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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Uptown Commons update and breakdown

Towne Properties has released more details and more renderings for their Uptown Commons project on the southern edge of the University of Cincinnati located in between Calhoun and McMillan streets. The renderings themselves are high-quality, but I'm going to take this chance to share some of my thoughts and concerns on this developing project plan.


Office building located at Vine, Calhoun, and McMillan streets looking west

The design for the office building is solid and I think will work well for this site both aesthetically and functionally. The scale of the building seems right and I really appreciate the use of glass to give it a more contemporary feel in the contemporary feeling Uptown area.


The park space seen in the above image seems to illustrate the incorporation for any future streetcar that might run up Vine and cut over to run west along Calhoun. This is a forward-thinking approach that will pay off big time for both the community and Towne Properties when the streetcar system is built.

Office building looking west from Old St. George church

On the site plan this area behind the office building is labeled as a plaza. From this view though it just has me confused what it would ever be used for especially with the apparent wall along Calhoun Street. There is the potential for a highly used plaza here with the new office building and other nearby commercial uses, but the spot will surely have to be better thought out than what this rendering indicates for it to really work.


Overall view of project site

If a new traffic signal is installed at Ohio Avenue per this plan, then the traffic signal at Scioto should be removed. Ohio and Calhoun is often congested and could probably use the signal for improved vehicular and pedestrian safety. Scioto and Calhoun doesn't really need the signal as the southern portion of Scioto is rarely used due to its steep incline and the northern portion isn't really used at all as service to the university is now routed through Dennis Street adjacent to Panera Bread.


The whole project could use more residential units if you ask me. Office space and the hotel will be great additions to this area of Uptown and will help to diversify the mixture of uses, and also spur more activity during non peak school times. McMillan Street also seems to get ignored to a certain extent. The previous idea of townhouses here seemed to work well, but probably not any more with this terrible housing market.

Renderings provided by Cole + Russel Architects

11 comments:

Radarman said...

Looks too car-oriented. Towne gets credit for taking on the project, but gets demerits for cold feet over walkability issues.

Anonymous said...

This building should really engage the corner and provide protection for the outdoor space. These corner "parks" and green edges are too suburban and not realistic given how busy this street intersection is. People simply will not enjoy sitting out there with all the traffic going by. This is an urban landscape, which would suggest that the building reinforce the street edge; not retreat inland. I don't feel the architecture has quite made it yet - it's "soft contemporary." The design needs to be elevated another notch or two. Also, I thnk a shadow study is in order - the rendering makes this building appear HUGE. Looks like a floor could be removed to bring it more in line with the scale of the surrounding area.

Randy Simes said...

Anon,

"People simply will not enjoy sitting out there with all the traffic going by."

I don't agree with this part. Currently the several restaurants (Potbelly, Panera Bread, Currito, BW3s) all have significant outdoor dining space right on the Calhoun Street sidewalk and they are heavily used during nice weather.

I think traffic needs to be slowed down through here due to the heavy pedestrian traffic, but it certainly isn't driving away outside diners.

Mark Kinne said...

Looks a bit out of scale to me, when compared with the two to three story buildings in the neighborhood surrounding it. I also agree that at least the Vine Street elevation is a bit too much like what you'd find in a suburban office park. As for the plazas I agree with anon, that the architecture should frame open space, and provide uses that activate what could otherwise become dead zones. As it stands the Vine Street Plaza feels too exposed, I'd love to see the building address the corner better. That said it's nice to see this moving forward. That site has been empty for far too long.

Jared said...

In regards to the corner park, I have to agree somewhat with Anon in that it will be underutilized, much like the park that is currently directly across the street. But Randy, you may be right in that they are simply reserving this space for a street car line merging on to Calhoun.

One question about that, though; if the street car line is coming north on Vine and will cut through the park to get to Calhoun, how and where does it cross south-bound vine traffic?

Randy Simes said...

Jared,

"One question about that, though; if the street car line is coming north on Vine and will cut through the park to get to Calhoun, how and where does it cross south-bound vine traffic?"

I would imagine you could time the two lights so that the streetcar could roll through the light at Vine & McMillan and then make its cut across the southbound Vine lanes as the traffic light at Vine & Calhoun holds traffic during its normal cycle.

I don't know for sure, but that's just the first solution that popped into my head. If it doesn't utilize this space then it will most likely just turn at the light at Vine & Calhoun like normal.

Sandy Wilson said...

The plaza referred to, is part of a Gateway Green Space. The original plan, if anyone can remember back that far, called for a park in the center of the development. UC's economics drove the park out of the plan and this is what the community got in its place. Isn't it nice?

Anonymous said...

If you look at the birds eye rendering, this new building at Vine and Calhoun is in line with those on the west side of Jefferson. Could Vine be straighted out starting below McMillian connecting to Jefferson? Had that ever been talked about?

These early drawings are not especially thrilling especially compared to the early ones before Towne Properties. I was however, very happy to see St. Georges taken into consideration with the plaza directly in front of it (without the wall) - felt I was looking at something in Europe. The view from that whole stretch has got to be great.

The housing slump is not going to last forever. They should build with an eye towards the future.

If the park (s) are designed more intensely/interestingly less boring, they won't seem so horribly suburban.

Randy Simes said...

Anon,

"If you look at the birds eye rendering, this new building at Vine and Calhoun is in line with those on the west side of Jefferson. Could Vine be straighted out starting below McMillian connecting to Jefferson? Had that ever been talked about?"

This certainly is a possibility, but I'm not sure if this was their reasoning, or if this has been discussed in any detail. I will follow up with Towne Properties and CHCRUC about the item, because it certainly is a good idea.

It might be contingent upon whether Short Vine is reconnected with Vine through University Plaza. If this happens, then the straightening of Vine to Jefferson is somewhat irrelevant. If it doesn't happen, this could be a great way to clean up that mess of intersections.

Jenkay said...

I live behind the Tuxedo Shop on McMillan, and the empty lot between mcmillan and calhoun is currently being used as parking and tailgating space. It is a convenient way to get across to campus, and from the looks of the site plan, my "front yard" is going to be turned into parking. GREAT. what that space NEEDS to be to serve the community is green space. There are no plazas or parks in that particular area (closest being at the end of Ohio and on Ravine) and the LAST thing we need is more parking.

also, the UPA buildings are scams - they end up selling a two bedroom apartment (housing four people) for over $1000 a month. it's not remotely worth the money.

more greenspace, less parking. a nicer grocery than stab n' grab (excuse me, stop n' go) would be nice too.

Christian said...

"The design for the office building is solid and I think will work well for this site both aesthetically and functionally. The scale of the building seems right and I really appreciate the use of glass to give it a more contemporary feel in the contemporary feeling Uptown area."

This project is COMPLETELY out of scale. Additionally...MORE open space? Here in Cincinnati, there's an obsession with open space when we already have plenty of it.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the parcels between Calhoun and McMillan Streets do NOT need to be developed by a single developer. Huge mistake.

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