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Friday, July 31, 2009

'Cash for Clunkers' not so environmentally motivated after all

It appears like the 'Cash for Clunkers' program is more about stimulating the auto industry than it is about being environmentally beneficial. Officially known as the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), the program officially kicked off on July 1, 2009 with $1 billion worth of money to go out and get an estimated 250,000 "clunkers" off the road. That money was intended to last until November 1, 2009, but it was already projected to be depleted within the first month. As a result Congress acted "within minutes" by allocating an additional $2 billion for the program following a briefing by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

The auto industry, car dealerships and many individuals out there seem to be giddy at the idea of getting up to $4,500 to trade in a vehicle for a newer model...especially when they might not have been planning on doing so. This benefit is being matched some some automakers and car dealerships which makes it even more financially advantageous for Americans to go out there and ditch their car for a modestly more efficient vehicle whether they need to or not.

There is estimated to be 1,000 gallons worth of energy within an already existing automobile. So the lifetime gas savings should exceed that 1,000 gallons worth of fuel in order for this program to be worthwhile from a fuel standpoint alone. ABC News notes that:

"A car may be traded in for a new car that gets as little as 22 miles per gallon; the owner of a large pickup truck that gets 15 miles per gallon or less may be eligible for a $3,500 voucher to purchase another large pickup truck of no better fuel economy if it is “smaller or similar” in size."

It has been said that the most "green" building is one that already exists, so it makes more sense to renovate historic and other existing structures than it does to tear them down or let them deteriorate beyond repair. I guess this same theory can be applied to automobiles. This program just seems to be more evidence that our nation is obsessed with consumption and that we can not accept lower growth rates as reality. At some point our revenue and growth models are going to have to be adjusted in a way to be profitable without such high rates of consumption that leave us all broke.

Photo from TheCarBlogger

Big night in OTR tonight

Tonight is not only a Final Friday gallery hop night throughout historic Over-the-Rhine, but it is also another Vine-L Friday in the Gateway Quarter.

Vine-L Friday will run from 6pm to 10pm and is looking to compliment the Final Friday crowds in the surrounding area. As a result many Gateway Quarter businesses will have displays from local artists and live music throughout. There will also be food, drinks and discounts at all your favorite locally-owned shops.

There will also be members of ArtWorks Cincinnati around to discuss their four-story mural of Mr. Cincinnati - Jim Tarbell. The new mural will be prominently displayed on the southern wall of the same building that houses Park+Vine. The mural should be complete within the coming weeks according to officials.

Following the Final Friday and Vine-L Friday fun, there will be an after party starting at 10pm at Below Zero Lounge at the southeast corner of 12th & Walnut streets.

Here's a full lineup of this week's Vine-L Friday activities:

  • Venice on Vine Pizza, 1301 Vine St. – Visionaries and Voices exhibits “Hair Salon” by Kenny Barger with a special menu of gourmet pizzas as well as live jewelry making by “One Bead at a Time.”
  • Segway Cincinnati, 1150 Vine St. – Works by Josh Beeman and Billy 7. Live music by “Vinny Bricks” and “that guy from Okinawa” City Cellars will be on hand with its frozen desert cart to cool off the crowd.
  • Park+Vine, 1109 Vine St. – The unveiling of the new exhibit “Mimockracy.”
  • Switch Lighting and Design, 1207 Vine St. – New works by Alison Shepard will be exhibited.
  • Outside, 16 E. 12th St. – Live DJ playing Electronica, Trip Hop, Soul and Funk, with refreshments served.
  • Below Zero Lounge, 1122 Walnut St. – The official VINE-L Friday After Party. Live music by the “Blue Merchants” at 10pm benefitting Gary Burbank’s “Play It Forward” Project.
  • Mixx Ultra Lounge, 1203 Main St. – Marcus Jordan exhibiting works from his collection titled “My Passion.”
  • Coffee Emporium, 110 E. Central Parkway - Extending its hours until 10pm and featuring works by Allison Archberger and the Thirty Duo Collection.
  • Lackman Lofts, 1237 Vine St. – Kate McClung exhibiting works from her “Balanophagy” collection.
  • Duveneck Flats, 1220 Vine St. – Mark Cummings exhibiting new works from his “In Bloom” collection and Stan Stenten will be showing pieces from the collection “Visions of Cincinnati – Old and New"

Photo from 5chw4r7z

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Just another night in downtown Cincinnati

The Bad Veins held their CD release show in downtown Cincinnati last Friday as part of Fountain Square's Summer Music Series. The show was followed by an after party at the newly opened Righteous Room just a block away. Downtown is such a 9(pm) to 5(am) kind of place.

Thanks to Each Note Secure for the great write up, and special thanks to Sam Spencer for the terrific photographs which can be found on ENS.

The stimulus money is starting to flow in Cincinnati

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has been criticized for not injecting the necessary amounts of money into the economy quickly enough. The stimulus package is meant to do exactly that, stimulate the economy, and thus far even the proponents of said stimulus package have been frustrated by the slow activity so far.

Luckily things may be starting to change as it appears that the money is starting to flow into the Cincinnati region. Yesterday at Mayor Mallory's press conference regarding rail transit in Cincinnati and the budget, he announced that the City received $13.5 million from the ARRA for the Cincinnati Police Department - something Mayor Mallory says could save around 50 police officers from being cut. Another $3.4 million will be going to Hamilton County to rehire 15 road patrol deputies that were laid off earlier this year.

Then today Steve Driehaus (D, OH-1) announced that the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) which runs the Metro bus system will be receiving an $823,000 grant that will be used to purchase 3 forty-foot replacement biodiesel buses.

Driehaus then sent out a later press release that announced the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded just over $2 million to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center through the Recovery Act. The $2+ million will go towards biomedical research and research training at the Uptown hospital.

All three seem to be good uses for the stimulus money as they are directly creating or preserving jobs. So what's next for the Cincinnati region? The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is currently going through some issues as the state threatens funding cuts. The streetcar would not only create engineering and construction jobs in the Cincinnati area, but it would also help spur additional economic development that would come as a result of the streetcar. The announcement of a new rail transit system in the Midwest might even spur the creation of a new manufacturing facility to produce the rolling stock needed for such rail projects. What's on your list?

Cleveland amongst finalists for the 2014 Gay Games

Cleveland is on the verge of landing a major event that would not only pump an estimated $60 million into Cleveland's economy, but also further establish Cleveland as a place that is welcoming to the LGBT community.

The Gay Games are the world's largest sporting and cultural event for the LGBT community, and Cleveland is currently competing with Boston and Washington D.C. to hold this event in 2014 that, like the summer or winter Olympics, occurs once every four years.

The Cleveland Synergy Foundation (CSF) is one of the main groups pushing to land the Gay Games for Cleveland. The foundation states that its mission is to, "measurably enhance the economy, image and quality of life in the greater Cleveland LGBT and Straight community by attracting and creating athletic, cultural events and festivals."

Cleveland Synergy Foundation also notes that while Cleveland may not sound like the first place for an event like this to be held, it should, as it has many advantages over Boston and D.C. - values that could be applied to many Midwestern cities:

  • Value – Your dollar will definitely go farther here than in Boston or DC, and that’s critically important for international spectators and athletes. More visitors add up to sold-out hotel space and significant economic impact across the entire Greater Cleveland region.
  • Location, location, location –Cleveland is centrally located in the Midwest with many major metropolitan areas, including those in Canada, less than 500 miles away.
  • Community support – The Cleveland Synergy Foundation (CSF), a nonprofit organization rooted in the LGBT sports community, is galvanizing support from public officials at the state and local levels as well as the LGBT, civic and business communities.

CSF is working hard to promote Cleveland in those ways and more, and on Friday they intend to rally the Cleveland community with an event called Frivolity that will be held at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Cleveland.

The event and Cleveland's efforts to attract it are important because the LGBT community is one of the key demographics when it comes to urban revitalization. It has been seen time and time again that the LGBT community is often a demographic that is known for being 'urban pioneers.'

These pioneers go into decaying neighborhoods and take a chance where others would just take a pass. Urban pioneers are a rare breed and one to be sought after. In Cincinnati one such neighborhood is Northside where a once borderline neighborhood has become one of Cincinnati's best with a neighborhood business district that boasts tons of local businesses with unique offerings, fun nightlife and an enjoyable street scene.

Over-the-Rhine is another such neighborhood. Given its size it will take more than just one set or urban pioneers like the LGBT community in Northside. In OTR it is the artists and creative class, young professionals, LGBTs and others. It took these pioneers to turn 12th & Vine from one of the worst intersections in Cincinnati to one of the best. It's happening right now just up the street at 14th & Vine and throughout much of the 100+ block historic neighborhood.

If city's want to continue to turn themselves around and repopulate their urban neighborhoods, then the demographics that are known for doing so must be pursued aggressively. That means Cincinnati must do a better job at attracting immigrant populations, artists and the creative class, young people and the LGBT community.

Hat tip to Ashley from Raves and Reviews in Cleveland. Photo of 2006 Gay Games in Chicago by William Zachary.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This Week In Soapbox 7/28

A day late on this week's TWIS post, but you can read about a new "green" restaurant in historic Columbia Tusculum, the $35 million renovation of Hughes High School uptown, Nky's Riverfront Commons plans and progress, nonprofits getting a $2.1 million boost from the Cincinnati Empowerment Corporation, new discussions surrounding The Banks development, and the newly signed tenant for what will become Cincinnati's tallest skyscraper.

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. Also be sure to become a fan of Soapbox on Facebook!

TWIS 7/28:
  • Green Dog Cafe to open in historic Columbia Tusculum - full article
  • $35 million Hughes High School renovation restoring Uptown landmark - full article
  • Northern Kentucky's Southbank Partners raises over $200,000 for Riverfront Commons project - full article
  • Rethinking The Banks - full article
  • Cincinnati Empowerment Corporation awarding millions to local nonprofits - full article
  • Great American Tower at Queen City Square reaches 80% occupancy - full article

"Indy's biggest problem is Cincinnati"

Robby Ginepri defeated Sam Querrey this past Sunday at the Indianapolis Tennis Championships. The Indy tournament is the first tournament of the Olympus US Open Series that leads up to, you guessed it, the US Open on August 31 through September 13.

What was noticeable about the Indy championship match was the non-sold out center court that seats 10,000. I have annually made the trip up to Mason to attend Cincinnati's premier tennis tournament now know as the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, and have grown accustomed to its vibrant feel and capacity crowds. ESPN's Peter Bodo notes that:

"Indy's big problem is Cincinnati, which is exactly 103 miles away. Cincinnati is the home of the hugely successful Western and Southern Financial Group Masters (an ungainly title for a great hard-court tournament that is perfectly positioned as the key warm-up event for the U.S. Open). Cincy's prestige and consistently top-drawer field helps define Indianapolis, but not in a good way. Which tournament would you attend, Terre Haute, Ind.?"

One thing I have been predicting for some time now, is that the tennis powers-at-be have big plans for the Cincinnati tournament. The long-time men's only draw has been joined by a complimentary women's tournament that either precedes or follows the main men's tournament. Just shortly after being around, ATP officials upgraded the women's tournament to a status near that of the men's. Facility upgrades including increased seating capacities, box seats and more are on the way for the Linder Tennis Center.

This all seems to be setting the stage for a combined two-week long event that would have both women and men competing at the same time. The end result would make the Cincinnati tournament (whatever it is called at that time) one of the biggest in the world. You would have the four Grand Slam events (New York, London, Paris, Melbourne). The Cincinnati tournament would then be in the next elite tier of tennis tournaments in the world.

If you haven't been up to Mason to check out the competition of the world's best tennis players in a fantastic facility and fan-friendly environment, then I suggest looking into getting tickets to this year's tournament from August 8 through August 23. Check out CincyTennis for all the information on the event, getting tickets and much more.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mayor Mallory Speaks Frankly about Streetcar/Budget Issues

Sometimes, people just say exactly what needs to be said. This is one of those times.

Please take 2 minutes to read what our friend Jason over at Somewhere Over the Rhine has just said about why the election this November is so important.

And from the Mayor himself:

“If that measure passes, it’s the end of streetcars in Cincinnati, it will be the end of the conversation about light rail, it will be the end of the conversation about passenger rail between Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland,” Mallory said. “If we are in a situation where we have to wait, the federal government is going to move on.”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Off-Campus life in Cincinnati

I recently stumbled on a Columbus, Ohio site called Easy Columbus that compiles all the things going on "off-campus" that college students might want to do. It is a very well-done site and easy to navigate. Users can search by day or event, and it even includes information about how to save money.

I did a little digging and found that there are 16 colleges and universities within 20 miles of downtown Columbus. Combined, these schools enroll a little over 73,000 undergraduate students at any given time. Comparatively, there are 22 colleges and universities within 20 miles of downtown Cincinnati, but only about 46,000 enrolled undergraduate students. Someone can make the claim that I should have counted grad students. Maybe. Go ahead and count them up and let me know what you find. (Source for the Undergrads)

Maybe we already have something like this here in Cincinnati. If so, please post a link in the comments section. But if we don't have this yet, we really should. Having a consolidated place for young adults to turn when they are looking for something fun and inexpensive to do seems like it would encourage them to break the monotony of the house party and bar scene.

I admit - I have a hidden agenda here. By encouraging students to get off campus and experience the amazing things this city has to offer, hopefully they will be more likely to stay here after graduation. When I was at Xavier, so many of my friends came here for the education, and then bolted as soon as they had their diploma in hand. Our colleges and universities draw some of the best and brightest students to Cincinnati, and we as a city need to do everything in our power to keep that talent here. When they leave, they take with them their good ideas on how to better the city. How can we encourage those not from here to stay here?

Image Credit: Xavier University Academic Mall by Zach Casto

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gateway Quarter embraces YouTube

During my weekly video search on the world wide web I came across this collection of videos from GatewayQuarterFan on YouTube. Here are a few for your viewing pleasure:

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Suddenly a lot of cars around town drive by with stickers that say ILOVECINCINNATI on them and I wondered where they came from. Today, I found the answer out by asking someone who had one. So, I'm not going to share the answer here (it's easily found out by asking a few questions) but the conversation that followed sparked some thoughts that are definitely appropriate in this forum.

If you are reading this, you likely care deeply about Cincinnati, and also genuinely believe that with some hard work, dedication, and an updated way of thinking it can be a much better place to live. I, too, am of that thinking, but sadly I would think that we are in the minority, especially when you start to read the comments on other media outlets around town.

So, my question is why? Why is it that many other cities around this country, some of which we aspire to be like and even others, that we don't have a much greater sense of civic pride than we do? When I stopped and thought about it, it made even less sense. Isn't Cincinnati mostly made up of people that grew up in the area, and if so shouldn't it hold true that our civic pride should at least match that exhibited in other cities mentioned on this blog and elsewhere?

I've noodled this around all night and have come up with three ideas:

  1. Our Region Breeds Separation - Between different suburbs, counties, cities, and even states that make up the region we actually only identify ourselves as Cincinnatians by our mailing addresses envelopes and when we are out of town.
  2. A Unified Stance - While we're never going to reach a point where every citizen agrees on priorities, we are set up in such a way that our "leaders" fight amongst each other more than they work together. One could argue that competition is good, but to me, a unified stance is better.
  3. Lack of That Signature "Thing" - Be it an industry that our city was founded on, a specific food that is actually eaten outside our region, or something similar. We don't all have that one positive thing we can each identify with, and just as importantly, the nation identifies us with.

I put this out there less for my voice to be heard but more to spark conversation. So what have I missed and why is it that you have the pride you do in Cincinnati?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Vote for Findlay Market to win $5,000

We as Cincinnatians must recognize just how lucky we are to have a place like Findlay Market to call our own. The cacophony of sounds, sights and smells on a Saturday morning make the area truly legendary.

Now, the market that enjoys such high esteem locally is getting some national recognition. They are in the top dozen nationally in an ongoing contest run by a site called Local Harvest (click on Findlay Market and proceed to vote).

Visitors to the site vote for their favorite market. Out of the 100 markets on the site, Findlay Market ranks 12th. Findlay Market provides some of the freshest locally grown produce, meats and cheeses, and we support our local economic community when we buy from them. And to top it off, the winning market will receive $5,000, so hurry and VOTE today!

Nola tearing down the elevated I-10 over Claiborne?

Tearing down a major interstate highway through the heart of a major metropolitan area sounds crazy right? Wrong. Past case studies have shown that this has been done in places like San Francisco, Milwaukee and Portland, and has resulted in higher qualities of life and with little to no harm caused to driving times.

This topic is always a popular one with those in the Urban Planning/Design profession, and with a new planning interest in New Orleans post-Katrina the recipe might be just right for the demolition of Interstate 10 through the Treme neighborhood. Like many urban neighborhoods of the early to mid 20th Century, Treme was a once vibrant, unique and local that centered around its grand North Claiborne Avenue. What happened was the injection of the interstate system that plowed through Treme like many other neighborhoods including Cincinnati's West End and downtown area.

The transition in Claiborne was even more intense as a grand boulevard was replaced by an elevated highway which facilitated the downward spiral of the neighborhood. Many older Nola residents remember North Claiborne Avenue as being the "black people's Canal Street." This is important as French Quarter activists were able to block a highway from tearing through their neighborhood which left the Treme neighborhood vulnerable to the interstate system's wrath...and with that North Claiborne Avenue was gone.

North Claiborne Avenue in 1966 (left) and 2009 (right) - Source and Source

As with many urban neighborhoods across America, Treme is redeveloping and becoming attractive to residents once again. One problem though is that I-10 has caused lower property values and interest for those properties within its immediate vicinity (the exact opposite effect of transit service).

As Nola moves forward with its potential plans to tear down I-10 through Treme (area map), what can be learned? In addition to past examples (listed above) cities like Chattanooga, Buffalo, Seattle and Trenton are all considering the option of tearing out highways through their cities.

Cincinnati narrowed and buried its Fort Washington Way that connects I-71 with I-75 through the heart of downtown and its riverfront property, but could this have instead been removed with traffic instead utilizing the underused Central Parkway and Liberty Street, or even connecting via I-275? What about the Norwood Lateral that ate up the right-of-way that had been preserved for Cincinnati's planned subway system?

These are important questions as Cincinnati examines how it is going to handle the $1 billion reconstruction of the Brent Spence Bridge, $1 billion reconstruction of I-75 through the Mill Creek Valley and considers the options of upgrading US 50 West to highway status via the 6th Street Expressway through Queensgate, and even possibly extending I-74 east through the city and its eastern suburbs so that it could eventually connect to Washington D.C. per the original Interstate Highway Plan - both of which present untold hundreds of millions (potentially billions) of dollars of public expense.

Are we going to continue to move forward with an antiquated view of transportation planning straight out of the Robert Moses playbook, or will Cincinnati too start to re-examine how it goes about planning for its city and its residents that make it special?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vine-L Friday in the Gateway Quarter

One of Cincinnati's trendiest shopping districts is celebrating this Friday with "Vine-L Friday" in the Gateway Quarter located in the heart of historic Over-the-Rhine. The Vine-L event is a mid-summer clearance where store owners are offering discounts and discussing what's to come with their new fall merchandise.

The Little Mahatma will also be offering Tarot card readings from 5pm to 8pm. Discounts will vary from store to store, but the walkable shopping district makes for great window shopping and browsing from one location to the next.

City Roots, Iris Book Cafe, Joseph Williams Home, The Little Mahatma, A Lucky Step, Metronation, Mica 12/v, Outside, Park+Vine and Urban Eden will all be participating. Stores in the Gateway Quarter are open from 11am to 8pm. To view the participating store's websites visit the Gateway Merchants Group website.

3CDC (check out their new website) is also recommending that you make a night of it in Cincinnati's center city by hitting up Vine-L Friday in the Gateway Quarter with some dinner at Lavomatic and live music from Bad Veins on Fountain Square that starts at 7pm.

Cincy BeerFest 2009

Coming this weekend to Covington's Roebling Point is the 2009 Cincy BeerFest. From the creators of The Midwest Winter Beer Festival, this outdoor festival will feature 2 sessions where over 84 craft beers (full list) will be up for tasting. There will also be live music at each session, and food will be available to purchase from vendors or from any of the 5 establishments in the neighborhood.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Big Joe Duskin Foundation whose goal is "to produce as many in-school educational music presentations as possible, in as many schools as possible, to reach as many children as possible, using local professional musicians" and is all done in memory of Big Joe Duskin who passed away in 2007. Developing our youngest citizens and helping them reach artistic potential is one way to ensure that the Cincinnati region grows into a vibrant, diverse, and artsy area. By coming out and having a good time on July 25, you will be doing your part in making that happen.

Additionally, The Roebling Point Bar Association for Community Improvements will also benefit from the event. The area along Greenup Street in Covington at the base of the Roebling Suspension Bridge has been rapidly improving over the last few years and the bars and restaurants have bonded together to bring a unified approach to neighborhood improvements.

Session passes are available for $35 in advance and $40 on the day of the event. To order your wristband now, and save, go here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sustainable Urban Environments from Seoul

The co-director of the University of Cincinnati's Center for Sustainable Urban Environments, Jim Uber, has been in Seoul, Korea for much of this summer working with Seoul National University.

During this trip Uber says that he is "trying to explore this metropolitan area of 18 million." He goes on to share that Seoul presents many contrasts with Cincinnati...contrasts that naturally make him think about urban sustainability issues. As a result, Uber plans to write about these observations, contrasts and other issues from Seoul. In his first article Uber discusses the cost of urban rainfall - in particular the cost of water runoff and the misuse of our urban rainfall.

You can continue reading Uber's work on the Sustainable Urban Environments blog that he intends to update regularly throughout the rest of the summer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Scion Metro DJs in Cincinnati - 7/22

RSVP Here!
NOTE: This is not a Subway in the $5 Footlongs sense...the bar is called Subway.

This Week In Soapbox 7/21

This Week In Soapbox (TWIS) you can read about Dojo Gelato opening at Cincinnati's historic Findlay Market, the new geothermal project in Alms Park, a new upscale sushi bar in downtown Cincinnati, locally designed and produced t-shirts meant to promote the Cincinnati Streetcar, and the newly formed Historic Midtown Merchants Association that has big plans for the area north of 7th Street and south of Central Parkway.

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. Also be sure to become a fan of Soapbox on Facebook!

TWIS 7/21:
  • Dojo Gelato brings Italian-style ice creams and sorbettos to historic Findlay Market - full article
  • Mr. Sushi to open in Downtown's thriving Backstage District - full article
  • Hillside Trust building at Alms Park now powered with geothermal - full article
  • New t-shirts meant to promote Cincinnati's streetcar effort - full article
  • Historic Midtown Merchants Association looking to capitalize off nearby successes - full article

Cincinnati jobs (a national comparison)

Of the 50 most populous regions of the US, Cincinnati has the 15th MOST jobs postings per capita. That is to say that finding a job in Cincinnati would be easier than finding one in places from Pittsburgh to Portland , San Diego to San Antonio, St. Louis to St. Paul, and New Orleans to New York.

The map below graphically displays how well Cincy is doing. In addition to Cincinnati having the 15th best standing nationwide, it also boasts the 2nd best standing in the Midwest region. As a result of its high ranking Cincinnati also ranks ahead of many of its peer cities that it is in direct competition with for job talent. Cities like Denver, Seattle, Charlotte, Baltimore and Milwaukee did all rank higher.

In the interactive version clicking on a city will bring up job postings, and drawing a box will zoom to that area. Not currently looking for a job? Then pass this link along to someone who might be.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Could it happen here?

Look. Cincinnati is not Portland. I know that. I know that streetcar supporters tend to lust after the transit system in Portland, and imagine a set of comprehensive transportation options here beyond congested highways. Others accuse us of trying to turn Cincinnati into Portland.

I'm not looking to turn Cincinnati into Portland, but I am looking to make the city more attractive, so that things like this can occur. Can you see this happening in Cincinnati? Neither can I. Not yet. Someday.

For the record, Dave Chappelle lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio. It about an hour away from here. He chose to do this in Portland. That's Portland, Oregon. The one on the Pacific Ocean, three thousand miles away from Yellow Springs. Would having a streetcar here made Chappelle come to Cincinnati? No. But it would make the city more inviting for young people with options. That creates an environment in which impromptu performances by international superstars is possible. That's all I'm sayin'.

"This has never happened in my entire career...I didn't think this many people would show up." -Dave Chappelle, speaking to the impromptu crowd of several thousand. Notice the dedicated bike lanes as he leaves.

Growing business locally with Coffee Emporium

Coffee Emporium is a local favorite. The original location can be found in East Hyde Park, but they also boast an Over-the-Rhine location along Central Parkway and some new digs on Xavier University's campus.

The Over-the-Rhine location is about to get some company as Coffee Emporium tries to grow a bit. Owner Tony Tausch recently signed a lease on the vacant building at 12th & Walnut that will soon be home to Coffee Emporium's coffee roasting operations. The new facility will introduce a noticeable coffee roasting smell to that portion of the neighborhood as the exhaust will spew out from the interior.

Currently Coffee Emporium (Facebook Group) is able to produce about 24lbs of roasted coffee beans in each batch from its 12 kilo roaster. On average these batches take about 16 to 18 minutes, and once the company moves into the new facility the hopes are to double that production capacity.

The renovated two-story structure will also give Coffee Emporium (blog) much-needed office space on the second level. The first level will house the new coffee roasting operations and also be staged for special coffee tasting events for the especially particular coffee connoisseur.

Coffee Emporium on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The differences are striking

On Saturday I pointed out some differences between where Seattle and Cincinnati are in terms of building their cities to be attractive to the next generation workforce. The differences are just so striking today.

In the Cincinnati Enquirer, the editorial staff ran a piece outlining why they think the Cincinnati Streetcar is too bold of a plan. One that isn't necessarily a bad plan, but one too big for Cincinnatians to undertake during an economy such as this.

At the same time, the Seattle Times has been celebrating the opening of Seattle's new light rail system. You'll notice many people wearing bright green uniforms/shirts that nearly 70,000 people wore to Qwest Field on their way to the Seattle Sounders FC vs. Chelsea FC soccer match.

The High Line (update)

A few weeks back, I wrote about a brand new park in New York City called the High Line. It is a converted elevated railway line that they turned into a park.

Pepsi has apparently decided to use this park as one of the faces of the Good Works portion of their Refresh Everything campaign. Seems fitting enough. Think they'd be willing to finance help any refreshing projects here in the 513? The Cincinnati Streetcar maybe? I'd be willing to let them poster one of the streetcars with a gigantic Pepsi logo on it, for the right price. Not that I make those calls. Or maybe they could do something to refresh the failure know as the Skywalk.

Below, see a short video on how the park interfaces with the existing infrastructure.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cincinnati continues to lose ground on its competition

In 2002 Hamilton County voters decided to vote down a half-cent sales tax measure that would have fundamentally changed the way in which Cincinnatians move about the region with a regional transit plan that included light rail (system map), streetcars (integrated map with regional rail plan) and a completely revamped bus system.

As Cincinnatians continue to be restricted to automobile travel and limited bus service, Seattle is now celebrating the opening of their light rail system. Having fewer transportation choices is a negative and it is no wonder that the talented young professionals and creative class are choosing cities like Seattle, Portland, Charlotte, Atlanta, D.C. and San Francisco over places like Cincinnati.

These individuals are choosing life styles and social experiences over household size, affordability and even job opportunities. The jobs are following the talent, and it's only a matter of time before Cincinnati starts feeling the heat from its companies that are having trouble attracting the young talent they need to stay competitive. In this global marketplace Cincinnati can no longer afford to rely on its history and foundational strength - Cincinnati needs to be competitive and learn how to start creating a city and lifestyle that appeals to our nation's changing demographics and urbanizing population.

The scenes from Seattle with more coverage here:

The keys to revitalizing Washington D.C.'s Columbia Heights

Special thanks to Kaid Benfield for pointing out this great video on Washington D.C.'s Columbia Heights neighborhood that is revitalizing itself in a green way. The revitalization efforts are focusing on the following key elements: landscape, streetscape, transit options and mixed uses, and sense of place.

Some places are building great cities and great neighborhoods, are we?

Friday, July 17, 2009

A friendly reminder

This is a friendly reminder about why to vote against the Anti-Passenger Rail Amendment and support the Cincinnati Streetcar, 3C Corridor and Midwest Regional high-speed rail projects, and the Eastern Corridor project.

The Alliance for Regional Transit is taking another group to Portland to see a diversified transit system first-hand. The trip will be taking place from July 23 through 24 and is rumored to once again have another star-studded list of travelers. It must be a giant coincidence or one giant conspiracy that virtually everyone who has gone on the trip, or studied these systems themselves, are all strong supporters of the Cincinnati Streetcar and a larger diversified transit system for the Cincinnati region.

Bearcat Football readies for 2009 season

The Bearcats will take the football field for their 2009 season opener against Southeast Missouri State in about two months. The football program is coming off of one of the best year's in its long history when it won the Big East Championship and earned a bid in the 75th FedEx Orange Bowl.

At the same time the program set several attendance records and recorded eight of the top-12 crowds in Nippert Stadium's 85 year history. This success at the box office has continued as the program has sold out nearly half of the stadium to season ticket holders, and for the third consecutive year, sold out the Bearcat Lair section behind the north end zone.

There have been some other moves since the Bearcats walked off the field at Dolphins Stadium in Miami, Florida earlier this year. The most notable of which is the new contract for Brian Kelly which will extend Kelly's contract one year and guarantee him nearly $1.5 million in salary until 2013 according to's Brian Bennett.

In addition to adding in more money for assistant coaches, at Kelly's request, the contract also eliminates the requirement for the University of Cincinnati to build a new practice facility for the program by 2010. The reason is, of course, financially driven as UC is short on the total amount needing to build the new practice facility that would include an full-size indoor field and a half size field along Jefferson Avenue uptown.

Proposed practice facility along Jefferson Avenue on the University of Cincinnati's main campus

This move seems to buy the university some time as it tries to raise money to build the new facility. From the beginning many thought it was a rushed time line to have the facility built by 2010, but had the contract stipulation not been in place then the UC football program would probably not be this far.

The continued success and growth of the program depends upon keeping quality coaches and trainers around. UC needs to make a concerted effort to keep these talented individuals here so that they can keep attracting the talent that makes UC as Bowl Championship Series (BCS) contender year in and year out. If the new facility does not get built and Kelly gets an opportunity to bolt, then the program will be branded as a stepping stone program for some time to come. It's up to the University of Cincinnati to decide from here how it wants to play this one.

Couple bonus pics from my trip to Miami for the 75th Orange Bowl where the University of Cincinnati lost to Virginia Tech

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Riddle me this...

Someone correct me if I am wrong here, but in general, conservatives want smaller government and less spending, right? So why do they tend to live in sprawl areas?

When they are first built, new suburbs cost the taxpayer money to generate the infrastructure to live there (spending), and in many places, especially here in the Cincinnati region, each new suburb has its own local government, police, fire, etc. (more people on the bureaucratic government’s payroll).

Conservatives: why not practice what you preach by living in areas that do not necessitate wasteful spending and bloated government? Discuss.

Photo Courtesy of USDA-NRCS

Ballparks as means for urban revitalization

After the lights went out and the dust settled from the 80th take of the Midsummer Classic, fans spilled out of St. Louis' beautiful new Busch Stadium into an area set to be developed as Ballpark Village.

Ballpark Village is much like The Banks development in Cincinnati. The idea is similar - following a major public investment in a new urban ballpark, a high density mixed-use neighborhood would fill the space left behind from the previous behemoth of a stadium that once existed.

This new wave of thinking towards sports facilities is a trend sweeping the nation that can be seen in cities from San Diego to Baltimore and minor league parks all across the nation. The idea is that new businesses and entertainment districts can thrive off of the tens of thousands of sports fans visiting the area 80+ times a year.

Both The Banks and Ballpark Village have suffered their setbacks. In both cases beautiful new ballparks have replaced the cookie-cutter stadiums...that part of the equation has been fulfilled. What has not yet been completed is the high density mixed-use neighborhood.

The Banks + Ballpark Village

There is no doubt in my mind that once developed, both Ballpark Village and The Banks will be successful if executed properly. The problem is that the execution has little to do with the ballparks built to spur these developments. In St. Louis the amount of residential space has been reduced from the original plan. In Cincinnati condos have become apartments, and the design has been "value engineered" to say the least. What could any ballpark do to change these results?

What the ballparks do accomplish is that they create an instant market for such "eatertainment" places like ESPN Zone, Hard Rock Cafe, House of Blues and so on. These places are perfect for these districts, but I honestly don't see what else the ballparks can do otherwise.

In St. Louis Busch Stadium is connected with the region's light rail system with a perfectly situated MetroLink station. Cincinnati has the opportunity to similarly connect Great American Ballpark with the Cincinnati Streetcar system.

St. Louis' Busch Stadium MetroLink station - photo from dswinney

The important thing to vibrant urban neighborhoods is the amount of people. Downtown Cincinnati and St. Louis have no problem with daytime work week activity. What they both need more of is night time and weekend traffic, and this requires more people living within the core. Less residential at these developments is the absolute wrong idea. Transit makes high density residential more financially feasible, and has a considerably greater impact than that of a neighborhood ballpark.

Great neighborhoods aren't made by great ballparks...great neighborhoods are made by the people living, working and playing there. A diversity of these activities is needed for a place to be truly sustainable in terms of its vibrancy, and instead of pouring our public dollars into new ballparks, stadiums and convention centers we should be putting our public money into transit choices, public spaces and a diverse housing stock.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Second Annual Cincinnati T-Shirt Festival - 7/17

The second Cincinnati T-shirt Festival takes place on Friday, July 17 on Fountain Square from 11am to 11pm, and will feature more than a dozen local vendors and companies.

The T-shirt “mini-market” will have offerings from major institutions like the Bengals, Xavier, UC and the Museum Center, but will also feature many local shops and companies like Park+Vine, Nati Evolvement, Alternative Motive (featured on MTV), Wire & Twine and much more.

Photo by Chris Glass, to see more of Glass' photos from last year's Cincinnati T-Shirt Festival go here.

Cincinnati's Purple People Bridge: Past & Present

Cincinnati's second oldest existing span across the might Ohio River was built in 1872 and was known as the Newport and Cincinnati Bridge. The river span was Cincinnati's first railroad bridge, and eventually was retrofitted to also accommodate streetcars, pedestrians and automobiles.

The bridge was later renamed the L&N Bridge for the Louisville and Nashville railroad that used the span. The bridge was closed down to both trains and automobiles and was eventually rehabed in 2003 into the "Purple People Bridge" named for its prominent purple color and pedestrianized span across the Ohio River.

The bridge quickly became a local landmark and a spot for art installations, shows and other family-friendly events. At its pinnacle, the bridge became the spot for the Purple People Bridge Climb (video) which was the first of its kind in North America and allowed for people to climb the bridge's superstructure and walk across the span.

The bridge climb attraction shut down one year after opening, and the group managing the bridge experienced some financial setbacks and have since tried to reorganize themselves and figure out what to do with the historic landmark.

So what's to come for the Purple People Bridge? What do you use it for, or do you use the bridge at all? Below is a collection of seven photographs I took from the Purple People Bridge. The main pedestrian span was blocked off as crews were deconstructing an art installation that was on the bridge. Joggers, families and leisurely walkers were using the span during that time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This Week In Soapbox 7/14

This Week In Soapbox (TWIS) you can read about a new Cuban restaurant in Covington's Wedding District, the newly forming medical corridor along I-74, Cincinnati housing market trends, a new pro shop for Disc Golf enthusiasts at Mt. Airy Forest, major renovations at Krohn Conservatory, and how the American Can Factory took center stage for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

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. Also be sure to become a fan of Soapbox on Facebook!

TWIS 7/14:
  • Cuban restaurant opens in Covington's Wedding District - full article
  • Medical corridor forming along Interstate 74 - full article
  • Krohn Conservatory to undergo major renovations - full article
  • Nati Disc Golf debuts pro shop at Mt. Airy course - full article
  • Cincinnati housing market showing signs of recovery - full article
  • Vice President Joe Biden highlights importance of stimulus with American Can Factory rehab project - full article

Could streetcars be manufactured right here in the Midwest?

On July 1 the United States celebrated the completion of the first American-made streetcar. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was in Portland to celebrate the moment.

The Infrastructurist points out that Oregon Iron Works felt like they could be profitable producing the modern streetcars, and feel that they are already producing a superior product than what is being produced overseas. CincyStreetcar says that this event illustrates two important issues.

“The first is that public transportation is not a partisan issue; both sides of the aisle benefit from increased public transportation. The second is the progress other cities around the country are making with increasing their transportation options and the positive returns on their investments.”

When examining this news one could also speculate on what this could mean for Cincinnati as it develops one of the first streetcar systems in the Midwest region of the United States.

Last month when the City announced the selection of the development team that will help finance, plan, design, construct, operate and maintain Cincinnati’s modern streetcar system they also announced that Cincinnati Streetcar Development Team partner, Stacy and Witbeck Inc., will be opening a new office in downtown Cincinnati and will also be relocating their executives to Cincinnati specifically for this project.

First American-made streetcar in Portland, Oregon - image from United Streetcar, LLC

Could the same also happen in regards to the production of streetcar vehicles in a state and region that was built on manufacturing and could easily produce streetcars with the existing infrastructure and talent in place here?

Columbus and Cleveland have recently examined streetcar systems for their cities. Milwaukee recently received tens of millions of federal dollars to build a three-mile modern streetcar system in their city that is being seen as a started line to a much larger, city-wide system (similar to Cincinnati’s effort). St. Louis and Minneapolis currently boast light rail that has vehicles similar to streetcars and could potentially be produced on the same line. Indianapolis is working on a light rail system there that would also fit into this category.

With all of these existing and future systems in the Midwest, it would seem reasonable to have a manufacturer for those vehicles right here. Could Cincinnati or Ohio attract such a firm, or grow one of their own so that it starts producing streetcar and light rail vehicles in one of the many plants we have that used to produce automobiles?

Monday, July 13, 2009

UPDATE: White House meeting on the state of urban America

As was posted earlier today, President Obama addressed a meeting at the White House today that discussed the problems and opportunities of urban America. There has been a good amount of press coverage on the national scene, but unfortunately our local newspaper came up short. The Enquirer did, however dedicate staff time to developing a Harry Potter quiz for readers to take. I wish I were kidding...

See here for a comment from the White House, including some of the President's remarks.

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

"I'll believe it when I see it..."

Construction at The Banks, Queen City Square and Central Riverfront Park all making significant progress

White House Office of Urban Affairs holds conference today

According to this article in the Washington Post, the White House is hosting a day long conference today about the future of American urban policy. Heads of relevant departments and agencies will attend, and the President is expected to give remarks as well.

In February, President Obama created the Office of Urban Affairs (OUA), and selected Adolfo Carrión Jr. (bio) to direct it. According to this article, the Director intends to “bring agencies together to change urban growth patterns and foster opportunity, reduce sprawl, and jump-start the economy.”

Adolfo Carrión Jr. - photo from Ezra Klein

The executive order that established the OUA states that the Office will “take a coordinated and comprehensive approach to developing and implementing an effective strategy concerning urban America”

The event today will serve as a semi-official start to the OUA, and will be the basis for a several-month long tour of urban America. Officials will visit cities across the nation in an effort to better understand the needs of our metropolitan areas.

OUA’s mission does not come without some opposition. Some worry that reexamining our current public policy creates a dangerous precedent of federal meddling in local affairs. Director Carrión seems to think just the opposite will occur. From yesterday’s Washington Post:

"For too long government has operated from the top down," said Carrión. "We've always heard why does the national government send down these unfunded mandates, under funded mandates, mandates that are not necessarily universally applicable. The bottom-up approach speaks to the need for this to be flexible."

Although no official site yet exists for the OUA, the articles, executive order, and this page on the White House website seems to indicate that the office wants to work with local municipalities to help provide the support they need to carry out what works best for them. In general, it appears that the President’s agenda will focus on bolstering the strength of cities as economic, social and cultural incubators, while also working to promote sensible growth and regional efficiency.

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