Top Soapbox stories of 2015

Soapbox strives to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to news about urban innovation, growth and redevelopment. Why should the end of the year be any different?

So before the avalanche of “year in review” lists and features buries you, we offer this stroll down memory lane to reconnect you with the biggest local stories of 2015.

We’ve checked our Google Analytics once, checked them twice, and here are the most read Soapbox stories published in 2015 based on page views (starting with the most popular). Click on the dates to read the original pieces.

1. Lauren Hill exceeds fundraising goal, enables more collaborative research (Jan. 20)
Even as her health was fading, Lauren Hill wanted to raise $1 million for The Cure Starts Now Foundation and passed it in early January by raising nearly $1.3 million for DIPG research. Her courageous battle became national news, as did her death in April at age 19, and Hill continues to serve as an inspiration for cancer patients as well as a fundraising beacon for The Cure Starts Now.

2. Xavier University makes history with purchase of MakerBot 3D printing center (Feb. 3)
Xavier became just the fourth U.S. university and first private university to feature a full-service MakerBot 3D printing Innovation Center, adding 31 3D printers to the classrooms experience for design, arts and computer students. Shawn Nason, who helped start XU’s Center for Innovation, left the school recently to open his own consulting firm.

3. 15 for ’15: Big ideas driving Cincinnati forward in the new year (Jan. 6)
Soapbox compiled a list of 15 big ideas to accelerate Cincinnati’s forward movement in 2015. “They’re certainly doable given our recent track record,” we said in January. So how did Cincinnati do? We’d give the region a solid 14 out of 15 in advancing those big ideas; see what you think yourself.

4. Resurrection: One-time Cincinnati churches find new life by celebrating life (May 12)
Rick Pender wrote about the trend of redeveloping abandoned local churches into active “celebratory” spaces, focusing on Taft’s Ale House and The Transept in Over-the-Rhine and Urban Artifact in Northside. Readers suggested other successful conversions, so Pender wrote a second feature story in October about the Southgate House Revival in Newport and The Monastery and Church of the Assumption in Walnut Hills. There’s likely a third story coming in 2016.

5. Soapdish: Why can’t Cincinnati have nice things like bike lanes? (July 28)
Columnist Casey Coston struck a nerve with his defense of the separated bike lanes on Central Parkway that Mayor John Cranley suggested should be scrapped due to car accidents. “We as a city need to evolve and adapt in order to progress,” Casey wrote. “To believe otherwise is to get left behind, to stagnate or, worse, to regress.” The bike lanes remain; in a somewhat related event, Cincy Red Bike completed its first year in 2015 far exceeding ridership projections.

6. Soapdish: Cincinnati parks deserve better than Issue 22 (Oct. 27)
Casey Coston published a strong column just before Election Day suggesting that Issue 22, Mayor Cranley’s proposal for a new dedicated revenue stream for Cincinnati Parks, would cut out public input from all future park projects and should be voted down. Issue 22 was defeated 59-41 percent.

7. From athlete to activist, Kevin Pearce an inspiration for those with traumatic brain injury (May 5)
Former Olympics-level snowboarder Kevin Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury after falling during a training run and now travels the country speaking on behalf of the LoveYourBrain Foundation. Soapbox interviewed him when he was in town for the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival, which screened a documentary about his crash and recovery.

8. In Denver, legal marijuana spurs entrepreneurialism and gentrification (March 3)
Soapbox is owned by Issue Media Group, which operates similar news websites across the country, and regularly includes stories from sister publications that offer lessons for Cincinnati. This story from Confluence Denver explored the pros and cons of legal marijuana in Colorado, particularly its development impact on certain downtown neighborhoods in Denver. Marijuana legalization made it to the Ohio ballot this fall but was soundly defeated.

9. Incline Theater opens June 3, setting the stage for further redevelopment in Price Hill (May 26)
Cincinnati’s arts are nationally and internationally recognized for excellence, but local arts organizations make a huge economic impact as well — and not just through ticket sales. Soapbox wrote about how one organization, Cincinnati Landmark Productions, was leading redevelopment efforts in Price Hill by building the Incline Theater. Its debut summer season was almost completely sold out.

10. Soapdish: Streetcar opponents just can’t seem to ‘move on’ (April 28)
Even after the Cincinnati Streetcar construction project was restarted, several city leaders — led by Mayor Cranley — continued to bash the plan. Casey Coston wrote that “city leaders (who) continue to undermine and undercut a public infrastructure project that will benefit the entire city, not just those that live directly on the line,” need to start working to make the streetcar’s first phase a success.

11. All eyes on All Star Game events and activities (July 7)
National media and baseball fans descended on Cincinnati for the 86th Major League All Star Game, back in the birthplace of professional baseball for the first time since 1988. Soapbox provided a guide to official MLB events, baseball-related activities and general festivities from Friday, July 10 through the game itself on Tuesday, July 14. The consensus afterwards was that Cincinnati nailed the big event.

12. Soapdish: What you get in an urban home, from $20k to $2.5m (Aug. 25)
Casey Coston set out to do a local version of the popular New York Times “What You Get” real estate column, proving the conventional wisdom that Cincinnati is a “steal” when it comes to housing. He profiled homes for sale in 13 area neighborhoods from $20,000 fixer-uppers in Mt. Auburn and Camp Washington to dueling castles in East Walnut Hills.

13. Neighborhood Heroes: Working behind the scenes in Pleasant Ridge (Feb. 17)
Holly End introduced a series of feature stories profiling the unsung heroes of local neighborhoods as a way to remind us that A) it takes a village to build a community and B) everyone can do something, no matter how small, to make a difference. She would eventually explore five neighborhoods in 2015, starting with this story about her own neighborhood, Pleasant Ridge. Other stories focused on Walnut Hills, Bellevue, Northside and Covington’s Westside.

14. Drew Oxley's T-shirts help free sex slaves in India; what can your shirt do? (Aug. 4)
Drew Oxley founded a local shirt design/printing company, The Parative Project, but decided to use the business to serve a larger purpose — specifically to help women in India escape from sex trafficking. Liz McEwan’s story focused on Oxley’s efforts to raise money via Kickstarter to move shirt production to India and employ these women. (Note: This headline was probably my favorite of 2015.) The Parative Project reached its Kickstarter goal in September.

15. Large renovation projects taking shape in Northside, Covington and OTR (Sept. 8)
Caitlin Koenig wrote a series of six stories throughout 2015 looking at historic buildings being redeveloped and bringing their neighborhoods back to life. This story focused on three large-scale projects: Kirby Lofts in Northside (renovated school building), Mutual Building in Covington (long-empty office building being converted to apartments) and Union Hall in Over-the-Rhine (new home for Cintrifuse, The Brandery and CincyTech).
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Read more articles by John Fox.

John Fox is an experienced freelance writer and editor who served as managing editor of Soapbox from December 2014 to August 2016.