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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.

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