OTR Chamber sets the pace with 5K & Summer Celebration, two grant programs

The Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce continues its community- and business-building efforts with three upcoming programs.
First up this weekend, the ninth annual OTR 5K takes place on May 16 with a new route this year.
“For the first time we’re crossing over Liberty Street,” says OTR Chamber President Emilie Johnson. “The new route allows for us to make way for the streetcar, but it also goes along with the mission of why the race was founded: to invite people to Over-the-Rhine to see the old, the new and what's coming up. It’s very appropriate that as the neighborhood continues to grow the 5K continues to grow, too.”
Runners and walkers are encouraged to register online before 5 p.m. Wednesday in order to guarantee receiving a race shirt. This is one of the few races in the area that welcomes dogs and child-occupied strollers. The fastest runners with a dog or stroller will be recognized at the award ceremony alongside running and walking finishers with the best overall times and the best times by age category.
Dogs and kids get special treatment during the race and at the post-race Summer Celebration in Washington Park. Canine runners can quench their thirst from dog dishes provided at the mid-point water station and the finish line. The League of Animal Welfare will be walking the race with some of their adoptable dogs and will have a tent in the park following the race.
After cheering on the 5K participants, children ages 3-5 will be invited to run their own race, starting just after noon on the Washington Park lawn. Child-friendly activities hosted by Necco will be offered at the Summer Celebration from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.
City Flea and Art on Vine will showcase a diverse array of fine art and craft vendors in conjunction with the Summer Celebration, which will also feature two stages of live music from local bands throughout the day as well as food and drink from local vendors.
Volunteers are still needed for the 5K and Summer Celebration, and Johnson says “a fun way people can get involved this year is to make signs and support the runners at the cheering posts located at every critical turn along the route.” The cheer stations are a new addition this year to help runners navigate the new route and encourage more community participation.
In addition to the community-building 5K and summer party, the Chamber has two business building initiatives now underway.
Applications for the second round of Innovation Challenge grants for existing OTR businesses closed last week. Eighteen businesses are competing for the $1,000 grants, which required applicants to demonstrate creative ways to grow their business.
The Chamber awarded two Innovation Challenge grants last year.

Steam Whistle Letterpress and Design implemented its project immediately, buying display racks specialized for their cards and provided them to other OTR and downtown businesses that sell Steam Whistle products.

We Have Become Vikings had plans for a larger scale project it’s close to implementing, according to Johnson. The design firm is developing a street-level video game to showcase its business capabilities while providing an interactive activity for pedestrians.
The Innovation Challenge winners will be announced in the next couple of weeks. The program is supported by a grant the OTR Chamber received from Fifth Third Bank.
The OTR Chamber's other grant program, the Business First Grant (BFG), is accepting applicants through June 15. This larger grant program provides up to $20,000 in matching funds to a new business looking to locate in Over-the-Rhine.
The BFG “helps support sustainable businesses, but is really helping to animate the streets and sidewalks,” Johnson says. “The focus is on transformational businesses, which could mean locating on a block of OTR that needs an anchor business or opening on a critical cross street to better connect the OTR business districts or that the business offers a type of product or clientele that's not currently in the neighborhood.”
Previous BFGs were awarded to the businesses that helped establish Vine and Main streets as shopping and dining destinations: MiCA 12/v, Little Mahatma, Park + Vine and Senate on Vine and Iris Book Cafe and Original Thought Required on Main. Before Findlay Market was fully leased, the BFG program helped fund Dojo Gelato, Fresh Table and Pho Lang Thang there.
More recent recipients were The Yoga Bar on 14th Street, Picnic and Pantry on Republic Street and Hen of the Woods, which will open a storefront at the northern end of Main Street later this year.

Read more articles by Julie Carpenter.

Julie Carpenter has a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums, and nonprofit organizations. She's the Executive Director of AIA Cincinnati.  
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