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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Off to Miami, Go Bearcats

The journey to Miami has begun. Go Bearcats! Who else is going to be there?

Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year's Eve in Downtown Cincinnati

There are lots of options for you on New Years Eve Downtown. The weather also looks like it will be playing nice this year as it will be partly cloudy and in the 20's when the ball drops.

If you're on a budget and can't afford to hit up the private parties or cover charges for the bars/clubs, then Fountain Square should be your destination. There will be free ice skating, music, and fireworks. There will also be hot drinks, food, and an "ice bar" set up in the corner of the ice rink that will be serving adult beverages all night long.

If you have the resources and entourage then one of the private parties might be for you. Be sure to check out Bootsy's as it looks to celebrate its first NYE Downtown. You can reserve a table at Bootsy's and enjoy the typical tapas and sushi that Bootsy's is known for. There will also be a DJ and a champagne toast at midnight.

If you're looking for a more neighborhood bar type feel that will have some great food and plenty to drink, then Arnold's might be a good spot for you. For $39.95 you'll get a five course gourmet meal, party favors, and the requisite midnight champagne toast. For music Arnold's will have Lagnaippe entertaining the crowd with their cajun sound.

So no matter what your scene or budget is you can find a spot for you in the heart of Cincinnati on New Year's Eve. Have a great time, and be sure to take advantage of the free cab rides being provided through MADD and AAA on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Photo Credit: Metromix Cincinnati

Friday, December 26, 2008

Letting Cincinnatians Down

I know I promised no new posts for awhile, but the moment has struck me with a series of unfortunate events from organizations and people who are there to represent the interests of Cincinnatians.

The local Green Party, local chapter of the NAACP, and Green Township officials continue to let us down. What do these unlikely bedfellows have in common? They all seem to have a vested interest against the improvement of Cincinnati's transit system beyond that of roadways.

The Green Party most notably led by Justin Jeffre locally has an unusual opposition to the ongoing efforts to bring a modern streetcar system to Cincinnati. Their unusual tactics have included referring to this modern streetcar proposal as a "choo choo train" and likening a streetcar's functionality and benefits to that of an electric bus. For their efforts, as perplexing as they may be, are still just words and rank them the lowest of the three offenders mentioned here.

Next up is the local chapter of the NAACP. The NAACP has a stated mission of, "ensuring the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination." Seems reasonable enough to me, and you would think an initiative that would improve transit options and service in the center city while also creating many permanent and temporary jobs would be something that the local chapter of the NAACP would be on board with right? Wrong.

The NAACP has made the denying of improved transit for Cincinnatians one of their top 3 priorities for 2009. They have passed the measure internally and have agreed to collect signatures to have the issue put on the November ballot. What is most troubling about this is that they can not put the legislative measure itself on the ballot (as it is not increasing taxes or changing law). Instead they are putting in on the ballot as a Charter amendment.

So if the local chapter of the NAACP were to achieve success they would alter the City's Charter to prohibit streetcars altogether. That means that even if some big company wanted to come in and fund a streetcar system with 100% of their own money they would not be able to do so as it would occur within the City's right-of-way. I'm curious to look at the language even more closely to see if it would also include something to prohibit light rail or high-speed rail efforts that would also benefit Cincinnatians and their city.

Finally you have Green Township officials. Forget the fact that the State Representatives from this westside community have spoken out against virtually every single rail initiative that this region has seen. We'll just look at buses - something that several townships and suburban areas, like Anderson and West Chester townships, have learned to embrace over the years.

Green Township is a community with close to 60,000 residents. To its west is the rural portions of Western Hamilton County. To its east and south are the first ring suburbs of Cincinnati including Cheviot, Westwood, and Price Hill. There is little to no bus service for this massive township and Township Trustees are working on getting rid of what is currently there.

During the Legacy Place rezoning effort Township Trustees worked to block Metro from serving the proposed retail development. Their rationale was that they didn't want to see the same thing happen to Legacy Place (no mentioned tenants) that happened to Western Hills Plaza (home to stores like Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Old Navy, Bath & Body Works, Sears, and Staples) down the road. Ignoring the obvious racial undertones and prejudice of that statement I'll assume that they don't want to see any massive reinvestment in Legacy Place when it too loses its newness.

More recently Green Township officials have been lobbying Metro to remove some or eliminate all of the #33 bus route that runs through the township. With recent Metro budget constraints they figured why continue the fight and decided to cut a portion of the #33 route - one of the only routes in the township - at the township's request.

Contact these organizations and people and let them know how disappointed you are with their actions. Let them know how out of touch their actions are with their constituencies. And most importantly let them know how important transit options are to you.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays to all those who are Proudly Cincinnati

UrbanCincy will be taking a few days off for the holidays (and travel plans). In the mean time I'll leave you with this video clip of the new television commercial that the University of Cincinnati is rolling out and will air during the Orange Bowl to an estimated 11 million viewers.

There is a corresponding radio ad, and the two will be featured prominently in not only Cincinnati, but Cleveland and Columbus as well. UC is looking to maximize their Orange Bowl exposure for their current fundraising drive themed 'Proudly Cincinnati.'

Taking recycling to the next level in Cincinnati

Our region is starting to make strides towards improving our environmental impact and ultimately reducing our carbon footprint. In some cases though enough is not being done. One in particular is recycling.

The City of Cincinnati recycles about 9% of its trash with goals of increasing that to 15% in four years. To meet this goal the Mayor launched a Green Cincinnati Recycling Plan that introduced four new Downtown recycling drop-off locations (GoogleMap), a new webpage where citizens can sign up for recycling on-line, and a recycling program at tailgating before Bengals home games.

In addition to these great efforts lets have dual recycling/trash receptacles out on the streets. One of the good things about not having a presorted recycling facility is that the public doesn't have to worry about sorting their recyclable materials when discarding. A secondary receptacle adjacent to the trash can would work quite well and offer the easy access to recycling as you're walking down the street.

A more expensive option would be to go the Big Belly route with not only trash, but recycling as well. In this scenario users would do a simple presort between cans/bottles and paper products. These are a more expensive and comprehensive approach, but probably one of the best options to take in the money is there.

Another important step will be to get rid of those tiny 18-gallon recycling bins and replace them with larger 64 or 96 gallon recycling carts comparable to their trash counterparts. I was recently encouraged to hear that this is indeed in the process and might be implemented with a RecycleBank system where recycling amounts are tracked and users are rewarded for their participation.

The larger bins though would be a huge improvement on their own as people would have the psychological incentive to fill up their much larger bin, instead of the dis-incentive to stop filling up their overflowing smaller bin.

The issue of recycling will be touched on again as it relates to the region's colleges and universities at a later time. But feel free to post any of your ideas for how the region can improve its recycling rates.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

FS Ohio turns off Bearcats, upsets fans

The Bearcats basketball team had a thrilling come from behind victory over Eastern Kentucky University on Saturday night to improve to 9-2 overall. Unfortunately though the only people to see the late rally and win, by the Bearcats, were the roughly 7,000 fans in attendance as Fox Sports Ohio decided to cut away from the game with 1:20 left in regulation.

FS Ohio cut away for a Columbus Bluejackets NHL game. As a result the thousands of TV viewers missed the late rally and last second alley-oop dunk (Vaughn to Gates) to tie the game and send it into overtime. The Bearcats controlled the extra session and won by eight, and it was a truly thrilling end to see in person.

The many fans who missed the finish were none too happy and reportedly flooded FS Ohio's office with complaints and thoughts of the Heide Game in mind. My suggestion - show up to the games in person. Fifth Third Arena has a 13,176 capacity (filled only once this year). The average attendance is somewhere in the 6,000-7,000 range. As a result there are plenty of good seats available for a young team with lots of talent that is quickly rising in the polls.

The Bearcats next home game is tomorrow night (12/22) at 7:30pm. UC will play host to Arkansas Pine Bluff in their last non-conference home game before Big East play begins. It is a crucial game that the Bearcats need to win.

The Bearcats need to head into Big East play with a minimum of 10 wins and no bad losses. So far, so good as a win against Arkansas Pine Bluff would be win number 10 and the only two losses have come to Xavier and Florida State. If the Bearcats can then manage another 10 wins through the remainder of the season and get to the 20 win plateau then they'll be sitting pretty for a NCAA Tournament birth (see schedule/results here).

Buy Tickets Now
Photo Credit: AP Photo/David Kohl

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Over-the-Rhine Happy Hour Tonight

Milton's Prospect Hill Tavern will be the spot for an OTR happy hour this evening (12/18) starting at 5:30pm. The director of the Over-the-Rhine Foundation, Mike Morgan, will be there to give a presentation. You will also be able to get Christian Moerlein's Christkindl Winter Warmer Ale for $2.

Milton's (GoogleMap) offers neighborhood bar type atmosphere that is located in the Prospect Hill subneighborhood of Over-the-Rhine. So be sure to drop on by and have a couple drinks. You could head on over to Nicola's Ristorante (about 1 block away) for some dinner afterward and make a whole night out of it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Backstage Entertainment District getting all dolled up

The Backstage Entertainment District may or may not be something you're all that familiar with. In a nutshell, it is the area surrounding the Aronoff Center for the Arts that is filled with restaurants and clubs. The area features some nice streetscaping, some decorative lighting, and a couple of spruced up alleys.

The problem is that the district never really took off in a way originally imagined. The restaurants have been successful for the most part, but success outside of performance nights was largely missing until more recently. The renovation of Fountain Square has spread investment outward and spurred the opening of nearby restaurants Nada and Oceanaire Seafood Room. Cadillac Ranch and the newly opened Bootsy's (see review here) have also provided a bar/club mix to the district.

With all this the area still just isn't quite there. So what is needed? Well with the dedicated work of 3CDC, the district will soon be home to yet another upscale bar that will be known as the Righteous Room in the former location of the troubled Phoenix Cafe. That project will also bring three new condo units to the three upper floors of the building. Still though, more can and probably will be done.

3CDC has previously floated the idea of closing off those previously mentioned spruced up alleys to vehicular traffic and making them "pedestrian throughways." Also mentioned was the possibility of creating a "walk of fame" sidewalk across from the Aronoff Center.

Both are great ideas, but the alleys present the biggest opportunity if you ask me. Something that could be done here is after you close the alleys off to vehicular traffic you could then make them open-container areas where people could mingle about and bar hop from place to place within the Backstage District...providing a Beale or Bourbon Street type atmosphere in the heart of Downtown Cincinnati.

This idea is not all that new to Cincinnati as it was previously attempted on Main Street (OTR). The idea was met with some skepticism circulating about safety and the legality of such a concept. The Fountain Square Management Group has been able to implement this kind of thing for special events on Fountain Square, so who could be a better resource to attempt this on a larger scale than 3CDC?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Newport's Mansion Hill and East Row

The other day I visited Newport (no not the Levee) and took some photos of Newport's Mansion Hill and East Row districts. The day was cold, the skies were gray, but I had a good time nonetheless walking through Newport's often overlooked residential districts.

Mansion Hill boasts many gorgeous homes that have been well maintained over the years. East Row is another historic district, but will much more modest dwellings in a comfortable neighborhood setting. The area is sprinkled with neighborhood businesses including the well-known Italian restaurant Pompilio's and Mansion Hill Tavern.

Today the neighborhood is experiencing the spread of investment from the nearby Newport on the Levee complex, but is also suffering from the noise and traffic from I-471 which practically owns the eastern portion of the neighborhoods.

There are 35 photos in the slideshow. You can also view the full set on UrbanOhio.

Orange Bowl update for the Bearcats

The University of Cincinnati is reporting that about 4,500 tickets remain for Bearcat fans at the Orange Bowl. The University was originally given 17,500 tickets and are on the hook for selling those tickets. Should they not sell them, then the University is responsible for covering those remaining tickets. What happens many times is those left over tickets are given to a local charity of some sort.

At this point though the tickets have been on sale for just over 1 week and around 13,000 already have been sold. There are another couple weeks until the game itself so it looks pretty good that the UC allotment of tickets will be sold by the time the game rolls around - something that many people thought wouldn't be possible.

Tickets are $125 and hotels are going for around $120/night in the downtown Miami area where most people are staying. If you want to stay on South Beach or in the Miami Beach area then hotel rates are going to be much higher. It is about a 17 hour drive (6.5 from Cincinnati to Atlanta, 10.5 from Atlanta to Miami) from Cincinnati to Miami with gas averaging about $1.70 a gallon.

You can find ticket information and everything else you need to know from match up information to bowl game merchandise at Bearcat Bowl Central. I'll be joining at least one other blogger for the Orange Bowl madness. Who else is planning on making the trip?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tis the season to experience Cincinnati

Like every holiday season, there is a ton of stuff to see and do in Cincinnati. Of course you have your long-standing traditions like the train display downtown, carriage rides, the Christmas Tree and ice rink on Fountain Square and the Cincinnati Zoo's Festival of Lights. In addition to these goodies I'm going to recommend a couple of other things to check out before this holiday season expires.

The Ensemble Theatre is hosting a special holiday show called Expectations of Christmas. This show covers the many interesting facts, stories and songs of the holiday season. There will only be one performance on December 15th at 7pm. Tickets are $10 and all proceeds benefit Tender Mercies in Over-the-Rhine. You can order tickets by visiting the Ensemble Theatre's Box Office (GoogleMap), or by contacting or 513.421.3555.

Holly Jolly Trolley and Fountain Square Ice Rink - Randy Simes

The Krohn Conservatory always is a must for my family during the holiday season. This year will be no different. They will have their live nativity scene on display from December 5th through January 4th, Santa will be there on December 13th and 20th at 1pm, and there is the always lovely holiday floral show that is open daily from 10am-5pm until January 4th.

In addition to all that there will be a holiday craft making event from 1-3pm on Sunday, December 14th. At the craft making event you will be able to join a park horticulturist for an educational program on how to make unique holiday crafts.

Check out pictures from my family's visit there last year at this time. The pictures show the holiday floral show as well as the live nativity scene outside. You can also view pictures from the train display downtown, ice rink on Fountain Square, Santa and some other holiday scenes from Downtown during the 2006 holiday season.

If you feel like sharing any additional holiday events please share them in the comments section for this article.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ridership down on Metro

It is with unfortunate news that Cincinnati's Metro has reported a 4.3% drop in ridership from January-September 2007 versus the same time frame in 2008, despite higher gasoline prices. This is in sharp contrast to the The American Public Transportation Association's figures that present a large gain for the vast majority of the mass transit networks nationwide.

Of course, what the Cincinnati Enquirer article fails to mention, is that long-distance commuting is up 18% in October compared with last year. A sizable increase was also reported in August, but both did not make the Enquirer's radar.

What's also missing is the University of Cincinnati's partnership with Metro that has been overwhelmingly successful. Aimed at easing notoriously painful traffic congestion in the Uptown locale, and reduce the need for parking, nearly 2,000 University of Cincinnati students and faculty members take advantage of the free rides that is funded by the university's Student Government. Nine routes are currently enrolled in the program, and all that is required is a student identification card.

It should be noted that the Cincinnati Enquirer should not be used as a point-of-reference for these local developments. When an article is a cut-and-paste job with a clear bias, and a lack of moderation in their user comments section, one has to wonder what the Enquirer's real priorities are. Let's hope that they report on the uptick in ridership by Metro when the figures are released for December 2008.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Uptown Commons details emerge

Towne Properties recently announced some details regarding their development plan for the empty site right now in between McMillan and Calhoun (GoogleMap) streets in Clifton Heights. The $100 million project is proposed to include roughly 150 apartments, 77,000 square feet of retail space, 2 hotels and about 100,000 square feet of office space.

A public plaza near the western most terminus of the University Park Apartments (UPA) building across the street would also be an important feature of the development that would be privately managed and operated. The development would consist of mid-rise buildings that would sit atop parking garages serving not only the development but the surrounding uses as well.

Uptown Commons - Public Plaza Perspective

The Clifton Heights neighborhood business district (NBD) is already a great node for the community. A quality development here, with the right mix of uses could potentially create one of the biggest and best NBDs in Cincinnati (and that's saying something given the competition).

Rents for the apartments will exceed the $1 per square-foot range which is comparable to the rents charged at UPA. Those apartments actually have a waiting list while also boasting some of the highest prices per square-foot of any rental units in the city. The hotels and office space will add some much needed year-round traffic in an area currently dominated by seasonal students.

Towne Properties cited that work could begin as soon as next Fall if financing is in place. Financing that they feel confident will be there even amidst the financial crisis and lending freezes being seen across the nation. Towne also noted that the development has been drawn up with the streetcar in mind as they are expecting the streetcar system to loop their development.

You can download the detailed site plans courtesy of by Cole + Russell at the following links:

Uptown Commons - Site Plan

Uptown Commons - Upper Floors Plan

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lytle Park plan taking root

Lytle Park is rich with history and is poised for a face lift. The park sits on the site of the Lytle family homestead that was built back in 1809. The homestead site then became known as Lytle Square and was then owned by the City of Cincinnati in 1905.

Lytle Square was then marked to be demolished to make way for the connection of I-71 to Ft. Washington Way. Public protests saved the parkspace and led the creation of what is known to be one of the first uses of air-rights over an expressway in the nation. Lytle Tunnel nows runs underneath this small yet important park in the south-eastern portion of Downtown.

The park also boasts an 11-foot statue of Abraham Lincoln that was a gift to the City from the Taft family. The Taft family connections don't end there though as the Taft Museum of Art is located on the eastern edge of the park.

The park is now in the process of a master plan that will give the park a new look with new features. A couple new water features are planned, a new stair connection to Lytle Street (GoogleMap), new garden space, new streetscape along 4th, and more open lawn spaces for creative use are some of the key features of the plan.

At a November 20th public meeting the plan was "well-received" and no major changes were suggested. No specific timetable, budget or financing has been set for the changes, but the next step is to finalize a master plan with more specifics that will be taken to the Cincinnati Park Board for approval.

Preliminary Lytle Park Master Plan (259kb)

Boylan Bottling Co.

This is a shameless promotion but I can't help it...this stuff is amazing. The Boylan Bottling Company was started over 100 years ago originally producing Birch beer. The family-owner, New Jersey based company also produces a host of another products as well.

I recently had my first Boylan experience at Coffee Emporium in Over-the-Rhine. I had a Diet Cream Soda which was amazing and was hard to distinguish from other non-diet drinks. Their regular drinks apparently are made with cane sugar as compared to the typical high fructose corn syrup that most companies use nowadays.

Coffee Emporium is the only place that I have seen this in Cincinnati. Can it be found elsewhere around town, or has anyone else had similar experiences? I just need to know, I'm hooked.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Can Nippert Stadium really be expanded?

With the success of the Bearcat football program combined with the already tight confines of Nippert Stadium it is only natural that talks have been in progress about expanding the stadium. The expansion would not only add more seating capacity, but take care of some other much needed improvements for concessions, restroom facilities and luxury suites.

Recently University of Cincinnati Athletic Director, Mike Thomas, described Nippert as the Wrigley Field of college football. The small and intimate setting certainly agrees with that. The surrounding buildings that are incorporated into the stadium also plays along with that theme.

Well the University had some drawings done by a Baton Rouge architecture firm a little while ago and have been sitting on those drawings ever since. There have recently been rumors flying about that Coach Brian Kelly has met with UC officials about these plans. What are your thoughts? Too soon, not enough, awesome, tacky, too modern?

Personally I think it works pretty well with a few exceptions. The area behind the west concourse that is sandwiched in between the stadium and Tangeman University Center (TUC) will become a dark and damp place as a result of this. It would also block out much of the sunlight that floods TUC via the giant glass wall on that side of the building.

The other issue I have is with covering most (or all) of the CCM building that is in the south endzone. The building is one of the coolest features of the stadium and I think could be manipulated in some way to incorporate luxury suites and avoid being blocked out (get creative).

Images from Trahan Architects - Click to view larger sizes

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day After Thanksgiving Fun Downtown

The day after Thanksgiving is often the day where people line up outside the most generic big box store they can find and wait in long lines to spend their hard-earned money at places that won't recycle that money locally like locally owned/operated businesses.

In an effort to encourage local shopping, and continue upon the success built at Cincinnati Unchained, Gateway Quarter businesses have organized the inaugural Holidays in the Bag event from 9am to 9pm the day after Thanksgiving. Shoppers are encouraged to buy a special shopping bag ($3 - money goes to Tender Mercies) at the Gateway Quarter Information Center that will get you 20% off at participating retailers.

After your stuffed full of Thanksgiving goodies and partake in the "Black Friday" craziness be sure to leave some energy for the annual Light Up The Square festivities on Friday, November 28th.

Light Up The Square is the annual event on Fountain Square where Cincinnati celebrates the start of the holiday season with the ceremonious tree lighting festivities. This year's tree is the biggest ever standing 60 feet tall, with roughly 20,000 lights and five-foot tall red star.

The fun officially starts at 6:30pm with a performance by "Team Cincinnati" (from Clash of the Choirs) which will then be followed by the tree lighting at 7pm by Mayor Mark Mallory. There will then be a fireworks show following the tree lighting. Santa Claus is expected to be there and the Fountain Square skating rink will be open to the public.

Traffic Notes: 5th Street (between Race & Walnut) & Vine Street (between 4th & 6th) will be closed from 6pm to 9:30pm.
The Fountain Square parking garage will be open but only accessible via the Walnut Street entrance.
Metro bus routes will be detoured around these streets during the closure.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Be a part of the 2009 YPKC

In 2006 Mayor Mark Mallory launched the Mayor's Young Professional Kitchen Cabinet (YPKC) - the first of its kind anywhere. The goal was to tap into the minds of those young people that so many cities are trying to both retain and attract.

Each year one hundred young professionals are tapped from all over the tri-state to volunteer their efforts to help make the Cincinnati region a more welcoming place for young people. The young professionals work on a variety of committees with different focuses. They work within their various committees and then push forth their ideas. If those ideas gain approval from the YPKC as a whole, then they are then directed to the Mayor's office.

The YPKC is a great opportunity to get involved especially if you're one of those many people who have had that brilliant idea come to you in the middle of the night and think, "boy it would be nice if I had the opportunity to talk to the Mayor about this." Well you can.

You can apply now to be a member of the 2009 YPKC. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the 2008 YPKC as a member of the Transportation Committee. Due to travel plans, a spring graduation and other time constraints I will not be able to once again apply. I do strongly encourage everyone else who is interested to do before the December 3rd deadline (sorry for the late notice).

New pizza joint planned for 914 Race Street

Reliable sources close to UrbanCincy are indicating that a pizza joint may be on tap for 914 Race Street (GoogleMap) downtown. The almost 100 year-old building (built 1910) is located directly north of popular wine shop City Cellars, and is in an area of Downtown that is in desperate need of more activity generating businesses.

The building is a three story building that boasts "newly renovated" apartments on the upper levels. The 1,392 square foot street-level space is currently vacant and marked for retail. A full liquor license has been applied for at this address, and after further investigation a pizza place seems to be what is in store from owner.

Stay tuned for updated information as it becomes available.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hawthorne Heights at Shake It

On Friday Hawthorne Heights will be in town for a very special appearance at Shake It Records in Northside. The Dayton-born band will give an acoustic show and just hang out for a little while probably signing albums and engaging in musical chit chat.

Hawthorne Heights is an emo band that has released three albums the most recent of which came out earlier this year entitled Fragile Future. Their first album, The Silence in Black and White, went platinum with over 1 million in record sales dating back to 2004. This was then followed up with a Gold album in 2006 that reached the top spot on Billboard's Top Independent Albums list. If you're not into emo bands, then just get on over to Shake It to check out their amazing collection of independent music.

In order to get their on-time you might have to cut out of work a little early. Shake It (GoogleMap) suggets that you should get their by 4pm, but if not feel free to come in and join the crowd whenever you're able (regular hours M-S 10-9, Sun 12-6).

Check it out - CiN Weekly article

There is a pretty good article this week in CiN Weekly that interviews UrbanCincy's pal and founder of - Brad Thomas. He talks about the streetcar, what are some of the things he likes and best of all he plugs UrbanCincy. The writer added this bit about dying downtowns that you'll notice. It made me wonder what list he was talking about. There are lists about dying cities that include Ohio cities like Cleveland and Dayton, but don't tend to include Cincinnati. Either way, check out the article on page 44 of this week's CiN Weekly, or check it out online.

Image Credit - "On the Tracks" by David Sorcher, CiN Weekly

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Films That Matter, Cincinnati Bike/PAC

Cincinnati is playing host to two important events this evening that seemingly play upon different themes, but are wholly interrelated. Both events unfortunately begin at 7 P.M.

Rohs Street Café, at 245 W. McMillan Street (GoogleMap), is hosting Films That Matter 2008-2009 tonight from 7:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M., sponsored by Imago and Cincinnati Earth Institute. Films That Matter offers a series of documentaries about planet Earth, about the challenges and opportunities of our times, and about innovative ideas and inspiring people that are making a difference. Films That Matter showcases independent films and provides a space for people to gather, learn and discuss what matters.

For tonight, the Café is presenting "Al Gore: New Thinking on the Climate Crisis", where Gore uses a slide show to present evidence that the pace of climate change may be worse than what scientists recently predicted. Acting upon that, Gore challenges citizens to act on this information by becoming engaged in debates and organizations. This film is a follow-up to Gore's award winning film, "An Inconvenient Truth", and is 30-minutes long which will be followed up by a discussion.

Elsewhere, Arnold's at 216 East 8th Street (GoogleMap) is hosting the monthly Cincinnati Bike/PAC meeting at 7 P.M. on the second floor. This meeting is held for those wishing to find out more about the city's bike initiatives and what they can do about it. Traditionally, Bike/PAC has not attracted a lot of interest from younger cyclists, and as was quite apparent from last month's Transportation Subcommittee meeting, affordable, green transportation appeals most to those who have yet bought into the prevailing automobile culture of this region.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Planning for buildings, or planning for people?

This question is the premise of my senior thesis. I am asking the question of whether our current planning techniques are simply planning for the built environment and not necessarily for the people who inhabit that built environment.

This was never a problem until more recent times as places were built around people and the activities they perform. We are now building our environment to fit a financial model, corporate goal, or a well-intended comprehensive plan if we are so lucky. But even in the best example things like land use patterns seem to regulate on a non-living level. I tend to think we should be planning and regulating with the living in mind.

When we build subdivisions and neighborhoods is what we're trying to set out to accomplish building setbacks, lot sizes and building heights? Or is what we're really trying to accomplish a matter of livability and sense of place?

Casual interactions between people buying food from street vendor

It seems to be that different types of uses generate different types of activities (i.e. coffee shop vs. post office), and that different densities generate different levels of activities (i.e. downtown vs. suburban track housing). So I ask the question, should we be planning based on the premise of human interaction and activity instead of land use or form?

If a neighborhood wants to be quieter than a downtown then can't we plan for lower densities so that lower levels of activities occur? If we want a variety of interactions to occur from an intimate conversation to a casual head nod should we actually be planning for a variety of the uses that promote such interactions?

People tend to follow the see and be seen theology where they like to see others while they also desire to be seen by others when out in public

The reason I ask is because as well as the planning process is thought out, it is as equally ill-delivered. People in the suburbs want a sense of place and a sense of belonging just as much as someone who lives in a brick walk-up. We need to start planning in a way that creates such an environment for the people living in our cities and towns, and not just hoping that things adjust to the way things are going now.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cincinnati Streetcar Update

While there hasn't been a whole lot of big news relating to the Cincinnati Streetcar lately there have certainly been things going on. On November 5th the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to design, build, operate and maintain the Cincinnati Streetcar project was sent out.

As of 8:30pm November 16th there have been 21 companies to download the RFQ packet. Now this does not necessarily mean that all will submit bids for this project, but the range of companies goes from local companies like Glaserworks and DNK Architects to national companies like URS and Parsons Transportation Group. These companies have until the end of the workday on December 18th to submit their bids.

I also got in touch with City Architect Michael Moore and was informed that City Manager Milton Dohoney should be reporting back on financing in early 2009. This is important because since the Streetcar motion was passed by City Council in late April this has been the number one tast for Milton Dohoney - raising the necessary private contributions. If these contributions aren't raised then the motion that was passed is no longer good and things will go back to square one. So far I have heard positive feedback about this fundraising process, but nothing specific outside the $3.5 million that Duke Energy has pledged to the project.

In addition to all this I decided to have a little fun with that streetcar congestion graphic I posted last week. That graphic was from almost 100 years ago, so I thought it might be interesting to give it a 100-year update. I attempted to keep the look/feel as close as possible, and with the help of Brad Thomas we calculated out numbers for the modern version.

Ford Taurus dimensions were used for average auto size with an average of 1.2 passengers. Skoda ST10 dimensions were used for average streetcar size with an average of 85 passengers. What was seen is an increase in both the average space taken up by streetcar passengers and auto passengers. Auto space saw a 142% increase which dwarfed the 26% increase for streetcar passengers.

Early 20th Century Graphic vs. New 21st Century Graphic

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cincinnati Hill Climb Series

The Cincinnati Hill Climb Series is mid-way through its 33rd annual series, and you can be part of the last two climbs if you're up for the challenge. Described as "the most grueling sub-mile runs on the planet," the Hill Climb Series features short sprints up some of Cincinnati's steepest inclines.

The third climb takes place this Sunday, November 16th at 9am and will feature Hill Street in Mt. Adams. The climbs are sponsored by Hudy Delight and always provide plenty of liquids following the race. The Hill Street climb will end at neighborhood favorite Crowley's for an awards ceremony.

The climbs require a $10 registration fee, or a $20 fee if you wish to receive a fashionable Hill Climb Series t-shirt. All proceeds, of the climbs, go to the Cincinnati Soap Box Derby. You can either register online, or find registration materials at Cincinnati area running stores.

The final climb of the year will be on Straight Street near the University of Cincinnati on November 23rd. So get registered soon so that you don't miss out on this great tradition of climbing Cincinnati's best hills and raising money for another great local cause.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cincinnati Mills

Seemingly doomed from its start, Forest Fair Mall was completed in stages from 1988 to 1989, and featured nearly 200 stores and four anchors. Located in northwest Cincinnati, it was one of the state's largest malls, and most impressive. That was one of its only positive highlights, however. The shopping center was completed for $50 million over budget and left the owner saddled with debt.

Not surprisingly, the builder, L.J. Hooker, declared bankruptcy only months after the complex was completed. In the years ahead, the mall was bought and sold, positioned and repositioned, and remodeled and shuttered. It was a high-end regional mall, and outlet center, and a retail and entertainment complex, although it it neither of those descriptors today. Today, it is known simply as Cincinnati Mills.

The mall struggles despite having several some successful outlots and several thriving stores, including Bass Pro Shops. For example, one of its last tenants in the eastern wing, Guitar Center, is departing. This leaves only two minor shops to fend for themselves in the most remote location of the shopping center, and it is doubtful that they will remain there for much longer.

What does the future hold for Cincinnati Mills? Not so much. It features two major tenants that are departing: Guitar Center and Steve and Berry's, and one entire wing that will essentially become vacant. Major redevelopment is needed at this site, although with the ever struggling economy, this may prove to be a bit of a challenge.

For more information, including a historical overview and additional photographs, check out Cincinnati Mills at Abandoned.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Salsa Dancing at the Wisp

Over the summer Fountain Square hosted Salsa on the Square every Thursday which included salsa lessons. The event showed the most growth of all of Fountain Square's summer events with crowds of 400-500 people by the end of summer. With these weekly nights of Salsa on the Square done until next summer, I couldn't think of a better spot to rekindle the dancing magic during the winter months than the Blue Wisp Jazz Club.

This Thursday, November 13th, the Blue Wisp will have salsa dancing with Mambo Diablo starting at 8pm. Free dance lessons will be available a half hour prior to the show. There is a $5 cover charge for this show, but if you're one of the many who are into salsa dancing then this is probably for you. Mambo Diablo consists of John Zappa (trumpet), Stan Ginn (percussion), Bill Jackson (bass), Mike Darrah (piano) and a couple others.

You could make it a full evening of music at the Blue Wisp (GoogleMap) by getting there after work for happy hour. The free show features The Courthouse Trio with Billy Larkin (piano), Eddie Felson (bass), and Al Beasley (drums) will be taking the stage at 4:30pm, but would make for a great after work stop whenever you get off. There are plenty of food offerings, and of course lots of drinks to choose from.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Streetcar Fun

Mt. Adams Incline in the distance as viewed from 4th & Vine in the 1920's
Streetcar promotion

"Observation Cars" offered scenic rides around the Queen City for a mere 25 cents during the Summer months.
"Highwater Cars" were developed in response to several large floods. These enabled the transportation of people who were in flood-stricken areas of the city.
Fountain Square around 1925
Eden Park entrance in 1905. After stability concerns this streetcar route was moved to Gilbert Avenue, with the bridge later removed.
Downtown streetcar loop plan connecting with several of the nearby suburbs. It's funny how history repeats itself.

If you've enjoyed these photos, feel free to browse through the rest of the photos I've uploaded from the late 19th and early-mid 20th Centuries. You can view the full Photobucket album here, or you can choose to check out the annotated photo thread I've posted on UrbanOhio.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Self-Guided Downtown Walking Tour

I have put together a self-guided walking tour map for Downtown Cincinnati. The tour hits many of the historical gems, local landmarks, and visitor highlights of Downtown Cincinnati. It also offers a great glimpse of the variety of Downtown architecture and urban form.

You can click on the various flags for details are the tour highlights. If taken at a leisurely pace it should take about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete the 2.8 mile tour. Hopefully this will work as a tool for out-of-town visitors, or those looking to reacquaint themselves with Cincinnati's downtown.

More tours will follow that are meant to re-engage people with Cincinnati's center city. Please give feedback on what should be added or omitted, to the tour, and what tours you might like to see in the future.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What does the political shakeup mean for Cincinnati?

No matter which party you subscribe to, and no matter what you think of yesterday's results one thing is sure. Things most certainly have changed, especially so for the Cincinnati area.

President-elect Barack Obama and running mate Joe Biden have stated their support for rail transit before, with Biden going as far to say "we'll be the most pro-rail administration ever." Combine this with the ousting of long-time Congressman Steve Chabot (R) and you have something interesting.

Chabot has long been an opponent to most earmark spending and has not been suportive of transit initiatives in the past. He will now be replaced by westsider Steve Driehaus (D) who has stated that he will "be a strong advocate for this region and a strong advocate for Cincinnati."

This is leaving many to speculate about increased funding for such prominent local projects like The Banks, Brent Spence Bridge (BSB) replacement, Cincinnati Streetcar initiative, Ohio Hub and others. Many of these seem like reasonable expectations. In the past Chabot had voted against money for The Banks and lobbied against initiatives like the Cincinnati Streetcar.

On top of all of this, you have the Obama/Biden infrastructure proposal that is designed to help rebuild our nation's infrastructure by investing in people to rebuild bridges, roads, the energy grid, and other things like rail transit. This could mean hundreds of millions of dollars for the Cincinnati region, leaving projects like the Cincinnati Streetcar, BSB, Ohio Hub, and others sitting pretty that have plans in place and are primed to show immediate results from the infusion of federal money.

So whether you like or don't like the results of yesterday's election one thing seems for sure. Things are going to change dramatically for Cincinnati's political landscape and what it influences. Will it be for the better? The jury is still out, but I guess that also depends on how you think of things like The Banks, Cincinnati Streetcar, Ohio Hub and the Brent Spence Bridge.

America's New First Family - Getty Images

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

No nonsense, just vote

GO VOTE!!! The polling locations are open from 6:30am to 7:30pm. You can find your voting location here by simply entering in your address. It's your right, it's your duty, and it's your time to stand up and voice your opinion about which direction this country is going to head.

If you need some last minute refreshers on the issues and candidates go check out the League of Women Voters website for some of the best, non-partisan voter information out there.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Moerlein Christkindl Tapping

This Friday, November 7th Christian Moerlein will be having their annual keg tapping for their Christkindl Winter Warmer Ale. The tapping will be held at Grammer's and will open at 4pm with the ceremonious keg tapping at 6pm.

The event is also geared as a way to raise money for the Over-the-Rhine Foundation, which is the leading preservation group in historic Over-the-Rhine. $1 from everything Christian Moerlein sells will be donated to the Foundation in addition to a silent auction, raffles and other prizes.

The Moerlein Christkindl Winter Warmer Ale is a malt-bodied ale with a chocolate sweetness. The bold flavor and touch of spice is the perfect winter ale to enjoy this blustery season. Be sure to get the first taste of this seasonal brew at Grammer's (GoogleMap). Admission is free and there is free parking available in the lot accessed from Liberty Street.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Regional SORTA agreement reached

At at 10am meeting this morning City and County leaders announced an agreement over an expanded transit authority. Currently the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which operates Metro, is bounded by Hamilton County's boundaries.

This agreement will for the first time extend their jurisdiction beyond Hamilton County and into Butler, Warren and Clermont Counties. This sets the course for expanded transit service into those surrounding areas underneath one unified authority.

This reorganization, of SORTA, has long been an issue with City Council member John Cranley, County Commissioner Todd Portune and has been championed by Mayor Mark Mallory. These three along with SORTA Board president Melody Sawyer Richardson addressed the media at this morning session.

The reorganized SORTA will now be known as the Greater Cincinnati Regional Transit Authority, and will have a 13 member board made up of 7 members appointed by the City of Cincinnati and the remaining six from Hamilton County. As of yet, the Business Courier has reported that no other elected officials from surrounding counties have committed to participate in the new regional system.

Of those 6 County appointees, three will be selected "with input" from Butler, Warren and Clermont Counties. If those counties decide to formally join the new authority they would then be able to directly appoint board members. The majority control is up for grabs with the City of Cincinnati maintaining that majority for now. If another county or city decides to contribute more than 50% of the authority's budget then they will gain majority control.

The catch here is that those contributions can be measured either through the entities direct contribution or by measuring the total fare revenues paid by that entities constituents. It could also be determined on a per-capita basis of the entities share of their state and federal transit dollars allocated to the Greater Cincinnati Regional Transit Authority.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Looking the Queen Up & Down

I was so lucky to be extended the offer to go up on the Atrium II tower's top level terraces. There were some terrific views that I had not seen before. I was able to get some great aerial shots of construction progress at The Banks and Queen City Square.

The day was somewhat gray, but the photos turned out pretty well considering the conditions. I especially found the views of the Licking River to be most enjoyable, as it is not often that you can get an overview of all its twists and turns through the hills and valleys of Northern Kentucky. Feel free to view the slideshow below, go to the Photobucket gallery, or read through the annotated photo thread I've posted on UrbanOhio.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Two-Wheeled Goodness

For the past month, the City conducted an online poll, gathering input from drivers of scooters and motorcycles regarding where they would like to park in the downtown. Given the rise in gasoline prices and environmental concerns, and the fact that many scooters can achieve over 100 miles-per-gallon, the uptick in demand should be followed up with additional services and facilities for this mode of transport.

The benefits are immediate: scooters and other lightweight two-wheeled vehicles take up far less room than an automobile. They cause far less wear and tear to roads as they are vastly lighter -- in fact, many can be picked up with two bare hands. They require less fuel, and four-cycle motors pollute far less than automobiles.

As a result of public input, the city unveiled its first dedicated, public scooter and motorcycle parking in the city on October 23 at the corner of 8th and Vine (GoogleMap) streets in downtown. Noted as the first of its kind in Cincinnati, it will certainly not be the last; four other such locations will soon grace our downtown streets with the hope that the low-cost initiative is expanded elsewhere.

Unfortunately, many of these parking spaces look temporary. Painted stripes on the ground and signage on poles may allocate room for parking, but it does little when you pass by it and note a sport-utility vehicle or commercial van occupying the entire strip. Installing low-cost curbs or barriers along the street can solve this issue, and will not only increase safety, but institute a psychological barrier that these parking areas are permanent, and are dedicated solely to the two-wheeled variant.

Now only if the city was more proactive in applying the same enthusiasm to bicycles, we would have a much more intermodal city.

If you would like to see this program extended to your neighborhood, or somewhere near your business/residence, then please email the City at

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Future of the City - Monocle

The Future of the City was the theme of the inaugural Monocle + Killik debate held in London. The goal was to look at how to make a city truly livable. The session offers unique perspectives, thoughts, and views from a global perspective. Monocle is a magazine and website founded by Tyler Brûlé, a Canadian journalist and entrepreneur.

You can watch the debate/webprogram here:

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