyclists to try them, but sometimes, they don’t make everyone feel comfortable,” says McVay. “The physical barrier of a cycle track is meant to make cyclists feel safe.” 

One of the most exciting developments for bicyclists last year was the addition of a green bike lane on Ludlow last year. “It started the conversation among people who don’t ride bikes, and they’re beginning to see the infrastructure,” McVay says. “I feel like the bike community has grown, and there is now a growing city-wide awareness.”

Approved by the City in 2009 and put into action in 2010, the Bike Plan outlines bicycle-related projects over the next 15 years. In all, the plan recommends 445 miles of on-street and off-street bike facilities, such as bike lanes, bike racks and multi-use trails.
 
In 2009, there were about seven miles of bike lanes and sharrows in Cincinnati, says McVay. In 2010, 2.3 miles were added; in 2011, 4.5 miles; in 2012, five more miles were added, for a total of 19 miles.
 
Since 1993, many bike-friendly projects have been implemented, including striping 12 miles of bike lanes, creating 21 miles of shared-use paths and trails and installing six miles of sharrows, or shared lane markings, throughout the city.
 
The bulk of the Bicycle Transportation Program's focus is on developing on-street and off-street bike facilities as outlined in the Bike Plan, but it also organizes bike-related events, proposing policy and zoning changes, and working on advocacy projects with Queen City Bike and Mobo Bicycle Co-op.
 
The public played a huge part in developing the Bike Plan by utilizing online tools to show the City where bike facilities were needed.
 
Even though there has been an outpouring of public support for bike facilities, there are still issues when it comes to removing parking. The City proposed a project along Spring Grove Avenue this past summer that would consolidate on-street parking to one side of the street, but businesses liked having parking available on both sides of the street.
 
“The project will be successful if the community comes together and rallies around the project, and the trade-off of on-street parking for a bike lane will ultimately benefit both business owners and bicyclists,” McVay says.

The City wants to hear from you! Take the survery and grade Cincinnati on different bike-friendly aspects around town.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Former educators open Kitchen 452 in Walnut Hills

Kitchen 452’s small dining room only holds six tables, but the restaurant is going to pack a big punch. Its menu is full of comfort food, such as sandwiches and soups, all delivered with fun twists.
 
Kitchen 452 will open from 6 to 9 p.m. on Jan. 25 during Walk on Woodburn, but the restaurant’s official grand opening is Feb. 1, when it will begin its regular lunch hours, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
 
Jen Lile, 39, and her business partner, Leah Joos, 29, began looking for restaurant space last May. Neither went to culinary school—they were academic advisors at the University of Cincinnati’s honors college, and through helping their students follow their dreams, they realized what their own was.
 
“After doing some research, we found out about SpringBoard Cincinnati,” says Joos. “We enrolled in courses there, then found the space on Woodburn, solidifying our idea.”
 
Joos’ interest in food started in her grandmother’s kitchen. She and her sister considered it a playground, and their grandmother let them make whatever they wanted.
 
But she didn’t really start cooking until graduate school. “I wasn’t good at it, but it gave me a good sense of focus and a creative outlet when my brain was drained,” she says.
 
Lile spent time in Europe and saw a difference between how food was appreciated and prepared that she didn’t see in the United States. When she came back, her idea of food changed and she became interested in learning about food. “Before my trip to Europe, I considered boiling water cooking,” she says. “My kitchen became the space where I really wanted to be.”
 
Joos and Lile designed Kitchen 452’s menu around traditional comfort food. “We like to play around with different flavors and try different flavor combinations together,” says Lile.
 
For example, their turkey sandwich is on bread fresh from the bakery, with a cranberry and orange chutney, which is balanced with crispy shallots on top; Kitchen 452’s tomato soup is topped with a parsley and garlic gremolata. Joos and Lile also wanted to focus on foods that feel like the seasons, so when it’s dark and wintry outside, there will be warm and hearty dishes on their menu.
 
“We want people to feel like they matter,” says Joos. “We want to get to know our customers, because we know that people make a decision when they go out to eat, and we want them to choose Kitchen 452 and keep coming back.”
 
Joos and Lile want to do things that can connect them with people on different levels as well. They plan to offer themed dinners at Kitchen 452, and possibly offer educational classes. One of their ideas is an oil and vinegar tasting that will teach customers how to incorporate different oils and vinegars into dishes they cook on a daily basis.
 
Kitchen 452 will also offer catering for business meetings and special events, with menus tailored to customers’ needs.
 
“It’s exciting for us and for our customers to try out different recipes that aren’t necessarily on our menu,” says Lile. “We want to help create custom menus and be part of important events in other people’s lives.”
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Walnut Hills awarded $1.8 million to renovate three historic buildings

Out with the old, in with the old, at least in the historic neighborhood of Walnut Hills, where historic preservation and community development got a major boost along with some harsh reality checks.

Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and The Model Group were awarded $1.8 million to renovate three historic buildings in Walnut Hills. When completed, the buildings will house 30 market-rate apartments and 7,000 square feet of street-level retail space. The award is part of about $9 million in tax credits from the Ohio Development Services Agency through Ohio’s historic preservation program to seven Cincinnati-area development projects.
 
“We’re not 100 percent sure who will occupy the storefronts, but we’ll make sure the businesses will serve the existing and changing population of Walnut Hills,” says Kevin Wright, executive director of WHRF.
 
The project has been in the works for about four years—the City acquired the buildings through a partnership with the community; the buildings were acquired and stabilized using City funding and tax increment financing dollars. Stabilization of the walls and roof of one of the buildings could begin as early as next week.
 
“We see this as a huge step forward for the neighborhood,” says Wright. “Adding market-rate apartments and retail space will help move Walnut Hills forward and catalyze development.” Not only is the project the first large market-rate development on Peeble's Corner in decades, but it also expands development momentum farther west, toward the intersection of McMillan and Gilbert.
 
The development parcel actually includes four buildings, 975, 965, 961 and 967 E. McMillan—the old Graeter’s building at 967 E. McMillan will be demolished in the next four to five months. Although the building has a strong historical and emotional significance for Cincinnati and Walnut Hills, it isn’t stable. After conversations with the Cincinnati Preservation Association, WHRF decided it was in the neighborhood’s best interest to demolish the Graeter’s building.
 
The building’s ceiling, walls and floors are caved in, and there’s extensive water damage because the roof has been gone for so long. WHRF wanted to save the building’s façade and keep the storefront and historic feel of the building, but after an inspection of the façade, they realized it couldn’t be salvaged.
 
At some point, the first floor façade was turned into a gravel stucco façade. WHRF thought the original historic brick façade was underneath, but discovered that it had been removed. The second and third floor façades are in good condition, but it would require money that WHRF doesn’t have to create a new façade for the first floor. Replacing the façade would defeat the purpose of saving it because it wouldn’t be original, says Wright.  
 
The space created by the removal of the Graeter’s building will become a courtyard or amenity space for the new businesses and apartments that will be created from the project. WHRF wants to see the space utilized by new residents and retail, says Wright.
 
The buildings included in the development are part of a larger acquisition and redevelopment project, says Wright. With the same funding for the project, WHRF also acquired a large portion of the 700 block of McMillan west of Gilbert. The project included demolishing a number of buildings and stabilizing Firehouse #16, the oldest firehouse in Cincinnati; WHRF is currently stabilizing the Hamilton House as well.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Twelve neighborhoods receive $1.65 million for projects

The City of Cincinnati Economic Development Division and Cincinnati Neighborhood Business Districts United (CNBDU) recently allocated $1.65 million to 13 projects for the 2013 Neighborhood Business District Improvement Program.
 
John Price, then-president of the Clifton Business Association, started CNBDU in 1992. He gathered all of the business association presidents in Cincinnati because he wanted to figure out a way to get funding for those neighborhoods that weren’t downtown, says Mike Wagner, president of CNBDU.
 
Over the years, CNBDU has appropriated about $33 million between federal and city money, and leveraged more $350 million in private money, to support non-downtown neighborhood projects.
 
CNBDU awards money annually to Cincinnati neighborhoods through the NBDIP, which receives federal money from the City’s Community Development Block Grant and city capital funds. Neighborhoods can use the money for a variety of capital improvements and other uses to promote economic development in their business districts.
 
Each neighborhood is allowed to apply for one major and one minor ask, says Bill Fischer, division manager of economic development for the City. The maximum amount for a minor ask is $30,000; there isn’t a maximum amount for a major ask. There are generally more minor-ask projects accepted because more projects can get done.
 
This year's process began in June when 29 neighborhoods submitted their initial proposals, which totaled $3.1 million in requests. A 28-member peer advisory group of community members who had submitted proposals and representatives from neighborhood business districts reviewed the proposals. In September, the reviewers took a bus tour of the project sites.
 
“There wasn’t much to look at when we first started CNBDU,” says Wagner. “But now we can see what has been accomplished in the past 17 years.”
 
In October, the peer group made recommendations to the City’s Economic Development Division after hearing presentations from the different neighborhoods. Neighborhood groups were notified at the end of November if their proposals would be turned into a project through NBDIP.
 
“Each neighborhood has a different approach to the project proposals,” says Fischer. “Some are looking to maintain what’s already there, whereas others are looking to create new business.”  
 
CNBDU funding is in addition to the Focus 52 program, a combination of bond and casino revenues, which will create a pool of $54 million for neighborhood projects throughout the city.
 
The neighborhood projects that were awarded money through the NBDIP are:
  • Walnut Hills: Park-Kemper Streetscape Design, $30,000
  • West Price Hill: Covedale Center Marquee/Community Message Board, $79,145
  • Roselawn: Business District Feasibility Study, $30,000
  • Clifton: Ludlow Avenue Storefront Improvement Program, $77,500
  • Westwood: Parking Lot Renovation, $30,000
  • Northside: Hoffner St. Garden, $80,000
  • Northside: Dhonau Garden, $30,000
  • Corryville: Façade Improvement Program (continuation), $236,397
  • Bond Hill: Bond Hill Identity Project, $30,000
  • East Price Hill: St. Lawrence Corner Public Square, $107,500
  • Pleasant Ridge: 6025 Montgomery Acquisition & Redevelopment, $150,000
  • Avondale: Reading, Rockdale & Forest Streetscape, $400,000
  • Mt. Adams: Streetscape Completion, $375,000
By Caitlin Koenig
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Local artists display talents at Essex Studios' Art Walk

If you still need a gift for that special someone, Essex Studios’ Art Walk might have just what you’re looking for.
 
Four times a year, Essex Studios in Walnut Hills hosts Art Walk, which opens the studios to the public and gives the community an opportunity to see and buy local art. This quarter’s Art Walk features work from impressionistic to contemporary abstract paintings, art glass and contemporary ceramics. There will also be a photographic installation by guest artist Tim Freeman that financially supports Village Life Outreach Project.
 
Along with the 120 artists that will contribute to Art Walk, Art Circle will have their work on display and for sale this weekend. Thirteen artists from Art Circle collaborated to produce a unique project: DELICIOUS!—The Art of Food.
 
DELICIOUS! is a set of 4”x5” cards of watercolors and colored pencil drawings of images related to food. There’s even a recipe on the back of each card that incorporates a depicted ingredient. The recipes are among some of the artists’ favorites, says Connie Springer, publicist and Art Circle member.
 
“We usually collaborate on calendars, but this year, we decided to create something that wasn’t tied to a specific date so people could enjoy the artwork and recipes for many years to come,” says Springer.  
 
Even though DELICIOUS! is a collaboration, each image is a representation of the different styles and talents of each artist. Some pieces are super-realistic, and others are more impressionistic, says Springer.
 
Art Circle is a group of 16 watercolor and colored pencil artists who meet weekly at Essex Studios to share painting time and camaraderie. Art Circle began in 2004 in Wyoming, Ohio, as a gathering of some of Pat Painer’s former students from the Wyoming Fine Arts Center. In 2009, the group moved to join more than 120 other artists at Essex Studios.
 
The 13 Art Circle members who contributed to DELICIOUS! are Clair Breetz, Amy Bryce, Margie Carleton, Sherry Goodson, Jan Glaser, Autumn Huron, Gay Isaacs, Mary Jo Sage, Nandita Baxi Sheth, Deb Shelton, Betty Smith, Connie Springer and Vivian Talley.
 
DELICIOUS! items are available for purchase in two formats: a spiral-bound mini-book that can be shelved with other cookbooks, or a set of loose cards that can be slipped into family recipe books. 

Besides the physical art, Art Walk will have refreshments, including some of the appetizer-type recipes from DELICIOUS! But if you can’t make it to Art Walk, you can find DELICIOUS! at the holiday gift shops at the Kennedy Heights Art Center and the Baker-Hunt Art and Cultural Center in Covington.
 
Art Walk is this Friday and Saturday from 6 to 11 pm, but the Art Circle studio (Studio 122), closes at 10 pm.

By Caitlin Koenig
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Big plans in the works for Cincinnati

As many areas of Cincinnati are being rejuvenated, including OTR and Washington Park, the City of Cincinnati approved a comprehensive approach to focus on development in the city as a whole, not just targeted neighborhoods. 

Last Friday, the City Planning Commission approved and adopted Plan Cincinnati, which was designed with input from residents. The Plan is an opportunity to strengthen what people love about the city, what works and what needs more attention, says Katherine Keough-Jurs, senior city planner and project manager.
 
The idea is to re-urbanize suburbanized Cincinnati; in a sense, to return to the strengths of the city's beginnings. Cincinnati was established just after the American Revolution in 1788 and grew into an industrial center in the 19th century. Many of those industries no longer exist in the city, which is part of why Cincinnati has become more suburbanized in the past 50 years. One of the long-term goals of the Plan is to bring new industries to Cincinnati.
 
With a new approach to revitalization, Cincinnati is blazing the trail for other cities. With a focus on building on existing strengths rather than tearing down structures and creating new ones, the Plan aims to capitalize on the city's “good bones” and good infrastructure.
 
Cinicinnatians had a huge role in developing the Plan. The first public meeting for the Plan was held in September 2009, when residents offered their insights into “what makes a great city?" and "what would make Cincinnati a great city?” A steering committee of 40 people representing businesses, nonprofits, community groups, local institutions, residents and City Council helped develop the Plan.

The Plan also got support from a grant from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which the City received in 2010. The grant allotted $2.4 million over three years to support the Land Development Code, which combines and simplifies Cincinnati's codes, reviews the development process, implements Form-based Codes and considers more creative uses for land. The grant allowed the city to start implementing some of the ideas voiced in public meetings.
 
Visionaries included youth, too. City staff worked with community centers and Cincinnati Public Schools to develop an art project for children. They were given clay pots and asked to paint their fears for the city on the inside and their dreams for the city on the outside. The children saw the big issue was quality of life, just like the adults did.
 
“It was an interesting way to get the kids involved and thinking about the future,” Keough-Jurs says.
 
The Plan aims to strengthen neighborhood centers—the neighborhoods’ business districts. It maps out areas that people need to get to on a daily basis and found that most are within about a half-mile of the business districts. But in some neighborhoods, residents can’t access their neighborhood centers. 

The accessibility of a neighborhood center is based on walkability—not just for pedestrians, but also about how structures address walking. For exampke, if a pedestrian can walk from one end of the neighborhood center to the other without breaking his or her pattern (the window shopping effect), the area is walkable; if he or she has been stopped by a parking lot or vacancies, it’s not walkable, Keough-Jurs says.
 
The neighborhood centers are classified in one of three ways in the Plan: maintain, evolve or transform. Some neighborhoods have goals to maintain levels of walkability, whereas others need to gradually change or evolve. Still others need to completely transform in order to strengthen their business districts.
 
“Cincinnati is at the heart of the region,” Keough-Jurs says. “If we strengthen Cincinnati, we strengthen a region.”

The next step for the Plan is to go before the Cincinnati City Council, specifically the Livable Communities Committee, which is chaired by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Food Truck Festival motors into Walnut Hills

Cincinnati's food truck culture, energetic and scrappy, takes center stage for a change at the first Cincinnati Street Food Festival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 13 in Walnut Hills.

Soapbox talked with The City Flea's Nick DeWald, who helped organize the celebration and lent his design skills to the event, to get the scoop:

Q: Why is this event important? And why in Walnut Hills?
A: Celebrating first-ring suburbs such as Walnut Hills is critical for the future of the city. The urban core is really rolling right now, but having livable, vibrant neighborhoods all around it is what will continue to make Cincinnati great. Walnut Hills is an area that is aggressively pushing to be the center of the next culture and development boom. 

Q: What makes it different from other events?
A: You can find food trucks at many events around town these days, but they are generally accessories to a larger theme. This event will celebrate street food and have a larger lineup of food trucks and trailers than any previous local event.  

Q: How long was it in the planning stages? 
A: The concept of a food truck festival is one item on a long list of progressive ideas of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation that have been talked about since Kevin Wright became the director last year. There is a lot of energy in the neighborhood and city right now and ideas are being put into action rapidly and effectively. 

Q: Finally, what are you most looking forward to, and will this happen again if all goes well? 
A: The hope is that this becomes an annual event in the city. This will be a great opportunity to show the city's food trucks some appreciation. It is a tough business to be in, yet they are all such friendly and energetic people who are making the city more colorful and unique. 

The organizers are most looking forward to showing people what Walnut Hills is capable of adding to the city. If all goes to plan, people will see the energy, diversity and proximity to the urban core that Walnut Hills offers. It will also be quite a sight to finally see the ever-growing local community of food trucks all in one place.

By Elissa Yancey
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Two-way Taft, McMillan aims to change the face of Walnut Hills

Saturday, Oct. 13, marks a big change for the neighborhood of Walnut HillsTaft and McMillan will be converted back to two-way traffic after four decades as one-way roads.
 
In the mid-1970s, the City of Cincinnati temporarily converted William H. Taft Road and McMillan Street to one-way traffic during the construction of I-71. After the interstate’s completion, the streets were never converted back. Ever since, Cincinnatians have used the roads through Walnut Hills as a highway to shorten commute time rather than as a way to get around the neighborhood.
 
Today, there are quite a few businesses in Walnut Hills, but there are vacancies, too. The one-way traffic turns a great location for businesses into one that's hard to get to. 

There’s a Kroger on McMillan, but drivers can’t make a left at Park Street and McMillan to get to it. Instead of taking the time to travel around the block, they go somewhere else. 

Neighborhood leaders believe that the two-way conversion will help bring new life to the Walnut Hills’ business district.
 
“The neighborhood was built around people and public transportation, not around cars,” says Kevin Wright, executive director of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation.
 
The effort to bring back the area’s business district has been primarily a grassroots one, says Wright. The property and business owners of Walnut Hills are pushing for the changes. And they’ve been fighting for the two-way conversion for about 30 years.
 
While there has been talk of lane changes for about fives years, but the physical conversion will take only a weekend. For the past month, crews have been putting up signs and streetlights, says Wright.
 
After Oct. 13, McMillan will have two lanes that travel east and a lane of parking on the north side of the street. There will only be one lane of traffic traveling west. Taft will be the same, but reversed. There was no physical construction to convert to two-way traffic—crews only had the existing 40 feet of road to work with. In the future, Walnut Hills Redevelopment hopes to gain another lane of parking on each street.
 
The two-way conversion will turn the Walnut Hills neighborhood from an auto-centric area to a walking neighborhood that focuses on bicycles, walking and public transportation.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Succesful local party designers join to create stellar parties

A trio of Cincinnati's best and most accredited party planners recently combined their collective expertise to create a new party styling service, Stellar Party
 
The three women, Margot Madison, Nora Martini and Brigid Horne-Nestor all have a particular set of skills that differ slightly. They came together in March to begin their new business. 
 
"The beauty of Stellar Party is that all three of us have experience in slightly different areas that all fit together perfectly," Madison says. 
 
Horne-Nester has been planning events for more than 20 years and is one of only 60 planners around the world to have obtained credentials from Bridal Consultants, an organization that has been helping recommend planners and services for weddings since 1955.

Horne-Nester's expertise is in the big picture of the party, including overall timeline and set-up of events. Martini has experience in movie and photography set design, thus giving her an eye for the tone, theme and flow of an event. 

Madison is the detail person. As a graphic designer, Madison designs all the printed materials, such as invitations and menus, as well as the centerpieces and other party collateral.
 
All three women have been working in Cincinnati for years, and have occasionally teamed up before.

Horne-Nester runs the small bridal boutique, I-Do Boutique, in O'Bryonville,

Madison runs her party service company, Margot Madison Creative, and Martini does mostly freelance work.

Each will continue to run their own businesses while collaborating when contracted for events through Stellar Party. 
 
"We have worked mostly with wedding and bat and bar mitzvahs, but saw an opportunity to team up for more events," Madison says. "From corporate events to private parties that aren't weddings."
 
Instead of taking work from one another, Madison says forming Stellar Party will create more opportunities for everyone. 
 
"We add to each other," Madison says. "I have a high-level of skill in the graphic side of things, but I wouldn't want to plan an entire event in a million years. When we were talking about the business, it just became apparent that things each of us don't like doing, someone does."

By Evan Wallis
 

Keystone Community Garden supplies food kitchens

Every Earth Day for the past fives years, Neyer Properties has held events or educational seminars to promote sustainable lifestyles, but last year company employees decided they needed to give back to the community. So, they built the one-acre Keystone Community Garden outside their office in Evanston. 
 
According to Neyer Properties, a development company that builds or redevelops only LEED-certified projects, community involvement is a big part of sustainability. That's why they used the land they had available as the garden site and recruited company volunteers to maintain it. The garden now supplies OTR and Walnut Hills Kitchens and Pantry with produce. 
 
While many food pantries and soup kitchens are forced to shut down in the summer months because of lack of air conditioning, the OTR kitchen has been serving meals through the heat since 1976. Now serving more than 4,000 meals per week, the OTR kitchen gets a much needed produce delivery of peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers and squash after 50 volunteers to tend the garden through the summer. 
 
“We rarely receive fresh produce to prepare for our meals or to distribute to our guests in their groceries,” says Patricia Wakim, executive director of the OTR and Walnut Hills Kitchens and Pantry. “We are absolutely thrilled to be the recipient of the produce from the Keystone Community Garden again this year.”
 
This is the second year that the OTR and Walnut Hills kitchen will receive the produce from Keystone Community Garden. Volunteers log more than 50,000 volunteer hours each year in the effort that is almost entirely sustained through private monetary donations and donations from local grocery stores and restaurants. 
 
"It's just the right thing to do," says Karman Stahl, director of asset management for Neyer Properties. "Doing something for those that have less is just something that is necessary to our company."
 
By Evan Wallis

Cincy Coworks brings indie workers together

American entrepreneurial activity in 2009 was at it's highest point in 14 years, according to an article in The Atlantic. Freelance job postings have risen dramatically as well. Despite the value of independence in work, one simple loss for freelancers and one-person businesses is a byproduct of their careers: the lack workplace camaraderie.
 
Bill Barnett and Gerard Sychay both had this problem. The pair of web developers were tired of working from home and not having anyone to talk to to or go take a break and get lunch with. With this in mind, set out to make Cincy Coworks. It started as a once-a-week meet up in Over-the-Rhine and brought together nearly 20 people to work together for the day. After a few months of successful meet-ups, Cincy Coworks moved into its own space in June 2010 with six people committing to sharing the space. After outgrowing the small space, Cincy Coworks moved to its present location in Walnut Hills in April 2011. 
 
Presently, five people, including developers and writers, share the space, which allows for part and full-time rentals. Cincy Coworks even offers student rates of only $25 per month. 
 
"Cincy Coworks is about bringing people of different disciplines together," says co-founder Sychay. "We like all things creative. Bringing all these people together can help us to raise the city's profile." 
 
He sees strength in the diversity of talents in both the community workspace and in events Cincy Coworks sponsors, such as Queen City Merge, which took place last week. QC Merge worked to bring people of all different web expertises together. 
 
"No one ever hangs out together across their lines of designs or developers," Sychay says. "As a developer myself, I have so many moments where I think how much easier something would be if I had a designer right next to me. If you bring all these people together, I think businesses will start to come together." 
 
Sychay poses the most important question Cincinnati needs to face now as this: If New York is the financial capital of the country, Austin is the musical capital, and Los Angeles is the entertainment capital, what is Cincinnati? 
 
By Evan Wallis

Core Clay shapes business in Walnut Hills

Laura Davis may run the only business in town that can claim it sells dust.
 
Core Clay opened on Gilbert Avenue in Walnut Hills in June 2005 to provide a live-work space for Davis and her boyfriend, Justin Poole. Since then, it has continued to grow into a successful business.

The original idea was to sell pottery supplies and products and have a space to teach classes. Since she worked in such a large space, friends started asking Davis if they could rent studio space, which eventually led into the transformation of the basement into a collective studio. Today, it normally houses 25 artists who rent space on a month-to-month basis.

In addition, Core Clay has employed an artist-in-residence since 2009 and offers both beginner and advanced level classes. Core Clay also creates clay on-site.
 
In a further effort to expand, Davis enrolled in ArtWork's SpringBoard class. While the business has been growing, Davis says she enrolled to get more business know-how. Current plans are to improve signage, expand marketing and build a bigger in-store product line. 
 
"You can sit and ask a lawyer questions for two hours," Davis says. "That alone is worth the cost of the class." 
 
Davis and Poole settled on Walnut Hills after searching in Florence, Camp Washington and beyond, and have since seen the neighborhood change around them. 
 
"Our building was a source of crime in the neighborhood," Davis says. "We have made changes and taken the grates off the windows. We want the neighborhood to know we are friendly in here." 
 
After cleaning up the Core Clay building, Davis found that another vacant building next door had become a source of trouble in the neighborhood and decided to purchase the building out of foreclosure. In 2010, the building was opened as a intentional community of live-work spaces for artists. Some parts of the building are still being renovated, but once finished, it will house nine units. 
 
By Evan Wallis (Follow him on Twitter)

Plan, Build, Live encourages community feedback

City and neighborhood leaders, led by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, have been building support for a new approach to development regulations for more than four years. Much of that has been developed through the program Plan, Build, Live.
 
Plan, Build, Live is a program driven by community feedback and discussion, all gathered  via the project's website. The website encourages people to share their ideas about how a city should be designed. This weekend, instead of just online, Cincinnati residents and business leaders will come together to shape our future through a citywide Urban Design Workshop. The Workshop takes place from April 28 to May 2 to help create a "form-based code" that can be used by neighborhoods all over Cincinnati -- and help shape how development happens in Cincinnati in decades to come.  
 
"Traditional zoning focuses on the use of the building and how far the building is off the street or how large the building is," says Della Rucker, public engagement office for Plan, Build, Live. "Form-based code flips that around and focuses on how a property contributes to the experience people have in the area. How it creates a vibrant, walkable community."
 
Plan Build Live is funded by a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Local funding is provided by the City of Cincinnati, the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Health Department, and the Mill Creek Restoration Project.
 
One of the Plan Build Live tools, a form-based code, encourages strong neighborhoods, business districts, and downtowns by focusing on the shapes of buildings, streets and sidewalks. Form-based codes can helps maintain or enhance a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly environment that offers a mix of residential options, transportation methods, workplaces, shopping and more. Traditional zoning codes encourage patches of similar use, forcing long distances between work, home and play. Form-based codes allow different uses to cluster – restaurants, apartments, drug stores and grocery stores, for instance – as long as they stick to rules that address the ways they relate to the neighborhood.  
 
Form-based codes are not planned to replace other types of zoning in Cincinnati, but they are intended to give neighborhoods a more flexibility.
 
A key difference of form-based codes is that even people who are not trained planners help put them together. Participants only need to be willing to share their ideas. During the Workshops, citizens will meet with planners, architects and engineers to talk about what they like and want to see -- both in Cincinnati's neighborhoods and on several "special opportunity" sites. 

The preliminary Workshop focuses on creating a city-wide form-based code that will serve as a framework for the fall workshop, which will focus on four neighborhoods: Westwood, College Hill, Madisonville and Walnut Hills. 

The estimated completion date is 2013, but feedback and participation from residents and business owners is critical to helping the city implement the program.

By Evan Wallis

Music Resource Center buys E. Walnut Hills building

While research shows that after-school hours can be the most risky times for teens, in East Walnut Hills, the Music Resource Center offers a full menu of creative outlets to help them develop talents while keeping busy.

Executive Director Karen D’Agostino got the idea for the center after she learned of the MRC in Charlottesville, VA , which was founded in 1995.

D’Agostino contacted the director of the MRC in Charlottesville and created a sister organization here. In 2007, the center found a space in East Walnut Hills, and just this week, the Cincinnati MRC purchased its current location to cement its place in the neighborhood.

“Every minute a child is off the streets and in a safe, educational after-school program is a big positive for our community,” says D’Agostino. “Purchasing the building helps to ensure the Music Resource Center will be able to serve students in a consistent location for many years to come.”

Hundreds of teens utilize the facilities, which range from practice studios to teaching studios to rehearsal studios. The MRC is funded completely by private donations and the $2 monthly membership fee, which can be offset by scholarships.

Kids in grades seven through 12 can attend the center and participate in audio engineering, music lessons and even use rehearsal spaces. Equipment is provided for students who can’t afford their own.

Since opening, the MRC has hosted nearly 800 teens, who don’t just pop in for a quick visit. On average, teens spend more than two hours at the center each time they come. They may come for lessons or some studio time, but teens never leave without experiencing a the dedication and energy that makes MRC a popular destination. The purchase of the entire building helps add fuel the center’s potential, including possible hip-hop dance classes in the future.

By Evan Wallis
Follow Evan on Twitter

Yelp's scavenger hunt leads to local businesses

Inspired by Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets and a love for unique, local shops in Cincinnati, Alex Shebar, Cincinnati community manager at Yelp, created a scavenger hunt to highlight local businesses and stimulate the local economy.

Yelp is a web-based service that allows users to check-in, write reviews and share their opinions about any business in the area and already a main source for people searching out new businesses to explore.

The hunt includes more than 80 independent shops from Bellevue to Farfield to Milford and everywhere in between.  Shebar’s hunt, which focuses on six golden tickets randomly placed in the businesses, does more than include discounts and coupons. Each participating business donated an item worth at least $25 worth of prizes; donated items were split into six gift baskets worth hundreds of dollars each.

Clues will be added on social media each day, getting more and more specific as Christmas draws nearer. Running from now until Dec. 26, the hunt gives patrons plenty of time to explore old and new favorite stores.

The idea came from last year’s Totally Bazaar event that Yelp’s Shebar planned. He updated the idea from a one-day shopping bonanza to a citywide hunt. “The idea is to support local shopping,” Shebar says. “The Bazaar last year was a good introduction to the products stores have, but it didn’t get people in the stores. It can be intimidating to go in somewhere for the first time, and I think this will help.”

Shebar looked for neighborhoods, like Bellvue, OTR and Milford, with multiple local stores to help hunters drive less. Each ticket was placed randomly, so there could be several in one neighborhood, or none in a particular neighborhood. All aspects of the hunt urge people to explore new stores.

“I have nothing against chain stores, but we wanted to get people away from those stores and check out more unique, interesting shops,” Shebar says. “You can find gifts you wouldn’t find anywhere else.”

Check out the photo: "A golden ticket is located behind this cabinet (know where it is?)"

By Evan Wallis



Andy's Mediterranean takes over XU eateries

Diners at Xavier University's Gallagher Student Center now have new dining options, in some very familiar places. Local restaurateur Andy Hajar officially took over management of the university's Ryan's Pub and Fusions Café, incorporating the Middle Eastern fare of Andy's Mediterranean Grille into these popular campus restaurants.

"We are very excited to have Andy become part of the Xavier family," said Tom Barlow, XU's director of auxiliary services. He pointed out that Andy's, which was started 10 years ago by Hajar after he immigrated to Walnut Hills from Zahle, Lebanon, fits well with the university's commitments to both local business and creating a diverse campus culture.

"As a commitment to Xavier's mission to support our local community, we seek only local, family-run businesses," Barlow said.

Greg George, business manager for Andy's Mediterranean, said the warm regards are mutual.

"Andy thought this was a fabulous opportunity to team up with an institution like Xavier," he said. "It offers him a great environment to improve on the brand, and lays the platform for expanding the brand."

George noted that, although the healthy, natural ingredients in the Andy's menu may be a shift for some diners, the look and feel of XU landmark Ryan's Pub will remain mostly unchanged. The pub was built and named in honor of Steve Ryan, friend of building patron Charlie Gallagher, and the new manager intends to respect that history.

"Ryan's won't look any different beyond the branding," George said.

Both Ryan's Pub and Fusions opened under Andy's management June 2. And George said that excitement at the restaurants remains high.

"This is a dream come true for Andy," he said.

Writer: Matt Cunningham
Photo provided by Xavier University

Skinny Pig brings Mayberry owner to Walnut Hills

Mayberry and Mayberry Foodstuffs grocery owner Josh Campbell and his business partners are opening a new restaurant, the Skinny Pig, in East Walnut Hills.

Campbell, his business partner Jerry Murphy, and sous chef Kevin O'Connell signed a 15-month lease for a 750-square foot space at Desales Corner. As its name implies, the Skinny Pig's menu will specialize in pork but also include flatbreads and salads. Campbell said the restaurant will open in May seating 28 on the inside and 25 outside in an expansive courtyard that will feature an outdoor grill and live music on the weekend.

Because downtown Cincinnati has seen an increase of new businesses, Campbell and his business partners decided it would be a smart business move to chose East Walnut Hills.

"It's an up and coming neighborhood with a core community and a set of people who care about the community. They look out for one another there. It's a great neighborhood with great architecture and a great location, sitting next to O'Bryonville and Hyde Park," Campbell said.

Campbell has an extensive background in the restaurant industry working and learning the trade in Florida and the Bahamas. After working at five star restaurants and preparing exotic menus that served various celebrities, the Cincinnati native decided to move back to his hometown to bring something unique to the urban core.

"I think it's important that we still open mom and pop places. Everything that I have opened is small. My first restaurant seats 20 people; my grocery store is 600 square feet. Skinny Pig is as large as I'd like to get," Campbell explained. "If there's too much space and not enough people, it's hard to support a business in the urban core."

According to Campbell, he believes it is very important for an individual to see and experience what the world has to offer beyond the walls of Cincinnati, and then bring those ideas back to the city.

"My goal is to build a community and attract people who want to come and have a good meal. It doesn't matter who you are and I don't ever want to put the blinders on and attract a certain clientele, I just want someone to enjoy themselves and have good quality food," Campbell explained.

Writer: Lisa Ensminger

Walnut Hill's leaders reshaping neighborhood's image

A group of Walnut Hills visionaries are spearheading efforts to revitalize their neighborhood, with the latest effort including 14 buildings along East McMillan Street.

The buildings, spanning five blocks of East McMillan, make up the McMillan-Peebles Corner Project. They were acquired by the city of Cincinnati's department of community development. Among the buildings are a historic firehouse and a brownstone, and a former Graeter's ice cream location. Many have been condemned as unlivable in their current state.

Some, like the firehouse and brownstone, will be preserved because of their historical significance. Others will be demolished for new apartment developments, according to Greg Loomis, Executive Director of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation (WHRF). A building located at the corner of Concord and McMillan streets was demolished in February.

The McMillan-Peebles Corner project is still in the assessment phase, he says. It's a partnership between the city and Walnut Hills community leaders, who call on outside consultants. Jeff Raser of architectural firm Glaserworks is creating designs for the forthcoming developments. The Cincinnati Preservation Association is deeming which buildings are historic.

Loomis says "the community is aiming for a diverse mix of affordable and market-rate housing, including both apartments and houses that would appeal to, among others," workers of the forthcoming Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati, expected to open downtown in late 2012.

Kathy Atkinson, president of the Walnut Hills Area Council, says the McMillan-Peebles Corner project is a step toward revising the general perception of Walnut Hills. "The perception is that we are an underachieving, unsafe neighborhood in decline."

She adds: "We know that we're deeper than that; we know we have more to offer than that, and we know that if we change the face of McMillan and restored it to what it once was, that the perceptions of Walnut Hills will change, and therefore the economic viability going forward will also change."

Writer: Rich Shivener

Brazee Street Studios and arts consortium bring life to Oakley arts scene

Brazee Street Studios is a driving force behind efforts to raise awareness of art happenings in Oakley and surrounding neighborhoods. The resource center houses the Brazee Street School of Glass, Gallery One One and more than 20 artist studios. Now it's looking to expand on those efforts and reach out to art businesses beyond Oakley.

Let's start with the most immediate effort: Oakley After Hours, which was rescheduled to avoid conflicts with other art events in the Cincinnati area. Happening 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, April 8, the event highlights businesses in the neighborhood, mainly along Madison Road and Oakley Square. It's organized by the Oakley Community Council and happens the second Friday of each month through August. Brazee and other art houses such as Redtree Art Gallery and Coffee Shop and The Brush Factory will stay open later than usual.

"Brazee has been really excited about the support we've received in Oakley from families and artists," says creative director Leah Busch. "It's a nice eastside vantage point. We're just trying to be a bulls eye for art here."

Collage artist Sara Pearce, a former arts editor at the Enquirer, rents a studio space at Brazee. She had approached Oakley Community Council about moving Oakley After Hours, formerly happening the last Friday of each month, to the second Friday. The move was inspired by Redtree, which had been keeping its doors open then.

The "2nd Friday" concept works, she says, because it doesn't conflict with Final Fridays in Over-the-Rhine or First Fridays in Covington.

"It just seemed like an opportunity to carve a new niche on a different weekend," Pearce says.

Councilmembers Lindsay Hooks and Gina Brenner are planning After Hours. Hooks says places like Brazee, Country Club art gallery and Voltage furniture are developing the neighborhood's identity as an arts district.

"I'm really hoping that (After Hours) brings more awareness to what we have here," she says.

Brazee will open its artist studios from 7 to 9 p.m. April 8. It's previewing a new concept, too. Called "Art Between the Lines," an outdoor market for artists, designers, food vendors, event organizers and non-profits. They can purchase a nine foot by eight foot space outside the studios.

Busch says Brazee is in the "infant stage" of organizing an art walk that weaves through Oakley, Hyde Park, Madisonville, O'Bryonville, or "pinpoints eastside art destinations on (and around) Madison Road."

The visionaries behind this effort include Busch, Pearce, and Lisa Merida-Paytes and Tom Funke of Funke Fired Arts, based on Wasson Road.

"It seems like there is a lot of going on in eastside art, but there's no unifying thread," Busch says. "There's no web site you can go to; there's no postcard that says 'Here are the hotspots where you can see.' We want to make it a 'You can make a night out of it' idea."

Writer: Rich Shivener
Photography by Scott Beseler.

Cincy Coworks celebrates new permanent space in Walnut Hills


Cincinnatians began coworking in November 2009 in the Over-the-Rhine.  From those early beginnings, the group of full-time coworkers and those interested in the concept have grown.  After expanding coworking operations in OTR in February 2010, Cincy Coworks is now celebrating a much anticipated move into a permanent space in East Walnut Hills.

The new 800 square-foot space at 2714 Woodburn Avenue (map) has been a work in progress according to Cincy Coworks co-founder Gerard Sychay.  In addition to the permanence of the East Walnut Hills location, coworkers can now utilize the space 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a full-time monthly membership that costs $200.

"We love the new location," said Sychay.  "We've got great food options within a couple of blocks and a big free parking lot for those who need it."

In addition to access, monthly membership also guarantees a dedicated desk, the ability to reserve space for evening and weekend events, and other amenities that Sychay says are still to come.  The space also boast an lounge area and outdoor space for those looking to get a bit of fresh air.

Joining Cincy Coworks is a second coworking operation called Working Side by Side.  Located in Woodlawn, Working Side by Side has 1,200 square feet of space, five full-time members and presently operates from 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday.

"I heard of the coworking concept before and thought it would work here.  The financial and social benefits were both appealing to us," said Brian Mueller who is one of the creative minds behind the Woodlawn coworking space.  "We have learned a lot from the Cincy Coworks people, and we have learned that it's a pretty close knit community."

Mueller went on to say that the close knit community of coworkers is working on potential collaborative efforts between the two spaces Mueller for their members.  If things work out for his group of coworkers from Jasco Engineering & Sales and Precision Cincinnati, the Working Side by Side space may expand into adjacent space where a recreation room or conference rooms could be added.

Like Working Side by Side, Cincy Coworks is also planning for a future expansion that could bring its footprint to 2,000 square feet and more than double the amount of space for its members and drop-in users.

"We stuck to a zero-sum, pay-as-you-go approach, so we opened up operations in the black," Sychay explained.  "If there is enough interest we would love to grow our operations and get an even bigger space somewhere in the neighborhood."

Stay up-to-date by following Cincinnati's coworking spaces on Twitter @CincyCoworks and @WorkingSBS.

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

Cincinnati Parks working to green city's unique neighborhood business districts

Following the renovation of Fountain Square, the City of Cincinnati needed someone to manage the plantings on the public plaza.  After a competitive bidding process the Cincinnati Park Board's Greenspace Program emerged as the best organization to handle such a project.  Since that time, the program has expanded considerably throughout Downtown and Over-the-Rhine, and more recently into eight of Cincinnati's neighborhood business districts.

"The Park Board competed for the landscaping contract against private companies and eventually won," described City Council member Laure Quinlivan, Chair of the Livable Communities Committee.  "The City was excited to hand this platform off to a group able to do this, and we are really fortunate to have one of the best park departments in the country that was able to step up to the challenge."

The initial contract at Fountain Square has led to other opportunities for the Park Board's Greenspace Program.  At the end of 2007, City Council looked at eight business districts that recently had streetscaping projects completed, or had existing landscaping in their business districts. The goal was to find out what it would take to design, install and maintain three seasonal displays annually.  The Greenspace Program fit the bill and also maintains the sidewalk cutouts that include tree plantings in those business districts.

"We really enjoy the opportunity to do this work in neighborhoods throughout the city," said Dave Boutelle, Service Area Coordinator for the Greenspace Program.  "It has added a new dimension to our program and we are encouraged by all the positive feedback we have been receiving from the neighborhoods where we have been working."

Neighborhoods where Greenspace has been working include Westwood, Bond Hill, Roselawn, Evanston, Northside, O'Bryonville, Mt. Washington and Pleasant Ridge.  The work has been ongoing since 2008 with a two person crew maintaining the landscaping in these areas to keep them looking beautiful.

"Our Greenspace Program concentrates on public areas that are not parks, but do have landscaping like highway ramps, parkways, neighborhood gateways and other park-like settings," Boutelle explained.  "And we are fortunate to have talented people that do tremendous design work that has been able to keep the areas colorful year-round."

The program costs the City no additional money and expands the work of the Cincinnati Park Board; which in the end is something Quinlivan is very proud about.

"My goal is to create a cleaner, greener and smarter city, and what better way to do that than through a partnership like this," she said.

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

DeSales Flats celebrates grand opening in East Walnut Hills

This past Thursday Towne Properties, CR Architecture + Design, and community leaders celebrated the grand opening of DeSales Flats in the heart of East Walnut Hills.  DeSales Flats joins the larger DeSales Corner development projects completed in recent years that have introduced a slew of new residential and retail offerings to one of Cincinnati's most historic neighborhood business districts.

The new 76-unit apartment project is the result of community input that pushed hard for a significant residential presence in that part of the neighborhood. 

The completed units are currently being marketed with rents around $1 per square-foot.  Each unit features its own outdoor space with balconies for upper-level units and terraces on ground-floor units.  One unique appeal of DeSales Flats, aside from its central location, is its green amenities. In fact, its the first green LEED certified apartment community.

"Almost every project we do now is working towards LEED certification," said Shannon Duffy, housing design group director for CR Architecture + Design who served as the project's design team and brought a host of green building experience to the table.

"We're very proud at Towne to have created Cincinnati's first green LEED certified apartment community," said Brian Bortz of the Towne Development Group.  "DeSales Flats is the equal of any apartment property developed in the region in recent times.  It's also ideally located close to UC, Xavier, area hospitals, downtown, and great shopping in both O'Bryonville and Hyde Park."

The newly completed project features both 1 and 2-bedroom apartments that include parking for hybrid cars, covered bicycle parking, high efficiency HVAC, large windows, a fitness center on-site, and a clubroom.

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

76-unit DeSales Flats project near completion

In recent years East Walnut Hills has been transformed by the DeSales Plaza developments.  The newest addition to this transformation, Desales Flats, will bring 76 new apartment units to the neighborhood in an environmentally sustainable way.

DeSales Flats is being developed by Cincinnati-based Towne Properties with designs being drawn up by CR Architecture + Design.  The project is one of Towne Properties' first LEED projects and was incentivised by Cincinnati's LEED tax breaks according to the LEED accredited team from CR Architecture + Design.

"Almost every project is working towards LEED certification now," says Shannon Duffy, housing design group director for CR Architecture + Design.  At DeSales Flats many of the LEED approaches are being taken during construction which will compliment amenities like covered bicycle parking once the project is complete.

Project developers note that DeSales is located on some of the city's best bicycle routes and that with its location near the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University and several neighborhood business districts, bicycling just seems to make a lot of sense for future residents here.

One bedroom units will range from 700 to 890 square feet, while two bedroom units will range from 980 to 1,360 square feet , with prices averaging about $1 per square-foot.  Every unit will have its own outdoor space as well with balconies on upper-level units and terraces on ground-floor units.

The project is moving along now and will finish in a rolling fashion.  The first of three, three-story buildings will be complete at the end of October, with the final building coming online at the beginning of 2010.

Project developers note that neighborhood residents really pushed for additional residential in this phase of the larger project.  Earlier phases have been extremely popular and identified an untapped market for this kind of residential offering.

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
Stay connected and follow Randy on Twitter @SoapboxRandy

Sharrows coming to a street near you

As part of Cincinnati’s effort to become more bicycle friendly, the city's streets will soon see the installation of blue “Share the Road” signs in three high priority cycling corridors.

The three initial corridors to receive the new signs will be Hamilton and Spring Grove avenues near the bicycle-heavy Northside neighborhood and Riverside Drive through the East End neighborhood.

This will be the first time these “Share the Road” signs have been used in Ohio and are meant to remind motorists to expect bicyclists on these streets.  City law currently directs adult cyclists to ride in the street with the flow of vehicular traffic and not on the sidewalks.

“These signs are an easy way to promote cycling as a viable means of transportation and are part of our effort to increase transportation choices in Cincinnati,” says the interim director of the city’s Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE), Michael Moore.

The new “Share the Road” signs are just the beginning of things to come. Over the summer, the city’s DOTE will launch a city-wide Bike Plan process that will create a comprehensive plan for bicycle infrastructure and programming.

In addition to the new signage and city-wide Bike Plan, the city will also begin the installation of  sharrows in a variety of locations. Sharrows are employed in the absence of a dedicated bicycle lane and are painted zones on the road that illustrate where cyclists will be riding.

Sharrows provide a safely marked area for bicyclists who often feel compelled to ride closer to parked cars in order to put distance between themselves and moving traffic.  This often times creates a situation where bicyclists are “doored” by people opening a car door from a parked vehicle and can cause serious injury.

Based on feedback the city received from an online survey, sharrows will be installed this week along the following corridors:
  • Clifton Avenue (McMillan Street to Ludlow Avenue)
  • Ludlow Avenue (Bowdle Place to Clifton Hills)
  • Ludlow/Jefferson/Nixon Avenues (Clifton Avenue to Vine Street)
  • Madison Road (Beechcrest Lane to Torrence Parkway)
Following these initial installations, the City plans on studying the effectiveness of the sharrows. Results will be reported to the Federal Highway Administration in June of 2010.  The information collected will also be used to make future decisions on whether or not to install additional sharrows throughout the city.

Sharrows are currently being used or studied in a number of U.S. cities including Columbus, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky nearby.

Writer: Randy Simes
Source: Mel McVay, city planner, City of Cincinnati Department of Transportation & Engineering
Images provided

May means it's bike month in Cincinnati

As Cincinnati strives to become a more bike friendly city, the local bike community continues to grow and become more active.  Recent victories include the announcement of dedicated bike lanes on Spring Grove Avenue when it is repaved in the near future, the start of a new “sharrow” pilot program that will study a variety of bike corridors throughout the city to determine which ones are best suited for “sharrows” and an update to the City’s Bike Plan is currently underway.

The dedicated bike lane along Spring Grove Avenue will further connect the neighborhoods of Downtown and Northside, and will allow bicyclists to safely and quickly travel through the Mill Creek Valley on their way to or from the center city.

“Sharrows” are marked lanes that are used to indicate to motorists that bicyclists do indeed share the road and help provide a safer environment for bicyclists to navigate congested city streets.  These sharrows are used throughout much of the United States, but have yet to be embraced in Ohio, which has recently been ranked as the 32nd best state for bicyclists.

The hopes are that these new initiatives will illustrate support for bicyclists and encourage higher rates of bicycling in the Cincinnati region. But even with these new initiatives, many hurdles still exist for Cincinnati bicyclists.  Support facilities like lockers and showers are virtually non-existent, many bicyclists still do not ride on the streets with vehicular traffic and ample riding and parking space continue to be issues faced by bicyclists.

Sherman Cahal is the owner of the local bicycling forum known as Cincy Rides and regularly participates in the grass-roots rides known as Critical Mass – both of which are meant to engage the local bicycling community and keep communication open for their efforts.  Cahal has attempted to further network the local bicycling community in a way that will hopefully create new and innovative solutions to many of the problems still faced in Cincinnati with regards to bicycling.

May is also National Bike Month, making it the perfect time to celebrate bicycling and bring awareness to its causes in the Cincinnati-area. This year’s Bike Month includes a variety of events and activities geared towards getting Cincinnati-area bicyclists out on the streets and being visible.  One such activity is Deals on Wheels where dozens of local businesses are offering discounts and special deals for those who bicycle to their businesses.

This coming Thursday marks the Cincinnati Bike to Work Day where cyclists are strongly encouraged to get out and bicycle to work.  The efforts of getting people to bicycle to work are largely centered on support facilities like lockers and showers that are currently not found in Cincinnati.

To get involved with Bike Month activities in Cincinnati, you can visit Queen City Bike for regular updates on events, activities and specials.  This involvement is important as the local bicycling community moves forward and spreads the word about their beloved means of transportation.

“The bicycle is perhaps the cleanest mode of transport for any measurable distance, and nothing remains as pure or as spirited as the natural elegance of a bike ride,” says Cahal.

Writer: Randy Simes
Source: Sherman Cahal, owner, Cincy Rides

Historic house tours fill Mother's Day weekend

There will be two unique house tours, for those interested in seeing some of the available housing stock in the Clifton and East Walnut Hills neighborhoods, over the Mother's Day weekend.

The Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA) will be hosting “Upstairs, Downstairs” on Saturday, May 9th from 1pm to 5pm which will be a self-guided tour of six historic homes in the Beechcrest-Madison Road area of East Walnut Hills.  Advance registrations are required for this tour and tickets cost $25 for CPA members and $30 for guests.

The houses on the tour stand out architecturally and offer a variety of architectural styles including Georgian Revival, Tudor Revival, Cotswold Cottage and American Arts & Crafts.  Those who attend the tour will also receive a keepsake program with profiles of the historic properties as CPA commemorates 45 years of preservation work within the Greater Cincinnati area.

There will be live music, refreshments and guided tours of the Verona Historic Residences for everyone, after they finish their self-guided tour, from 1pm to 7pm at the Verona Courtyard (2356 Park Avenue).  To make a reservation or receive an invitation please call (513) 721-4506 or email info@cincinnatipreservation.org.
The second tour will be hosted the following day on Sunday, May 10th, from 1pm to 5pm, in the Clifton neighborhood.  There will be nine homes on this tour as Clifton homeowners will open their doors for the Cincinnati public to view their homes from the 1800s to the 1950s.

The Clifton House Tour is held every third year on Mother’s Day.  This year’s collection of homes includes Victorian, American Four Square, Tudor and Frank Lloyd Wright architectural styles.

The tour costs $15 in advance or $20 on the day of the tour.  The proceeds are reinvested in the community through the various projects of Clifton Town Meeting (CTM) like carriage rides, streetscaping projects, the publication of the Clifton Chronicle and movie nights.

A free shuttle is available to those attending this year’s tour and will take tour goers from the various parking locations to the homes in order to shorten walking times and allow people to leisurely view the homes.

You can purchase your tickets in advance at the following Ludlow Avenue merchants:  Columbia Savings Bank, Esquire Theatre, Ludlow Wines, Olive’s, Skyline Chili, U.S. Bank or by calling (513) 861-2000.  To find out more information on parking locations, volunteering or to purchase your tickets online please visit this website.

Writer: Randy Simes
Source: Clifton Town Meeting; Cincinnati Preservation Association

Issue 9 debate engages local businesses one month before the November vote

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful's biggest event of the year takes place on April 25 with a kickoff in College Hill, and the organization could use your help.

Great American Cleanup, the nation's largest community improvement project with an estimated 2.8 million volunteers, is aimed at boosting the quality of life in neighborhoods by planting flowers and trees, picking up litter, collecting discarded tires, painting façades, landscaping, and recycling

Because of the massive amount of work to be done, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful program manager Josman Rodriguez says that volunteers are very much needed.

Just last year, 8,352 volunteers collected 406,460 pounds of litter and debris; planted 13,500 flowers and bulbs; cleaned 578 miles or roads, streets and highways; and recycled more than 40,000 plastic bottles and more than 2,500 scrap tires.

"We're expecting 10,000 volunteers beautifying 90 communities, 25 parks, and 30 schools," Rodriguez says.

He also says that Give Back Cincinnati, community leaders, and Cincinnati council members plan to participate, and that United Dairy Farmers is serving as a co-sponsor.

To volunteer, contact Liz Bowater at (513) 352-4380 or at liz.bowater@cincinnati-oh.gov.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Josman Rodriguez, project manager/public awareness, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful

Qualls pushes council to make streets 'for people, not just cars'

Cincinnati City Councilmember and chair of the Vibrant Neighborhoods Committee, Roxanne Qualls introduced a resolution supporting the federal Complete Streets Act of 2009, a piece of legislation meant to encourage streets that are safe for all forms of human transportation.

Sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and introduced earlier this month, the legislation promotes the design of streets that are safe for motorists, bus and transit riders, pedestrians, bicyclists, and people with disabilities by directing state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations to adopt and implement complete streets policies for federally-funded transportation projects.

It would also update the current federal code on pedestrian and bicycle accommodation and authorize research, data collection, technical assistance and dissemination of best practices.

Qualls' resolution is currently in council's Economic Development Committee, which next meets on April 7.

"We actually put funds in the biennial budget to develop a complete streets program," Qualls says.  "So the city has already recognized the need to design streets for people, not just cars.  Ultimately, the goal is to make our streets multi-modal."

According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, more than 5,000 annual fatalities and 70,000 injuries occur to pedestrians and bicyclists because of inadequate sidewalks and crosswalks, space for bicyclists, and room for transit riders.

Locally, the city's Department of Transportation and Engineering has been working with the Mount Washington Community Council to retrofit a portion of Beechmont Avenue that has seen an increase in speeding and accidents since a road widening project in 2004.

Residents of Westwood have also requested traffic calming measures for a mostly residential – but busy – section of Montana Avenue.

"Our competitive advantage is in our neighborhoods, and our quality of life is dependent on our streets," Qualls says.  "If we look at our streets as our largest public spaces, then the quality of those spaces is critical to economic development."

Qualls says that complete streets is one of many strategies that cities are using to become more walkable and mixed-use, pointing out that more than 80 state and local governments already have passed complete streets policies.

"It's a matter of changing how we think about streets," Qualls says.  "What we recognize is that if you design streets for cars, you get cars.  If you design streets for people and alternative modes of transportation, that's what you'll get."

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Sources: Roxanne Qualls, Cincinnati City Council; Jennifer O'Donnell, assistant to Councilmember Qualls

Focus on environment garners planning award for Green Cincinnati plan

The City of Cincinnati, Mayor Mark Mallory, and the visionaries behind the Green Cincinnati Action Plan have been awarded the Frank F. Ferris II Award for Planning Excellence from the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission.

The award is presented annually to a planning commission or committee for projects demonstrating planning excellence and civic, economic, aesthetic or environmental significance.

Vice Mayor David Crowley and climate protection coordinator Ginnell Schiller accepted the award on behalf of the city.

"It's great for the City of Cincinnati to be recognized for planning achievement," Crowley says.  "I think that it's the combination of planning around environmental issues that makes this very exciting to us."

Crowley says that the plan ultimately resulted from his meetings with Mallory about restoring the environmental focal point that was lost when the Office of Environmental Management was disbanded in 2003 due to budget cuts.

Mallory appointed Crowley as chair of the plan's steering committee, with much of the staff work being done by Larry Falkin, the current director of the Office of Environmental Quality.

"At that point it was constituted of about 20 organizations and people," Crowley says.  "Not just environmentalists…there were business people, there were government, citizens, institutions, labor.  We had some really key players involved in this overall effort."

The steering committee assembled more than 150 experts and concerned citizens into five task teams – energy, transportation, land use, waste management, and advocacy – to compile a list of ways by which the city could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2 percent annually.

In April 2008, the 212-page plan was finalized with 82 specific recommendations, and, in July 2008, it was approved by city council.

To Crowley, the value of all of that hard work lies in the "action".

"This plan says that we don’t just want this to sit on the shelf," he says.  "We want to make this thing work.  So we started with some of the activities that the city itself can do, and of the 82 recommendations there's work being done by somebody, somewhere, on 60 of them."

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Photography by Scott Beseler
Mayor Mark Mallory

Mallory highlights economic growth in State of the City address

In his fourth State of the City address, delivered last Wednesday at the Duke Energy Center, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory said that the city is weathering the poor economy much better than most.

"At a time when other cities are seeing businesses move out, we are seeing businesses expand and new businesses move in," he said.

He credited the "aggressive and strategic" approach of City Manager Milton Dohoney and Economic Development Director Holly Childs for bringing 2,500 new jobs to Cincinnati last year, including commitments from such major players as Medpace, Humana, dunnhumbyUSA, and US Bank.

Mallory also spoke of the need to empower small and minority-owned businesses, saying that four more Shop52 seminars will be held this year to link entrepreneurs with business experts, non-profit service providers, and lending professionals.

"We must also ensure that individuals have the opportunity to realize their dreams," he said.  "Shop52 is all about small business growth and strengthening our neighborhoods."

In addition to job creation, Mallory noted that construction is underway on two major building projects – Great American Tower at Queen City Square, a 41-story, $340 million office tower and The Banks, a 2.8-million-square-foot mixed-use development on the city's riverfront.

But Mallory said that the most crucial component of Cincinnati's development plans is the streetcar system that would connect Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, and the Uptown neighborhoods.

"Now, we have done our homework and the benefits of a streetcar system are clear," Mallory said.  "When a city puts rails in the ground, economic growth follows."

Mallory said that $1.4 billion in economic impact would result from the project's first phase, giving the city additional resources that it can use in neighborhoods throughout the city.

"The benefits of the streetcar system are too significant to allow the naysayers to derail our efforts," he said.  "Streetcars must be a part of Cincinnati's future and we will fight to make it happen."

According to Mallory, the key to Cincinnati's future success is strong local, national, and global partnerships.

To achieve these partnerships, the city and its residents must be their own advocates.

"We have a great city and we must make it our priority to promote it here at home, across the nation and around the world," Mallory said.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: 2009 Cincinnati State of the City address
Photography by Scott Beseler

Spaces remain for 10-week government academy

Several spaces remain for the spring session of the Cincinnati Citizens Government Academy, a 10-week course designed to give an in-depth look at how city government is organized and how services are funded and delivered.

Beginning March 2nd and held Mondays between 6 PM and 9 PM, the Academy features field trips to numerous city departments to learn about their services and programs.

The goal of the program is to not only improve citizen understanding of how local government works, but also to encourage citizen involvement in strengthening and improving the quality of life throughout the city's neighborhoods.

"As City government continues to engage citizens, it's important that citizens have a broad understanding of how their government works," says Cincinnati city manager Milton Dohoney.  "We believe that informed citizens are involved citizens and that makes for better government.  The Academy may also bring forth some new ideas from the public that we may need to consider."

Since 2007, the Academy has graduated 45 participants from its two sessions.

Participation is free, and citizens can enroll by calling Trina Porter at (513) 352-5335 or by e-mailing citizensgovernmentacademy@cincinnati-oh.gov.

Applications are also available online at or by visiting Suite 104 at Cincinnati City Hall.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Tiffaney Hardy, senior communications specialist, City of Cincinnati
Photography by Scott Beseler
Milton Dohoney

New and improved CincySites makes site selection easy

The new and improved Cincinnati Commercial Site Portfolio, joint effort of the Economic Development Office of the Hamilton County Development Co. (HCDC) and the City of Cincinnati, has moved to cincysites.com.

The online database is a comprehensive inventory of Hamilton County sites available for redevelopment, including industrial, retail, office, warehouse, and vacant land.

The database also serves as a central source of information for those who might want to invest in the community, with layers of detailing population and workforce demographics, spending data, and information on nearby businesses.

CincySites is a cut above the average economic development website because it utilizes geographic information system (GIS) technology, allowing users to create maps and reports that would normally take weeks –and dollars – to collect.

Because more than 90 percent of initial site selection screening is now done using the Internet, it is hoped that the depth and ease of use of CincySites will help attract new business and promote economic development in Hamilton County.

"This tool is primarily used to make sure that we get looked at in the first place," says Harry Blanton, vice president and manager of the Economic Development Office.  "If we do not provide this tool, we may not get many looks, since many consultants will cut you out of the search if you don't provide this type of information online."

But CincySites is only one of the strategies employed by his office, Blanton says.

"We also make visits to site location consultants to sell the region, send e-messages to them with development items of interest, participate in the state's referral process, and market the region in foreign publications," he says.

Partners in CincySites also include Hamilton County, the Cincinnati USA Partnership, and the Cincinnati Area Geographic Information System (CAGIS).

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Harry Blanton, vice president and manager, HCDC Economic Development Office

Cincinnati 'doing good, and getting better'

"Doing good, and getting better."

With those words, Cincinnati city councilmember and chair of the Vibrant Neighborhoods Committee Laketa Cole opened the seventh annual Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit at Xavier University's Schiff Conference and Banquet Center.

"That's going to be my motto for this year," Cole said.  "And that's what we're doing here in the City of Cincinnati."

Hundreds of residents, community leaders, and local officials spent the day attending breakout sessions on such topics as housing, economic development, crime prevention, and community building.

"It really does speak to the passion that you have for this city, and the effort that you want to put into transforming this city," said Cincinnati Mayor, Mark Mallory.

The biggest news of the day may have been the official launch of the city's new comprehensive master plan, the first for the city since 1980.

"We are working on a plan for the plan," said Charles C. Graves III, director of the Department of City Planning.  "We'll be holding an in-house retreat with city staff over the next couple of weeks."

At this year's summit, Hamilton County leaders were on hand to share their programs and services with community stakeholders.

Hamilton County Commission president David Pepper took the opportunity to remind Cincinnatians that they are part of the county, too.

"You guys don't call the county enough," he said.  "Sometimes we don't see nearly as many of you [at commission meetings] as I know show up at council meetings.  You're welcome to come!"

Planning for next year's summit has already begun.

"This job does not end today," Cole said.  "It actually begins.  Because once this summit is over, they take all of the survey results, they compile them, and they start talking about them and planning for the next year."

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Photography by Kevin LeMaster

Seventh annual Neighborhood Summit focuses on 'Growing Cincinnati'

The 7th annual Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit 2009 will be held January 24 from 8 AM to 2 PM at Xavier University's Schiff Banquet and Conference Center.

"Growing Cincinnati" will give citizens and community leaders the opportunity to interact with elected officials from the city, county and state and to learn how their colleagues are addressing community challenges in the areas of housing, economic development, and community building.

Laketa Cole, Cincinnati councilmember and chair of the Neighborhoods Committee, will open the summit with an introductory greeting, followed by Mayor Mark Mallory, who will lead a session on the importance of the Census to the community.

Breakout session topics will include:

  • Housing: Section 8 and CMHA, reuse of foreclosed and abandoned properties, promoting homeownership, organizations addressing the foreclosure crisis, and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program
  • Economy and Work Force Development: 2010 Census and Shop 52, Agenda 360, the upcoming 2009 Comprehensive Plan, the future of transportation, and work force development
  • Community Collaboration and Best Practices: Developing a neighborhood art center, community collaboration, form-based codes, reducing violence, and making your neighborhood more green

Registration for the Neighborhood Summit is required by January 16.

On January 23, Congressman Steve Driehaus will speak at a kickoff dinner about the promising changes on the horizon for the City and how we can all play a role in its growth.

Community volunteers also will be presented awards for their efforts.

Reservations are also required for the dinner, at a cost of $20.

The Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit 2009 is sponsored by Invest in Neighborhoods, Inc., the Community Building Institute, and the Cincinnati Department of Community Development.  Support is provided by Xavier University and the Murray & Agnes Seasongood Good Government Foundation.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Sources: Jason Barron, City of Cincinnati; Laurel Bauer, media relations coordinator, Xavier University


Owl's Nest master plan coming to fruition

With the delivery of thousands of cubic yards of fill dirt to the site, work officially has started on the first phase of the Owl's Nest Park renovation in Evanston and East Walnut Hills.

The dirt, which is coming from the Hoff Academic Quad construction site at Xavier University, will bring the former ball field area up to the level of Fairfax Avenue.

The site will continue to be filled for the next several weeks, and bids for the first phase of construction will go out in the next few weeks.

The Cincinnati Park Board, the Owl's Nest Advisory Council, and neighboring community councils worked together to develop the park's master plan.

Steven Schuckman, superintendent of planning and design for Cincinnati Parks, says that the plans for this park fit into a much larger design.

"This fits exactly within the new Centennial Master Plan, which calls for improving neighborhood parks and in making improvements which help act as a catalyst for neighborhood investment," he says.

The master plan for Owl's Nest includes:

  • An entrance plaza at Fairfax Avenue
  • A nature study area and amphitheatre
  • A continuous pathway system
  • New lighting
  • Improved picnic and seating areas
  • Renovation of the ball fields
  • New half-court basketball areas

"Owl's Nest is an important neighborhood park in that it serves both the East Walnut Hills and Evanston communities as well as an adjacent business district," Schuckman says.  "At over 10 acres, it's a valuable neighborhood resource and a gathering place to bring together these different neighborhoods in an enhanced park."

Funding for the project is coming from the Park Board, the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, the Cincinnati Reds Community Fund, and private donors.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Steven Schuckman, superintendent of planning and design, Cincinnati Parks

Photography by Kevin LeMaster


Coalition formed to apply for up to $1M in brownfields funds

Greater Cincinnati's industrial history has left the region with a legacy of brownfield sites, abandoned or underutilized properties that are difficult to redevelop due to real or perceived environmental contamination.

In order to address the problem, the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, the City of Cincinnati, and Hamilton County have formed a coalition to jointly apply for $1 million in U.S. EPA environmental assessment grants.

The option of applying as a coalition is new this year, allowing the groups to receive up to $600,000 more than they may have received by applying alone.

The coalition is targeting 28 sites - 18 for hazardous substance contamination and 10 for petroleum contamination.

"If the grant is awarded, we will form a Brownfield Assessment Working Group that will include coalition members and representatives of community-based organizations to solicit applications for environmental assessments and jointly make the final decision on which brownfields will be assessed under the grant," says Christine Russell, director of brownfield development for the Port.

Russell says that these environmental assessment funds are key to seeing where the development potential stands on these properties.

"Some of the major barriers to brownfield redevelopment are the unknown environmental and financial risks associated with a brownfield property," she says.  "This grant will allow us to quantify existing contamination and develop an estimated clean-up cost.  Developers or communities can then better evaluate the feasibility of a brownfield redevelopment project."

The grant is expected to be awarded in spring 2009.

A public meeting will be held in Norwood tomorrow at 6 PM at the Hamilton County Development Company, 1776 Mentor Avenue, Suite 100.

A draft of the grant application is on file at all branches of The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Christine Russell, director of brownfield development, Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority

Xavier excavation work helps two other projects

Last week, the removal of 20,000 cubic yards of fill material along Ledgewood Drive and Dana Avenue not only made way for Xavier University’s new Williams College of Business, but advanced a couple of other projects as well.

The university has announced that it is moving forward with plans for the recently-acquired Norwood Plaza at Montgomery Road and Cleneay Avenue.

Xavier plans to demolish the old Kroger store to create more than 1,100 additional parking spaces for the adjacent Cintas Center.

Fill dirt from the Hoff Academic Quad project will be used to create a walkway over the abandoned railroad tracks that separate the new lot from the arena.

Xavier officials believe the work will be completed before the first men's basketball game on November 14.

Also, some of the fill will make its way to O’Bryonville to be used in the Owl’s Nest Park upgrade.

Plans for the new 10-acre park show a new entrance plaza and overlook along Fairfax Avenue, a continuous pathway system, a nature study area and amphitheatre, new picnic and seating areas, renovated ball fields, half-court basketball courts, and new lighting.

Xavier's $115 million Hoff Academic Quad project will include not only the new business college, but a new Learning Commons, campus gateway, central utility plant, and parking and green space.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Xavier University
Photography by Scott Beseler

Duke Energy hosts regional forum for economic development stakeholders

Duke Energy sponsored a forum yesterday at the Queen City Club that was an opportunity for consultants and governmental leaders to network and to learn the latest strategies in economic development in Ohio and Kentucky.

J.R. Wilhite, commissioner in the Department of New Business Development for the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, says that regardless of all of the innovations and new technologies on the horizon, it still comes down to "blocking and tackling".

"Economic development is changing," he says.  "But just like football has changed with its many rule changes, so must we."

Wilhite says that one of his state's strategies has been a greater focus on Europe, where the Kentucky has contracted with ROI to research the continent's firms and to make initial contact.

Steve Schoeny, director of the strategic business investment division of the Ohio Department of Development, says that Ohio not only needs to do a better job of telling its story, but of developing its workforce as well.

"Our services are of a national caliber," he says.  "However, the system for delivering those services is not."

Schoeny says that Ohio economic development will improve by attracting and retaining young talent through initiatives such as Ohio Means Home and the Ohio Young Talent Network, properly training state staff to focus on clients rather than individuals, and setting up a culture of customer service.

Marti Bremer, senior manager of state and local tax for KPMG, LLP, gave an overview of some of the domestic trends in economic development, including the targeting of industries, benchmarking, giving monetary incentives, public/private partnerships, entrepreneurship programs, development of shovel-ready sites, and workforce development.

Managing director Greg Burkart, of the Novi, Michigan office of Duff & Phelps, provided some insights on economic development websites from the client point of view.

"You may be ruled in or ruled out long before you know it just based upon what information is publicly available," he says.

The final speaker, vice president and director of Austin Consulting Don Schjeldahl, says that alternative energies such as photovoltaic, concentrated solar, and wind power are poised to make significant gains in the next 10 to 15 years, and the geographical pattern for how those industries will be defined has not yet been set.

"If you don't have your act together, you're going to miss the window," he says.

Schjeldahl says that there are still opportunities for Ohio, if they can create market demand for the new technologies and can create awareness of and preparedness for sustainability in the state's communities.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Sources: J.R. Wilhite, commissioner in Department for New Business Development, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development; Steve Schoeny, director of Economic Development Division, Ohio Department of Development; Marti Brenner, senior manager of state and local tax, KPMG, LLC; Greg Burkart, managing director, Duff & Phelps, LLC; Don Schjeldahl, vice president and director, Austin Consulting

Cycling advocates push for better facilities, planning

One-hundred twenty-five cycling advocates attended a meeting of Cincinnati City Council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee last week to discuss how to bring better bicycle facilities to the city and the city's need to update its 32-year-old bicycle plan.

Queen City Bike, a collaboration of several local pro-bicycling organizations, led several group rides to City Hall and supplied many of the hearing's 31 speakers.

"From the overall perspective of Queen City Bike, we're still working on a formal mission statement, but we basically want greater access to walking, bicycling and mass transit in the region; a reduction in bicycle crashes; and a metro that recognizes bicycling and other non-motorized means as a healthy way to get around," Dan Korman says.

Much of the discussion concerned the redesign of Interstate 75 and how it can better accommodate multiple modes of transportation.

"We believe the I-75/Hopple St interchange is an example of how Complete Streets legislation is too often denigrated," Joseph Schuchter says.  "We're tired of bike pedestrian infrastructure being an opt-in.  We want plans for I-75, and all public projects for that matter, to include bike and pedestrian infrastructure.  A fight should not be part of the protocol."

Queen City Bike members agree unanimously that Cincinnati’s bicycle planning is well behind that of competitive cities.

"It's embarrassing that Cincinnati's bicycle plan is 30-years-old and that little has been done to make bicycling a priority in transportation projects," Korman says.

"We're playing catch up, and although alternative transportation is being recognized, I’m still unable to say that we're moving at a pace I’d like to see," Schuchter says.  "Until there is a commitment to update our bicycle plan, merge SORTA and TANK into a seamless and truly Metropolitan system, and stop building highways and adding lanes, the synergies of multiple modes of alternative transportation will not be realized."

Subcommittee chair Roxanne Qualls has said that input received at the public hearings will be considered by highway designers and planners.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Sources: Dan Korman and Joseph Schuchter, Queen City Bike
Photography by Scott Beseler

Buyer education may increase homeownership in, around Evanston

The Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors (CABR) is working with the City of Cincinnati as part of the city's Neighborhood Enhancement Program in Evanston to boost homeownership in and around the neighborhood.

The Urban Home Buyers Extravaganza will be held at Keystone Parke on Saturday, October 4, from 4 PM to 7 PM.

Members of the real estate and lending communities will be on hand to offer tips on finding a new home and to answer questions about obtaining loans and other types of financing.

Annette Chmiel, director of education for CABR, says having these answers is key when buying a home.

"The Board of Realtors is helping the community draw attention to the amenities and housing stock as well as the opportunities for the public to purchase homes including the home buying process," Chmiel says.

Chmiel says that there are many reasons why one should consider buying a home in and around Evanston, and she believes that more people would be interested in its housing stock and community involvement if only they were exposed to it.

"Evanston is right off I-71 and has instant access to downtown, Kenwood and Rookwood," she says.  "Housing prices are affordable and it is an urban and diverse neighborhood.  Xavier University is investing in Evanston as well as other businesses such as Neyer Properties and the Red Cross.  They are working closely with the community."

The Evanston Community Council and the Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati are the other event partners.

Representatives of the community councils of CUF, Avondale, Mount Auburn, and East Walnut Hills will also be on hand.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Annette Chmiel, director of education, CABR
Photography by Scott Beseler

CPS celebrates one year of commitment to green schools

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is celebrating one year of its commitment to green school construction, including the opening of Pleasant Ridge Montessori School, the first LEED certified public school in Ohio.

One year ago, the Cincinnati Board of Education passed a resolution calling for all future new construction and renovation to be designed to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Silver standards and encouraging the development of community partnerships to support the effort.

"Our biggest partnership is with the community members who work with us to design our new buildings like the Pleasant Ridge School Planning Team that are increasingly more interested in incorporating sustainable design in our new buildings," says Michael Burson, director of facilities planning and construction for CPS.

With the completion of phase three of the $1 billion Facilities Master Plan under current planning, Cincinnati will have the largest concentration of green and healthy schools of any urban school district in the nation.

"Cincinnati Public Schools should not only take pride at the fact that 22 of our 50 buildings will be LEED Silver certified when we are completed, but CPS helped encourage the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission to go 'green' for all the remaining schools to be replaced in the State of Ohio after September 2007," Burson says.

Burson says that the new, greener, healthier buildings could even improve parents' view of CPS, making the district more attractive for current and prospective students.

"We have to be honest and say that CPS continuing to improve its academic performance as it has for the past few years will be the primary determinate to our success in the community," he says.  "We do believe, however, that parents appreciate that our new buildings provide safe, beautiful, functional, efficient, and innovative learning environments to support great teaching and learning."

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Sources: Michael Burson, director of facilities planning & construction, Cincinnati Public Schools; Ginny Frazier, executive director, ALLY
Taft Information Technology High School renderings courtesy of Cincinnati Public Schools

MuralWorks program wants takers

With a deadline of October 15, ArtWorks Cincinnati is seeking community applications for its spring and summer 2009 work program.

MuralWorks seeks to beautify the City by creating murals that reflect each participating community while engaging residents, fostering civic pride, and employing local youth in meaningful art apprenticeships.

Since summer 2007, 17 murals have been painted in 14 Cincinnati neighborhoods, covering more than 23,000 square feet of what were once blank walls.

More than 200 teen artists have taken part in the program.

Participating communities are required to provide a contact person, secure studio space, a mural-ready surface, and between 5 percent and 50 percent of the average $30,000 project cost, depending on neighborhood income levels.

They must also show community commitment and a plan to maintain the mural once it is completed.

Joe Gorman, community organizer with the Camp Washington Community Board, says that he likes what the recently completed - and controversial - "Campy Washington" mural has done for his neighborhood.

"We hope the Campy Washington mural will get people to stop and shop in Camp Washington, consider living and working here, and, to appreciate bold art that has a sense of humor," he says.  "Plus, the mural is encouraging the building owner to paint the rest of his building, helping save one of the last historic structures in our community."

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Michael Stout, program coordinator, ArtWorks
Photography by Scott Beseler


LandLOC roundtable to address vacant, abandoned properties

Community developers can learn of a new program that helps return vacant and abandoned residential properties to productive use during a roundtable meeting today from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM at Price Hill Will, 3208 Warsaw Avenue.

The Community Development Corporations Association of Cincinnati (CDCAGC) will host two staff members from the Finance Fund in Columbus to talk about LandLOC, a program that provides statewide financing to help non-profit community-based organizations regain control of these underused structures for redevelopment.

LandLOC provides a flexible line of credit to qualifying non-profits to pay for legal and acquisition costs and expenses related to the safety and stabilization of the property.

Projects are also required to be in alignment with or enhance a broader strategy or revitalization plan.

Patricia Garry, executive director of CDCAGC, says that the idea behind the roundtable is to get the word out to community development corporations (CDCs) about the new program, which began in May.

"I sent it to our entire community development list," she says.  "CDCs, banks, housing agencies, city and county officials, funders, for-profit developers, tech service providers like architects and planners.  All of those other folks work with CDCs in various ways to make projects happen, so we thought they should all be invited."

Garry believes that LandLOC will complement other community-based programs that address blight and neglect.

"It will tie in in many ways to the Neighborhood Homes Initiative we've been talking about," she says.  "And it can probably be used with other programs as well, like the City of Cincinnati's RFP coming out in early September."

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Patricia Garry, executive director, CDCAGC
Logo provided by the Finance Fund

City-county partnership to address litter in major corridors

A one-year pilot partnership announced by Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, Hamilton County commissioners Todd Portune and David Pepper, and Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis will address litter throughout the county's major corridors, gateways and business districts.

The collaboration, which began yesterday, is based on the highly-successful model begun in Over-the-Rhine in 2006 and 2007.

Two crews of sheriff's inmates and Keep Cincinnati Beautiful volunteers will clean designated areas on a two-week rotation, and the cleanup of Over-the-Rhine will be reinstated after a brief hiatus.

“It is our aim to have the 49 cities, villages and townships of Hamilton County to each be attractive, clean, safe and healthy places to live, to work and to enjoy," says Todd Portune, president of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners.

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful will coordinate the program and will work with community stakeholders on:

  • In-class litter prevention programming for schoolchildren
  • Graffiti prevention
  • Adopt-a-Spot
  • A "Keep Cincinnati Clean and Beautiful" awards competition
  • Great American Cleanup and Make a Difference Day Cleanup events
  • Public awareness through 'Don't Trash the 'Nati' and Project 180 Degrees Safe & Clean Neighborhoods campaigns

In Cincinnati, cleanup areas include Avondale, Corryville/CUF, Evanston, Madisonville, Northside, Over-the-Rhine, Walnut Hills/East Walnut Hills, West End, and Westwood/Price Hill.

The Hamilton County communities receiving cleanup details are Cheviot, Colerain Township, Delhi Township, Forest Park, Golf Manor, Green Township, Lincoln Heights and Mt. Healthy.

Financial support, totalling $120,000 in grants, comes from 3CDC, the City of Cincinnati Department of Public Services, and the Hamilton County Solid Waste Management District.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Media release


Home builders voice support for energy-efficiency credits

Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati president Andrea Lucke wants Congress to extend the New Energy Efficient Home Credit, which expires at the end of the year.

Testifying last week before a House Small Business Committee meeting on how emerging green technologies can help stabilize and grow the U.S. economy, Lucke argued that the best strategy is for Congress to provide tax incentives instead of enacting energy efficiency mandates.

While the hearing focused mainly on energy production and conservation, Lucke, on behalf of National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), spoke about how the homebuilding industry is working to protect our planet as the price of energy continues to skyrocket.

"By encouraging growth in green building, our nation’s home builders have the potential to profoundly affect energy efficiency and conserve precious natural resources and our environment," Lucke told the committee, noting that more than half of the NAHB's members are incorporating green practices into their new projects.

The tax credit, which was established in 2005, gives home builders a $2,000 credit for a new energy-efficient home that achieves 50 percent energy savings for heating and cooling over the 2004 International Energy Conservation Code and supplements.

"The credit allows home buyers to benefit from the advantages that green building provides, while builders to continue to build homes at affordable prices," Lucke says.  "Legislators could also increase the amount of the tax credit to pay for a larger percentage of the building costs that are incurred when making a home 50 percent more energy-efficient, because the costs associated with building an energy-efficient home are higher."

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Andrea Lucke, president, Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati
Photo of Congressman Steve Chabot and Andrea Lucke provided by HBAGC

Forum to explore strong, diverse neighborhoods

You can be a part of the creation of strong, diverse neighborhoods at a meeting being held on July 22 from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM.

Steve Smith, president of The Model Group, will share the ways that his company is working to create an integrated and stable Over-the-Rhine by developing a mix of market-rate and affordable housing.

"I'll be sharing my experiences with working in a neighborhood in transition, from one that's at-risk to one that's more diverse, not only in population but economically," he says.

Smith says that the conversation will focus on the core areas of blight removal, clean and safe, and sustainable development.

Following Smith's presentation, attendees will be engaged to develop additional solutions that they can take back and apply to their own cities, villages and neighborhoods.

"I would encourage anyone who has an interest in Over-the-Rhine's continued revival to come, or people from other Cincinnati neighborhoods in an economic downturn," Smith says.  "This could include community leaders, homeowners, residents of those neighborhoods, or people possibly looking to buy in those neighborhoods."

If purchased by July 18, registration is $10 and can be purchased at the Citizens for Civic Renewal website.

Admission is $15 at the door.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Steve Smith, president, The Model Group

Cincinnati seeking applicants for arts grants

The City of Cincinnati is seeking applicants for its competitive Capital Arts Grant Program (CAP).

The CAP was created to assist arts and cultural organizations in implementing projects that build and maintain the economic viability of the city's neighborhoods.

The program provides funding assistance to non-profit artistic and cultural organizations for capital improvement projects that are designed to construct, expand, renovate or equip cultural arts facilities throughout the city.

Approximately $300,000 has been approved for 2008, with a maximum award of $50,000.

Applicants are required to furnish a 1-to-1 dollar match from non-city sources to be eligible.

"These capital improvement grants certainly add to the vibrancy and energy that the arts and cultural community bring to the City," says Katrina Gragston, the Capital Arts Grant Program administrator with Cincinnati's Department of Community Development.  "We encourage all Cincinnati arts and cultural organizations to apply to the Capital Arts Grant Program."

The application deadline is August 15.

Applications and program guidelines are available at the Department of Community Development website or at their office at 805 Central Avenue, Suite 700.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Media release
Photography Scott Beseler

Green Cincinnati Action Plan passed by council

Cincinnati City Council has passed Mayor Mark Mallory's Green Cincinnati Action Plan, a list of 80 specific recommendations that could reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent over the next 20 years. The plan provides short, medium, and long-term steps that the city and its citizens can take in the five core areas of transportation, energy, waste, land use and advocacy.

Developed by the Climate Protection Steering Committee and chaired by Vice Mayor David Crowley, the goal is to provide the city with clean air and water, improved public health, monetary savings, and a stronger local economy with the creation of new, green jobs. Over 150 professionals and concerned citizens provided input to the committee as they assembled the working plan.

The Office of Environmental Quality will be responsible for implementing the recommendations.

Live Green Cincinnati publisher Brianne Fahey is excited by the plan's recommendations.

"From my perspective, having a city government willing to support an action plan like this is incredibly encouraging," she says.  "It should really help Cincinnati reach that tipping point that pushes environmentally conscious lifestyle changes into the local mainstream and out into all parts of the city."

Fahey is looking forward to continuing to unleash her own passion and to be part of the transition to a more sustainable city.

"Live Green Cincinnati is working hard to connect people and small businesses to the education, services, ideas, and encouragement needed to keep a small environmental footprint," she says.  "The more press and support that sustainability gets, the more we’re affecting local businesses to encourage change.  Change is good, especially when it can make our lives better in so many ways."

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Brianne Fahey, publisher, Live Green Cincinnati
Photography by Scott Beseler

Transit restructuring getting a close look

Cincinnati City Council has adopted a motion that would restructure the finances and control of SORTA, southwest Ohio's transit agency. Councilmember John Cranley will introduce the Regional Transportation Act, a proposal that would create the Greater Cincinnati Transportation Authority (GCTA), reforming the governing structure of SORTA to better incentivize jurisdictions who contribute to public transportation and give fast-growing suburban communities more of a say on regional transportation issues.

Historically, the City of Cincinnati has held a minority on the SORTA board despite contributing the bulk of the operating fund.

"Cincinnati invests $43 million annually in public transit," Cranley writes in a statement supporting the motion. "Sadly, no other jurisdiction comes anywhere near this investment. Cincinnati taxpayers contribute over 90 percent of local transit dollars and that investment should be reflected in the amount of representation they have in the body that governs transportation."

Suburban counties have had no representation on the board, receiving bus routes through contract.

"A successful regional transportation system must include the fast growing Butler, Clermont, and Warren counties, which have a lot of jobs and currently are not formally part of the governing structure of SORTA," Cranley writes.

The GCTA board would be composed of between 11 and 19 members.  Each county would be able to appoint a representative, with the remainder allocated based on financial contribution.

The new agency would receive all of SORTA's assets, liabilities, and routes.

City administration is likely to report back to council on the proposal following the summer break.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Cincinnati City Council
Photography by Scott Beseler

Cincinnati delegation sees form-based codes in action

Late last week, a twenty-five member delegation of Cincinnati city staff, members of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), neighborhood leaders and local developers went to Nashville to see first-hand how form-based codes have accelerated that city's economic development. In her recent budget policy motion, Cincinnati City Councilmember Roxanne Qualls proposed the development of a comprehensive plan that capitalizes on the city's historically dense and pedestrian friendly core and neighborhood business districts.

Form-based codes regulate development's physical form, relationship and scale, rather than using conventional zoning's focus on the segregation of land uses.

While in Nashville, the delegation learned how the city successfully moved from conventional zoning to form-based codes and how citizens were involved in the process.

"To see the thoughful creation of a built environment that creates a sense of place was very powerful," says Scott Golan, a member of the ULI executive committee.

One of the projects they toured was the Icon in the Gulch, a 400-unit condominium development that sold out in 48 hours.

"It's hard to see the impact of form-based codes and not be persuaded," Golan says.  "The quality of what they do is higher.  You could tell which buildings were developed under form-based codes, and which were not."

Qualls and city planning staff convened a Form-Based Code Collaborative Group to explore the next steps, including assembling project partners and communicating to the public the importance of using form-based codes to create "places that matter".

"The city leadership seems to be engaging this in the right way," Golan says.  "Roxanne Qualls has been working hard to educate people about form-based codes.  They're definitely not ignoring the issue."

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Scott Golan, executive committee, Urban Land Institute Cincinnati

View 21 of Cincinnati's hottest urban properties this weekend

Twenty-one of Cincinnati's hottest urban properties will be open for viewing on both Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 PM. The Ultimate Urban Tour of Living is a free self-guided tour of residential opportunities in the core areas of Downtown, East Walnut Hills, Mount Adams, Mount Auburn and Over-the-Rhine. Christine Schoonover of the Urban Real Estate Council and sponsor of the event says that the tour offers more than anyone can see in just one day.

"The nice thing is that it's spread over two days," she says.  "If people want to see all of the projects, they can really take their time."

Trina Rigdon of Comey & Shepherd Realtors represents the Verona, the sixth building in the Gates of Eden Park project and part of this year's tour.

"If you don't live in or around downtown, you really don't know what's going on in the core of the city," she says.

Rigdon says that people should come, even if they're not really looking to buy.

"Our building, the Verona, is over 100 years old," she says.  "It's an interesting way to see how people lived.  We've made it an open living space, while still maintaining the character."

Possibly the best aspect of the tour is the exposure it gives to different corners of the urban core.

"The neighborhoods here are fantastic," Rigdon says.  "The flight out of the city has been reversed.  It's a destination now."

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Sources: Trina Rigdon, Comey & Shepherd Realtors; Christine Schoonover, Urban Real Estate Council
Photo provided by Comey & Shepherd Realtors

Cincinnati promoting National Homeownership Month

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr have announced a schedule of events to commemorate National Homeownership Month.

The city will celebrate several residential projects throughout the city, including:

  • The dedication of Parker Flats, 57 new condominiums Downtown
  • A ribbon cutting for the Homes at Hillside Place, 5 new single-family homes in Lower Price Hill
  • The groundbreaking for Park Avenue Townhomes in Walnut Hills
  • Rehab-a-Rama, a tour of renovated homes in Carthage
  • The groundbreaking for a new LEED-certified home in College Hill
  • 4253 Fergus Street in Northside, one of seven homes to be completed as part of the Homeownership Preservation Initiative

On June 21-22, the city will partner on the Ultimate Urban Tour of Living, a self-guided tour of completed and on-going projects in the urban core.

Last week, the city was the first in the country to partner with Fannie Mae and Neighborworks America to participate in a foreclosure prevention phone-a-thon, which signed up over 1,000 regional callers to receive counseling on how to keep their homes. The goal of all of these events is to highlight why Cincinnati is such a great place to buy a home. Despite turbulent national real estate trends, the city's housing market has remained stable.

Homeownership rates increased 3 percent between 2000 and 2006, and the average price of a single-family home actually increased between 2006 and 2007.

"The City of Cincinnati is serious about fighting against the national trend and developing a strong housing market here in Cincinnati," says Mallory.  "We are addressing the issue on multiple levels with education for new home buyers and also funding to support new housing units."

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Media release

Photography of Parker Flats by Scott Beseler


Port, National City partner on gap financing program

The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and National City Bank have announced a first-of-its-kind partnership to provide gap financing for small, minority-owned, and women-owned (SBE, MBE, WBE) businesses participating in brownfield development projects in the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Because brownfield projects are often funded by public dollars that have lengthy disbursement cycles, smaller firms without large cash flows or extended lines of credit can
often be effectively shut out of the bidding.

National City's participation will provide these firms with funds from which they can draw until the public money becomes available.

"This agreement will encourage some of the smaller firms to take part in our projects," Port Authority president Kim Satzger says.  "The issues with slow reimbursement have now been addressed."

The new program takes effect immediately.

Brownfield remediation and reclamation is one of the Port Authority's core functions.

In an effort to encourage wealth creation among all segments of the population, the Port Authority has established and Economic Inclusion policy and maintains a database of over 500 SBE, MBE and WBE suppliers.

They also work closely with the South Central Ohio Minority Business Council, Commercial Real Estate Women, the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce, and the Hispanic Chamber Cincinnati USA.

Of all dollars contracted by the Port Authority since 2001, the policy resulted in 33 percent participation by SBE, 26 percent by MBE and 8 percent by WBE.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Kim Satzger, president, Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority
Photography by Scott Beseler

Money Magazine rates Cincinnati among top 6 best places to buy a home

Citing a manufacturing-heavy economy that should benefit from the falling dollar, Money Magazine has rated Greater Cincinnati among the 6 "best places to buy a home these days".

The six cities chosen were determined to have home prices that should rise the most - or fall the least - within the next 12 months.

"Cincinnati has continued to be relatively stable amidst the nationwide housing crunch," says Jami Stutzman, a realtor with Sibcy Cline.  "We never saw the extreme highs other areas of the country saw, therefore our lows aren't going to be as dramatic either."

Peter Chabris of Team Chabris agrees, saying that speculative forces have been drawn out of the market.

"In this age of ridiculous appreciation and HGTV programming mania, people stopped seeing homes as homes and started seeing them as their 401(k)," he says.

But he says that for people who are serious about becoming homeowners, now is the time to buy.

"It's reasonable to expect the market to depreciate, or maintain it current level for the next 12 months," Chabris says.  "But you don't buy a house for 12 months, you buy it for years.  You should have every expectation that your home will gain value."

Stutzman says that while buyers and sellers seemed to have a negative outlook on the market over the winter, the tide seems to be changing.

"I believe it's more than just spring fever - buyers realize that low interest rates and lower home prices are going to last forever and right now is really a fantastic time to buy," she says.



Other cities making Money Magazine's list were Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit and Houston.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Sources: Peter Chabris, realtor, Team Chabris; Jami Stutzman, realtor, Sibcy Cline Realtors
Photography by Scott Beseler

Mallory, ArtWorks announce 9 new mural locations

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory and ArtWorks have announced nine new mural locations for the second summer of the MuralWorks program.

The new murals will be painted in Avondale, Camp Washington, Carthage, Columbia Tusculum, Downtown, East Walnut Hills, Over-the-Rhine, Queensgate, and Spring Grove Village.

Painting will begin June 16.

Developed in 2007 as part of the mayor's ArtWorks Summer Job Program for teen artists, the goal of the program is to transform neighborhoods by creating inspirational works of public art that will have a lasting community impact.

ArtWorks will interview area teens between the age of 14-19, and as many as 110 will be selected to work alongside professional artists to complete the projects.

"For ArtWorks, MuralWorks will provide jobs and income for talented teens," says Tamara Harkavy, Director of ArtWorks.   "MuralWorks also offers the opportunity for local residents to collaborate with professional artists, giving communities the chance to express neighborhood identity through the creation of large-scale community murals."

OKI estimates that more than 41 million cars were exposed to the murals in the nine communities receiving them last year.

A list of the locations of this year's sites is available on the ArtWorks website.

Three to six additional mural locations are expected to be announced this year.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Media release
Photography by Scott Beseler

BOOST! offers energetic, all-inclusive meeting space

"Sophisticated, yet playful" is how Jenny White describes BOOST!, her new meeting space in Over-the-Rhine.

The 4,600-square-foot space on the third-floor of 538 Reading Road is part of the Metaphor Flats project, a former warehouse restored by Urban Sites Properties.

After working in meeting planning within the corporate realm for the last 13 years, White finally decided "it's now or never" and took the plunge to create something unique to Cincinnati - and not at all like the office.

"BOOST!" signifies energy, an upward move.  Another level.

Natural sunlight, hardwood floors, exposed beams and an open, flexible layout makes White's project more home-like, and more energizing.

"The big draw is the environment," White said.  "The feel of the space, the uniqueness of the architecture - it awakens your senses."

An $80 per person, all-inclusive rental rate provides meeting organizers with everything they could possibly need: Complete audio and video capabilities, phones, office equipment and supplies, even refreshments.

And to feed the inner child, BOOST! has a custom-made cornhole set, Nintendo Wii and a karaoke machine.

White also says that, by April, clients will be able to unwind on a rooftop deck, and that a future "phase" may include some green retrofitting, such as solar panels.

Outside of corporate meetings, White has had inquiries about using the space for wedding receptions and parties.  She also plans to use BOOST! for community workshops to help groups in need throughout the neighborhood.

"I feel like I'm part of a community now," White said.  "And I like the fact that I can tell clients about restaurants and things to do in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine."

BOOST! officially opens on February 12 with an open house from 11 AM to 8 PM.

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Jenny White, BOOST!
Photos courtesy of BOOST!
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