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

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thanks for the memories Huggs

A brief tribute video for former Bearcats basketball coach Bob Huggins. Huggins was back in town to play the Bearcats with his West Virginia Mountaineers team on Thursday. The tribute was gracious - the game not so much as the Bearcats went on to beat the Mountaineers and improve to 18-10 overall and 8-7 in the Big East.

Hopefully this is a cathartic moment for the many basketball fans that never really got over the departure of Huggins. Mick Cronin has done a heck of a job and has achieved success earlier that what many people thought possible.

Thanks for the memories Huggs. Go Bearcats!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mr. Mallory and the Streetcar

In Cincinnati's annual State of the City address, Mayor Mark Mallory took an early opportunity to vaunt about the proposed streetcar system, stating in a lofty voice that "the benefits of the Streetcar system are too significant to allow the naysayers to derail our efforts. The facts are clear. Streetcars must be a part of Cincinnati’s future and we will fight to make it happen."

His charged comments drew one of the largest applause from the crowd of 600 at the Duke Energy Convention Center.

Mallory stated that streetcars and fixed-rail investments will spur new development along its proposed route, citing that the first phase of the streetcar would connect two of Cincinnati's largest employment bases: uptown and downtown, and cut through the heart of Over-the-Rhine. Mallory cited Tampa's TECO Line Streetcar System, which has attracted more than $900 million in new investment and development along the line and Charlotte's streetcar and the LYNX light rail line that has attracted over $1 billion in new investment along the corridor. It goes without saying that the role model for Cincinnati is Portland, where over $2.8 billion has been invested along its streetcar network.

According to HDR Consulting, a modest investment of $102 million to construct phase one of Cincinnati's streetcar would generate $1.4 billion in new investment along the line. While a lot of the funding is in place for phase one, Mallory submitted a request for more than $60 million from President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package with the hope that some, if not all of the requested funding will be received.

If the funding is received, it is conceivable that phase one of the Cincinnati streetcar project can become reality in the next two years. The Cincinnati Streetcar Blog has constructed a map that shows the various alignments proposed, with their mileage and cost labeled. It can also be seen below:

View Larger Map

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Share your thoughts on the Ensemble Theatre

Are you one of the many people who have taken in a show or performance at the Ensemble Theatre? Do you look forward to the theatre's future in Over-the-Rhine and the Gateway Quarter?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you should TAKE THE QUICK SURVEY to let the ETC know what you think about their productions, place in the community and what your ideas are for their ongoing capital campaign to improve the theatre and its facilities.

The survey is available now, and will be up until April 28th. It honestly only takes a couple of minutes and will go a long way in shaping the future operations and physical appearance of the ETC.

Ensemble Theatre expansion news/information on Building Cincinnati

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lessons from Charlotte - New Urbanism

A couple weekends ago I traveled to Charlotte, NC to visit a friend and learn a little more about a relatively young southern city that also considers itself to be the Queen. I took lots of photos and had a great time. Of my experiences, they can be roughly broken down into two main categories for discussion - New Urbanism and Rail Transit.

These two topics are of interest to me because they are areas in which I think Cincinnati can greatly improve. Aside from being a smaller city that hasn't really experienced much growth to speak of until the past two decades, Charlotte has done a good job at implementing the components that are defining America's newest and best cities.

In this article I will discuss a development known as Baxter Village. The neighborhood embodies the 'New Urbanist' ideals that make for a traditional neighborhood design. Now we could debate how "new" these principles are, and just how these development rank in terms of being "urban." My point is simple. If we're going to build suburban communities, this kind of development is better than the standard we have grown accustomed to - especially in the Midwest.

Design influences behaviors:
The homes, in Baxter Village, are built on small lots with small setbacks. Instead of large backyards, the community boasts large common areas for children to play and families to enjoy. What this does is promote a greater sense of community and interaction that was quite evident during the time I spent there.

Click images for larger version

Children played soccer in the street, neighbors chatted with one another from sidewalk to porch, and strangers to the area were even engaged in conversation about the daily joys of dog ownership.

All of this was complimented by the readily available sidewalks that have become more of a rarity than a typical neighborhood feature in our present-day communities. The tree-lined streets provide a comfortable buffer between pedestrians and the slowly moving vehicular traffic, and the large front porches with direct connection to the front sidewalk encourage residents to come out into the open, rather than retreat into the depths of their home or backyard.

With these types of developments two things often happen. 1) They become unreasonably priced for any middle-class homeowners. 2) They give off a Disney feeling of cleanliness and predictability.

Baxter Village was able, in my opinion, to avoid falling into the pit of homogeneity, but the prices still weren't at the levels for most people to consider it affordable. This is unlikely to change until these high-quality developments become more wide-spread thus meeting the demand for such a product and reducing its cost.

Click images for larger version

The first problem was avoided through careful mixtures of architectural styles, a long-build out time, variety in home builders, and gradual maturation. If developed right, these neighborhoods can and will mature beautifully as they have all the staples of a fantastic neighborhood.

In Cincinnati we have been building our communities in a "business friendly" fashion in fear of pushing away any potential investment in our admittedly slow-growth Midwestern city. What this has done is lowered the standard of development and forced Cincinnatians to settle for what works best for the developers bottom line, instead of what works best of our communities and our people.

Maybe higher growth rates will dictate higher demand and a better end product. Maybe our regional population doesn't deserve such qualities? What I think is that our politicians, and our governing bodies should have the backbone to require such a product that is evident in our older neighborhoods that are thriving to this day. Forty years from now are we going to look back at the neighborhoods we're building in the exurbs with the same pride and joy as the inner-city neighborhoods we are working so hard to preserve? Unfortunately, I would say no.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

'Late Night Eats' in Cincinnati

Check out this fun video from Chas Pangburn at Soapbox Media...

SoapboxMedia - Late Night Eats from Chas Pangburn on Vimeo.

2nd Annual Cinciditarod Race (register now)

The first Saturday in March marks the beginning of the annual Iditarod race through Alaska, and for the second year in a row, it marks the beginning of the Cinciditarod race.

There are some slight twists in the Cincinnati version though. Instead of 1,100+ miles through the Alaskan wilderness, it is nearly 5 miles through the urban core of Cincinnati (Downtown, OTR, Newport, Covington). Instead of dogs, it's people. And instead of sleds, shopping carts are used to navigate the course. Teams will pick up items on a grocery list and have 5 mandatory checkpoints along the way.

The registration deadline, for the March 7th race, is this Friday, February 27th by 5pm. Each team consists of 5 members and all participants must be 18 years of age and sign a waiver form with their registration ($25 team registration fee).

Similar events are found throughout the country in cities like San Francisco, Portland, New York and Chicago. All grocery items collected, during the Cincinnati race, go to benefit the Cincinnati Freestore Foodbank.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Dirty Energy Policy: Prelude to Climate Change

Click image for larger version

Brown states balance concerns for our environment, our jobs

A recent New York Times article coined the term “brown state-green state clash,” referring to the opposing viewpoints of politicians from the coasts and politicians from the Midwest and Plains States. “Green states” like California are pushing for higher fuel efficiency, more renewable energy, and other efforts to fight climate change, while “brown states” like Ohio are resisting in order to preserve our manufacturing jobs.

In particular, many brown state officials are opposed to a cap-and-trade system proposed by President Obama. This proposal sets a ceiling on carbon dioxide emissions, giving manufacturers a certain number of credits and allowing them to emit a certain amount of pollutants. If a company reduces its emissions, it can sell its excess credits to companies who pollute more.

After a failed U.S. Senate global warming bill in June 2008, ten senators from coal-dependent, manufacturing-heavy states created the “Gang of 10,” which has since grown to 15 members. Ohio’s Sherrod Brown was part of the original group. Brown claims, “There’s a bias in our Congress and government against manufacturing, or at least indifference to us, especially on the coasts.” He adds, “If we pass a climate bill the wrong way, it will hurt American jobs and the American economy, as more and more production jobs go to places like China, where it’s cheaper.”

This seems to contradict themes echoed in both national and local politics, pushing for more “green jobs.” Environmental blog Gristmill points out that Midwest and Plains States will likely come out ahead job-wise in the push to become green: Plains States have been nicknamed “the Saudi Arabia of wind,” and the Midwest will manufacture wind turbines that are too large to be shipped from overseas. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts says, “A lot of new jobs will be created if we craft a piece of global warming legislation correctly, and that is our intention.”

Clearly, what we have is a disconnect between politicians claiming a green future will create jobs and politicians claiming exactly the opposite.

In Washington state, Democratic Senate leaders plan to direct $180 million of stimulus money to their plan “Clean Energy, Green Jobs.” One aspect of the plan, retrofitting low-income residents’ homes to be more energy efficient, will create an estimated 7,500 jobs over five years. The plan would also create an agency to oversee greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce them to 1990 levels by the year 2017. Republicans oppose the plan, saying that the new restrictions would be an impediment to businesses.

A similar movement is starting to happen in the Ohio state House, where Democrats are pushing for higher energy efficiency standards in public buildings. They claim this will cause job creation in the fields of energy-efficient design and construction. Republican Senator Jimmy Stewart said he supports the plan as long as it doesn’t create additional delays in construction.

Are our politicians effectively balancing concerns for our environment with the need to preserve jobs in our region? Will the green movement cause a gain or loss of jobs? Sound off in the comments section.

Additional reading/Sources:

Photo from Flickr user Caveman 92223

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Planning for the complexities of the human spirit

A friend shared this link with me and it got the wheels turning in my head about something I find particularly interesting. Do we over-emphasize things in our society that should really be shaped by the people who use and occupy them instead of shaping the people who use them?

In an earlier entry I wrote about our emphasis on planning for the inanimate objects in our society (i.e. buildings and infrastructure) and leaving the living things to figure it out once everything else is in its place. In my mind this is a backwards way to plan for a society of people and living things.

An obvious example of this, to me, would be our modern day zoning codes. These well-intentioned codes were developed to help keep the public safe and healthy from the harms of the built environment. What it has also accomplished is an extreme segregation of uses and building types. This seems to be something that is counter-intuitive to the human mind and how people actually function with their surroundings.

Human beings don't inherently look at communicating, interacting, dining, shopping, playing, working and living as being mutually exclusive. Often times these things blur together as you might play where you live, you might shop where you dine, you may work where you live, and you certainly communicate and interact with other people while you do all of these things. So it begs the question - why are we not planning our communities in such a way?

It is a bold complex proposition to plan in such a way as it attempts to plan for the limitless possibilities and extreme complexities of the human mind. It is a planning technique that would celebrate the very things that make humans so special and unique. And I believe that it is something that can be achieved through the great imagination and thoughtfulness of only the human mind.

Photo from Jayson Gomes - CincyImages

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Watch the streetcar debate!

In case you missed it last week, you can now watch the streetcar debate for yourself between John Schneider and Jason Haap. A special thanks goes out to UrbanCincy's newest writer Travis Estell, from Bearcast Radio, for doing the audio and video editing and organizing the production of the whole thing.

You can listen to Travis' weekly show, Explore Cincinnati, on Bearcast Radio (stream live on your computer) tomorrow at 10am. Special guest Mark Miller from COAST will be on the phone to discuss the Inwood Village development project, and COAST's opposition to the use of city funds to structurally secure the historic site.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ohio Film - Music Video Challenge

The Ohio Film Office is sponsoring a music video challenge that is geared to, "support filmmakers throughout the state while partnering with Ohio educational institutions and musical acts."

Each production team has three weeks to partner with a musical act, create a concept, shoot the video, edit the video and post it to be judged (rated) on the official YouTube contest page. Winners will receive a prize package that includes a pair of tickets to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony; an array of services from Ante Up Audio, Greg Wilson Photo, KP Photo, Marengo Luxury Spa; meals at Hard Rock Café and House of Blues; and much more.

You can register online and fill out all the necessary release forms on the contest's website. You can also stay up-to-date through the contest's Facebook Group. The inquiry deadline is February 25th, with all videos completed and posted by March 11th - so the time to act is now.

Submission Requirements:

  1. Make your video
  2. Upload it to YouTube group
  3. Fill out the entry form
  4. View the entries and vote for your favorites

Each video must include one of the following criteria:
  • A location identified by a historical marker
  • A sign that displays the word Ohio in a positive manner
  • Apparel containing team logos that are Ohio based (Cleveland CAVS, Cincinnati Bengals, Columbus Crew, etc.)
  • Items featuring college and university logos. (Akron University, Bowling Green State University, Marietta College, Wright State University, Youngstown State University, etc.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ohio's high-speed rail plans

Thanks to the Obama Administration, $8 billion was worked into the stimulus plan for high-speed rail projects. President Obama also plans to request $1 billion annually over the next five years for high-speed rail.

This is great for the United States and especially great for the Midwest and Ohio. Ohio has been working on right-of-way acquisitions, track upgrades and other items over the past several years to set up for a high-speed rail system operating at 120+mph.

Have you ever wondered how much it would change the face of Ohio? Maybe a Cincinnatian would attend a World Cup Qualifier in Columbus with only a short 1 hour 30 minute train ride. Maybe Cincinnatians would travel north, on a 2.5 hour train ride, to visit Lake Erie during the Summer months instead of taking the 12 hour car ride to Florida.

It makes a lot of sense given Ohio's population density, distribution and layout. It is one of the most densely populated regions/states in the entire nation and is set up extremely well for this kind of a rail system (Ohio Hub Maps/Plans/Details).

3-C Corridor in green

If you would like to see such a system become reality write to your state senator and representatives in Columbus and also drop your D.C. senator and representatives a line while you're at it. Let them know that this is Ohio's future and that you want them to take the political lead in bringing high-speed rail to Ohio.

Ohio is poised to get $8.2 billion from the stimulus plan approved today by President Obama. Of this only a portion will go to high-speed rail. Let your representatives know that a significant allocation, of these resources, should go to high-speed rail and that your vote depends on it.

Please share your thoughts on the system, and how you might use it once it's in place, in the comment section.

Watch a 1:21 long video about the Ohio Hub system

UPDATE: The FRA has designated ten high-speed corridors under section 1010 of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act of 1991 (ISTEA) and Section 1103(c) of the Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). Designation allows a corridor to receive specially targeted funding for highway-rail grade crossing safety improvements, and recognizes the corridor as a potential center of HSR activity.

Agenda 360, a regional action plan

On February 13, Agenda 360, a regional action plan, announced its goals, priorities and strategies for southwestern Ohio including Cincinnati. The event was attended by more than 150 volunteers, government officials, business and civic leaders.

Agenda 360 is an action-oriented plan that desires a sweeping change for the region by the year 2020, in which the metropolitan area leads the nation in retaining and attracting talent, jobs and economic opportunity and development. It's goals by the year 2020 include,

  • Adding an additional 150,000 20 to 34- year-olds to the region's workforce, an increase of 50 percent.

  • Adding 200,000 net new jobs in the region, an increase of 50 percent over the historical job growth rate.

  • Creating economic self-sufficiency for all, and incorporating the United Way goal of income at a minimum of 250 percent above the federal poverty level for all households.

With this, Agenda 360 has set some lofty goals, but it is not without some guidance. In the fall of 2006, about 50 local civic leaders and officials journeyed to Boston to see how they had improved on some of their lingering issues for their region. What they discovered is that the issues that plagued the Boston metropolitan area were the same issues that plagued Cincinnati'. Except that Boston had set a basic list of priorities towards improving the city that were paying out dividends, so to speak.

In early 2007, Agenda 360 was launched using Northern Kentucky's Vision 2015 growth plan as a model. A group of leaders from more than 30 organizations, including heads of labor unions, business groups, social service agencies and public officials, created a framework for tackling the lingering, difficult issues that face southwest Ohio. It partnered with the United Way State of the Community Report, so that poverty levels, educational attainment and health status, for instance, could be closely monitored and tracked - giving Agenda 360 a level of accountability.

Over 7,000 responded to the initial Agenda 360 Community Survey. In the survey, it found,

  • That 93% of respondents strongly endorsed the idea of transforming the region into a leading metropolitan area for talent, jobs and economic development.

  • That Agenda 360 be action-oriented, contain measurable goals, and be held accountable, which was sanctioned by 95% of respondents.

  • That 88% of respondents stated that they wanted Agenda 360 to choose a few key areas to focus on that will "truly transform the region."

  • That the vast majority, 88%, agreed that it was critical that all, regardless of background or view, be included in the discussion.

Agenda 360 outlined six initiatives to focus on,

  • Creating a quality place, where the region creates strong, attractive and functional locales in which to live, work and play. Investment should be placed in strategic locations that have high potential for development and growth, and investments should include smart growth principles, arts and culture corridors partnered through community-based arts and cultural centers, and interconnected green spaces. Locales should be more environmentally sustainable and progressive as well.

  • Fostering business growth, in which the region uses its strengths to retain, attract and create businesses and jobs. Focus should be placed on established industries and ones that are emerging, such as the advanced energy, information technology and life science industries. In addition, the region's strengths - it's health care industry and the international airport, should be leveraged to foster additional growth.

  • Retaining a qualified workforce, in which the region retains its younger generation and provide them with the skills and tools necessary to find good jobs today and into the future. Focus should be placed on the preparation of children, to ensure that they are prepared to enter Kindergarten, and that they are well nurtured into college. In addition, parent-teacher institutes should be formed to keep parents engaged in education, and barriers to college affordability should be eliminated. Finally, the sole focus should not just be on traditional students, but also the adult workforce - more important today during these difficult economic times.

  • Improving transportation, by expanding our options for moving people and freight across the region. Investment should be made into the replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge, a backbone of transportation and economic vitality for the Cincinnati region, and into other transportation nodes that have been built and constructed by other savvy metropolitan regions. Multi-modal freight via road, water, air, and rail should also be emphasized.

  • Including all and working to create a welcoming community to which all people of all backgrounds and views are embraced and their differences are used not to divide, but to be used in the foundation for a community's success. This includes providing health care for all at an affordable price through the Access Health 100 program. A healthy region cannot exist without healthy citizens.

  • And increasing government collaboration, in which many of the cities, counties and townships work together towards common goals.

I'll leave UrbanCincy readers with some quotes that were part of the responses in the initial Agenda 360 surveys,

"Cincinnati is a city with a lot of untapped potential. It is full of beautiful spaces and creative and powerful minds, but there needs to be a place where all this meets up."

"Please don't spend 20 years discussing how to do it! Let's get started with baby steps as soon as possible and keep everyone involved in the bigger vision."

"Historically, Cincinnati has been slow to respond to a changing social and political environment. This kind of a visioning project is necessary to allow the region to properly prepare itself for the future."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Book clubs at the Merc

If you enjoy reading and are looking for an outlet to meet new people, engage in intelligent discourse, and do it all in the heart of Downtown, then the First Wednesday Book Discussion Group at the Mercantile Library may be for you.

Held on the first Wednesday of every month, the group meets from Noon-1pm at the Mercantile Library (GoogleMap). The monthly discussions cover a book of the leader's choice of whom varies by month. The discussions are free for Mercantile Library members, and cost only $5 for nonmembers. Boxed lunches are also available through advanced reservations for $8.

So far in 2009 the group has covered The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter (January) and The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan (February). The March 4th discussion is going to cover Out of Stealing Horses by Per Petterson.

There is also a Graphic Novel Group that meets on the second Saturday of every month at 1pm. This group is free for anyone who wants to participate and is one of the few of its kind in the nation. The book for the March 14th discussion is Watchman by Alan Moore.

If you're interested in participating in either of these discussion groups contact the Mercantile Library at (513) 621-0717 or by email at mercantileinfo[at]mercantilelibrary[dot]com.

The Mercantile Library is a non-profit membership library. First organized in 1835, the library is Cincinnati's "senior" library and one of the oldest cultural institutions in the Midwest. If you're interested in more Mercantile news, reviews and information check out the library's blog - Stacked.

Additional Reading:
Cincinnati Mercantile Library - UrbanCincy

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Transformation of NYC's Madison Square

I've been in a video sharing mood as of late so why stop now when I've got more great material to share. STREETFILMS shares a great piece with us about the transformation of NYC's Madison Square. What was once a mess for autos and a nightmare for pedestrians, bicyclists, etc is now a beautifully landscaped public space.

The street network has been reconfigured and condensed in a way to free up public space that is heavily used. The area has become safer, cleaner, and more pleasant as a result. The film is excellent as it gives a great overview of the transformation and includes fantastic input from the users, of the space, to experts like my favorite - Jan Gehl.

There is another great film about Portland's bicycle parking program. The film looks at on-street bicycle parking and areas known as a 'bicycle oasis.' These are things that could really be looked at as ways of empowering the local bicycling community here in Cincinnati. Enjoy!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Welcome UrbanCincy's New Writers

In an effort to increase the quantity and quality of the content on UrbanCincy four new writers have been added to the roster for a total of five altogether. All of them have contributed in one way, shape or form to UrbanCincy over the years.

Sherman Cahal (Over-the-Rhine), has been with UrbanCincy for several months now contributing content about Cincinnati's history, bicycling community, and photography. He will continue with these roles and look to continue to develop new ideas and content for the site.

Brad Hawse (The Heights), is a returning writer and will look to fill us in on what is happening with Cincinnati's YP community, the Uptown area, and other general news/info.

Chris St. Pierre (CUF), is a new member who will be adding in his expertise on political/legal issues and transportation policy.

Travis Estell (CUF), is the Technology Director for Bearcast Radio and runs the weekly Explore Cincinnati radio show (Fridays @ 10am). Travis will keep us informed on university related items, business news, infrastructure, and local media quips.

Adam Hawkins (Western Hills), has helped UrbanCincy in the past with theatre/performance reviews and will continue to contribute on that front in addition to photography and general musings from a Cincinnati westsider.

If there are certain topics that you think UrbanCincy spends too much or too little time on please let us know. We hope to be able to make the site a more comprehensive place to get all your information on Cincinnati and its urban core. Please feel free to get to know these new writers through their profile links in the left column, and share your thoughts with us in the comment section. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Making Sense of Place Series

Cincy's own Heartless Bastards on Letterman

They're from Cincinnati, David, not Austin. Great performance, great band.

Additional Reading:
Heartless Bastards On Letterman + Bonus MP3 - Each Note Secure
Video of Heartless Bastards on Letterman - CityBeat

PechaKucha debuts in Cincinnati

Cincinnati will be joining the global PechaKucha craze on Friday, February 13th at the Contemporary Arts Center (GoogleMap) downtown. There are currently 168 cities worldwide that have their own regular PechaKucha events typically on a quarterly basis.

The Cincinnati events are being organized by a collection of designers led by Greg Lewis. Like the other chapters, Cincinnati is planning four events for 2009 including the one on Friday. The events are known as being part social, part art, and part ideas. At the first PechaKucha Night Cincinnati you will see presentations by designers, artists, architects, professors, and others.

The dozen presentations or so will begin at 8pm and last until roughly 10pm. Prior to that, guests are invited to tour the CAC galleries, grab a cocktail, and check out the latest exhibits from Tara Donovan and Donald Sultan starting at 6:30pm. After the presentations conclude there will be a DJ to keep the party going right there at the CAC.

Tickets cost $10 for CAC members and $15 for non-members. It is recommended that you bring your ID as there will not be any physical tickets for the event – they will be cross-checking the orders with your ID. Both members and non-members, to the CAC, can order their tickets through the PechaKucha Cincinnati website.

PechaKucha (pronounced Peh-Chak-Cha) is a forum for creative people to informally share their work in public. The name comes from the Japanese term for the sound of conversation (chit-chat). The idea is to give creative individuals a public forum to share their ideas. The presentations are meant to be visually telling, informative, and to the point. PechaKucha uses as 20x20 format – 20 images, 20 seconds each. The result is 6 minutes and 40 seconds of “exquisitely matched words and images that transforms presentations into a compelling beat-the-clock performance art.”

Pecha Kucha - the chit-chat, low-down on Cincinnati's hottest designers - Soapbox Media

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Streetcar debate tomorrow at UC

The CincyStreetcar Blog informs us that there will be an Urban Transportation Debate in regards to the streetcar proposal here in Cincinnati. The event is being hosted by the Center for Sustainable Urban Environments at the University of Cincinnati.

The debate will be held Thursday, February 12th at 4pm inside Swift Hall Room 500 (GoogleMap) on UC’s Main Campus. The debate will pit streetcar proponent John Schneider against streetcar opponent Jason Haap.

John Schneider vs. Jason Haap

John Schneider is Chairman of the Alliance for Regional Transit and Managing Director for First Valley Corp. He has been taking Cincinnatians to tour Portland to see its modern streetcar and light rail systems for several years. John was also one of the driving forces behind the burying and narrowing of Fort Washington Way which has led to the mega riverfront development known as The Banks. Jason Haap is Publisher for the Cincinnati Beacon – a blog turned published opinion paper.

There is no posted ending time for the debate, but everyone is invited to continue the discussion over coffee and food at TAZA afterwards. There is also a Facebook event page for this that you can RSVP to and share with your friends.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A bid farewell to Dr. Nancy Zimpher

As I am completing the final year of my five-year program I feel compelled to write a little bit on my thoughts about the only University of Cincinnati President I've known. Dr. Nancy Zimpher came to UC shortly before I started my academic career there and a lot has changed since then.

The once "out of control" budget has been tamed and is on its way to be balanced. UC is no longer joked about as standing for Under Construction. Academics have improved across the board with higher enrollment standards, reformed programs, and increased achievement. The university is emerging as a major research institution as the amount of research funding continues to rise annually.

The University has embarked on its most ambitious fund-raising campaign ever, rivaling some of the most ambitious campaigns run anywhere. UC is no longer considered a one sport school as our baseball, volleyball, soccer, football, and basketball programs are all competing at the highest level in the Big East Conference.

More students are living on and around campus - shedding the long thought idea that UC is a commuter school. Dr. Zimpher helped lead the effort to freeze tuition at State universities, she has been a proponent for the proposed streetcar system, and she has worked tirelessly to make the Uptown neighborhoods surrounding the university better places to live, work, and play.

Dr. Zimpher pushed for a strategic academic plan that put students at the center of it all. UC|21 has done just that as more students are getting involved, letting their voices be heard, and shaping the way their university does business.

Dr. Zimpher has gone out of her way to make it known that academics come first, no matter what, when she is in charge. The Board of Trustees have some hard work ahead of them to fill the void she'll leave behind, but thanks to her, UC is now on the map and should be a prime destination for another top-level talent like herself.

Thanks for everything you've done for our region's largest employer, university and city. Thanks for making my five years at the University of Cincinnati great, and good luck with your new endeavor as Chancellor of the State University of New York.

Read Dr. Zimpher's farewell letter to the UC Community here.

Photo Credit - UC Magazine

Monday, February 9, 2009

Northern Kentucky to pilot rain barrel program

Northern Kentucky's Sanitation District No. 1 is now taking orders for a pilot rain barrel program, joining the ranks of Mt. Airy and Lexington, Kentucky.

These particular rain barrels were devised by two Lexington, Kentucky women, who developed a rain barrel that collected storm water while doubling as a plant urn with a self-watering wick. The barrel was designed to be aesthetically pleasing, with a spigot for a water hose or for a pail.

"Lily," as it was dubbed, was available for purchase to the first 500 residents for only $75, with the city contributing an additional $75 towards the total cost. Although it was released as a pilot program to raise the region's environmental conscious, the city sold 500 within the first 24 hours.

But why rain barrels?

  • A rain barrel can save money by storing water that can be used for future use. Lawn and garden watering can consume up to 50% of total water usage for a typical household during the summer months. A rain barrel can reduce that usage by 1,300 gallons; one inch of rain on 1,000 square feet can create over 600 gallons of storm water.

  • Foundation walls can be preserved. During extended dry periods, homeowners with basements must water around their foundations to keep them from suffering from the damaging affects of expansive clay soils. A rain barrel with a hose is a perfect way to keep the soils moist. A rain barrel reduces potential flooding in basements. A rain barrel with a soaker hose will slowly release water so that it does not cause ground water problems along a foundation, and will reduce the chance that rain water seeps into a basement.

  • A rain barrel provides a natural water source with a pH level lower than that of potable water. This makes it ideal to water plants and gardens.

  • Rain barrels used throughout a community can control runoff from developed lands, and can reduce the need for massive retention ponds and detention basins that waste space in an urbanized environment. They also reduce direct runoff. Water, as it flows through downspouts and across lawns and driveways, accumulate animal wastes, automotive chemicals and oils, and debris from lawn. While it is inevitable that these will end up in the streams regardless, downspouts aggravate the issue by providing a greater velocity to flush the pollutants into the drainage system. Rain barrels slow down the water and let it soak into the ground.

  • Rain barrels also allow the groundwater to recharge.

Locally, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began a project in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Mt. Airy dubbed "Mt. Airy Rain Catchers" to install rain gardens and rain barrels throughout the neighborhood. The goal was to evaluate how these individual actions can improve local water quality via continuous monitoring of Shepherd Creek pre- and post-improvements. Each residence was eligible to receive up to four rain barrels and one rain garden, with all costs borne by the EPA.

The first installation of a rain barrel was at the Mt. Airy Arboretum building, and with the construction of two demonstration rain gardens at the park in the summer of 2007. This was followed up with the installation of 50 rain gardens and 100 rain barrels throughout the neighborhood. In the spring of 2008, EPA installed 31 additional rain gardens and 60 rain barrels.

Now, Northern Kentucky's Sanitation District No. 1 is taking orders for its pilot rain barrel program with the hopes that it will reduce storm water runoff, improve water quality and promote water conservation. The push came after residents for years have inquired as to where to purchase rain barrels, and after an article was published in "What's Happening! in Boone County, Kentucky." The "Raintainer," otherwise known as the "Lily," is being sold for $124.88. One can also find rain barrels for sale at Park+Vine along Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine.

Photo Credit: Guy Marsden

Historic Bank Street Demolitions (update)

Several weeks ago local and regional preservationists united in an attempt to raise awareness of a potential demolition of four historic buildings in Cincinnati's West End neighborhood. Emails were sent, calls were made, and awareness was reached to a certain extent.

Paul Wilham led these efforts locally and did not have much luck in getting a response back from the Mayor's office on the matter. I sent my own email out on January 9th to all nine members of City Council and the Mayor's office. Last week I got a response from Council member Leslie Ghiz (thank you) that included comments from the City's Code Enforcement Division and Historic Preservation Department.

833-839 Bank Street - Photo by Kevin LeMaster

In the response there were several pieces of useful information. Code Enforcement clarified that the City primarily funds its demolitions with Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). This money is not allowed to be used in demolitions that might have an "adverse impact on a historic structure" as is the case for the Bank Street properties (Streetview). As a result of this contingency, the City engages in very little demolition work of historic structures.

In the particular case here it is the private owner who is preparing to demolish these structures - not the City. The current owners, the Reed family, have applied for the demolition permits and can go forth with the demolitions as planned unless something extraordinary happens.

The Reed family has been the subject of code enforcement actions in the past. Criminal prosecution even occurred in relation to compliance issues for 839 Bank Street. As a result the City has attempted to secure the buildings by barricading them on seven different instances since 2006. The Division cites that they have "no immediate plans to demolish these buildings by governmental action," and that the owner can choose to either demolish the structures as they currently have planned, or they can bring the properties into compliance through repair.

The question was then asked if approval is needed, from the Historic Conservation Office, for private demolition in this historic district. The response was that in this particular case the answer appears to be "no."

Additional Reading:
"West End Buildings Doomed" - Building Cincinnati

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Getting to know Cincinnati's stimulus projects

If you're not already familiar with Cincinnati's stimulus projects then I suggest you get familiar. Cities from around the country have submitted their "shovel ready" projects to be considered for stimulus money. Cincinnati's list has 48 projects* totaling $434,916,420.

Projects big and small fill out the list. You will find Cincinnati's proposed streetcar system, streetscape improvement projects, RecycleBank, green roof projects, street grid for The Banks, stabilization/control of the Ohio River for the new Central Riverfront Park (CRP), forest carbon sequestration, and much more.

A new site - Stimulus Watch - allows you to look through the submitted items from cities all across the nation. The website allows you to vote on each of the submitted items. You can select 'Yes' or 'No' as to whether you feel that particular project is critical and worthy of stimulus money. The site then categorizes these projects nationally by the Most and Least Critical, Most Expensive, and Most Active (by votes).

So far Cincinnati's projects are faring quite well with the streetcar project leading nationally as the Most Critical project according to voters. Also high on the list is the street grid project for The Banks development, bank stabilization for the CRP, and streetscape improvements throughout Over-the-Rhine.

Visit the CINCINNATI PAGE to view all of Cincinnati's included projects, and give your input on what you would and would not like to see the stimulus money go towards locally.

*DISCLAIMER - These projects are not part of the stimulus bill. They are candidates for funding by federal grant programs once the bill passes.

Melting into downtown

Like many small businesses, Cincinnati’s favorite eclectic deli has aspirations to expand beyond its current location in Northside. Melt Eclectic Deli has been consistently rated one of Cincinnati’s best vegetarian and sandwich options, and is a staple in the diverse and vibrant Northside neighborhood business district.

In July 2008, popular green general store, Park + Vine, started offering sandwiches, noodles and other vegan fare from Melt. The offerings have been a popular addition to the Park + Vine food and drink collection. Park + Vine owner, Dan Korman, goes on to say that the two businesses have a very similar base of supporters. “We routinely hear people say they're on their way to Melt or that they just came from there,” Korman says, “and that's saying a lot considering our two businesses are five miles apart."

Melt Eclectic Deli - Scott Beseler (Soapbox Media)

The kinship between the two stores has grown beyond the food offering at Park + Vine (GoogleMap). The two stores are now offering a cross-coupon promotion good through March 31st: when you buy one menu item at Melt greater than $6, present the Melt coupon and receive $2 off a second menu item of equal or lesser value. While you're there, pick up a Park + Vine coupon for $10 off a purchase of $40 or more.

Melt has more plans though beyond the cross-coupon promotion and select product offerings at Park + Vine. Lisa Kagen, owner and business manager of Melt Eclectic Deli (GoogleMap), has told UrbanCincy that she is interested, and currently speaking with several property owners, about the possibility of a new store in either Downtown or Over-the-Rhine.

The popularity of Melt’s products at Park + Vine has led to speculation about a possible Melt location somewhere in the Gateway Quarter. Kagen says, “There is a lot at stake and many details still need to be worked out,” but she hopes to come to a conclusion by the end of the year.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

CAC Winter Season Opening Night

Donald Sultan’s first United States exhibition of his early linoleum paintings will be in Cincinnati at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) known as Donald Sultan: The First Decade. Tara Donovan will also be making her Cincinnati debut of her sculptural works at the opening night (2/6) for the CAC’s Winter Season 2009.

CAC Insiders can enjoy cocktails with artists Tara Donovan and Donald Sultan starting at 6pm, followed by gallery talk and book signing with Sultan at 6:30pm. Also at 6:30pm, CAC Members will be able to get a private exhibition preview. At 8pm the party will start with DJ Iceburg which will be open to the public and boast a cash bar lasting until 11pm.

Make it a night: Grab dinner at Nada located right across the street from the CAC. After the party ends at the CAC keep it going by hitting up Downtown Cincinnati’s newest bar at Bootsy’s which is just steps from the CAC’s front door (GoogleMap).

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ohio shoutouts!

I've added two new blogs to the blogroll - ColumbusUnderground and Northcoast Lifestyle. The new blogroll additions represent Columbus and Cleveland respectively and are some pretty great sites if you take the time to check them out.

ColumbusUnderground is an extremely comprehensive site covering all things going on in Ohio's capital city. It is the primary online forum for city bloggers and gives constant updates on everything of interest in Columbus.

Northcoast Lifestyle is a more personal weblog approach than ColumbusUnderground. The site covers events and happenings in the Cleveland area and does it from a personal perspective. The writing is great and the photography is even better. Check it out.

A taste of Cincinnati's Climate Protection Action Plan

In September of 2007, Mayor Mallory pushed for the creation of an Environmental Quality Department. This department would oversee the City’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions and hopefully bring Cincinnati in alignment with goals set forth by the Kyoto Protocol set globally in 1992 (183 parties have ratified the Protocol as of 2008).

The Climate Protection Action Plan (CPAP) is the primary document and driving force behind Cincinnati’s localized efforts to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. The plan has short, medium, and long term Greenhouse Gas reduction goals which average out to an annual GHG reduction of 2%.

  • Short Term – Reduce GHG emissions 8% below 2006 levels by 2012
  • Medium Term – Reduce GHG emissions 40% below 2006 levels by 2028
  • Long Term – Reduce GHG emissions 84% below 2006 levels by 2050

Within the CPAP there are 5 identified categories that include more than 80 Emission Reduction Measures. One of these measures – eating less meat – has gotten significant coverage over the past 24-36 hours and has caused quite a stir.

The idea is that people try to go one day a week without eating meat. It’s not a mandate or policy, just a suggestion. The response though has been chaotic and emotionally charged with comments filled with anger and misunderstanding.

The fact is that reduced meat consumption can have a very significant impact on our GHG emissions (read CPAP excerpt below). If all Cincinnati residents were to, on average, eat meat one less day per week it would constitute a 14% reduction in meat consumption. That 14% reduction would translate into the reduction of 26,400 tons of GHG emissions by 2012 (short term) and 52,800 tons by 2028 (medium term). This reduction is more profound than the estimated GHG emission reduction by Energy Star Residential Construction (2,500 tons by 2028), Programmable Thermostats (35,000 tons by 2028), Increased Bicycle Usage (6,300 tons by 2028), or Hybrid Transit Busses (12,771 tons by 2028).

Summary of specific issues – A 2006 report by the United Nations‘ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Livestock’s Long Shadow, found that the production of animals for food is responsible for over 18% of the planet‘s greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than twice that of the office buildings and homes (8%) and nearly 40% more than transportation emissions (13%). This figure represents 9% of the planetary carbon dioxide emissions, 37% of the methane (mostly from livestock flatulence and waste matter) and 65% of the nitrous oxide; the latter two gases having 23 times and 296 times the global warming potentials of CO2.

The report concluded ―The livestock sector emerges as one of the... most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global and finds it must become a major policy focus.

A 2005 University of Chicago report, Diet, Energy and Global Warming (597kb pdf) found that the added burden of meat diets above plant based diets accounts for 6% of US total greenhouse gas emissions. The Standard American Diet (SAD), of which around 28% of the caloric intake is derived from meat, produced 1.485 metric tons CO2 equivalent emissions (per person per year) more than an all plant based diet (a conservative figure). A red meat eater‘s mean diet increased this number to 2.52 tons CO2e. This is the equivalent difference between driving a sedan (Camry) and an SUV. A diet of just 20% meat produced an added GHG burden of 1 ton CO2e per person annually; this is the difference between a year of driving a standard sedan (Camry) and the highest efficiency hybrid (Prius).

With 80% of annual world deforestation connected to animal agriculture, an area the size of a football field is razed every second, a practice which has been termed ―"the 'hamburgerization' of our forests." A single SAD meal levels 55 square feet of rain forest.

Estimated greenhouse gas reduction to be achieved – 26,400 tons by 2012 (10% reduction in meat consumption x 20% of the population and 100% reduction by 3% of the population x 1.6 tons/person); 52,800 tons by 2028 (20% reduction in meat consumption x 20% of the population and 100% reduction by 6% of the population x 1.6). The goal will be to have all Cincinnati residents, on average, eat meat one less day per week by 2012, which would be a 14% reduction in meat consumption. The projected GHG emission reductions are based on a more conservative forecast of actual behavior.

Read the full report here (1.94mb pdf).

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Cincinnati Water Taxis?

Cincinnati is a river town. We developed as a major city because of the Ohio River. Multiple satellite cities developed as a result of the several Ohio River tributaries (Little Miami, Great Miami, Licking). These cities have become an integral part of our region and have greatly influenced the population distribution we see today.

Steamboats once darted all over the mighty Ohio River taking people to/from nearby cities and within our own to special destinations like Coney Island. Aside from the historic Anderson Ferry operation there is nothing left to speak of in terms of human transportation along our rivers.

Why not once again tap one of the biggest natural resources our community has as a means for transporting people?

View Larger Map

Cincinnati could set up a Central Riverfront water taxi loop that would make stops at Cincinnati’s Central Riverfront Park, Newport on the Levee, and Covington Landing. This 1.65 mile loop could operate daily with one 12 passenger boat running the loop (15min). On the weekends, and for sporting events, a second 12 passenger boat could be deployed to handle greater demand for a route geared towards tourists and special event patrons. The water taxi loop’s reach would be extended with Cincinnati’s proposed streetcar system – making a car-free trip both easy and possible from downtown Covington and Newport all the way to the University of Cincinnati.

Linear routes could then be set up to run to the Central Riverfront Park terminal from the current Anderson Ferry terminal (6.88miles, 28min) to the west and new stops in Columbia Tusculum (4.66miles, 21min) and Coney Island to the east. The Anderson Ferry and Columbia Tusculum docking points would operate daily for commuter traffic, with the additional eastern leg to Coney Island operating on weekends and during special events at Riverbend and Riverdowns - similar to the function of the old "Island Queen" that operated between Coney Island and Downtown Cincinnati.

The water taxis used for the linear routes would hold 27 passengers seated and up to 6 additional standing passengers. Peak operating hours would be during daily commute periods for the Anderson Ferry and Columbia Tusculum terminals with 1 boat operating on each respective leg making for new departures every 40min to 1hr.

Too often we seem to forget how our city and region once functioned when it operated out of a manner of necessity. Riverdowns is feeling the pinch and Coney Island isn't what it once was prior to the opening of Kings Island. Riverbend has opened a new pavilion and continues to draw big names, but additional service to the concert venue probably wouldn't hurt.

UPDATE: Covington City Manager, Project Executive for The Banks, and several other riverfront business leaders are working together on collaborative efforts including water taxis - Enquirer 2/16/09.

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