Please take the 2010 UrbanCincy Survey to weigh in on some big changes coming soon!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Monthly Throwdown

Well today is the last day of the month...and similarly the last day you can vote on what you think about downtown's progress (or lack thereof). So what I (and I'm sure others) want to know is...why did you vote the way you did? Is it anything specific, pure emotional response, what?

Hopefully this can stir some good discussion, about different opinions, regarding downtown. A new poll will be coming for the month of September, and this discussion will most likely become a regular monthly event (I like the name "Monthly Throwdown" for some reason). Lets hear it and please...don't hold back, just make sure it is constructive dialog. I don't like to moderate comments (only deleted 1 comment ever) and I would like to keep it that keep it civil.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Atlanta...What I've Learned

In case you may or may not know...I have been working down here in Atlanta for the past few months, and will be returning to Cincinnati very soon. I had a goal of not only getting lots of great job experience, but I also wanted to learn as much as I could about this often ballyhooed city. Here are some of the things I've learned and just some of my observations.

1. Atlanta is often considered to be THE spot for blacks to live. While I noticed a lot more middle-class blacks I also noticed that Atlanta still suffers from the same issues of racism that everywhere else does. There are people who resent the fact that Atlanta is such a destination spot for blacks...and since you have a good number of middle/upper-class blacks you see prejudice from those individuals towards the lower-class blacks. As I have said before...I think prejudices and segregation result more so from economics than race or anything else.

2. The reason Atlanta is such a great place for young people is that there are a TON of young people down here. The bars I've been to in Virginia Highlands and Midtown have been good, but not better than the bars of Mt. Adams in my opinion. Now, there are much better clubs and a lot more of them. But like I said, what makes it a great place for young all the young people (chicken or egg).

Midtown Atlanta

3. It is hot, humid, muggy and buggy...not at all my style. Give me Cincinnati's bipolar weather behavior any day over this shenanigans.

4. I've never heard the term 'Yankee' used more in my entire life. Actually to be honest...I don't know that I ever heard it used in normal conversation in Cincinnati.

If you would like to see more visuals of my Atlanta Documentaries you can check them out over on UrbanOhio. Here is the list of places I have up so far:

*Please note that I use the term 'blacks' instead of African American because not everyone that is black is African American. Furthermore, the Census Bureau uses this classification for racial breakdowns in many cases.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Zinzinnati's German heritage

Cincinnati has a one of the richest German histories in all of America. The German history dates back even to the inception of the city in 1788. German immigrants came to America in large numbers due to a variety of reasons from religious freedom to the availability of mechanized manufacturing of goods. As a result they were attracted to America's heartland and formed what is now called the "German Triangle." The triangle was formed by St. Louis, Milwaukee and Cincinnati...with Cincinnati being the largest of those cities and also the city containing the largest German influence. So, who cares?

Well what would Cincinnati be like today without the strong German influence of the past? We can attribute that strong influence to the current day butchers, bakeries and ice cream shops that still exist in nearly every neighborhood in the region. Over-the-Rhine was built by those German immigrants and thus the creation of the largest collection of Italianate architecture in America. Cincinnati's built environment was greatly influenced by those same immigrants. They built a dense urban core with streetcars and all, not to mention they helped build what is considered to be America's first major boomtown.

Oktoberfest Zinzinnati 2006: Photo from Cincy Images

It is also by no mistake that the largest Oktoberfest celebration exists in Cincinnati (outside of the Munich event). We also have the only Hofbrauhaus outside of Munich, Germany. In addition to that Cincinnati boasts the Fairview German Language School and one of the largest German-American book collections at the University of Cincinnati. In addition to that, roughly 50% of all people in the Cincinnati claim German as their ancestry...again, one of the largest percentages in the nation. A few other notable Cincinnati landmarks created or inspired by German immigrants are: Fountain Square, Roebling Suspension Bridge, Cincinnati Zoo, Spring Grove Cemetery, Music Hall, Findlay Market and the Cincinnati Park System.

Cincinnati's German heritage has surely shaped the physical environment of our city, and has also shaped the social environment over the years as well. I just don't think that Cincinnati would be the family-friendly place it is today without those unique Cincinnati features of being able to go to Humbert's Meats or Servatii's pastry shop. What do you think and how does Cincinnati's heritage affect your day to day life? How would Cincinnati be different without this German influence...or is it even relevant today?

I have done a photo thread on Over-the-Rhine over at UrbanOhio, entitled Über-der-Rhein.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

2Q State of Downtown Report

I don't know how many of you get the quarterly emails from Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI), but I do...and I am obsessed with the quarterly reports that they put out on the state of Downtown Cincinnati. No shenanigans, just facts. If you would like to receive the quarterly emails as well just let them know. From here though I am going to highlight some of what I think are the most important numbers/pieces of information from the 2Q report:

  • The CBD/immediate periphery saw 44 condo sales and 9 single family home sales in the 2Q, selling for a median price of $279,032 and $228,000 respectively.
  • 10 new retail establishments opened (including bars/clubs) while 8 retail establishments closed...but in all honesty, a good chuck of the businesses that closed had other issues not related to downtown.
  • Downtown hotels continue to boast the best occupancy rates in the region (62.6%) and also saw the largest increase in occupied rooms over 2006 (+3.4%). Downtown hotels also boast the highest cost per room ($126.12) and accordingly the highest revenue per room($79.00) in the region.
  • Part 1 crimes (more serious crimes) are down 11.4% and Part 2 crimes (quality of life crimes) are down 16.1% over the numbers from the same time period for 2006.
  • DCI Ambassadors assisted 13,858 pedestrians, removed 23,740 lbs of trash, addressed 3,019 instances of panhandling, removed 513 graffiti tags and distributed 3,800 Go To Town Guides.

As for development...there is either proposed or under construction:
  • 4,877,160 sq. ft. of space
  • 2,641 residential units
  • 13,800 parking spaces
  • For a grand total of $1,450,300,000 in total investments.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rehab Progress

Just want to keep everyone apprised on the changes I have made thus far. Some have been minor and barely noticeable, but hopefully will prove to make the site more navigable and user-friendly in the long run.

1. The first change I made was the background. I wanted to clean it up a bit, so that all those dots didn't distract from the material on the page. I kept the matching color to keep the site tied together.

2. I wanted to keep the dots around I incorporated them into the Header Banner for the site. You still get the look, but without the overdone dots on the entire page.

3. That header is now linked to the main page for UrbanCincy ( This will come in handy if you link to the site via cinplify or somewhere else and are viewing a single post. Instead of retyping in the url or simply moving can now just click the header and it will redirect to the main page with all of the recent posts.

4. I have increased the width of the content on the page. Previously I was annoyed by how narrow the content appeared on the page. So I tweaked with it and came up with a little wider format that I feel is more visually pleasing.

5. I've also added translation buttons for those international readers.

6. I have added a poll at the top of the page. This will stay around, but will change each month. The goal is to continue reader engagement on the site and get people thinking/discussing things about Cincinnati. The more discussion and exchange of ideas the better.

7. Finally...I removed the Google AdSense feature that used to be at the bottom of the page. It really added nothing to the page in terms of content, and just added more clutter in my opinion.

I am still working on another feature that will link to my photography collection, but that is still in the works and will take some time to get going the way I want it to be. If you have any more suggestions please let me know and comment on this post. Or if you would like, you can send me an email and I usually respond quite quickly.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Cincinnati Mercantile Library

The Cincinnati Mercantile Library has a long and rich that many don't even know about. Did you know that the Mercantile Library is just a stones throw away from Fountain Square at 414 Walnut Street?? Not only that, but it has been at that exact address since 1845 and was founded ten years earlier by a group of young professionals. Oh and in case things are a bit too hectic for you to drop by and check it out soon...that's alright, because the Mercantile Library has a 10,000 year lease on its current home.

The place is an absolute historic gem to check out. The book collection is fantastic, and the personal attention/expertise from the librarians is second to none. Not to mention it is extremely quiet and private for reading, studying or working (more so than a public library). Something else it has is that historic charm that most public libraries lack.

The split level floors, that house the main book collection, are separated by a glass floor. That is because the library has not had electricity for very long, and this was a way to help maximize the natural sunlight from the large windows. There are other numerous architectural throwbacks like the ironwork, woodwork/carvings, and many other non-architectural features. Like the old wood phone booth for example, or the physical card catalog (no electronic catalogs here), the furniture, the stately looking safe that sits behind the front desk and the many pieces of artwork.

All in all, this place is a MUST see for any Cincinnatian...and for very reasonable membership rates you could have all of this and more at your fingertips. Be sure to also check out the Mercantile Library's weblog for book reviews, events and other things happening with the library.

For more pictures from the Mercantile Library and other images from this past weekend, check out my photothread on UrbanOhio that includes pics from around Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

External Links:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Three wishes

Well it seems as though my last post brought up some people's wishes for downtown, and what they want to happen. So, I thought I would throw it all out there and ask everyone to comment on what their Top 3 wishes for downtown are. They could be anything, from development projects, to culture changes, to new/different laws, etc. Go wild...I want to hear from you.

I'll start with my Top 3 in no particular order:

1. The creation of a transportation hub along 2nd St (as has been proposed). This could be a hub for light rail, streetcar, bus, bike and have tie-ins to the potential high-speed rail system in Ohio and the Midwest. Why is this in my top three...well great urban centers are the center of cultural, economical, political and transportation services (to name a few). Cincinnati fairs quite well in most of these...and is quite honestly the center of transportation services for the region...but it is a sad system of services to say the least. So my wish for downtown is kind of a cop out wish for the entire region (but it's my blog and I can do it).

2. How about an open-container policy for downtown. Now I understand that you need to restrict it create some sort of open-container district based on the location of the popular bars/clubs downtown. You could even have more than one district...and in those districts vehicular traffic could be closed off. This would give downtown a huge advantage over all of the other bar/club districts in the region and really make it a hot spot for activity after the sun goes down.

3. ZERO parking requirement...yes, you heard me right. No parking requirements. This is obviously a controversial proposal, but it has the potential to pay off big time with massive downtown development. This is one of those rare occasions where I think government is out of its element by mandating parking.

If a business or developer thinks that their project can succeed with less parking, no parking, or more parking then let them make that call. My bet is that people will error on the side of less parking, but if you want to sell condos and market them with 2 spaces then you'll build your two spaces per units...but if you think you can do it with only one space per unit, then go for it. This could potentially lower the upfront costs of many developments that eventually are killed by the costs of parking.

So have at it and let me know what your wishes are, and what you think of my brilliant ideas.

Monday, August 13, 2007

New Signature Tower Needed??

There has been some discussion recently over the need (or lack thereof) for a new signature tower in Cincinnati. Queen City Square II offers that potential with it's signature style architecture and size. It would be the new tallest in Cincinnati, and would have a new/fresh look that isn't all too prevalent in Midwestern cities. But the question still exists...does Cincinnati need a new signature tower...or for that matter does Cincinnati even have a signature tower/landmark.

I would argue that Cincinnati does have a signature tower in Carew, but whether it is a landmark feature is another question. I would say that outside of the world of people who are interested in Cincinnati and/or city history that very few people know the history of the beautiful Art Deco skyscraper. You could also argue that Union Terminal is landmark-esque for Cincinnati, but the same holds true for it with the average joe.

So, does Cincinnati need a new signature tower...well I'll answer with yet another question. What is the signature tower in Portland, OR...San Diego, CA...Boston, MA...Miami, FL or Washington, DC? Now sure, some of these places have their landmark buildings (most notably DC), but they don't really have signature towers. What makes Paris, London, Madrid, or Rome so special? They all lack the skyscrapers that are prevalent in American cities, but they have great built environments and pedestrian friendly amenities.

Proposed Queen City Square II

Cincinnati is special in the same way...sure it doesn't have the skyscrapers like new boomtowns of Atlanta, Miami, Houston, or Dallas. But it has a built environment that those cities will never be able to duplicate. Over-the-Rhine is a landmark for Cincinnati, so is Union Terminal, Carew Tower, Central Trust Tower, Roebling Suspension Bridge, and one could even argue Columbia Tusculum.

Now don't get me wrong...I'm not opposed to another stylish skyscraper downtown, but I don't think that Cincinnati needs it by any stretch of the imagination. Often times skyscrapers actually hurt that all important street-life that you hope to create in an urban environment. I say go for it, but don't go out of your way to accomplish building these skyscrapers. They are pretty...but like a book, the quality of a city should not be judged by its cover.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

BuyCincy enters the Cincinnati blog scene

I have to say that I'm extremely pleased with the blog scene that is prevalent in Cincinnati. Environmental, design, photography, political, development, art, wine and even more types of blogs solely dedicated to the Cincinnati area. I must say that I think the recent blog competition heightened the level of awareness and has raised the bar for the quality of the many Cincinnati oriented blogs. You can already notice the difference with many bloggers (including myself) working to improve their own sites.

We now have another site to add to the list...a blog that is dedicated to the local shopping/retail that makes Cincinnati so unique. It's not everywhere that you find neighborhood butchers, bakeries, chili parlors, soft-serve ice cream stores and more. Cincinnatians are very loyal to their local shops and businesses, and even the corporate scene. BuyCincy is taking note of this special atmosphere in Cincinnati, and highlighting those special places that you might not yet know about.

The idea is to shop local and support the hardworking small businesses in Cincinnati. So go and check out the new site, authored by Sean Fisher, at:

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

NIMBY Tip of the Month (8.07)

I think that this might become a regular feature that will be some fun for everyone!

We all have heard of the dreaded NIMBYs before...and if you haven't then here is a quick summary to catch you up. NIMBY stands for Not In My BackYard; and it is representative of those individuals that oppose things from happening or have distaste for things that are happening near their sacred property.

Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to protect your property's value, but NIMBYs usually take it a bit to far. So without further ado here is the first NIMBY tip, that will hopefully save these individuals a lot of heartburn in the future.

Tip #1:
When house-hunting avoid locations near highways or other heavily traveled thoroughfares. It is most likely that these routes will not only remain heavily traveled, but actually become more crowded with traffic. All this traffic tends to make some if you buy a home a stones throw away from I-275, for instance, you should probably expect some noise issues.

Please note that this interstate was here before you purchased your house, therefore you really don't have any room to complain about the negative attributes the interstate carries along with its vehicles. I'm sorry, but no sound walls for you...and in all honesty if your home builder decided to clear cut the site of all its trees, then you should be the one responsible for the screening/buffers that you so desire.

It's not everyone else's fault that you bought a bad product just because it was located on a cul-de-sac. Dry those tears, because you bought that house and the backyard (I-275) that came with it.

**Please note that the house, in the above image, was built in 2001...I-275 began construction in 1958 and was fully completed by 1979. I would say that roughly 20 years is enough time to scout out a better home location.

Monday, August 6, 2007

UrbanCincy rehab project

I have been unhappy with some features of the layout. Plus I thought that all the dots in the background could be a bit distracting and/or annoying at times (don't worry those lovely dots are going to stick around in some shape or form). I would also like to add some new features to make UrbanCincy a little more graphical and less wordy than what it is currently. So, you will be seeing some changes over the next couple of days. Some will be temporary as I try to figure out how to do this, and others will stay put.

UrbanCincy is a work in progress and I'm trying to make it the best it can possibly be. What do you think?? Comments and constructive criticism are very much welcome!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Scribble Jam 2007

Scribble Jam 2007 is coming up next weekend! It will start on Thursday, August 9th and last until Sunday, August 12th. This years event will include MC, DJ, B-Boy and Beatbox battles...and also include a graffiti expo. This event is considered "America's Largest Hip-Hop Festival" and is the largest public display of underground hip hop that is available in the United States.

The event will be taking place throughout the city at locations like: The Poison Room, Annies Night Club, Burnett Woods and Top Cats. You'll be able to witness, arguably, the most competitive MC battle in the country where competitors have to beat out others, from their region, in order to qualify for the Cincinnati Scribble Jam event.

This event is always a popular one and it's recommended that you buy pre-sale tickets where you'll save money and ensure yourself entry. The event attracts tens of thousands of hip hop fans from across the country, and has called Cincinnati home for the past 10 years. Some of the events are free, so it's best to check the website for more details regarding the schedule, prices and details of the locations.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Cincinnati and its long history with Urban Planning

Urban Planning has a long, rich history in the Queen City. You can date this back to the influential and charismatic individual named Ladislas Segoe (1894-1983). Segoe was involved in nearly all types of professional planning...advocating for an increased presence of private planners and even operating his own successful private practice: Ladislas Segoe and Associates of Cincinnati, Ohio. Needless to say Segoe was extremely influential in the great deal of planning that took place, in Cincinnati, in the early 20th Century.

During the early 20th Century you saw a lot of firsts for the planning profession...especially in Cincinnati. In 1923 ground was broken on the planned community of Mariemont; planned by John Nolan the community boasted many concepts (small blocks, mixed uses, mixed owner/rental units) that are now the foundation of what is considered new urbanism.

Shortly thereafter, in 1925, Cincinnati was recognized as being the first major American city to endorse a comprehensive plan. This plan was revolutionary for American cities and was primarily drafted by Ladislas Segoe and Alfred Bettman. This plan outlined park corridors throughout the city, systems of grand boulevards, complimented the Park Plan of 1907, and included the now requisite transportation component of modern comprehensive plans.

General Park Plan: 1907 Kessler Park Plan

Ten years later in 1935 the Resettlement Administration, established under the Roosevelt administration, set forth to build three 'Greenbelt towns.' One of those 'Greenbelt towns' being Greenhills in Cincinnati. These towns became the case studies for future planned communities like Columbia, MD and Reston, VA. Shortly thereafter, in 1941, Ladislas Segoe publishes the first of his "Green Book" series entitled: Local Planning Administration.

After this frenzy of breakthrough planning activity, taking place in Cincinnati, you have to fast forward to the very recent history. In 2002, Charlie Luken and City Manager Valerie Lemmie were under extreme pressure to make budget cuts...and not surprisingly, Valerie Lemmie pushed to have the Planning Department abolished from the Cincinnati government structure. Combine this with the idea that this move would make the City more 'developer friendly' and you have an abolished Planning Department. The move didn't necessarily have the desired impact and has actually hampered the City's efforts to update it's comprehensive plan, and perform long-range planning that is essential for any community.

Five years have past and Mayor Mark Mallory is living up to his promise of re-establishing the Planning Department in Cincinnati. Charles C. Graves III was hired as the director of the re-established department and will start his job on September 4th. Hopefully with the support of the Mayor, City Manager and City Council Cincinnati can return to it's proud ways of being a progressive area for professional Planning. There is a lot to catch up on first and foremost, but the progressive minds in professional Planning at least have a place to gather again in Cincinnati government.

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