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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Same news...two stories

The Cincinnati Streetcar Study was presented to City Council yesterday. There was little to no media attention giving the meeting publicity, but the media outlets were quick to report on the presentation after it happened. Interestingly enough the Cincinnati Business Courier and Cincinnati Enquirer had notably different takes/spins on the same story.

The most noticeable was the difference in headlines. The Enquirer's read "Streetcar Price Tag: $100 million"...while the Business Courier's headline read: "Study: Downtown streetcar could have $1.9B impact." But nothing new with that...the Cincinnati Enquirer has had a consistently negative stance on events occurring within the inner-city.

However the differences do not stop there. The Enquirer cited that the total cost of build out would be $100 million; while the Business Courier wrote that it would cost $88 million. So, who's right?? Well the Enquirer could have been rounding the $88 million up, but that would be a stretch even for the lousy Enquirer. The most likely explanation is that the Enquirer was using the higher of the two estimates. Most likely the system will only cost $88 million to build, but there is a chance that the price tag balloon to $100 million. The study put that in there to be safe and make sure they covered all of their bases...well it's refreshing to see that the Enquirer choose the more negative spin on a positive story going on in the inner-city!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

3CDC and OTR hitting their stride!

3CDC has been working diligently in Over-the-Rhine rehabbing old structures, creating chic urban living options, and luring new unique businesses to the area. The first piece of their OTR work to come on line is the Gateway Quarter. This is the section of OTR including/surrounding Vine Street from Central Parkway up a few blocks.

The area has seen great successes so far. The Art Academy of Cincinnati has created student housing options in the area, the Gateway Condos have been a success, and multiple new businesses have signed leases. All of this is taking place while more buildings are being renovated with more living and retail options! The other buildings include: Bremen Lofts, Centennial Row, Duncanson Lofts, and Duveneck Flats.

Now the area has seen the influx of new housing before, but what is new is the interest of the retailers. These are not your typical retailers either...these are stores geared towards urban living/lifestyle. City Roots is an urban gardening store, MetroNation offers contemporary home accessories and furniture that is collapsible, Park + Vine is a green variety store, and Jean Robert de Cavel plans to open another restaurant in the city...this one being in the Gateway Quarter.

All in all, there are fantastic changes taking place in Over-the-Rhine. New businesses are opening, new residents are moving in, crime is dropping, and hopefully the neighborhood's long tainted image will begin to improve. Next on tap for 3CDC in OTR is the Washington Park District. 3CDC has announced that they plan to rehab 100 units per year, for the next 7 years in OTR...the main kicker is that they also plan on doing this through rehabs and NOT tearing down buildings. Good things are in store!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Taste of Cincinnati has some new digs!

The Taste of Cincinnati is this weekend and I personally can not wait! The Taste has always been a great event for the city and for those who attend, but it will be even better this year. You may ask why...well it's because of the all important move from Central Parkway to Fifth Street. This move presents a whole slew of benefits for the event.

First of all, shadows from the building will help shade the event and offer a slightly cooler atmosphere for everyone. Secondly, it is in the heart of downtown and in the midst of the up-and-coming Fountain Square District. There is shopping, dining, lodging, and entertainment all within a stones throw from the event this year. This has to bode well for neighboring businesses, more so than previous events held nearly 6 blocks away.

3CDC has certainly been criticized for the issues with the Fountain Square work. Whether it is warranted or not is another issue, but one thing is for sure...The heart of downtown is looking/feeling stronger than ever. Well done!

Put your money where your mouth is!

So the question is whether $800,000 is better spent on the Freedom Center or on speed humps for residential streets throughout the city. Speed humps serve a small amount of citizens who just like to complain. These are the same people who ask for public stairs to be closed, bus routes to be removed, bike trails to be prohibited and the likes. They have specific issues with many things that are geared towards the greater public, and it seems like Chris Monzel would rather appeal to those citizens than to put money towards a Smithsonian Museum right in our downtown.

Now maybe I am confused or misinformed, but to me an investment in a Smithsonian caliber museum would seem to be a better investment than speed humps. It would also seem to be an investment that would benefit the community as a whole; not just the complaint oriented citizens. Even if you don't go to the Freedom Center (which I highly recommend a visit to), the community benefits by schoolchildren being able to go to the museum and learn a very important history of our nation.

If education and the youth are truly our future, then lets put our money where our mouths are and fund things that benefit our future. A child will not remember or learn anything from a speed hump that may or may not be on their neighborhood street...but they will remember the lifelong lessons that are taught at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What do you think about downtown?

So how do you feel about the state of Downtown Cincinnati? Downtown Cincinnati Inc. is currently conducting their 2007 State of Downtown Survey and now is the time to let your voice be heard! The survey covers such items as safety, cleanliness, events and services. It also asks you to elaborate on what you would like to see downtown to make it a better place to live, work and play.

So get to it! The survey takes about 15 min. and is well worth your time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Enough already!!!

Alright, enough is enough already! The Banks is fresh off yet another 60, 30, or is it a 90 day delay...who gives a crap!!! It's just crazy; at this point it's just details getting in the way. The plan is, for the most part, complete and the developers are in place. Select some builders and we're good to go (excuse me Taco Bell).

I challenge the politicians and powers at be (behind The Banks process) to buck the trend and do something the public isn't expecting for a change...and MOVE FORWARD!!! I want the project to be done right, but this is just getting silly. The residential market downtown (and in the neighboring areas) is becoming more and more saturated and timing is everything for the success of this project. St. Louis saw these problems first hand with their similar Ballpark Village project. The developer cut out almost all of the residential units in the project...thus making it another hum drum project with no real human connect after the 9-5 hours.

Quit wasting precious time and take the final steps necessary to get The Banks moving!

Monday, May 14, 2007

A billboard battle looms...

A number of City Council members seem poised to take on the billboard industry in Cincinnati. Councilman Chris Bortz thinks billboards, along with those advertising benches at bus stops and racks that hold newspapers, cut into Cincinnati's overall curb appeal. I would strongly agree with that notion. The problem doesn't lie with the stance, but rather the billboard powers at be. Taking on this industry has proven to be a very difficult task to say the least.

For some communities its the superfluous newspaper stands and bus benches that restrict pedestrian flow/activity in their business districts. For others its the brightly illuminated billboards that prove to be undesirable for residents living nearby. Not to mention these billboards are almost always an eyesore for everyone who has to see them on a regular basis.

Maybe what the city should do is look into creating a streetscaping plan that requires all streetscaping items to have a specific look/appeal to them (much like what is done for lighting and signage). This has been done recently in places like NYC and Toronto, where they are striving to improve the curb appeal of their cities by creating coordinated street-furniture plans.

An important piece to this effort, in my opinion, is that the city include the neighborhood business districts that make the city special and not just put it into action downtown. Downtown is great, but these neighborhood centers are the foundation of our great city. I'm sure they will lend much support to this effort!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Save the Music!!!

Well Cincinnati Public Schools have been cutting their budget to make ends meet. There are multiple things we could blame for this...state funding (or lack thereof), the diminishing tax base of CPS, or possibly poor management of funds by the district. But it seems that as of late CPS has started to get their act together. Their State Academic Rating has risen and is considered one of the best 'urban school districts' in the State of Ohio. And like I said, they are looking at ways to trim the budget, but at some point you have to realize what you are trimming and the potential fallout from those decisions.CPS was one of the earliest recipients of Save the Music funding (VH1 headed project) is set to become of the first districts, in the nation, to have all of their elementary schools equipped with instruments/equipment by Save the Music. However, part of the agreement is that the schools partnered with Save the Music must have a music program and therefore a music teacher on staff (makes sense). However, CPS has cut music teachers at some of their schools partnered with Save the Music, therefore putting the relationship in jeopardy. This could make CPS the first example of Save the Music having to revoke instruments/equipment do to a breach of contract.

It doesn't take much vision/foresight to realize the importance of fine arts as part of the curriculum. It also doesn't seem to be too difficult to understand that by saving roughly $56,000 a year (average teacher salary for CPS), puts an entire program at risk. Spend the 56k and ensure the future of music education for inner-city youths. VH1 Save the Music is paying for the darn program...all CPS has to do is employ a music teacher...56k doesn't seem to much to ask for.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

University of Cincinnati: Photo Collection

This is a collection of photos (45 in slideshow) of the beautiful University of Cincinnati (Main Campus). Some of these images are older than others, but none dating back any further than a year or so.

Ready for next week...

Well downtown today heard the announcement that Jalepenos will be closing after being open a mere three months. It seems like some weeks the good news does not stop coming, others you just can't seem to stop the bleeding.

Downtown is coming off of a few solid weeks of good news. Two law firms and KeyBank announced expansion plans for their downtown offices, the streetcar route has been decided upon, The Banks is getting ready to move forward (for real), and a couple more tenants were announced for Fountain Square. However, this week is one of those weeks that downtown advocates are probably ready to be over.

Now don't get me wrong; it hasn't been a terrible week, just not a good one. After the momentum that downtown has building it hurts when you hear any bad seemingly stops that momentum in its tracks. So downtown will take this hit, brush itself off and get ready for the upcoming week. I bet more good news is in store, but then again my view on downtown is that the sun will always come up tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Parker Flats Construction Update

Parker Flats is moving right along. The foundation is in, and the first level of structured parking is nearing completion. This project will really help add a needed component for the Historic W. Fourth Street District. This part of downtown is quickly becoming a nightlife hot spot with the recent opening of Bang Nightclub, and rumors of other potential nightclub ventures.

Click thumbnails for larger version

Where Parker Flats comes into the equation is by offering new residential units into the historic district. Some people just don't want to worry about maintenance on old buildings, and Parker Flats will breathe new life into the district. The one curve ball with this project is that it is being developed by Middle Earth Developers. MED has been criticized for using low-quality construction practices. Judge for yourself and tour some of these fantastic living spaces developed by MED in the Historic W. Fourth Street District. You can contact MED for more information on their residential properties here: jimmoll[at]fuse[dot]net.

Fountain Square Updates

Well the finished Fountain Square is steadily progressing. I must say that the whole Fountain Square District is really starting to look quite nice. McCormick & Schmick's has been open for several weeks now and looks fantastic; and Boi Na Braza is making steady progress and has now installed new awnings on the outside of the building.

The square itself is almost near completion as well. The plaza is almost complete, with just a small section just north of the fountain to be complete. This will most likely be done/open to the public once the new facade is complete along the lower 5/3 building, as well as, the construction of Via Vite. Via Vite has the opportunity to be one of the GREAT places to dine in Cincinnati! The location is second to none, and the quality of food potentially fabulous.

Click thumbnails for larger version

Much criticism has been made thus far about the funding and quality of work that has been done on Fountain Square. I contend that this is money well spent. Not too many communities across the nation have a public space the improvements made to the public plaza are tremendous improvements over the previous concrete fallout plaza of sorts that existed before. There has been much spin-off investment and the surrounding blocks are really coming to life. When you look at as great as Fountain Square, and an investment you want to see what your return on investment is when all is said and done.

The Fountain Square District has seen the openings of several new restaurants, new residential is moving in at several different projects around the square, new retailers have opened and announced openings and the city has put up has heard the announcements and money to improve the streetscaping around the square.

In my eyes, it sounds like $42 million went a long way towards the revitalization efforts of downtown!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Cincinnati's Summer Jobs Plan

Mayor Mark Mallory put the finishing touches on the City's Summer Jobs Plan. This is a summer jobs program for inner-city youths in Cincinnati. The nuts and bolts of the program are as such...The total cost of the program is $1.5 million, with major contributions coming from organizations like 'Blueprint for Success'. The program will aim to employ around 220 inner-city youths.

These types of programs are priceless and do GREAT things for inner-city youths and the city as a whole. It gives kids things to do, and teaches them all kinds of lessons. From painting murals, to maintaining parks and working in business environments. These are lifelong lessons that these youths will be able to take with them as they mature; lessons that these individuals might not have otherwise been exposed to. I couldn't think of a better use of $1.5 million. I applaud the City of Cincinnati for its continued support of its inner-city youths. Now if only the leaders of Cedar Fair (owners of Kings Island) had this kind of leadership and vision.

What do YPs want for downtown? I know what I want!

The Mayor’s Young Professional Kitchen Cabinet has put together a short survey on downtown. The results will be used to form recommendations to the Mayor, make decisions about future projects the YPKC may take up, and more. You can take the survey here.

Being a YP myself, I've got a few recommendations for the group. First off, get some eateries that are trendy and most importantly affordable! Secondly (staying with the affordable theme), work towards the development of more affordable housing options for those fresh out of college. As for retail, I would suggest trying to land some well known chain stores like H&M, Urban Outfitters, and the like. These types of establishments are a draw and are typically located in urban locations.

A key component to these will be locating them along street-level. This enlivens the street and adds a unique/creative element to the street. This is the first thing you see as you are driving or walking along a street. After hours is where downtown seems to be lacking most, and having more street-level retail will help to enliven those otherwise dead parts of downtown. I would imagine that The Banks will be the poster child for this type of thing in the Cincinnati Metro, but downtown can and needs to take steps forward as well.


In this blog, I will give you the news of all things urban in Cincinnati. I must warn you though, they will come with my own spin/thoughts! You can come for my insight, come for the news, or just come to pass the time.

Hopefully this becomes one of your favorite blogs for All Things Urban in Cincinnati!

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