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Regional Smart Cities Initiative explores mobility and sustainability at third group discussion


Last week, the Regional Smart Cities Initiative held its third roundtable in Cincinnati, this time exploring mobility and sustainability.

“The idea of a smart city means different things to different people,” says Zack Huhn, director of RSCI. “We started with creating consensus among the stakeholders around the four pillars of smart cities: connectivity, security, mobility and sustainability.”

The first roundtable introduced the idea of smart cities and was followed by a session on connectivity and security. The programs, which have been open to the public, have drawn several dozen representatives from the private and public sector, as well as regional universities.

“We want to create an aligned brain trust of regional stakeholders to explore how we can work together to establish the first smart region,” Huhn says.

The foundation for creating a smart city or region, according to RSCI, is connectivity: getting usable, real-time feedback on the people, places and resources of a city or region.

“A smart city is similar to a smart home,” says Jon Salisbury, chief technology officer at Nexigen. “We need to look at how devices and networks communicate, and their power needs to come up with efficient solutions.”

Protecting those technology solutions, as well as ensuring overall public safety, is central to the security pillar of RSCI. Connectivity is also closely tied to the issues of mobility, including infrastructure for smart transit and opportunities for economic mobility. RSCI’s mobility pillar is also integral to its focus on sustainability.

“Next generation transit infrastructure offers a solution to three of the problems we’re talking about: smart land use, congestion and access to education,” Huhn says. “Mobility also overlaps with sustainability since so many of the particulates in the water and air come from transportation.”

One solution for future mobility and connectivity was presented by University of Cincinnati student Sid Thatham. He and his Hyperloop UC team are creating a prototype of next-gen transit, a high-speed, zero carbon pod that could move people from Cincinnati to Chicago in 30 minutes.

UC civil engineering professor Jonathan Corey addressed the need to develop smart infrastructure not only to communicate with autonomous vehicles but also to help buildings interact with the environment. Sensors used by smart cities could direct self-drive cars to parking spaces or tell buildings how to adjust temperature and lighting in response to weather changes.

“The mechanisms that built cities 100 years ago — roads, bridges, electrical lines — were the smart cities of their era,” says Chris Lawson, executive director of The Hamilton Mill. “Today, smart cities are built with fiber optics, sensors and smart meters. As we rebuild our infrastructure, we are creating opportunities for economic development.”

Following the speakers, the Pipeline H2O cohort, in town for its second week of classes, pitched their ideas for creating sustainable energy and renewable water sources.

The nonprofit RSCI, steered by a team of regional leaders, launched the roundtable series to create more engagement around the project leading up to its first smart cities summit, which will be held on April 25 at Union Hall.

Tickets for the summit are $60-125, and can be purchased here.

 


Cincy Metro awarded for sustainability efforts that divert tons from landfill


Cincinnati’s transit agency has been recognized both locally and nationally for its ongoing sustainability programs, which this year included successful efforts to divert nearly 80,000 pounds of waste from local landfills.
 
In August, Cincy Metro earned The American Public Transportation Association’s bronze-level sustainability award for those and additional efforts to keep our city green.
 
More recently, Metro received the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District’s “2016 Recycle at Work Program” award.
 
Metro’s Green Team is made up of employees from around the organization who volunteered to complete the Federal Transportation Administration’s Environmental & Sustainability Management System training. The group is tasked with finding new and innovative ways to make the organization and its practices more environmentally sustainable.
 
This spring, Metro celebrated its one-year anniversary as part of the American Public Transportation Association and its national transit environmental commitment. During its first year of involvement, Metro recycled 500 pounds in light bulbs alone and reduced trash collection costs by 57 percent.
 
Metro, a nonprofit, is funded by tax dollars and overseen by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority. It provides about 16 million rides to local residents and visitors annually.
 

Drees builds 200-home "agrihood" in Deerfield Township


Drees Homes has begun work on a model home at Elliot Farm, a 100-acre site in Deerfield Township that will eventually be home to a 200-unit agriculturally based community.
 
The so-called “agrihood” will feature community gardens, walking trails, a pool, parks, fishing lake and additional residential amenities.
 
“Our pre-sales are doing fantastic,” said Ray Neverovich, president of Drees’ Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky division. “This is a Drees flagship community.”
 
The land that Drees purchased from the Elliott family this summer for $2.5 million will be subdivided into three distinct neighborhoods: Legacy, Traditions and Heritage.
 
Legacy at Elliot Farm is the patio-home portion of the community, providing lawn care and snow maintenance with homes priced between $290,000 and $350,000.
 
Traditions will feature ranch-style homes with mostly two- and three-car front entry garages, priced between $346,000 and $435,000.
 
Finally, Heritage at Elliot Farm will include larger-scale homes with side-entry garages and a price range of $466,000 to $600,000.
 
Elliot Farm, unlike other neighboring agriculturally driven communities like Aberlin Springs by Pendragon Homes in Morrow, will not feature a full-fledged farm.
 
Once completed, the Elliot Farm development is expected to cost about $90 million.
 

New wave of Cincinnati entrepreneurs introduced at three events last week


Cincinnati startup accelerators are churning out entrepreneur graduates left and right, and last week was a testament to the depth and diversity of the local startup community. In this single week, three very different programs showcased the innovators they support with three very different events.
 
 
Mortar Pitch Night

Mortar started the week off by hosting Pitch Night at the Drinkery OTR April 26. The accelerator focuses on supporting minority entrepreneurs in Over-the-Rhine and Walnut Hills, neighborhoods going through rapid growth. This pitch night gave Mortar’s fourth class a chance to share with the public the business plans they’d developed over the course of the nine-week program in OTR and compete with each other for cash prizes to help their initiatives along.
 
“There was a lot of community support and love at our fourth installment of ‘Life’s a Pitch,’” Mortar co-founder Allen Woods says. “After calculating all of the votes from the audience, the top three students will go on to a final tournament-style pitch competition at the end of the 2016.”
 
Those top three pitches were an ice cream stand in Walnut Hills called Green Man Twist; iCleanology, a commercial cleaning service for bars and restaurants in Over-the-Rhine; and Just Hire Me, a platform for neighbors to employ teenagers in their own community. The three companies demonstrate the range of the 60 entrepreneurs who have been through Mortar’s program so far.
 
Mortar continues to grow and change as the program mentors these businesses. Gearing up for its fifth class, Woods announced a partnership with Indigo Hippo, a “creative reuse” art supplies thrift store and visual art gallery, to host an even more specialized program in Walnut Hills focusing on creative and artistic enterprises. It will also be Mortar’s first class exclusively for women entrepreneurs.
 
“We’re excited to reach more creatives and to integrate creative ways of learning into the curriculum,” Indigo Hippo founder Alisha Budkie says. “We’re also looking forward to addressing the entrepreneur as a whole. As the business world recognizes and shares the importance of emotional and social skills, we wanted to add these elements to the coursework.”
 
“Honestly, our progress has been beyond our wildest dreams,” Woods says. “We never expected to be able to accomplish so much so soon.”
 
Mortar will celebrate its two-year anniversary May 12 with a Bacchanalian Society wine tasting fundraiser at Cincinnati Museum Center.
 
 
Ocean Demo Day

Ocean is unique in its use of faith as a lens in the accelerator concept, developing not only participants’ business ideas but also their individual character and spiritual well-being.
 
“We’re developing the next generation of godly men and women who will have an impact on society,” co-founder Tim Brunk said in a video introduction at the April 28 Demo Day event at Crossroads in Oakley. “Ocean is seeing the hope we have for the next generation of business leaders.”
 
This philosophy included a Demo Day keynote speaker — Don Lothrop, former Managing Partner at Delphi Ventures — on the intersection of business and faith, creating a different approach to business as “God’s workmanship.”
 
Ocean is only in its second year but managed to attract participants in this class from all over the country and the globe, including two from London.
 
The ideas pitched by Ocean participants ranged from We Love Work, which uses psychometric testing to match companies with job candidates based on values, to Spatial, using data from social media platforms to describe the feel of a place on maps, to Feasty, which connects restaurants with customers via real-time deals on food.
 
The pitches were heard not only by community members and family but networks and angel investors brought in by the Ocean team to support the participants.
 
 
People’s Liberty Signing Day

The week culminated April 29 with the Signing Day event held at People’s Liberty in Over-the-Rhine, where the program announced its third round of project grants. Grantees got a chance to meet one another and the People’s Liberty staff for the first time as they signed their grant contracts.
 
The Haile/U.S. Bank/Johnson Foundation-funded program unveiled another diverse class of project grantees for its next round of $10,000 projects. They include ideas like “Who They Is,” a program designed by Jasmine C. Humphries to engage Avondale students by designing a park in their community, and pop-up sound installation events dreamed up by Ladyfest Cincinnati organizer Rachelle Caplan that will combine high-tech sound platforms with rare global instruments for peer-to-peer musical sharing.
 
The signing event also included opportunities for new grantees and experienced People’s Liberty alumni to network and support each other.
 
After the public signing day event, grantees were brought downstairs for a more intimate orientation into the People’s Liberty “family.” Sitting around a yellow table inspired by the one Carol Ann and Ralph Haile had in their kitchen, the newest grantees heard the story of those philanthropists and of People’s Liberty — both the bank founded by the Hailes and the “philanthropic lab” that would eventually bear its name — as told by CEO Eric Avner.
 
This sense of community was present in all of these programs, working together to build and diversify a true startup ecosystem and community in Greater Cincinnati.
 

GCF grant helps Hamilton Mill hire industrialist-in-residence and expand student support


Just a short drive north of Cincinnati, Hamilton Mill offers a distinctive experience within the Startup Cincinnati ecosystem.
 
“We focus on technology that helps Southwest Ohio manufacturers have small and lean shops,” says Director of Operations Antony Seppi.
 
Hamilton Mill also emphasizes clean and green technologies through a special collaboration with the City of Hamilton. The city utilities department currently produces nearly 90 percent of its energy from renewable resources and shares that expertise with participants in Hamilton Mill’s programs.
 
Unlike the familiar short-term accelerator program, Hamilton Mill is an incubator that accepts applications on a rolling basis and tailors the length of the program to the participant, whether that’s nine months or three years.
 
“Some companies need a prolonged maturation process,” Seppi says. “We have startups at many stages in their development.”
 
Startups participating in the Hamilton Mill program receive marketing resources and assistance, technology resources, networking opportunities, and mentors to help the startups hit their milestones. Hamilton Mill is also building an innovation fund that will be available to qualified startups graduating from their program.
 
“We have a unique niche in the greater Cincinnati startup ecosystem,” Seppi says. “We are really trying to engage with the Cincinnati community, and we work closely with Cintrifuse and CincyTech.”
 
A recent grant of $50,000 from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) will help Hamilton Mill expand two of its signature programs.
 
Hamilton Mill is hiring an industrialist-in-residence to begin in a few weeks. It will be a rotating position featuring an expert in advance manufacturing who will consult regularly with the startups at Hamilton Mill.
 
“It offers added value to our participants, provides alternative perspectives, and helps formalize our program in advanced manufacturing technologies,” Seppi says.
 
The GCF grant will also support the development of a student entrepreneurship program, NextGen.
 
Hamilton Mill has been working with a couple of student startups, including one that has partnered with UC Health West Chester on a software project. However, there has is interest and opportunity to expand and further develop that program.
 
“NextGen lays a groundwork for high school and college students throughout Butler County to build and develop ideas,” Seppi says. “This is an expansive program that will include coding, app development, and technology.”
 
NextGen will incorporate students who have been participating in Butler Tech’s organization Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE). Hamilton Mill expects to work closely with Butler Tech and SAGE to develop the NextGen program and hopes the program will be up and running before the end of this academic year.
 
For bricks and mortar businesses looking to start or get assistance in Hamilton, the Hamilton Mill is also home to the Small Business Development Center supported by the State of Ohio. They have two consultants who offer workshops, information and training and have recently brought a grocery store and bakery to Hamilton.
 
In the spring Hamilton Mill will get new bragging rights as the only Southwest Ohio startup program with an on-site brewery. Municipal Brew Works is building out a brewery and tap room in the former fire department space in the Hamilton Mill complex.
 

Curb'd now taking applications for Covington parklet designs


The application process is now open for artists and designers interested in Curb’d, a program to create parklets next year in Covington’s MainStrasse and Central business districts. The collaboration between Renaissance Covington and MainStrasse Village Association is funded by the Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation.
 
Curb’d is working closely with businesses in those areas to select parking spaces to house parklets and is preparing to bring designers, artists and engineers into that collaboration.
 
Businesses already have applied to host a parklet in a parking space in front of their location, and 13 parking spaces have been selected as finalists. They’ll go forward in the design competition, with five businesses submitting their own designs and the other eight working with art and design teams who enter the application process.
 
The 13 final designs will be judged by a jury panel that will choose which five parklets are actually constructed.
 
Katie Meyer, Executive Director of Renaissance Covington, is excited to see a wide variety of creative ideas.
 
“I think that we are going to have a really diverse group of artists and designers and people of different design backgrounds,” she says. “Parklets are being done in many cities right now, and a lot of times they become an extension of outdoor seating. We want to go further than a table and chairs.”
 
Meyer emphasizes that Curb’d is looking for unique, site-specific designs for interactive installations that activate space. The intensive application process reflects the high standards the project is looking for — those interested in submitting a design must attend a mandatory informational workshop on either Nov. 16 or Nov. 18 in order to qualify to submit proposals by Dec. 2.
 
The design teams whose installations are chosen to be fabricated will be rewarded with a $1,000 honorarium. Even the teams who go through the design process but whose parklets are not chosen will be compensated with gift cards donated by participating Covington businesses.
 
The businesses will also benefit, since the parklets, which will be installed from May through October of 2016, are predicted to attract foot traffic to and between the two business districts. They’re intended to help activate the space, make the areas more pedestrian-friendly and bring people into businesses.
 
Meyer says she’s already seeing excitement from the business community in the few months the project has been percolating.
 
“There are a couple of businesses that aren’t always engaged that are participating, and that’s exciting,” she says.
 
Anyone interested in designing a Curb’d parklet should review the application process and attend one of the mandatory informational workshops at Braxton Brewing Company on Monday, Nov. 16 at 6-8 p.m. or Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 7:30-9:30 a.m.
 

People's Liberty announces second round of Project Grant winners


People’s Liberty moves its experiment with a new model of philanthropy into a second full year of grantmaking, announcing its second round of Project Grant winners on Oct. 16.
 
The first round of project grants, awarded in April, included ideas as diverse and dynamic as a way to teach Cincinnatians how to build their own Andriod apps, a high-quality print magazine on historic architecture and renovation, a huge interactive retro video game to activate space and a curated online platform for local makers to sell their wares, among others.
 
As those projects are now seeing the fruits of their labor in the Cincinnati area, the next eight grantees are just beginning their journeys to turn their own visions into reality. They’ll be developing projects ranging from exhibitions focused on both art and science to tools for real estate development to solutions for the sharing economy.
 
As with all People’s Liberty grants, these projects will be undertaken by individuals, not organizations. Each project is awarded $10,000 and 10 months to complete its work as well as mentorship and resources from People’s Liberty.
 
The Project Grants are the first of People’s Liberty three major grant programs — also Globe Grants ($15,000 for a three-month installation in the organization’s Globe Building in Over-the-Rhine) and Haile Fellowships ($100,000 and one year to complete a project) — to announce a second round of winners. The first round of Globe Grant awardees were announced in August and the second round of Haile Fellows is scheduled to be unveiled Nov. 4.
 
The new Project Grant winners are:
 
1 Degree of Separation by Kailah Ware: An interactive mobile installation using audio and visual components to both ask and answer the question, “What do you love about Cincinnati?”
 
N.O.M. by Kevin Wright and Joe Nickol: A step-by-step guide to public space activation in pioneering locations and emerging markets to empower community stakeholders to create demand for additional and ongoing real estate development.
 
The Solar System by Josiah Wolf, Elisabeth Wolf and Matt Kotlarcyzk: The project will create and install a scaled model of our solar system for permanent display in a public setting.
 
Let's Dance by Gregory Norman and Kathye Lewis: Cincinnati’s long history of ballroom dancing will be reinvigorated through fifth and sixth grade students in South Avondale to instill a sense of pride and confidence.
 
Plop! by Amy Scarpello and Abby Cornelius: The creative project will add engagement and fun in Cincinnati Parks through the deployment of giant 15-foot bean bags.
 
State by Nate May: A series of performances featuring MUSE, MyCincinnati, singer Kate Wakefield and other local musicians centering around the premiere of an oratorio about Appalachian migration to Cincinnati.
 
POPP=D'ART by Janet Creekmore, Ben Neal and Melissa Mitchell: A 1963 Rainbow caravan travel trailer will be converted into a tiny mobile art gallery to introduce affordable art in unexpected places while also elevating exposure and recognition for up-and-coming local artists.
 
A Sharing Solution by Adam Gelter and Andrea Kern: The project will leverage the power of the “sharing economy” to connect Over-the-Rhine businesses, institutions and public spaces with those who live, work and play there in a way never before attempted.
 

LawnLife founder pays forward the values of hard work and a well-kept yard


Tim Arnold has given real work experience to nearly 600 at-risk youth over the past seven years, and he’s getting local and even national recognition for his efforts.
 
Founder of the nonprofit LawnLife, Arnold employs young people ages 16-24 who face multiple hardships in their life and gives them an opportunity to earn a paycheck working in lawn care, landscaping and construction. The work gives them a chance to feel valuable, learn new skills and advance in a trade while earning money, empowering them through economic opportunity, education and accountability.
 
After winning Social Venture Partners’ Fast Pitch in February, LawnLife recently went to the Philanthropitch International competition in Austin, Tex., where the company was honored as one of the 10 “brightest social innovators” from across the U.S. and Canada.
 
Perhaps Arnold’s model is working so well because of the founder’s connection to the youth he employs.
 
“I’m very passionate about these kids because I was these kids,” he says. “I did whatever I could to survive, so I understand what these kids have been through.”
 
In his own youth, Arnold says, he had trouble with the law many times while trying to survive. What finally enabled him to turn his own life around was his first legitimate job opportunity in construction.
 
“I applied myself to that job,” Arnold explains. “I started working work.”
 
He says he began to appreciate the importance of work life, staying late and learning trades from supervisors, and eventually saw the rewards of that work.
 
That first job started an upward spiral for Arnold. In a few years, he was able to get a real estate license and started rehabbing houses on the side. It was on those rehab jobs that Arnold started hiring young people off the street, trying to give them the same opportunities and instill the value of hard work that had made such a difference for him.
 
The effort quickly grew into a comprehensive, multi-tiered program. As Arnold hired more youth who wanted to keep working, he started taking them out to mow lawns and do yard work in the community. It soon grew into a nonprofit organization that works with many other area services to reach young people to employ.
 
“They don’t understand we’re trying to help them,” Arnold says, adding that his young employees take the program seriously as a job rather than a service provided to them.
 
But LawnLife does help the youth they employ as well as the communities in which they work. Although the employees do lawn care and construction for clients who can pay market rate, Arnold also finds ways to “pay it forward” and clean up community spaces or offer lawn mowing to residents who might not be able to afford to pay for a lawn mower or what a professional company might charge.
 
Even though LawnLife is getting calls from all over the country and the model might take off elsewhere, Arnold is focused on Cincinnati and making an even bigger impact on the city’s landscape.
 
“If I can keep one less kid off the nightly news, I’m doing a good job,” he says. “There’s more bad yards than bad kids, I guarantee you.”
 

Mortar accelerator teaching its second class, planning expansion


At their weekly meeting Aug. 3, members of Mortar’s current startup class christened themselves “Second to None.”
 
The 17 entrepreneurs are the second group to go through Mortar’s nine-week course of classes and mentorship. They’re now five weeks into the program, modeled after a similar effort from partner Launch Chattanooga, and many are already benefitting from the guidance and education.
 
Started in 2014 by Derrick Braziel, William Thomas II and Allen Woods, Mortar is not your average business accelerator. The Over-the-Rhine based organization focuses on non-traditional, minority and low-income entrepreneurs, seeking to provide resources to individuals often left out of “renaissances” like OTR’s.
 
“A year in, we’re starting to see that it is possible,” says co-founder William Thomas.
 
Along with its course, Mortar supplies entrepreneurs with mentorship from organizations like SCORE and legal guidance through a partnership with University of Cincinnati’s School of Law. It also has a pop-up storefront, Brick, next to its Vine Street offices, which gives new businesses a chance to experiment in a real-world context. Even after graduation, Mortar stays in touch with participants to serve as a resource, a networking tool and an inspiration.
 
Dana “Nyah” Higgins, founder of JameriSol, which makes vegan and vegetarian Jamaican/Soul food, graduated from Mortar’s first class in April after learning about the program through CityLink. Through the Mortar program, Higgins went from creating dishes out of her home for family and friends to conversations with Findlay Market and a national food chain.
 
“Initially when I started the class, JameriSol was only an idea that I had had for way too long,” Higgins says. “The men at Mortar — Allen, Derrick and William — gave someone like me, with little experience, the foundation and skills needed to take JameriSol from dream to reality.”
 
Lindsey Metz is a participant in the new Mortar class. Much like Higgins, she came to the course with an idea: Fryed, a french fry walk-up window in OTR. Although she has food service experience, Metz appreciates the support and the visionary mentality of Mortar’s founders as much as the nuts-and-bolts business advice in the classes.
 
“I never would have dreamed I could actually do this, but the Mortar founders themselves and the resources they’ve connected me with have shown me I can,” Metz says. “They are extremely knowledgeable guys, but beyond that they are ridiculously supportive.”
 
The class also includes businesses that are already established but wish to grow. Mike Brown wants to take his business, Brown Lawn Care, from part-time to full-time, adding more clients and employees.
 
“I’ve really been cultivating all the creative aspects I touched on before, now I’m getting to know them much deeper,” Brown says. “My relationship with clients is really taking off.”
 
Mortar itself is also taking off. For the second class, the organization received 50 applications, a significant increase over the first class.
 
“This time it feels real,” Thomas says.
 
But the Mortar founders aren’t content with the success of the class and Brick in OTR and are thinking of expanding and replicating their model in other neighborhoods. Whatever they do next, it will be visionary.
 
The “Second to None” class will present its business plans to the public in early October. You can follow Mortar on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for details and updates.
 

Xavier announces winners of first-ever University of the Future Design Challenge


Xavier University announced winners of its first-ever University of the Future Design Challenge last week, selected from over 75 participants by Center for Innovation staff members, including its brand new director, Dave Zlatic. Using Xavier’s state-of-the-art MakerBot 3D printing facility, the challenge drew participants from across campus — including faculty and alumni — to learn how to use a 3D printer, scan a 3D image and design a 3D-printable piece.
 
Participants were attracted to the Challenge when Xavier held a week-long 3D printing training session in mid-May. 3D printing expert Poppy Lyttle joined the ranks at the Center for Innovation from MakerBot Industries in Brooklyn to teach the course. She hopes that the seminar and subsequent competition encourages even the least “artsy” students to give it a try.
 
“There is just so much you can do,” Lyttle says. “Knowing about 3D printing can expand your career options — research, product design and development, engineering, industrial application, architecture, hospital simulation labs. There are uses we can’t even imagine.”
 
With the course completed, participants were asked to submit their 3D designs for judging. Winners of the Challenge were selected from three different categories: “University Structures of the Future,” “Learning and Teaching in the Future” and “New Technologies.”
 
The first category asked participants to envision a college campus in the year 2025. The winning submission, created by Megan Bowling, is called the “Releaf Station,” a structure that uses solar energy panels to power a sensory deprivation chamber that will allow students total relaxation between classes.
 
The second category looked for teaching aids and classroom components that students might see in 2025. The winning design belonged to Xavier Assistant Professor in Chemistry Stephen Mills, who created 3D versions of Acetylene and Allene chemicals to better explain chemical bonding to chemistry students.
 
The winner in the “New Technologies” category was Leonard Rich, who created a cinder block connector that could be used to prevent soil runoff in raised garden beds.
 
The first place winners received $150 and 100 grams of free printing for their efforts. Runners-up received 50 grams of free printing at the Innovation Center.
 
For the full list and photos of the first- and second-place winners, click here.
 

Start Small housing concept gaining big momentum


Nearly halfway through his year-long People's Liberty Haile Fellowship, Brad Cooper’s Start Small project is starting to gain momentum.
 
Cooper was awarded the grant based on his proposal to build two 200-square-ft. single family homes on an otherwise unbuildable lot in Over-the-Rhine as a model for net-zero, affordable infill housing. He presented an update on his project, along with information for potential buyers, at a public event May 13 at the Over-the-Rhine Community Center.
 
Since starting the program, some aspects of Cooper’s design and concept have changed. The houses will now be 250 square ft. in order to accommodate the city’s zoning regulations. The two houses on Peete Street will also be attached to leverage potential energy and cost savings as well as to better fit the historic character of Over-the-Rhine.
 
Cooper's initial plans for composting toilets and water reuse will also be modified to meet building codes.
 
“The building codes need to adapt, and I think they will, but it will take time and people calling for the change,” says Cooper, who presented his project concept and suggested code changes to City Council’s Education and Entrepreneurship Committee in February.
 
The houses will be net zero, with solar panels providing all electricity. Cooper is working with Sefaria, an application that supports high-performance building design, to optimize the homes’ HVAC systems. Each house will have monitors to track the occupants’ energy usage as well as energy production from the solar panels.
 
As the popularity of the tiny house movement grows, it’s also come under criticism.
 
“This project is not for everyone,” Cooper acknowledges. “Start Small is providing choice and creating thoughtful infill development.
 
“The idea that tiny homes encourage less density is a myth. Zoning regulations that require minimum lot sizes encourage less density. Zoning regulations that prohibit two tiny homes being on the same lot encourage less density.”
 
Although not currently permitted under zoning code, “small homes could be developed as accessory dwelling units, which add density to areas,” Cooper says. “Multiple homes on one lot is permitted in neighborhoods that have adopted Form Based Code, and here I would expect the same density to be met as with a traditional project.”
 
Cooper encourages residents with concerns about density and other zoning issues to review the draft of the Land Development Code and contact the City Planning Department with any input.
 
As tiny homes become more common and zoning codes are updated to accommodate their construction, Cooper predicts ongoing evolutions of the concept to make tiny homes more appealing. “
 
I expect to see tiny homes with shared resources,” he says. “A communal kitchen, shared waste remediation, shared energy production and other communal ideas are a challenge to figure out but would make tiny living more affordable.”
 
Since January, Cooper has been working to develop financing options for potential Small Start homebuyers as traditional mortgages may be difficult to obtain.
 
“The main challenge is the unconventional nature of the project,” he says. “There is not a lot for an appraiser to compare the homes to locally, so having a lender feel comfortable with the value of the home is critical.
 
“Additionally, most mortgages are not held by the initial lending institution but bundled and sold on a secondary market dominated by government-subsidized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Those entities require the home to be at least a 1-bedroom. The tiny homes will qualify not qualify as 1-bedrooms. I’m anticipating the need for a (local) bank or even an individual to step forward and provide a loan to a tiny homeowner. This institution would be willing to take the risk on something out of the box and hold onto the mortgage.”
 
Initially, Cooper projected the houses would cost $80,000, although it now seems they may list for $70,000. He hopes to have buyers in place before fall so construction can be completed before the end of the year, allowing residents to move in to the homes by early 2016. Cooper has partnered with Working in Neighborhoods to help potential buyers through the process.
 
Community engagement is a big part of the Start Small project. Cooper hosted a one-day exhibit called “Size Matters” at Assumption Gallery to invite the public to explore ideas about tiny living and affordable housing. In March, Cooper invited the neighbors to 142 and 144 Peete St. to introduce himself and his idea for the property. Keep Cincinnati Beautiful organized volunteers and residents to help clean up the lot in April.
 
Cooper has also solicited public feedback on the design and amenities of the tiny houses. He plans to hold additional presentations and information sessions in the coming months.
 
It’s looking like his Start Small project may in fact turn into something big.
 

Noble Denim looks to Kickstarter campaign to help launch second clothing line


Over-the-Rhine-based Noble Denim plans to launch a new clothing line, Victor Athletics, if its Kickstarter campaign succeeds. The second line will feature vintage-style athletic wear for men and women made from organic materials.
 
Co-founder Abby Sutton says the new brand is the result of two concurrent trends: customer feedback asking for lower-priced clothing and Noble’s factory asking for more work.

“Noble Denim has worked with the same partner factory in Tennessee for the last two years, and our relationship with them is very important to us,” she says. “We are always focused on giving our factory as much work as possible, but we’ve been hesitant to expand Noble’s production too much because we wanted to keep our focus on limited-edition items.

“We stepped back and saw a gap. There are people telling us they are ready to buy U.S.-made clothing at a more accessible price and factories desperate for the opportunity to grow. That’s why we created Victor.”
 
Noble Denim and Victor Athletics will operate in tandem but with different products, styles and distribution plans.

Victor Athletics will be sold online and release new styles on the seasonal fashion industry schedule. Online distribution eliminates mark-ups and keeps consumer costs lower, Sutton explains. Noble Denim will continue its small-batch production and retail distribution, which she says will be expanding into new markets.
 
Victor Athletics is wrapping up an ambitious $100,000 Kickstarter campaign, the company’s first, and Sutton says they pursued it to allow early Noble Denim backers to have a sense of ownership in the company.

“We see the sad state of American clothing today as an issue that belongs to all of us, and we want Victor to be a brand where the customer is deeply engaged in helping us making the change,” she says. “It’s a vulnerable thing to be on Kickstarter, and it’s uncomfortable to be able to measure our success in a very public way. But we want our backers to feel that we are relying on them to make this happen, because we are.

“At the end of the day, no matter how amazing our products are, the statistics won’t shift until people see this story as important and as a story that belongs to them, too. It’s the people’s commitment to our factories that will give them work. Kickstarter creates an all-or-nothing environment where that kind of ownership becomes possible.”
 
With just a few days left to reach their goal, Sutton says the company’s most effective pitch is to point out that 80 percent of the clothes Americans wore in 1980 were made in the U.S. but that number is down to 2 percent today — causing small-town American factories to close as a result and harming thousands of workers and families.

“By choosing to employ rural American factories again, Victor prioritizes how the clothes are sewn,” she says. “In fact, we’re going even farther by giving 5 percent of our after-tax profit back to the factory to continue to invest in their workers and combat the impact of outsourcing.
 
“If you wear clothes and you live in America, our story is for you. Our values are important to us, but we also don’t think people should buy Made in America on sentiment alone. At the end of the day, we’re making really awesome clothes.”

The Victor Athletics Kickstarter campaign ends on April 15.
 

2015 Green Home Tour kicks off this Saturday


With migraine-inducing heating bills becoming the norm this season, it's nice to know that green technology is out there — and on the rise.
 
Though the movement is a slow one, more and more buildings across the tristate area are attempting LEED certification, a green building designation that requires an examination into the design, construction, maintenance and neighborhood development (among other factors) of a certain property or building. A primary focus in LEED certification is energy efficiency, though the prestigious label goes much farther than that.
 
Fortunately, many LEED-certified building, residential and not, are popping up in neighborhoods across town. Thanks to the U.S. Green Building Council and its local Green Living Member Circle, Cincinnati residents have the opportunity to tour some of these properties during the year-long "This is a Green Home" tour, which kicks off this Saturday, Feb. 21.
 
The first stop along the tour is in the Mt. Airy/Northside area, a green home known as the Wright House. With a Gold LEED Certification under its belt, the house also received the City of Cincinnati's CRA Tax Abatement, which is offered as an incentive to pursue such certification. The abatement will save the owners over $40,000 in a five-year period.
 
This particular home received bonus points for limiting the use of turf in the yard, sustainable design of the building itself, regionally-sourced building materials, durability, low VOC coatings and sealants, low water usage, tight insulation, thick air filters and a geothermal heat pump that sends waste heat back into the water heater, among other features.
 
Edward Wright of Wright Design and Pete Subach of Graybach are responsible for the contemporary design and sustainable features of the residence. The tour accommodates 20 people and is already sold out.
 
Additional tours will feature a number of houses like the Wright House. A tour of the Nutter House, featuring the city's only known rainwater flush toilet system, will take place on March 21. There will be a tour of the Imago for the Earth community in Price Hill on April 25, while the Boulter House in Clifton, a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, opens its doors in May.
 
For a complete list of stops on the tour, check out the Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy website.
 

Electric cars welcome at new dunnhumby garage


A new 3CDC development in Cincinnati's Central Business District is making a name for innovation, and it's not a new residential building or office space. It's a garage.
 
The new dunnhumby Centre Garage, located at the corner of Fifth and Race streets, is the first of its kind to include charging stations for electric cars in its design.
 
The 1,000-space garage features three Level 2 charging stations that will allow six cars to charge at a time. Electric car users will pay the same parking rate as other drivers and will have access to the charging stations on a first-come first-served basis.
 
The "green" garage idea is a response to city reports of doubling electric car usage over the past year. The reports estimate that nearly 3,000 electric vehicles requiring plug-in access are now registered in Southwest Ohio.
 
"We plan to integrate charging stations into any of our future developments that involve the construction of a new parking garage," says Joe Rudemiller of 3CDC.
 
With the construction of dunnhumby's new office space still ongoing, dunnhumby employees are not expected to use the garage until the company moves in April. At that time, about half of the garage will likely be used by dunnhumby employees. At the moment, the garage is mainly public parking and is used by valet services at the Hilton at Netherland Plaza, 21c Museum Hotel and Metropole Restaurant.
 
According to a recent 3CDC inquiry, three or four dunnhumby employees currently drive electric cars to work.
 
If the number of electric car drivers in the city dramatically increases, this garage and others like it will be ready for them.
 
"The (charging) stations are very easy to install," Rudemiller says. "We'll be able to keep up with the demand quite easily."
 

One-room schoolhouse at NKU to be transformed into modern learning space

Imagine taking a history course in a building that, by its very nature, is a testament to how far education has come over the centuries. At Northern Kentucky University, plans are underway to create a space that creates that very opportunity, and more.
 
In the coming months, renovation projects will ensue to turn a one-room, 1850s schoolhouse into a technologically modern learning center. The log cabin-like structure will be equipped with wifi, a smart board and other modern classroom materials. That said, instead of gutting the building, project leader and Masters in Public History professor Dr. Brian Hackett wants to keep the design of the cabin as loyal to 19th century design standards as possible. This means primitive lighting and perhaps a coal-burning stove, if they're lucky.
 
Dr. Hackett, along with the grounds and maintenance crew at NKU, has been pushing to make this building usable again for years. The cabin arrived on campus grounds in 1979 after being transferred from Grants Lick, Ky. The university's former president, Dr. W. Frank Steely, brought the building to campus to provide a contrast to the modern amenities students were enjoying at that time. For decades, it simply sat on the grounds.
 
Furthered by a push from the Facilities Management Department at the university, Dr. Hackett finally made a move to change that. After years of bringing his museum management students to the building and asking them, "If someone handed you this building, what would you do with it?" Dr. Hackett finally decided to do something with it.
 
According to Hackett, the cost to carry out the project is surprisingly low. Financially backed by "money that should have been spent years ago" and aided by the help of dozens of student and faculty volunteers, the renovations should be complete by next spring. Once finished, Hackett and his teams envision that the building will provide a space for all disciplines, not just history.
 
"Any professor can take their students to the cabin for a class," Hackett says. "[The cabin] is meant to be integrated into the philosophy of the whole university."
 
That philosophy is characterized by a sense of collaboration. NKU's Ecological Stewardship Institute Initiative, its Masters in Public History Program and even its cabinetry department will all be working together to make Dr. Hackett's vision a reality.
 
The grounds surrounding the cabin will also serve an important purpose. In the coming months, the fields behind the structure will serve as living laboratories for students studying the sciences.
 
As for the cabin itself, it will allow NKU students to escape the distractions of the average learning space and truly return to a simpler time.
 
"I think people are going to use it more than they think," Hackett says. "If you're looking for a place to, say, write the next great American novel, there's really no better option."
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