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Friday, February 29, 2008

Ich möchte einen Toast auf Grammer's ausbringen!

Translation: I'd like to propose a toast to Grammer's!

I'll be honest I had never been in Grammer's before last night. I am a relatively new resident of this great city and had not had the opportunity to enjoy Grammer's prior to 1992, when it closed. Let me tell you. It seems like the place never closed. There were easily 100-150 people at the opening of Grammer's last night. You could barely move in the bar area, and many of the tables were full as well. Like I had said in my last post, Beer and Brats... what else do you need? This place is going to do amazingly well. What a GREAT building. It screams its German heritage loud and clear. Old Steins are everywhere, and the basement area is going to be one of my favorite spaces in the city, once the renovations are complete. In general, this could become my NEW favorite hang out. Prost!

No real menu yet, but the management expects a full restaurant in about a year. Other developments should start popping up around Grammer's at about that same time.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

OTR = Food & Drinks

This past week has been a truly remarkable time for our favorite previously neglected neighborhood.

On Tuesday, Lavomatic opened on Vine Street. Jean Robert's new restaurant opened in an old Laundromat and serves a very rough blend of French and local cuisine. I had the opportunity to try it out and I can say that you will not be disappointed. The space is wonderful. Light colored walls and a completely glass street frontage, makes it a very bright and welcoming space. Upstairs (not quite open yet) the dinning room continues inside and out. The terrace is larger than what I had been expecting. The space is going to be a wonderful place to relax, eat some great food and sip a glass of French wine.

The food was amazing, as expected. I started off with their daily special appetizer, a smoked trout salad. Simply Stunning. My entree and dessert of salmon on a bed of couscous, and crème Brule, were just as spectacular. Also the wine selection was very small, but I was told that they will be expanding it before the weekend. With entrees between 12-24 dollars it is probably the most affordable of Jean Robert's places. I honestly can't wait to go back and sit on the terrace.

Today, Grammer's reopens. A true Cincinnati Gem that I honestly can't wait to go to. It's basically going to have my two favorite things. Beer and Bratwursts. It promises to become a staple of Over-the-Rhine once again, especially with some of the redevelopment opportunities that have been recently hitting the presses.

What an exciting time for OTR and the city in general. It is hard not to get wrapped up in the momentum that we are experiencing right now in our neighborhood.

Lavomatic on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cincinnati's Mark Twain complex

Is Cincinnati ready to shed the Mark Twain complex? That infamous quote seems to rear its ugly head too often, and unfortunately is seemingly reinforced by the moves/actions of local politicians, businesses and residents.

I’ve been called “viciously optimistic” about Cincinnati before, but I know when to call a duck a duck. The Banks is going to happen and it will be sooner rather than later, but it has taken us a decade to get this far. Cincinnati finally told Eagle Realty to take a walk after wasting years of time with the valuable 5th & Race location.

Cincinnati is on the cusp of a vote on the Cincinnati Streetcar proposal. This is something that many cities are looking into, but we are one of the furthest along in the development process. Cincinnati, yes CINCINNATI has the opportunity to do something that cities like Atlanta, Washington D.C., Portland and Columbus (to name a few) are all trying or have done the modern streetcar push.

Well what do you know…a couple of weeks before the Finance Committee is to vote on the proposal John Cranley publicized a 9-page list of questions – questions that have been answered by city staff and City Manager Milton Dohoney. These answers will be presented at the Finance Committee hearing on February 25th…however it seems VERY unlikely that it will budge Cranley on his views one bit.

To throw another wrench in the works, Roxanne Qualls suggests that another route altogether might be a better idea. You know nothing is more productive than waiting until 5 days before the hearing and suggesting that we start from scratch.

I won’t bore you with why the current proposal is solid, and why I think these politicians are simply employing stall tactics…but rather I will make the bold statement that Cincinnati shed this Mark Twain complex and start proving to our citizens that we can do big things, and we can do them quickly/efficiently.

Image Credit:
Twain With Pipe from the Kingwood College Library

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Art by Erikyasha

I thought I would mix things up a little bit and plug a local artist. Erikyasha has a variety of techniques and styles, but tends to use mechanical pencils, Faber Castel pens, Copic markers, and then takes his pieces into Photoshop and further toys with them.

He definitely has an interesting style that is fun and enjoyable. Check it's definitely worth a browse through the gallery.

Image Credit:
Rock and or Roll by Erikyasha

Thursday, February 14, 2008

With a face like this...

How can you not like polar bears. Well, Maurice Smith from Walton, Kentucky isn't a big fan. From the 2/14 Enquirer:

Thank God President Bush is concerned about the supply of oil for our country. The radical global warming extremists are willing to destroy the entire country and our economy for the sake of polar bears, even though the polar bear
population is much larger than it has been for years. A major portion of the cost of a gallon of gas is to satisfy environmental extremists.

Maurice W. Smith

I guess it depends on how you define 'major.'

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Soapbox Cincinnati: A new Cincy gem

I won't say much...I'll let Soapbox Cincinnati e-zine do the talking for themselves:

The passion that drives the staff of this new weekly experiment is the desire to find the innovative, the hip, the inspirational, the quirky and the positive that make up this city of ours. Cincinnati is a community of delicious tensions -- a city of risk-takers and a city of critics. We praise innovation but worry about too much change happening too quickly. We value development and expertise but are quick to mock insincerity and celebrity. We look to magazines to rate us but rise up in righteous anger against anyone who talks trash about the 'Nati. We are political, but too polite to talk about it at the dinner table. We are east and west; north of the river and south of the river; urban, suburban and exurban. We are upper, middle and lower; gay and straight; black and white and Asian and Hispanic and Indian and African; and a mosaic of traditions and cultures too rich to list, and yet our conversations about diversity never creep past our geography or zip codes. We are all these things and so much more than a rant on a bar stool. So climb up on this Soapbox of ours and take a look around. We exist to tell the story of a city in sustained transformation. Our goal is to have you seeing Cincinnati differently. And if we don't, you're always welcome to rant, but when you're through don't be surprised to hear us say, "I hear you, but what are you going to do about it?"
Soapbox Cincinnati seems to be yet another outlet for those who feel a change is needed in Cincinnati. For too long Cincinnati has been made up more pessimists than optimists. It is the new blogs like UrbanCincy, and those in my blogroll, that are helping change the perception of Cincinnati. We have the power to change Cincinnati with our words, thoughts, and information...and it is great to have a new outlet like Soapbox Cincinnati around.

Monday, February 11, 2008

SoHo of the Midwest?

I wasn't able to attend the recent Cincy bloggers tour of the Gateway Quarter, but I've got some thoughts on the things happening in OTR nonetheless. 3CDC is making tremendous progress on its projects, and there are a stream of other investments that are complimenting these investments by 3CDC (see Washington Park, SCPA, Cincinnati Arts Academy, Main Street businesses, etc).

When you then think about the even greater potential, for private investment, that will be made possible by the Cincinnati could really make you weak in the knees. I understand the issue of gentrification and/or displacement and it is certainly an issue that will have to be addressed as these efforts continue, but right now there is PLENTY of room for everyone to coexist.

I look at OTR and see that often talked about potential for Cincinnati. This is a neighborhood/built environment that VERY few cities can match...anywhere! When I see the things going on in the Gateway Quarter I can't help but think of OTR becoming the SoHo of the Midwest. This is an opportunity for Cincinnati to be a major draw for YPs, the creative class, and new businesses. If ever the opportunity has is now. Cincinnati stand strong, this is your time!

So what do think should become of OTR? Do you see the SoHo that I see...or something else, please share your thoughts.

The rendering is of the proposed new infill (by 3CDC) called Trinity Flats on Vine Street. You can see images of the structures that were taken down HERE.

First Impressions are a Wonderful Thing

The dynamic, eclectic, increasingly safe neighborhood known as the Gateway Quarter is the latest chapter in seemingly unending book of urban revitalization efforts in Cincinnati. The Gateway Quarter is reinventing Over-the Rhine in many ways. The work by Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) continues to bring quality redevelopment efforts to an area town that has seen better days. I had the opportunity, along with some other members of the Cincinnati blogging community, to take a tour of the latest projects that 3CDC is developing.

It is important to note that in previous attempts to revitalize OTR, the incrementalized approach helped incorporate many constituencies in the effort, but in the end, did not create that critical mass of residents, that would sustain growth. The new approach, by 3CDC, is to buy up a large portion of entire blocks, in order to create a more complete developmental pattern. It seems as though 3CDC understands that perception is OTR’s biggest enemy and that in order to change that they would have to condition their developments to create positive energy, and positive perception. They have done a wonderful job so far.

All of the units that we toured, Centennial Row, Duncanson Lofts, Gateway Condos, and Duveneck Flats, were all very unique in their unit layout and design. As we walked through all of the different options it was apparent how distinctive this kind of tour was. They were selling the neighborhood, as much as the actual units. Instead of each developer promoting their property to the buyers, this group was able to come together, and create a cooperative environment that should set an example for other development corporations.

It is hard not to get wrapped up in the vibrant, effervescent reaction that these developments give off. I feel confident that the work will continue, that the momentum is gaining, and that even now, this is a neighborhood that we should be proud of.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Thursdays at the Wisp

There is a new weekly activity that is sure to please…Thursday nights at the Blue Wisp are now UrbanCincy nights. When you go you can now get $3 off of the cover charge – typically $8 reduced to $5 for readers of UrbanCincy. The first Thursday night special will be on Valentines Day with the Dan Faehnle Quartet taking the stage. Dan Faehnle is know for his jazz guitar and even better - he's an Ohio native.

But before the first Thursday night special, there is another performance which is definitely worth checking out. World renowned organ virtuoso, Joey DeFrancesco, will be performing with his trio on February 12th for two shows (7:30pm & 9:30pm). This is a fantastic opportunity to check out a simply outstanding performance that will be full of blistering speed and fantastic control. Make sure you come and see what the hype is about and make your reservations now.

Spread the word and tell everyone you know about the new UrbanCincy nights at the Blue Wisp.

Preview Dan Faehnle's latest record - Ohio Lunch - now!
Preview Joey DeFrancesco now!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Downtown/OTR top living destination(s) - Reader's Choice

In what turned out to be the most active poll to date, Downtown/OTR ran away with the selection as being the top living destination as per the readers of UrbanCincy. The Downtown/OTR selection accounted for 45% of the overall vote...way ahead of the second place finisher (Mt. Adams) which finished with 12% of the vote.

Some complained that it isn't necessarily correct to group places like Downtown and OTR, as well as, places like Hyde Park and Oakley. The goal was not to lump the places together, but rather group them together for their geographic relationship to one another.

So like always, please do tell why you voted the way you did...if you voted for Downtown/OTR did you prefer one over the other?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Mayor Mallory's State of the City Address

The Mayor delivered his state of the city address to a capacity crowd at the Playhouse in the Park.  Many more attempted to make reservations, but were placed on a waiting list.  Overall the Mayor used the speech to recap the year's developments and progress rather than propose any new legislation or initiatives.  

Among the highlights:

"Build a Streetcar System that connects Downtown to Uptown."

"Which brings me to what may be an uncomfortable conversation for some.  But as a city, we have to take on tough issues. And, ex-offender employment is one of those tough issues.  I told you earlier that employment is the number one request from the people that CIRV has engaged.  If we are going to truly grow our economy, we have to give opportunity to all citizens. Too many people are being excluded from employment because of mistakes in their past.  This may be unpopular, but I am telling you, this has to happen.  By opening the doors of economic opportunity to more citizens we will make our community safer and healthier."

"Youth employment is a top priority of my administration.  Through our Jobs and Opportunities Fair and the City’s Youth Employment Program, we have provided thousands of young people the opportunity to find employment.  In fact, our program was presented as a best practice at the US Conference of Mayors and at the Mayors Innovation Project in Washington DC.  Our program has been so successful that I am proposing that we increase the funding for the Cincinnati Youth Employment Program to $2 million dollars a year in the next city budget. "


Two years ago, I told you that we were going to develop a program to focus city services on individual neighborhoods.  Last year, we launched the Neighborhood Enhancement Program.  It concentrates city services in targeted neighborhoods for 90 days.  Last year, the program targeted Price Hill, Avondale and Northside.  This year, we’re focusing on Clifton Heights, University Heights, Fairview, Westwood, and Evanston.  With this new approach, we’re focusing on concentrated building code enforcement, tearing down problem buildings, and addressing crime hot-spots.  And in partnership with the community, we are developing neighborhood assets.  The program is transforming neighborhoods throughout the city. "

"Which brings me to one of the most important opportunities that we have in Cincinnati: the 2010 Census.  We know that census numbers matter.  What you may not know is that 170 Federal Programs use Census Data to make funding decisions.  In order for Cincinnati to receive our fair share, we must have the most accurate Census count possible.  So, we must begin planning now for 2010."

At the end of the speech inspirational music started playing over the Mayor's closing remarks.  Those in attendance thought it odd, but it may have worked on television.

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