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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This Week In Soapbox 6/30

This Week In Soapbox (TWIS) you can read about the future of the Kahn's facility in Camp Washington, Nordstrom's first Cincinnati location, the ripple effects surrounding the transition at Stratford Heights, a facelife for the 175 year-old Mercantile Library and Agenda 360's rallying cry.

If you're interested in staying in touch with some of the latest development news in Cincinnati please check out this week's stories and sign up for the weekly E-Zine sent out by Soapbox Cincinnati.

TWIS 6/30:
  • The future of the Kahn's facility in Camp Washington - full article
  • Nordstrom to open 138,000 square foot store in Kenwood this summer - full article
  • The ripple effects of Stratford Heights transition - full article
  • 175 year-old Mercantile Library to receive major facelift - full article
  • The Agenda 360 rallying cry - full article

Broad Support

What do the mayor of Cincinnati, eight of the nine incumbents for City Council and eight of the non-incumbent candidates for council have in common? It’s not their political party; Republicans, Democrats and Charterites alike are all on this list.

(UPDATE: The number is actually 16 of 18 candidates for Council. My mistake.)

All of them believe that proposed amendment to the City’s Charter that would effectively ban rail transit for our region takes us in the wrong direction. They believe that at this time of economic uncertainty, we should be looking for ways of keeping and enhancing Cincinnati’s competitive edge, not finding ways to diminish it.

There is no better way to maximize the attraction of our city to the young, talented, and mobile than by building the streetcar. It is an investment that will encourage and guide development while making people’s movement within the city more efficient.

But there is another reason that so many of our leaders of today and tomorrow are urging us to vote against this Charter amendment. The language in it is so broad that its passage would diminish Cincinnati’s ability to receive federal funding for regional high-speed rail. Even streetcar opponents are leery of this amendment because it puts an election, which is expensive, between the city and its request for federal dollars.

Just about every city and state in the nation bids for a limited pool of federal funding for specific transportation projects, like high-speed rail, so the competition for those dollars is tough. Only the regions best able to demonstrate a need, and do so in a timely manor, will be considered. Forcing a vote will delay our proposals, and we will all watch the federal funding to offset the local cost vanish.

To keep the city competitive, we cannot stand in the way of this golden opportunity to enhance local development by connecting our region to other successful areas like Chicago.

Tell us what you think: Do you think that this amendment would be beneficial to the city? Or would its adoption diminish our region’s competitiveness?

For further reading:
Pro-amendment: We Demand a Vote
Pro-progress: Cincinnatians for Progress
US Department of Transportation re: Ohio's importance to High Speed Rail

Monday, June 29, 2009

The next phase for UrbanCincy

As of today I have started a new job in Atlanta that will have me traveling all over for the next year or so. In the mean time I will still be running UrbanCincy as always and look to engage additional writers and contributors to those currently on staff.

I will be back and forth between Atlanta and Cincinnati, but will not be able to provide that grassroots level commentary as much as I would like (this is where the writers come in). I will be taking what I learn from my travels and relay that information to you while offering up solutions to problems we have in Cincinnati, or just offer up ways in which we could be an even better city.

I will also continue to relay information about what is going on in Cincinnati's urban core in terms of events, discussions and opportunities to get involved. Hopefully this site is both informational and insightful regarding Cincinnati's urban life. The first two years have been great and steady growth continues to be realized. I can't wait to look forward and see what the next two years bring for UrbanCincy and Cincinnati.

If you are interested in contributing to UrbanCincy please email and include you name, background, areas of interest, why you want to contribute. I would also love hearing your thoughts on Cincinnati so feel free to ramble.

Retaining Talent

This story in the Cincinnati Business Courier troubled me greatly. The article said that the majority of current college students in the state of Ohio plan on leaving Ohio once they graduate. Though no Cincinnati area schools were included, the numbers here may be similar.

I grew up in, well, not in Ohio, and came to Cincinnati because that's where Xavier is. The school drew me to the region; Cincinnati didn't draw me to X. I chose to stay here after graduation for a lot of reasons: UC's College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning for grad school; good prospects for finding a job post-graduation; the low cost of living; the arts here; even Skyline. Actually, I typed "even Skyline" sorta tongue-in-cheek, but I recently left the area for about 4 months, and had regular Skyline cravings. Plus, the Indian food here is unreal.

What really kept me here was how much the area has to offer vs. the low cost of living.

If the city wants to continue to flourish (and it is flourishing - go downtown if you haven’t been in a while), we need to ensure that the young talent we draw here with our colleges and universities stay here. They will be the ones who will continue to grow our economy.

You tell me: how can we brand the city as a desirable place for potential new residents? What amenities are here for the young and mobile? What do we need here that isn’t here yet?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Health for Hip Chicks at the McAlpin - 6/27

If you're looking for something unique to do this weekend look no further than the Health for Hip Chicks event this Saturday, June 27 from at the McAlpin Building downtown.

The health expo portion will run from 1pm to 5pm and will be followed by a fashion show from 7pm to 10pm on the Purple People Bridge (organizers tout a "surprise" ending). Event organizer, Art of the Spa, says that day passes (buy online) which include the conference and fashion show are tax-deductible as a charitable donation. $15 pre-event, $20 same day.

Health for Hip Chicks is part of the Red, Pink & Blue health series which benefits American Heart Association., Pink Ribbon Girls and Spa4Diabetes. Art of the Spa has plans in the works to take the Red Pink & Blue concept national starting in Los Angeles.

Art of the Spa says that they envisioned a "health event in an un-intimidating, cozy atmosphere that would get women excited about being proactive in their health." The event is also being co-produced with CincyChic's involvement in Red, Pink and Blue.

For more information contact Candy Silvasy at (513) 543-0993 or

Health for Hip Chicks activities:

  • The premier of SpaSpace Silvasy’s spa-based interactive model for healthy living and design. Tour room-by-room as experts demonstrate how to use living spaces to create a rejuvenating sanctuary and live optimally. Observing healthy lifestyle in a real living environment will help guests interpret the tips at home.
  • Health professionals assess health status with free screenings and a one on one consultation with a medical expert to evaluate the results. Guests will receive guidance to help them become better advocates for themselves as medical consumers.
  • Tanya's Image & Wellness Salon’s Spa Retreat which will provide complimentary facials, manicures, massages even hair makeovers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This Week In Soapbox 5/23

This Week In Soapbox (TWIS) you can read about the massive projects moving forward with Interstate 75, the expanded farmers market offerings at Findlay Market, Coffee Emporium's new roasting facility in OTR, a new marquee for the Know Theatre of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Firehouse No. 9 that is LEED certified and the 2009 East Row Garden Walk in Newport.

If you're interested in staying in touch with some of the latest development news in Cincinnati please check out this week's stories and sign up for the weekly E-Zine sent out by Soapbox Cincinnati.

TWIS 6/23:
  • Massive Interstate 75 projects move forward - full article
  • Findlay Market growing farmer's market operations - full article
  • Coffee Emporium bringing roasting facility to 12th & Walnut - full article
  • $100,000 capital grant will light up Know Theatre of Cincinnati with new marquee - full article
  • Going green at Cincinnati Firehouse No. 9 - full article
  • 2009 East Row Garden Walk - full article

Monday, June 22, 2009

"Intellectually dishonest" report claims OTR is nation's most dangerous neighborhood

Crime and public safety is a tricky issue. Simply throwing more police is not always the solution, just as adding additional social service programs doesn't always do the trick. What is generally accepted though is that economics tend to drive criminal behavior.

A "study" that came out yesterday reported that Cincinnati's historic Over-the-Rhine is the most dangerous neighborhood in the country. That's right, the most dangerous. Besides not even passing the smell test, this study fails in several regards: outdated data, selective boundary drawing and lack of human understanding of reality.

Data Inconsistencies:
The report's methodology cites that: "Violent crimes included are the violent crimes from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, armed robbery, and aggravated assault. Based on multiple years of data, and predicted to the individual neighborhood level by NeighborhoodScout's exclusive crime models, we list the top 25 most dangerous. The rating is based on the predicted number of violent crimes in the neighborhood per 1,000 population of the neighborhood."

Using this methodology one can look at what they examined for the slice of Over-the-Rhine that they examined and extrapolated for the rest of the neighborhood. The study look at areas found within the 45210 and 45214 zip codes (part of northwest OTR and some of the West End) and they predicted an annual violent crime count of 457. They then created a violent crime rate (per 1,000) and came up with a 266.94 figure. Finally this all translates into what they claim is a 1 in 4 chance of being a victim in one year in Over-the-Rhine.

Here's the problem with their analysis. In 2007 the crime statistics for Over-the-Rhine (full neighborhood) registered a total of 390 violent crimes. So if all of Over-the-Rhine had 390 violent crimes in 2007, why would they project 457 violent crimes in 1/4th of the neighborhood?

According to 2000 Census Over-the-Rhine has 7,638 people. At 390 violent crimes in 2007, the violent rate per 1000 would be 51.6 (1/2 of the 25th Most Dangerous Neighborhood) and five times less than the report from this "study."

Crime trends based on Cincinnati Police Department public records

The report is based on the FBI's Unified Crime Reports. If you take a brief second or two out of your life you can read the clear warning on their site regarding the use of this data for comparison purposes.

"Each year when Crime in the United States is published, some entities use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region. Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction.

The data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of individual reporting units from cities, metropolitan areas, states, or colleges or universities solely on the basis of their population coverage or student enrollment. “Variables Affecting Crime” in Crime in the United States has more information on this topic."

3CDC's Response:
The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) is a group of local corporations in Cincinnati that have worked towards redeveloping Cincinnati's center city into a vibrant, safe and livable area that is appealing to a diverse collection of people including the talent they are attempting to attract to Cincinnati.

3CDC's Kelly Leon also stated that she spoke with Lt. Mark Briede from the Cincinnati Police Department today, and he informed her that crime stats for January-May 2009 compared to January-May 2005 indicates a 36% drop in violent crime in Over-the-Rhine. This is important, because the study that was released only examined data from 2005 to 2007 and ignored the most recent crime data available to the public.

3CDC has been intimately involved in Over-the-Rhine for several years now working on the area in Over-the-Rhine known as the Gateway Quarter where almost $100 million of private investment has occurred and resulted in hundreds of new residential units and dozens of new businesses. Below you can see the statement released by 3CDC in response to what they consider to be an "intellectually dishonest" report.

“The study released today regarding Over-the-Rhine (OTR) focuses on approximately 20 square blocks, some of them not even located in OTR and is based on data that is more than two and a half years old. In fact, reported crime through 2008 in the area of OTR south of Liberty Street, known as OTR Gateway, is down 37% since 2004.

“OTR is 110 square blocks and includes several neighborhood districts including OTR Gateway, centered at the corner of 12th and Vine streets. This area, and other OTR census tract areas, was not part of the study.

“It is unfortunate and intellectually dishonest that the entire neighborhood was labeled in such a negative way. The fact is, $84 million has been invested in OTR Gateway since 2004 and new home owners and business owners are investing in the neighborhood. This past Saturday, a 5K run and day-long Summer Celebration arts festival brought about 2,000 people to the corner of 12th and Vine to shop, eat and listen to music. The only problem was that some of our vendors didn’t anticipate such a large crowd and ran out of food.”
Area of Over-the-Rhine examined

Reality On The Ground:
Crunching the numbers only gets you so far, as you can often manipulate data to tell what ever story it is you want to tell. The reality is what is experienced on the ground, and my hunch is that this computer model never took a visit to Over-the-Rhine to meet the people, business owners and visitors that love the neighborhood.

Feeling safe in an area is often a subjective item. One person may feel more comfortable in an area than someone else. If I feel comfortable walking around Findlay Market's nearby streets (which I do) and someone else does not, then who is right?

If you have never been to a place then how can you reasonably make an assumption on its safety as you would perceive it. I have often given tours to out-of-towners visiting Cincinnati and considering a move into a Downtown or Over-the-Rhine dwelling unit. Instead of telling them if the neighborhood is safe or not I take them for a walk through the neighborhood and let them decide for themselves. Often times after they see the single women, children playing outside and individuals walking dogs they get the feeling that the hype isn't always true.

Officer Daniel O`Malley of the Cincinnati Police Department's District 1 - photo by Ronny Salerno

Ronny Salerno did a great write up of his own on this very topic. He examined the study's findings and compared them to his personal experiences of doing "ride-alongs" with District 1 police officers that patrol Over-the-Rhine.

Ronny also goes on to discuss his observations, of the neighborhood, from his exploration of the neighborhood's architecture, abandoned buildings and newly renovated structures. Personal knowledge and experience seems to trump all, and those that know Over-the-Rhine know that this report is not only outdated, but it is flat out wrong and illustrates lazy research that is distanced from reality.

Findlay Market Fun

Cincinnati's historic Findlay Market is expanding the number and duration of its farmers market days. In addition to the popular Saturday seasonal market (8am to 2pm), there will now be a new Tuesday Drive Time Farmers Market and an expanded Sunday Farmers Market.

The new Tuesday Drive Time Farmers Market kicked off this past Tuesday, June 16th and is open from 3pm to 6pm through October. There will be a dozen farmers that will open the market and Findlay Market's Market Wines will offer a drive time wine tasting every Tuesday from 3pm to 6pm.

The expanded Sunday Farmers Market got started yesterday and will run from 10am to 2pm weekly. There will be a grand opening party for the new farmers market days on Tuesday, July 7th from 3pm to 6pm and will feature music, cooking demonstrations and prize drawings.

Good Energy and Holistic Health Fair
Another fun event coming up at Findlay Market will be the Good Energy Gathering and Holistic Health Fair on June 28th. The fair looks to "celebrate the many opportunities we have to conserve, recycle and reuse in our lives."

There will be vendors and exhibits on Findlay Market's Essen Strasse (south side of the market house). Visitors will be able to pick up information on a variety of topics and enjoy entertainment from Bi-Okoto Drum & Dance Theatre (10am to 12pm), Al Janna Dancers (12pm to 1pm) and Tai Chi Demonstrations with flute music from Sunflower (1:30pm to 3pm). Below is a listing of the three categories with the exhibitors for each.

Food and Nutrition: Marvins’ Organic Gardens, Eco Garden,Green Earth Grille, Nutrition Counseling, OSU Extension Office, Cooking Demonstrations.

Alternative Health: Full Spectrum Health Center, Cole Center for Healing, Cincinnati Area Doula Society, Abby Artmisa; Herbalist & Healing Practitioner with Goddess Garden Healing, Cincinnati School for Metaphysics.

Alternative Energy/Lifestyle: Third Sun Solar and wind Power, Green Energy Ohio, Park+Vine, Wild Design Jewelry, Infinity Magazine, Sam Dunlap; Cincinnati Permaculture and Edible Landscaping, Enright Ridge Urban Eco-Village, Cincinnati State, OTR Electric Car Company.

The event is free and open to the public. On one other brief note, musicians are invited to come an perform at Findlay Market. If you're interested in performing at Cincinnati's historic market place and one of the region's best gathering spots you can email

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Phoenix light rail

"The population in the United States is now increasingly urban, which makes the relationship between land use policies and transportation policies that much more important, because we are accommodating so much more growth in cities we need to be able to have the funding to provide alternative forms of transportation. We have a budding light rail system that we need to continue throughout the city."

-Maria Baier, Phoenix City Council

"We've seen $7 billion in both public and private investment along the light rail line, because they want to be where light rail is and so it tends to be a huge factor in the vitality of your downtown. I'm sure that you will take a picture of some of the construction going along here. Those decisions were made based on having the light rail line here."

-Maria Hyatt, Assistant to Phoenix City Manager

Friday, June 19, 2009

New York's High-Line

Suspended two stories above Manhattan’s West Side lies an urban oasis, the High Line. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation turned an unused elevated train track into the city's newest park. Originally designed in the 1930’s to elevate freight away from pedestrian traffic, the elevated tracks now serve as the foundation for a pedestrian-only park.

Landscaping on High Line & High Line as seen from street below - Photographs by David Ben

When the High Line’s first section opened on Tuesday, June 9, 2009, it was the first half-mile of what will ultimately be a mile and a half long park. Designed by landscape architects James Corner Field Operations and architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the park features several species of grasses, flowers, and trees that intermingle almost seamlessly at points with the concrete walkways.

Some sections include the original railroad lines embedded into the plantings as a reminder of the original function of the elevated path. Other parts use those lines as the foundation for rolling lounge chairs.

Designers also seem to have taken into account the green possibilities of managing water in the park. Drinking fountains placed intermittently allow water runoff to hydrate the plants directly. Additionally, portions of the walkway are intentionally pitched so that rainwater is redirected into the plants.

High Line water fountain & Drainage system on High Line - Photographs by David Ben

Managing water runoff accomplishes two goals. First, redirecting excess water to the plants reduces or eliminates the need for irrigation, saving water and ultimately saving the tax payer from funding the infrastructure and the maintenance cost of watering the plants. Second, diverting rainwater reduces stress on the sewer system because the water is absorbed by the dirt. From there, it is naturally filtered before it makes its way into the plants or evaporates. In the event of heavy rain, this process still works to slow the water down and filter it before it enters the sewer.

The high line demonstrates that urban livability and the outdated infrastructure need not stand in opposition. Its inception also speaks to the myriad of possibilities Cincinnati has for recreating urban vitality through re-imagining the space around us. Anyone have any ideas for Cincinnati's skywalk system, the mistake that was the 71/75 corridor bisecting downtown, or anything else around town?

I've also got a ton more pics. Let me know if you want to see them.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

MuralWorks '09

You may have noticed some scaffolding on the south facing wall of the building that houses the popular Park+Vine store at Central Parkway and Vine Street. It has come to my attention that this scaffolding is there for the prep work that started today.

This prep work is for what will be one of ArtWorks' 2009 MuralWorks locations. The popular city-beautification program can be seen all throughout the city (map/images of all MuralWorks projects). This particular mural location will cover up a large blank wall along Central Parkway and become the fourth prominent mural along that stretch of road.

Owner of Park+Vine, Dan Korman, does not yet know what the design will be but he says that he has been hoping for a mural there for some time. "I hope it has bikes," says Korman who is a prominent local bicycle advocate.

MuralWorks is a program that works with teenage and professional artists as well as community members to create murals, and has the goal of creating these murals in every Cincinnati neighborhood. In 2008, MuralWorks completed nine murals in eight different city neighborhoods.

Image taken from Google Street View

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer Gateway Celebration - 6/20

The OTR/Gateway Summer Celebration takes place this Saturday, June 20th from 10am to 7pm in the heart of Over-the-Rhine's Gateway Quarter.

The inaugural celebration will build off of the popular GoOTR 5k (route map) that will kick off the festivities at 10am. This 5k raises money for the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce and started as a way to celebrate the great neighborhood assets of Over-the-Rhine and showcase the exciting changes taking place there.

Pre-registration is just $12 and will go up to $20 after noon on Friday, June 19th. All participants will receive a GoOTR 5k t-shirt and be treated to the sights and sounds of the 3.1 mile journey through historic Over-the-Rhine.

The OTR/Gateway Summer Celebration has been organized by the Gateway Merchants Group and will boast live music, a host of local arts/crafts vendors, food and beer brought to you by Christian Moerlein.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This Week In Soapbox 6/16

This Week In Soapbox (TWIS) you can read about the team selected to make Cincinnati's modern streetcar system happen, the transformations that have occurred along Walnut Street downtown, this weekend's Summer Gateway Celebration, the new generation of city leaders taking a stand on an important issue, an eastern Cincinnati suburb making trails a transportation priority and the Hamilton County Climate Initiative that is encouraging Blue Ash to go green.

If you're interested in staying in touch with some of the latest development news in Cincinnati please check out this week's stories and sign up for the weekly E-Zine sent out by Soapbox Cincinnati.

TWIS 6/16:
  • Cincinnati takes major step towards building modern streetcar system - full article
  • Transformation along Walnut Street downtown nearly complete - full article
  • Summer Gateway Celebration takes place this weekend - full article
  • Next generation of leaders rallies at historic Verdin Bell Center - full article
  • Anderson Township embracing trails throughout suburban community - full article
  • Hamilton County Climate Initiative encouraging Blue Ash to go green - full article

Where we live and work is important

Planners, policy makers and community activists often discuss ways to make our communities more sustainable and environmentally friendly. This results in discussions about building materials, personal behaviors and organizational structure. What is also discussed at times, but not nearly enough, is the way in which we distribute our people and jobs.

It is no secret at this point that the suburban sprawl days of the United States are hurting our communities socially, economically, but also environmentally. Suburban communities require higher rates and amounts of driving, and consume far greater amounts of environmentally important land for economically low producing land uses.

Andres Duany often speaks about how he finds it silly that urban dwellers in Manhattan are doing all these extraneous things to reduce their carbon footprint. They're collecting and reusing rainwater, they're composting their waste, they're recycling and so on and so forth. Duany asserts that it is the people living in suburbia that should be doing this as it is their chosen lifestyle that is having a major impact on our environment in a negative way.

People who live in dense, walkable cities drive less and require a smaller piece of land to live and conduct their day-to-day lives. This is most evident in a recent mapping project by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) which compares greenhouse gas emissions of city and suburban households.

CNT looked at emissions of carbon dioxide stemming from household vehicle travel in 55 metropolitan areas across the United States. Their research showed that the transportation-related emissions of people living in cities and compact neighborhoods can be almost 70% less than those living in suburbs and areas where amenities are more dispersed.

The maps below are for the Cincinnati-Hamilton Metropolitan area. They compare the per-acre (left) analysis of greenhouse gas emissions due to vehicle travel with a per-household (right) view. The results are evident. The areas with higher density and transportation alternatives are the most sustainable areas according to this analysis. "Cities are a central part of the climate change solution (source)."

Click to view larger version

Monday, June 15, 2009

CAC Summer Film Series

Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center will once again kick off their popular Summer Film Series.

Tonight at 6 pm, the CAC will be showing the 1991 film My Own Private Idaho starring Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix. The film, a cult classic, follows two friends on a journey of self-discovery as they travel across the Western United States.

Later this summer, the 1965 French postmodern film Pierrot Le Fou will be shown. It’s described as a biting social commentary, yet is one of director Jean-Luc Godard’s more accessible films.

Admission to each film is free for CAC members, $7.50 for the general pubic, or $5.50 for students with a school ID. Stay tuned to the CAC’s calendar for a full list of movies to be shown this summer.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ohio and Greece

A special thanks goes out to Strange Maps for putting this particularly interesting map together. It's pretty simple, it overlays a flag of another country over a US state with a comparable population. In this case our beloved Ohio (11,485,910) compares to Greece (11,216,708).

Some other Greek connections include Cincinnati's strong Greek community that will celebrate the 35th Annual Panegyri Greek Festival the weekend of June 26. The Cincinnati Greek community also brought us Cincinnati's famous Skyline Chili.

It's also worth noting a couple of my favorite Gyro places around town - Chicago Gyro and Sebastian's Gyros. They are both fantastic, but Chicago Gyro is more centrally located and has slightly better tzatziki sauce. Sebastian's will lure you over to the westside and treat you with its cozy feel.

Courtesy of Strange Maps - click image for larger version

Friday, June 12, 2009

5th Annual Roebling Fest - 6/14

The fifth annual Roebling Fest takes place this weekend on Sunday, June 14th from 11am to 4pm. The festival is a "celebration of art, architecture history and engineering."

Festival-goers can take part in tours of the Roebling Suspension Bridge, murals, statues and also tour the Daniel Beard House. Tickets cost $2 per person per tour, or $5 per family per tour. There will also be harbour tours by BB Riverboats that will cost $10 for adults and $5 for children.

The festival will also have a variety of entertainment, food and other activities to enjoy. No reservations are required. For additional information call (513) 751-3526.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cincinnati selects streetcar development team

Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney announced that the City has selected the Cincinnati Streetcar Development Partners as the team that will help finance, plan, design, construct, operate and maintain Cincinnati's modern streetcar system.

The announcement was made at the new Rookwood Pottery headquarters in historic Over-the-Rhine. The location is at what will be the northern end of the Downtown/OTR circulator which will then head Uptown from there. Rookwood Pottery is an "enthusiastic" supporter of the Cincinnati Streetcar project and was more than happy to welcome the couple hundred people that showed up to hear the news.

City Manager Dohoney with some of the crowd on hand

The crowd (see crowd pictures here) was not only robust, but diverse as well. Representatives from the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce, various City of Cincinnati departments, Model Group, Cincinnati Beer Company, Metro, Cincy Energy Alliance, Mercantile Library, Hodges Law Group, Downtown Cincinnati Inc. and a slew of local business owners and investors.

The excitement was notable as Mayor Mallory and City Manager Dohoney arrived. The crowd was buzzing in anticipation of what was to be announced. This excitement continued as a large group of attendees walked over to Market Wines at Findlay Market to continue the conversation.

Development Team:
Cincinnati Streetcar Development Partners is made up of 12 companies that each specialize in a different aspect that will help lead to the successful implementation of the streetcar system. The team is made up of local and non-local companies that have been involved with roughly 80% of all recent streetcar and light rail projects in the United States, including projects in San Francisco, New York City, Atlanta, Portland, Seattle and Cleveland.

Members of the team have also been involved with local projects like Great American Ballpark, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the restructuring of Fort Washington Way that came in on time and under budget.

Cincinnati Streetcar Development Partners

One of the companies is Stacy and Witbeck Inc. (SWI) who is considered to be the "premier streetcar and passenger transit rail construction company in the United States." Their involvement in the Cincinnati Streetcar project will be their first in the Midwest. As a result, SWI will be opening a new office downtown and will be relocating their executives to Cincinnati specifically for this project.

The team will also consist of local companies like Jostin Concrete Construction, DNK Architects, Megan Construction Company, Property Advisors, Wordsworth Communications and G.J. Berding Inc. The Cincinnati Streetcar Development Partners will be led by Parsons Brinckerhoff, Inc. (PB) who will also serve as the project manager. PB has led several local transit projects in the past and has a sterling record.

The City currently has $78 million in requests to the federal government, who City Manager Dohoney says will be absolutely necessary in the implementation of the Cincinnati Streetcar system.

Explore Cincinnati reported in April that millions of private dollars have been raised thus far. According to the City's Budget Director, Explore Cincinnati also found out that several organizations have been raising private funds that have not yet been deposited into the City's account for the project.

This revised funding strategy is a response to the national economic downturn say City officials. The City has also established a new and more comprehensive website for the Cincinnati Streetcar that also includes an online location where streetcar supporters can make private contributions to the project.

What's Next:
The selection of the team that will design, build and operate the Cincinnati Streetcar system is a major step forward for the project.

"The leaders of this city are taking this city's future seriously," says program manager Fred Craig who continues, "we are seeing a new generation working to make Cincinnati a better place."

Craig went on to say that he and the development team welcome community input and emphasized that this is a project that should be driven by the community. Craig went as far as to say that if you have any suggestions regarding the project that you should call him personally and let him know (513-639-2100 - still trying to track down direct phone line).

Mayor Mallory addressing the crowd

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

THIS JUST IN: Downtown Cincinnati is an exciting, fun, lively place to experience

I often give people tours of Cincinnati. People that are both from Cincinnati and from out of town. The common thing that I hear is how "shocked" they are that there is so much activity and life in our center city.

This is no shock to the people who spend the majority of their lives there, but I often wonder about these 9-5er's who claim superior knowledge of the place given their location there five days a week for eight hour a day.

These people are just as "shocked" when they come down on the weekend or in the evening for the occasional show or sporting event. But why is it they feel the place "dies" when they leave? Is it just because they only spend the 9-5 there and they assume that everyone else does as well?

Likewise, how many times does it take for a "shocking" experience to no longer be considered a "shock?" Some of these people I have brought into our downtown and beyond make the statement every time. I wonder if it takes five, seven or maybe twenty-two times of experiencing the same scenario to no longer be shocked.

Over time these people will learn and eventually learn that our center city is viable and is an exciting place to not only work, but live and play as well. If you don't believe me ask one of the thousands of downtown residents, or the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of visitors that come downtown for entertainment each year.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

This Week In Soapbox 6/9

This Week In Soapbox (TWIS) you can read about the opening of several new restaurants including World Food Bar at historic Findlay Market, Pergola Restaurant & Bakery in Fort Thomas and the return of Hamburger Mary's to its previous downtown location. Also in this week's Development News section you can read about Norwood's first community garden and the $100 million Kenwood Towers project.

If you're interested in staying in touch with some of the latest development news in Cincinnati please check out this week's stories and sign up for the weekly E-Zine sent out by Soapbox Cincinnati.

TWIS 6/9:
  • World Food Bar opening at historic Findlay Market - full article
  • Hamburger Mary's is back, baby - full article
  • Pergola Restaurant & Bakery bringing fresh and local food concept to Ft. Thomas - full article
  • Community garden sprouts in Norwood at Linden Pointe on the Lateral - full article
  • Residents work for zone change for $100M Kenwood Towers project - full article

Jazz great at Blue Wisp tonight

Cincinnati jazz fans have an opportunity to see a legend tonight on the Blue Wisp stage. Joey DeFrancesco, arguably the world’s top jazz organist, will be taking the stage for two shows: one at 7pm and another at 9:15.

When DeFrancesco was just 17 years old, he was invited to join Miles Davis’ band. He toured Europe and recorded an album with Davis. He went on to play with fusion guitar legend “Mahavishnu” John McLaughlin.

Today, DeFrancesco is constantly on the road, playing shows around 200 nights a year. He is also credited with repopularizing the Hammond B3 organ.

Tickets start at $20 to attend one show, or $30 to attend both. Each show consists of two sets. Reservations are recommended, as his last show in Cincinnati sold out, even with a huge snowstorm that day! Call 513-241-9477 for reservations.

Photo is courtesy of Flickr user lorenzofrizzera.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Building a great city

A recent comment by John Schneider got me thinking about this concept. Schneider said the following comment in reference to a recent trip he made to Portland, OR.

"The quality of the new buildings, starting at the airport and evident throughout the city, the mass of people walking the sidewalks, on the streetcars, and at events, was amazing. They are building a great city there."

Cincinnati for the longest time was building a great city. Our park system, boulevard network and grand collection of diverse architectural styles has always been impressive. Cincinnati is considered to be the birthplace of contemporary American urban planning when it became the first major American city to endorse a comprehensive plan in 1925 that complimented the Park Plan of 1907 that we still follow today.

Our urban environment was methodically planned out and carried out with the highest quality until about the mid-twentieth century when we started engaging in the urban renewal and suburban sprawl policies sweeping the nation.

New Columbia Square development in the heart of the historic Columbia Tusculum NBD

Cincinnati is not certainly alone in this regard, but what can be done to counter this trend. I think most of us can agree that the quality of buildings, the urban form, social and cultural institutions pale in comparison to what we used to build here in Cincinnati.

Cities like Portland, Seattle and even Charlotte to a lesser extent seem to be getting it right with their recent actions. Their history does not come close to Cincinnati's and they will never be able to boast many of the amenities we have today, but we have lost much and they are building great cities today, while we seem to be content with building sub-par city based around anything but the people who live here.

New development in (clockwise from top-left):
Seattle, Washington; Portland's Pearl District; Charlotte's South End
Seattle & Portland photos by Jake Mecklenborg

Saturday, June 6, 2009

New York City's High Line

One of the neatest projects going on in the United States...go figure, it's in New York City. Behold the High Line. If you have trouble viewing the video embedded here then try this one.

Friday, June 5, 2009

114th Cincinnati Deutscher Tag

Cincinnati's 114th Deutscher Tag (German Day) weekend celebrations started with the keg tapping at the Hofbräuhaus on Wednesday night and will continue on throughout the weekend.

On Saturday, June 6th, the parade and opening ceremonies will take place at the historic Findlay Market, featuring representatives of area German-American societies, as well as the German heritage of the Market. There will also be plenty of performances by German dance and music groups.

Then on Sunday, June 7, you can enjoy the fine food and beverage and German music at the Hofbräuhaus. The German-American Citizens League will offer hourly raffle prizes throughout the day, and a grand raffle at 5:30 P.M. Parking is free and there’s no charge for admission.

Festivities will run on both days from 11am to 11pm. German Day Weekend serves as a fundraiser for the German Heritage Museum. For more information contact Marge Poole at (513) 351-3185 or at

'Complete Streets' discussion at the Mercantile Library

Cincinnati is like many other American cities in the fact that much of our transportation spending goes towards the creation and maintenance of streets. The streets that are built often ignore every kind of transportation option other than an automobile.

Rarely do you find a dedicated bike lane, sidewalks are often hard to come by and it is quite rare that streets are designed with buses, streetcars or light rail in mind.

This not only makes our streets unpalatable for these other modes of transportation, but it makes the streets unsafe for those looking to move about in something other than 1,000 lbs of glass and steel.

On Tuesday, June 9th you can learn about the Complete Streets movement and efforts to implement them in Cincinnati. City Council Member and Urban Planner, Roxanne Qualls and the Principal of Kinzelman Kline Gossman, Clete Benken will help lead the discussion.

The event will take place at Cincinnati's historic Mercantile Library located at 414 Walnut Street downtown. The doors will open at 5:30pm with the program beginning at 6pm. It is requested that you RSVP by June 5th at (513) 621-0717 or at (reservations are required).

The program is $8 for Mercantile Library and Architectural Foundation members; $10 for others. Reservations required.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

'The New Neighbors' film premier

The New Neighbors PBS documentary will premier in Cincinnati on Friday, June 5th at the University of Cincinnati's Kaplan Theater. Cincinnatians are invited to come and celebrate the region's diverse neighborhoods and discuss ways to maintain and grow them.

The New Neighbors: How One Town Created A Vibrant, Integrated Suburb tells the story of how a suburban town in New Jersey successfully reversed segregation and built a vibrant, integrated community. The award-winning filmmaker and Clifton resident, Andrea Torrice will be at the premier hosted by the Greater Cincinnati Commitment Alliance as part of the Agenda 360's Transformational Dialog.

Following the screening, those in attendance will be invited to participate in a discussion about the next steps needed to strengthen and promote intentionally-integrated communities in the Cincinnati region. Those in attendance will then be encouraged to "walk the talk" and have dinner at one of the great ethnic restaurants in an Uptown neighborhood surrounding the university.

Agenda 360 has made building a more welcoming community a primary focus for improving the Cincinnati region's future economic prosperity and quality of life. The Agenda 360 Action Plan calls for attracting 150,000 additional people to the region's workforce between the ages of 20-34 by 2020.

The event will begin at 6pm at the University of Cincinnati's DAAP building in room 5401. There is a $10 suggested donation, but the event is free to all UC students, faculty and staff. Proceeds will help fund the Greater Cincinnati Commitment Alliance that works towards the goals of making the Cincinnati region a welcoming and inclusive model for the nation and world.

You can sign up by calling (513) 579-3111 or by visiting this website.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

This Week In Soapbox 6/2

This Week In Soapbox (TWIS) you can read about the $24 million Corryville Crossings project in Uptown, the annual end-of-year DAAP Works exhibition, new development projects in Lower Price Hill, new features at the fabulous Bootsy's produced by Jeff Ruby, the $10 million master plan project for the Children's Home of Cincinnati and the scenic view corridor studies being conducted by The Hillside Trust.

If you're interested in staying in touch with some of the latest development news in Cincinnati please check out this week's stories and sign up for the weekly E-Zine sent out by Soapbox Cincinnati.

TWIS 6/2:
  • $24M Corryville Crossings project pushing full steam ahead - full article
  • DAAP Works to showcase some of nation's best design work - full article
  • New development projects transforming formerly industrial Lower Price Hill - full article
  • Bootsy's ready to serve with new features fit to impress - full article
  • Children's Home gets started on their $10M master plan - full article
  • Hillside Trust working to promote and preserve scenic Columbia Parkway - full article

More options promote the free market

Why is transportation such a partisan issue, and why in the world do conservatives tend to fall on the side of being against it? If anything, conservatives should support adding options into the transportation market.

Currently, local, state and federal governments pay for highways. Adding another option (or several options) will create competition for the monopolistic version of transportation we currently have.

Recently, conservative intellectual George Will wrote a scathing article in Newsweek bemoaning the government’s role in transportation planning as demonstration of the liberal agenda to control behavior and curb freedom. In the article, he bashes Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for promoting transportation options, insinuating that it is not the American way to give people options.

Mr. Will dismisses the government’s role in developing the Interstate Highway system, and blatantly ignored the FHA’s role in subsidizing single-family homes outside the center city. Not only did the government coerce suburbanization by helping to pay for the homes there, they also (quite literally) paved the way to get there. And now, conservatives have the audacity to claim that increasing transportation options will limit the personal choice to drive a car, a car.

LaHood responded to Will directly, saying at the National Press Club: “We have to create opportunities for people who want to ride a bike or walk or take a streetcar."

Mr. LaHood has it right. Sometimes it is about the choice of what NOT to do. The choice to NOT spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to purchase a vehicle (or 2). The choice NOT to spend several hundred dollars per year on car insurance, gas (on the rise again) and vehicle maintenance costs. It’s the choice to NOT drive from strip mall to strip mall to shop. It’s the choice NOT to spend time stuck in traffic.

The Transportation Secretary does not advocate that people ought to be living one place or another, or commuting using one method over another, he simply advocates that for far too long, there hasn’t really been a choice.

An increase in transportation options does not limit freedom, but expands it. It does not stifle the free market, but allows increased competition. And that is something we all can live with.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Market on the Square returns June 2nd

After a successful first season, Market on the Square will return to Cincinnati's main gathering point for another summer.

Sponsored by downtown law firm, Strauss & Troy, Market on the Square will run every Tuesday from June 2nd to September 29th with 14 fresh market vendors (see full list below) setting up shop, on Fountain Square, from 11am to 2pm.

Last summer people could find fresh produce, baked goods, prepared lunch food, fresh flowers and handmade items from some of Cincinnati's favorite market vendors.

The 18-week market season is expected to once again draw huge crowds to Fountain Square as downtown workers enjoy lunch and enjoy some open-air market shopping.

  • Cooking with Caitlin – gourmet burgers
  • Taste of Belgium – authentic Belgian waffles and savory crepes
  • A Forkable Feast - specialty sandwiches & wraps, gluten-free breads NEW!
  • Green Earth Grill – ready-to-eat vegan sandwiches, gyros, wings NEW!
  • Nay Nay’s – sweet breads, cakes, pies, brownies
  • Donna’s Gourmet Cookies – cookies, brownies, pecan bars
  • Blue Oven Bakery – wood-fired oven breads by the loaf NEW!
  • Herbs & Spice and Everything Nice – herbs, spices, herbed vinegars & sauces, salsas and oils
  • Madison’s – gelato & sorbet, seasonal produce, cider and teas
  • Brown’s Marketplace – locally-grown farm produce
  • Weber Farms – lotion bars, goat’s milk lotion, lip balms, 100% beeswax candles, lotion candles, baby products, goat milk soaps NEW!
  • Adopt-A-Plant Greenhouses –cut lettuce & greens for salads, potted annuals, herbs and vegetables NEW!
  • Wildey Flower Farm – fresh-cut local flowers, bouquets made to order
  • Nefertari’s Gems – handmade jewelry, custom shea butter lotion NEW!

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