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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

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