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Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Celebration on Fountain Square

Come downtown to ring in 2010! Fountain Square will feature a 15,000 pound Ice Bar, which includes a Red Bull ice luge. Faucets are frozen inside the bar so beer can be tapped from inside the ice. The bar is about 20 feet long, 12 feet deep and 10 feet high. Soda, snacks, draft beer, champagne and mixed drinks will be available for purchase. Additionally, Strauss & Troy are sponsoring FREE ice skating and skate rentals, which are typically $2.50 each.

DJ Pillo will spin tunes all night to keep the non-skaters moving as well. At 11pm, watch Red Bull's "New Year No Limits" TV special live on ESPN. Red Bull athlete Travis Pastrana will drive a car off a pier in Long Beach and land it on a barge floating in the harbor, in an attempt to set a world record for longest distance jump in a rally car. Then at 11:59 pm be part of a live television crowd on Fox 19 that counts down to the New Year and welcomes 2010 with fireworks by Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks.

Parking is available all evening in the Fountain Square Garage for just $5. Or leave the car at home by taking a bus to the event (plan your trip now). You could always take a cab home if needed.

Fountain Square Ice Bar photograph by 5chw4r7z.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Busken Bakery opens new downtown location

Earlier this month Cincinnati-based Busken Bakery opened their newest location on 7th Street in downtown Cincinnati. The street-level space is the fifth downtown Cincinnati location Busken has had in its 82-year history.

"We’ve had a retail presence in downtown Cincinnati for nearly 40 years,” said Page Busken, Chairman of Busken Bakery. “We’ve experienced the entire business spectrum of great success and miserable failure in the downtown market over the years. This will be the 5th time we’ve opened a new store in downtown Cincinnati and believe me, we’ve seen it all!”

Busken's sons Dan and Brian encouraged their father to maintain a downtown location even when times were bad, and now that Cincinnati's center city is experiencing a dramatic revitalization, the sons believe it would be foolish to leave.

"There is too much positive momentum and our city center is slowly but surely becoming a destination," said Brian Busken.

The new store will look to grow their breakfast and lunch catering business which had previously been operated out of their store at 9th and Central near City Hall which has now been closed and replaced by the new store. The new store will also give Busken a presence in the heart of the bustling Backstage Entertainment District and within the close reach of thousands of downtown office workers and residents.

“Breakfast catering is something we are very good at, and to my knowledge I don’t know of any other bakeries that will deliver Hall of Fame Donuts, Danish Muffins, and gallons of premium coffee to any downtown business meeting or event, 5 days a week," said Busken.

The new Busken Bakery at 7th & Walnut streets (map) is open Monday through Friday from 6:30am to 3pm, Saturday from 7:30am to 1pm, and is closed on Sundays. Bicycle and automobile parking are available, and the new bakery is located along several prominent bus routes and is located just two short blocks from Metro's Government Square bus hub (plan your trip now).

Busken Bakery on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

F Yeah Cincinnati!

"F Yeah Cincinnati" photograph by Scott Beseler; click to open larger version in new window.

Just another statistic...

It has been just over a month (11/27) since I became a statistic. After going to the Know Theatre for a review of Sideways Stories from Wayside School I was walking back towards Fountain Square when my friend and I were robbed at gunpoint at the intersection of Vine and Court streets (map).

No one was hurt, although material possessions were taken along with our nerves that night. It was not so much the fear, but the state of shock took over our minds. There were lots of people around – about a half dozen at the bus stop a half block away, another dozen or so hanging outside of Hamburger Mary’s, cars moving along on Central Parkway, and we were right on Vine Street. We could not believe what was happening until it was all over.

The encouraging part was that someone at the bus stop called the police who responded within a few short minutes. Another gentleman expressed his condolences as we continued to make our way back into the Central Business District, but in the end, we have been added to the spreadsheets as victims of crime.

Looking back on things it appeared as though the individual who approached us had no intention on using the Western-style handgun of his that he was holding palm up, and it also appeared that it was all made possible by a dark Court Street area where he, and an accomplice, were able to hide. Since that time Court Street has seen additional lighting added to it in a move that I find non-coincidental.

Both my friend and I are avid city supporters and are not scared away easily. The next day I walked around historic Over-the-Rhine taking photographs of new development projects and architectural features throughout the beautiful neighborhood. But with that said, the incident gave me a reminder that we must always be aware of our surroundings no matter how comfortable we might be.

Additionally, as urban-advocates we must realize that crime, and the perception of it, must be addressed in a prioritized way that is thought out and well managed. Would surveillance cameras prevented this incident from occurring, or would it have just happened somewhere else where it was dark and without a camera? Would additional lighting have changed the situation? More police? More jail beds?

These are all complex issues that are very worth discussion as we continue to move forward with the redevelopment of our urban communities. We need a smart city in order to thrive in the future, and overlooking how to effectively manage crime would be a major mistake.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Beautiful Over-the-Rhine

Click image to open large high-quality version in new window.

2009 a year of progress for Cincinnati preservationists

2009 was a year full of progress for preservation advocates in Cincinnati. Several important structures were saved from the wrecking ball, new public policy is being implemented to help prevent additional demolitions, and Cincinnati’s historic neighborhoods reaped the many benefits of restoration investment.

This year the Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA) has recognized six different individuals, organizations, and projects that represent “outstanding accomplishment in local preservation.” The awards included a new award for Special Recognition that went to the Meiner Flats building in Over-the-Rhine.

Meiner Flats was built in 1875 by a family of German-American stonemasons and is one of the tallest buildings in historic Over-the-Rhine. After sitting vacant for roughly two decades the building was ordered to be demolished by the City. The Special Recognition award was presented to Danny Klingler, among others, who helped bring attention to the building and save it from the wrecking ball thanks to generous donations from Cincinnatians, 3CDC, and the City of Cincinnati.

[Above] 13th & Republic in OTR's Gateway Quarter. [Below] Rader Gallery building at Liberty and Main streets in OTR. Photos provided by Mike Stehlin.

Rookwood Pottery took home the Craftsmanship Award for restoring the proud Rookwood tradition which includes the first female-led manufacturing firm in the country, the best-known art pottery in the U.S., and one of Cincinnati’s most famous companies that was started back in 1880. In 2006 new ownership acquired all of the remaining assets of the original Rookwood Pottery and has moved into a massive 100,000 square-foot structure in Over-the-Rhine near Findlay Market.

Other awards handed out by CPA include the following:

  • Education Award: Elizabeth Meyer for her instrumental work in preserving original documents, drawings, photographs, and other resources pertaining to Cincinnati Modernist buildings.
  • Rehabilitation Awards: Luedeking House in East Walnut Hills has been meticulously restored over the past five years and has restored the home’s previous grandour. 2312 Park Avenue in Walnut Hills also received this award following an adaptive renovation that now houses the offices of Vivian Llambi & Associates.
  • Sustainability Award: Veraestau Historic Site in Aurora, Indiana took home the Sustainability Award for its incorporation of progressive conservation practices in addition to its preservation efforts that included a new geothermal heating and cooling system.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays Cincinnati

The UrbanCincy team would like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and happy holiday season. Thanks for reading and supporting Cincinnati's urban core.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fountain Square Ice Rink open on Christmas!!

It's less than two days until the Big Day arrives. After a frenzied couple of hours, the presents will be opened, the food will be eaten, and all the preparations for the Christmas holiday will be dismissed in a pile of discarded wrapping paper and distended bellies. If you're looking to spend some quality family time beyond the 24 hour "Christmas Story" marathon, look no further than our beloved Fountain Square.

The U.S. Bank Ice Rink will be open Christmas Day, Friday Dec. 25, from 2pm to 10pm. The rink will also be open New Year’s Day, Friday Jan. 1, from 2pm to 10pm.

Regular hours from now through Sunday Jan. 3 are Sunday through Thursday from 10am to 10pm, and Friday & Saturday from 10am to midnight. From January 4 to February 21, the regular hours will change to:

  • Sunday - Wednesday: noon – 6pm
  • Thursday: noon – 10pm
  • Friday & Saturday: noon – 10pm
  • Holidays: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and President’s day: 10am – 6pm

The cost to skate is $2.50 per person. Skate rental is also $2.50 or feel free to bring your own skates. Parking is conveniently located in the Fountain Square Garage for just $5 after 4pm on weekdays and all day on weekends, and Metro's Government Square bus hub is located less than a block away for convenient bus service. Bicycle parking is also plentiful on/around the square.

Come start a new holiday tradition on Fountain Square this holiday season. And if you're not in town but want to live vicariously through others, Cincinnati Bell has a live webcam of the ice skating area here.

So Long, Slim

It was January 8, 2006 and the football had crested and was on its way down to a streaking Chris Henry who was a step ahead of the Steeler defender. I was in Section 337 at Paul Brown Stadium and as the rookie ran under the ball and made the catch, I and 65,000 of my closest friends went crazy. The Bengals had arrived and came out as the aggressors in their first home playoff game in fifteen years. It was going to be great. Of course, you probably know the rest of the story. Carson Palmer’s knee was blown out on the play, Henry was injured too, and the game went downhill not long after that.

When the news of Henry’s accident surfaced last week, followed by his untimely passing the next morning this was the one play (video - first 30 seconds) I was stuck on. I have been a season ticket holder since the arrival of Marvin Lewis in 2003 and seen Henry play since his 2005 rookie campaign but this play went through my head all day Thursday, the day of Slim’s passing.

There are two reasons why I think it left such an impression with me, the first of which is how it encompassed and paralleled the unfortunate legacy Chris Henry leaves behind which is that of unfulfilled potential. This has been written and discussed ad nauseam and was even pointed out by Coach Lewis last Thursday afternoon. The long pass to 15 that late January afternoon was about hope and promise as much as it was about “what could have been” after the play ended and damage was assessed.

The other reason I think that play stuck with me is because it is a reminder of how quickly and dramatically life can change and how many of us find ourselves in positions we wouldn’t have expected just nearly four years earlier. I sat in Covington’s Riverside Park on Thursday evening looking across the river at PBS wondering this thought, and then recognized that had I been told back then that I’d be in Riverside Park on December 17, 2009 I would have undoubtedly called you a liar. There was a fire glowing alongside the Ohio River that evening in the shadow of Paul Brown Stadium, and I’m going to guess that if you told whoever was being warmed by it four years earlier that they would be homeless and living by the river they would have done the same. And assuredly had you told Chris Henry that he was to meet his untimely death he would have had more than a few doubts about your prediction.

His passing to me was a reminder that to some degree we all have pieces of our lives that unfold that we don’t expect, or count on. Some are good, some are bad, and some just are. I do find it somewhat ironic that out of all the plans we make and how much control that many people like to have, life continues to unfold in unexpected and sometimes confounding ways. We live and work in a society that is about chasing dreams and making plans, but sometimes the best parts in life are the ones we don’t expect. The unexpectedness can also bring the worst parts in life which is what happened last week.

Regardless of your feelings about Chris Henry and some of his past exploits, his passing is tragic and yet another moment in time where the circle of life is broken yet again as a 26 year young man was buried yesterday. Aside from seeing him around town a few times over the years and of course Sundays on the football field, I didn’t know him nor am I going to pretend to. But that doesn’t mean that I was unaffected. To me his passing was not just about a reminder of how fragile life is, it was so many life lessons that we all can easily forget or not even recognize until it’s too late.

So long, Slim. We were rooting for you in so many ways, and now we root for those you left behind.

Chris Henry image from

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Downtown Cincinnati needs more residents

Downtown Cincinnati has experienced tremendous progress over the past 10 to 15 years. The Aronoff Center for the Arts was built along Walnut Street which sparked the investment seen in the nearby area now called the Backstage District, two new professional sports venues were built along the riverfront along with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the convention center was expanded, the Contemporary Arts Center was prominently rebuilt, the renovation of Fountain Square sparked millions of dollars worth of spin off investment nearby, and hundreds of new housing units have been developed.

Over this same time crime rates have gone down, population has increased, commercial occupancy rates have held steady, retail spaces have filled up, and the hotels boast the highest occupancy rates in the metropolitan region. But as in any situation, one solution often creates another problem.

Case in point, the Metropole Apartments on Walnut Street are now slated to become a trendy 12c Museum Hotel which will relocate the low-income residents that currently call the building home. This will not only create a difficult situation for the large number of people living there, but it will also take away a large number of full-time residents from the downtown population.

The same situation is shaping up at the Phelps apartment building that fronts onto the picturesque Lytle Park. The 137 apartments there will more than likely be lost to an extended stay hotel that will take advantage of the downtown commercial success, but once again, another large block of full-time residents will be lost in the process.

The interest in the downtown commercial market is very encouraging, but downtown must be able to be thriving both commercially and residentially in order for it to become that 24-hour downtown we all hope it will become. The apartment conversion of the historic Enquirer Building will help offset the aforementioned residential loses, but an apartment conversion of the historic Bartlett Building would also do wonders for the residential component of downtown.

The Banks is slated to add hundreds of new residents to the urban core, but there are also great opportunities for residential density at 5th & Race, 7th & Vine, Court & Walnut, and Court & Elm/Race. A residential strategy should be employed to best maximize the use of these areas – high rises at 5th & Race and 7th & Vine, midrise at Court & Walnut, and a mixture of townhouses/rowhouses at the Court & Elm/Race area would seem to be a good strategy off-hand that would create different price points and unit options that would appeal to a wide variety of people.

To become a truly vibrant downtown beyond the hours of 7am to 8pm, Cincinnati must develop a downtown residential plan that will massively grow the downtown population base and infuse the area with a mixture of young people, families, and retired individuals. If this can be achieved, then the retail and nightlife mixture we all hope for will follow.

Phelps Apartmens photo by Mark Bowen of the Cincinnati Business Courier.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Best of Scott Beseler 2009

Soapbox's Managing Photographer Scott Beseler is an award-winning photographer who resides on the rivers' edge just south of the Roebling Bridge in Covington, Ky, in what he describes is his New York style dream loft, minus New York. Each week his photography illustrates the stories published in Soapbox Cincinnati, and as the year comes to a close, Scott takes a look back at his featured Soapbox mastheads from 2009. Check out more of his award-winning photography at

UC’s Sustaining the Urban Environment named Advanced Energy Center of Excellence

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland recently announced the first round of Advanced Energy Centers of Excellence, and on that list was the University of Cincinnati’s Sustaining the Urban Environment (SUE) along with eight other centers across the state. The announcement comes after the SUE Center of Excellence won the National Science Foundation 2009-2010 Award for its “Economic Development through Green Entrepreneurship (EDGE)” initiative.

According to the University of Cincinnati, the prestigious honor will place the Sustaining the Urban Environment Center of Excellence in a leadership position for improving the health and wealth of Ohio’s urban residents through the development of technologies that promote the evolution of economically and environmentally sustainable urban regions.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 80 percent of the U.S. population lives within urban environments. These megacities and urban regions consume large amounts of natural resources to satisfy energy demands, and as a result, the SUE Center of Excellence (blog) has a goal to design for life and work in a manner that sustains the environment and resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

To accomplish this, the SUE Center of Excellence has developed partnerships with Cincinnati-area businesses to help identify potential sustainability solutions. The SUE Center of Excellence will also continue to study how urban infrastructure and environmental policies affect the long-term health and wealth of cities; and will continue examine scientific metrics, policies and technologies that, "promote the evolution of economically and environmentally sustainable urban regions."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Putting our money where our mouth is. Literally.

Some of UrbanCincy's friends have written about the need to buy local, and we whole-heartedly agree on the merits. It is proven that spending money at a locally owned business keeps more money in the local economy than spending the same amount at a chain. So when the writers of UrbanCincy try to get together for lunch about once per month to catch up and have an informal staff meeting, we have only 1 rule: buy local.

Our last luncheon adventure took us to Chicago Gyros in Clifton Heights because many of us live nearby. Their generous portions definitely filled us up, and the prices were absolutely reasonable. For the 4 of us, our total bill came to something like $35. Because we bought local, almost $16 stayed in the local economy. Had we spent that same amount at, say, Quiznos across the street (don't get me wrong, I love Quiznos), only about $4.50 would have stayed in the local economy.

Join us in supporting the local economy this holiday season, and all year long, by buying local.

Chicago Gyros on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Over-the-Rhine: A Holiday Tradition

Usually when we talk about Over-the-Rhine here it is about how the neighborhood is turning around, or events going on in the neighborhood. This time though, I thought it appropriate to take a moment and talk about the group of musicians known by the same name and specifically their show tonight at the Taft Theater. The show this year, and many years in the past, has been sponsored by local radio treasure 89.7 WNKU.

The heart of Over-the-Rhine, the band, is Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist who have been married and making music together for quite some time. Last year their two night stand at The Taft celebrated the 20th year of the band as they worked through music from their entire career. This year the show should be back to its more traditional mix of original tunes, both of the holiday variety and those enjoyed on a year round basis.

Their annual homecoming show around the Christmas holiday has become a longstanding tradition in Cincinnati which started back in the mid 1990s at the Emery Theatre. As the band's fan base grew and the Emery closed down of course (only to be remodeled) the next logical place was the Taft where they have been playing for a while now.

This show has become a part of how many Cincinnatians celebrate the holiday season, and if you have not checked it out it comes highly recommended. Karin, Linford, and company put on a very thoughtful and elegant show on a stage that is usually candlelit and has numerous flowers on it which are purchased by fans of the band. Couple it with a dinner at one of the many establishments around town and a trip to the Fountain Square Ice Skating Rink for the perfect Saturday night.

Get in the mood by checking out “Darlin (Christmas is Coming)” from last year’s show and then buy your tickets for the show here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Once Upon a Mattress a hit for the holidays

This weekend, Jersey Productions will run their final showings of Once Upon a Mattress. Tony nominated actress Pamela Myers plays the lead, Queen Aggravaine, and Kaitlin Becker perfectly plays the eccentric Princess Winnifred. Children and adults alike will love how well the young actors and actresses portraying a group of children listening to a story actually become involved in the musical numbers.

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s showings and can be purchased online, by calling (513) 621-2787, or by visiting the box office. Seeing the play will be the perfect end to a day of fun holiday activities downtown this weekend, including seeing the train display at the Cincinnati Gas and Electric Building, ice skating on Fountain Square, or bolstering the local economy by shopping in the Gateway Quarter.

The Aronoff Center for the Arts (map) is located in the heart of downtown Cincinnati's Backstage Entertainment District. Off-street automobile and bicycle parking is available and the Aronoff Center is well-serviced by Metro’s Government Square bus hub. To see which route is most convenient for you, and to plan your trip now, use Metro’s Trip Planner.

New Gateway Quarter Gift Card the perfect holiday gift

If you’re still trying to find the perfect gift for a friend or family member, look no further than the new Gateway Quarter Gift Card that is good at 24 shopping, dining, and entertainment destinations in one of Cincinnati’s trendiest business districts.

The new gift cards are a perfect addition to the thriving Gateway Quarter district in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. On Black Friday I took advantage of the second annual ‘Holidays in the Bag’ shopping event and was able to purchase nearly all of my holiday gifts just in the Gateway Quarter. So, if you still searching for gift ideas, buy a couple Gateway Quarter Gift Cards and give your friend of family member the gift of shopping local and experiencing the unique items available throughout the Gateway Quarter.

The gift card can be purchased at five locations: Park+Vine, Mica 12/v, Joseph Williams Home, Below Zero Lounge, and the Gateway Quarter Sales Office at 12th & Vine streets. Find a full list of participating businesses here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

UC*Metro deal sees more changes

UC students, faculty, and staff will soon pay more to participate in the UC*Metro program. When originally created, the deal allowed free rides on any Metro bus route by simply showing your UC ID card. In September, we reported that riders must now pay a quarterly fee ($40 for students, $120 for faculty and staff), and pay an additional fare for routes outside of Zone 1.

Due to an increasingly tight budget situation at Metro, which has required a combination of service cuts and fare hikes, the UC*Metro deal will see additional changes. In addition to paying for the quarterly card, riders must now pay a 25¢ fare for routes within Zone 1 (formerly free), and increased fares in other zones (see full list of fares at UC's website).

The new fares will take affect on December 27. Those who have already purchased a pass for Winter Quarter have been given the option of requesting a refund, from now until January 11, 2010, by e-mailing Marie Sutthoff at or calling 513-556-4319.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Remembering Erich Kunzel

Aside from conducting the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and appearing on PBS for many years, Erich Kunzel conducted many other orchestras, including the Boston Pops. The home of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra in Cincinnati was Music Hall, which is located in the old German district known as Over-the-Rhine.

Kunzel’s dream was to locate the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) in Cincinnati in the Over-the-Rhine district just a block or so from Music Hall. In addition to this, he helped raise funds for this endeavor. Unfortunately, Erich Kunzel recently passed away as a result of cancer and will not see his dream soon come to fruition.

Many sought to honor him for all he did for the city of Cincinnati and the world of music. So, the street in front of Music Hall was given the additional name of “Erich Kunzel Way” by the Cincinnati City Council, while at the same time retaining its name as Elm Street.

An additional honor was sought by many to name the SCPA School after him, with the final result that the building complex of the school will be named the Erich Kunzel Center for Arts & Education.

As President of the German-American Citizens League of Greater Cincinnati, I appeared at the November meeting of the Cincinnati School Board, stating:

“Maestro Kunzel’s efforts not only spearheaded financial support for the construction of SCPA, but they also led to its location in downtown Cincinnati near Music Hall in historic Over-the-Rhine, the home of his beloved Pops Orchestra.”

Kunzel was a good friend of the German-American community and proud of his German heritage. Although it was hoped that the new school would bear his name, the compromise reached does place his name on the building complex in Over-the-Rhine and most likely will become generally known as the Erich Kunzel Center for Arts and Education.

German-Americans in Cincinnati, therefore, can be proud to have done their part in obtaining this honor for Maestro Kunzel, a great German-American, who was well known throughout the world.

A collection of his recordings was just issued entitled “Erich Kunzel - Cincinnati Pops Orchestra: The Legacy Collection.” It contains a selection of fifteen of his favorite musical pieces, concluding with “Stars & Stripes Forever,” by John Philip Sousa, who also was of German descent.

Yours truly,
Dr. Don Heinrich Tolzmann

Don Heinrich Tolzmann serves as president of the German-American Citizens League of Greater Cincinnati & Curator of the German Heritage Museum. The author of many books on Cincinnati's German heritage, he also is Associate Publisher and Columnist for His forthcoming book due this spring is on Cincinnati's historic Over-the-Rhine.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Central Riverfront Park update from Dave Prather

Central Riverfront Park (CRP) project manager Dave Prather gives an update on the progress being made on phase 1 of the new 45-acre park that will become Cincinnati's new front yard.

According to park officials, phase 1 of the CRP will include the new Moerlein Lager House restaurant and brewery as well as a plaza of water jets with cascades of water that drop to pools along Mehring Way. There will be a grand stairway with landings at water-filled basins, a glass-floored walkway above a lower level loggia, a shade trellis, informational and interpretive displays, and public restrooms. Also part of the design is an event lawn and stage, a promenade, and within a tree grove, a monument to the Black Brigade, a floral garden and a labyrinth. The park will also feature a bike center and welcome center, and a section of the Ohio River Bike Trail. Phase 1 is targeted to open by the end of April, 2011.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cincinnatians continue to show strong support for rail transit

This past Wednesday night, dozens of transit supporters gathered for the Cincinnatians for Progress (CFP) holiday party and victory celebration at City Cellars downtown. The meeting came just over a month after Issue 9, the Anti-Passenger Rail Amendment, was soundly defeated by Cincinnatians at the polls. In the campaign, CFP out-raised, out-canvassed, and outsmarted the special interest groups looking to hold back our city.

At the meeting, rail advocate John Schneider discussed the status of the Cincinnati Streetcar plan and other transit projects regionally and nationally. Cincinnati is getting closer to making its Streetcar plan a reality, with the possibility of receiving funding from several state and federal sources. Any one of these awards could fully fund the project; and depending on the amount, later phases of the plan could even be fast-tracked.

[LEFT] John Schneider speaks to the crowd at City Cellars. [RIGHT] The crowd gathered at City Cellars showing their support of rail transit in Cincinnati.

The 3C Corridor project, which would give Cincinnatians a rail link to Columbus and Cleveland, was also discussed. Schneider said Ohio is in a position to receive federal funding, depending on what strategy is used to develop our national inter-city rail infrastructure. That's because Ohio is the most dense U.S. state without rail linking its major cities.

As the special interest group known as COAST ducks away and tries to regroup after being blasted in the November 3rd election, transit supporters continue to rally and maintain a strong and loyal base of supporters that are indicative of the larger voter population in Cincinnati.

Formed in response to Issue 9, Cincinnatians for Progress grew quickly and gained true grassroots support. Chairs Joe Sprengard and Bobby Maly explained that thanks to this support, the organization will continue to exist as a pro-growth, pro-transit group supporting our city and urban core.

If you are looking to help make the Cincinnati Streetcar reality you can do so by doing one or more of the following:

(Video courtesy of 5chw4r7z.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

How can Findlay Market drive additional traffic?

Findlay Market is looking for ideas on ways in which the historic market can be improved to drive additional traffic. To voice your opinion please visit Iron Bridge and vote on the poll on the right-hand side of the page.

Findlay Market has been experiencing a resurgence lately with increased traffic and vendors, but problems still exist. Access can be difficult for some, weekday operations remain slower than desired, evening hours are still limited, and marketing has been a challenge when working with such a diverse group of vendors.

As the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood continues to repopulate itsef, and as interest continues to grow in buying local goods from local merchants, the market's future appears to be bright. Innovative ideas and suggesstions will help Findlay Market move into the next stage of its long life with a renewed energy and spirit.

How can Findlay Market drive additional traffic? VOTE HERE!

Coming Soon - Cafe de Wheels

The trend of mobile food is nothing new, but it is still emerging in Cincinnati. Cafe de Wheels, the region’s first independent food truck, is expected to hit the road soon to start serving up delectable treats to Cincinnati’s hungry street people.

Cafe de Wheels is the brainchild of Tom Acito, and with a little help from Chef Michael Katz, it will be making its way around Cincinnati streets starting in the very near future. Focusing on burgers, fries, and Cuban sandwiches these two are looking forward to changing the way Cincinnatians enjoy their food. In speaking with owner Tom Acito about his choice to do a mobile restaurant versus a more traditional standalone storefront, he said there really was no choice at all.

From a cost perspective, he estimates that the start-up costs to open a traditional spot would run about $300,000 whereas the Cafe de Wheels truck was purchased and equipped for about $50,000. Another big benefit is that of course, he is mobile which will allow the restaurant to move with the crowd and also pick and choose when and how they invest their time. As things get started it will be just Tom and Mike so they don’t foresee staying out too late, at least initially.

“We’re pretty much just held to the same rules and regulations as a standard place without the associated costs of such an establishment,” said Acito.

Cafe de Wheels benefits from minimal logistics involved with operation the food truck. Outside of the required food vendor’s license, a peddler’s license, and tags for the truck, Acito and Katz say that not much was needed.

Acito said that Cincinnatians can expect to see them popping up around town wherever the local police force will allow, like valid on-street parking spaces. According to Acito, in the heart of Downtown they must stay off the street and use private lots where they have reached agreements with the owner of said lot.

When asked how these two men came together, Tom mentioned he had put a help wanted ad on Craigslist and Michael was one of many people to respond. Tom said that Mike just understood more than most, what Tom wanted to accomplish, and was really excited about the concept.

[LEFT] Cafe de Wheels exterior minus paint job. [RIGHT] Interior work space of Cafe de Wheels. Photos provided.

While Tom has not lived in Cincinnati his entire life, Mike has. He went through culinary school at Cincinnati State (then Cincinnati Technical College) and has worked in many kitchens around the city at various restaurants. His enthusiasm for the project shined through in our meeting. Cafe de Wheels is "back to the basics" as their focus is hamburgers and fries, but Mike plans on making it a bit more fancy with special sauces and other unique sandwiches like Cubans and his own veggie burger creations.

While there are other mobile food trucks in the process of starting up around Cincinnati, Café de Wheels is the first of its kind in that there is no restaurant backing it. The plans are to use as many local suppliers as possible to outfit the pantry and fill the fridge including Avril-Bleh Meats, Shadeau Breads, and even Dojo Gelato to accompany the warm fruit crisp dessert.

When asked if success could lead to a restaurant later on, Tom said, “That’s always been a dream of mine and this may be the first step, but for now we are really excited to get Cafe de Wheels out on the road.”

Follow Cafe de Wheels on Twitter @burgerBgood to stay up-to-date on their whereabouts, what they're serving and all the latest news surrounding the mobile food craze in Cincinnati.

Cafe de Wheels (Food Truck) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"Cincinnati is still Cincinnati without BK"

Two great videos by CNATI and one from the Enquirer:

Brian Kelly decides to jump ship...NEXT MAN IN!

Well it's official. Brian Kelly did what everyone thought he would do and follow in the footsteps of Mark Dantonio. The reports are out that Notre Dame will announce Brian Kelly as their next head coach, and BK will more than likely not spend a minute more with his dedicated players and team after the team's banquet this evening.

It's a perfect ending to a perfect season in a sick kind of way. The whole year the team played with the motto of "Next Man In" almost as if Brian Kelly saw the writing on the wall months ago that he would cut and run on his team before the biggest game in UC football history. Three short seasons ago BK joined the Bearcats and coached them to an International Bowl championship, Bowl championship, then two consecutive Big East championships with a disappointing performance at last year's Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech.

BK has made the most of his players and turned the program into a national powerhouse building off of the foundation that Mark Dantonio so nicely poured for him. Now BK is off to Notre Dame where the cabinet won't be left quite as full and the expectations not quite so low.

In Cincinnati, BK was on his way to becoming a local legend and turning the Bearcats into the premier football school in the Big East with perennial BCS bowl games and National Championships on the line. At Notre Dame BK will be expected to win National Championships from the beginning and anything less will be a disappointment.

The news comes on the heels of the Bearcats undefeated season where they repeated as Big East Champions and in which they came just one second or a missed field goal away from playing for the National Championship. Bearcat fans rewarded the team and BK by turning out record crowd, after record crowd at Nippert...and by selling out the team's entire 17,500 ticket allotment to the Sugar Bowl where the Bearcats will play the Florida Gators.

Add in the fact that BK's seniors poured their hearts into a game that will go into the history books (video) against Pittsburgh in the final game of the regular season where they came from 21 points down to win in the waning seconds by 1 point. It was such an emotional and important win that senior leaders Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard broke out into tears of joy...but who cares.

BK certainly has a fat paycheck waiting on him in South Bend in addition to a slew of absurd benefits. He will also be able to play under the watchful eye of Touchdown Jesus, and be judged by fans who feel more entitled to everything and anything, without any real reason. BK will also be taking over a team that hasn't had a defense in years, and whose two best offensive players just declared themselves for the NFL Draft.

The University of Cincinnati is a top-notch school and program, and Cincinnati is not some stepping stone city. As much as I love Bearcat football, and what BK has done for it, he's gone now and I've moved on. Good riddance BK, and I wish you as much luck at ND as Dantonio has had at Michigan State.

In the mean time, watch this GREAT VIDEO on the Bearcats instant classic win over Pittsburgh. It's inspirational and the sound track is perfect given this news. BK, you're just the past now. It's our time.

OTR Neighborhood Holiday Party - Thursday Night!

Tis the season for holiday parties, and tonight there is a special one happening at Mr. Pitiful’s (map) on Main Street in the heart of Over-the-Rhine supporting the Over-the-Rhine Foundation.

The 2nd Annual OTR Neighborhood Holiday Party will feature live music from local favorites Messerly & Ewing, food, and of course spirits featuring Christian Moerlein's Christkindl Winter Warmer Ale. The party gets started at 6pm Thursday evening and is slated to run until 10pm, but you have to figure that will be just about the earliest anyone heads home.

There will be raffle tickets available for $10 which will give you a chance to get some help out with some gifts for friends or for yourself. Prizes range from gift cards to OTR shops such as Park+Vine, Outside, Findlay Market, and tickets to productions by the Cincinnati Ballet, Know Theatre, and Cincinnati Opera.

Another fundraising piece of the night will include a live auction featuring works of art by Jim Effler, VisuaLingual, Sherman Cahal, and Craig Moyer. Finally, $25 raffle tickets will be available for the Dream Vacation Raffle which is a one week stay in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

As mentioned above all raffle proceeds will be going to the Over-the-Rhine Foundation which has been working to preserve, protect, and promote OTR for over sixteen years. So come on out, support a good cause, meet new folks, and get reacquainted with older ones at Mr. Pitiful’s on Thursday. While there is no need to RSVP per se, there is of course a Facebook Page where you can let everyone know of your good intentions!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

This Week In Soapbox 12/8

This Week in Soapbox UrbanCincy has the following six stories that you must check out. You can read about how The Model Group is restoring Covington's historic East End neighborhood, $1.5 million in new solar energy grants for Cincinnati, expanded hours at a popular new Downtown eatery, six new board members for Downtown Cincinnati Inc., the region's first Brothers Bar & Grill, and a great feature story about redefining the workplace.

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 12/8:
  • Cincinnati-based Model Group restoring historic Covington neighborhood - full article
  • Cincinnati captures $1.5M for solar electric projects throughout city - full article
  • Mayberry announces expanded hours at popular new Downtown eatery - full article
  • Downtown Cincinnati Inc. gets six new board members - full article
  • Brothers Bar & Grill enters Cincinnati market with Newport location - full article
  • Redefining the Workplace (feature story) - full article

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cincinnati installs dedicated bike lanes along Dana Avenue

In an aggressive attempt to improve upon the "C" grade received on its first-ever annual Bicycle Report Card, City leaders are looking at ways to incorporate bicycle facilities into the city's larger transportation network. The most recent example can be seen along Dana Avenue in between Madison Road and Grigg Avenue (map) where the City incorporated dedicated bike lanes along a nearly one-mile stretch of roadway.

The stretch of Dana Avenue had at one point been bloated with unnecessary amount of vehicle lanes. As a result, the City took the opportunity to put Dana Avenue on a "road diet" when they began work repaving the road as a part of the City's Street Rehabilitation Program.

New dedicated bike lanes along Dana Avenue - photos by Melissa McVay.

The road diet included the removal of two vehicle lanes and the addition of two striped, five-foot wide dedicated bicycle lanes. In instances like the Dana Avenue road project, City leaders saw it as a cost-effective way to quickly implement bicycle facilities without any disruption.

Cincinnati now boasts more than 8 miles of dedicated bike lanes throughout the city, with another 2.58 miles of sharrows along city streets. Another 340 miles of roadway is being studied as part of the Bike Plan process. Additional Street Rehabilitation and Transportation Design projects will also be evaluated during the design phase to see how bikes or pedestrians can be best included as well.

Are police force reductions needed in Cincinnati?

With the new members of City Council now sworn in, the debate surrounding the City's annual budget has once again gotten heated. Much of the debate this year swirls around layoffs instead of city services like in past years. More specifically the debate is over who should be laid off.

A significant change took place on November 3rd, when Charlie Winburn (R) made his way onto City Council in place of Greg Harris (D). The change represents a shift in power when it comes to the budget discussions which previously had a 5-4 majority in favor of cutting some of the public safety budget which, instead of being trimmed in past years, has actually grown.

In the past I asked the question as to whether we actually know how many police officers we need in order to maintain a safe city, or if anybody actually knew the answer to that question. The natural answer always seems to be add more police officers and continue to increase their budget, but common thought should be examined when we are discussing people's jobs and livelihoods.

I am of the mindset that much more than shear force is responsible for public safety. After school programs, mentoring, crime prevention initiatives, and job programs are all proven tactics that can be used in maintaining public safety. With that said, a good way to measure quantifiables is to compare yourself to peer cities.

Click chart to open larger version in new window

After some research it turns out that while Cincinnati lost 8 percent of its population from 1990 to 2010, the City has actually grown its police force by 21 percent over that same time. If you factor in the proposed police force reduction that number would change from a 21 percent increase to a 9 percent increase, and once again, while our population declined 8 percent.

If no police reduction is made in the 2010 budget, Cincinnati will have 1,135 sworn police officers which represents 340 police officers for every 100,000 residents. If the proposed police force reduction were to happen then Cincinnati would still have 1,023 police officers representing 307 for every 100,000 residents.

When looking at how this compares with our peer cities, Cincinnati ranks at the very top of the list of police officers per 100,000 residents even with the proposed police force reduction.

It can be easy to say lets not ever cut our public safety spending, as it is the most core function of government, but as people's jobs and livelihoods are on the line we owe it to them to at least examine the situation from an objective standpoint and make the best decision for the residents of Cincinnati.

There are also good programs at risk during these budget discussions. It would not only be unfortunate, but also irresponsible, to cut spending on the City's recycling program that would reduce costs and actually grow revenues. It would be similarly irresponsible to cut spending on the Comprehensive Plan, Climate Protection Action Plan, or any other initiative that is laying the groundwork for economic development that grows revenues and reduces expenses.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bearcats finish 3rd in BCS, will play Florida Gators in Sugar Bowl

The University of Cincinnati Bearcats finished the college football regular season undefeated and #3 in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) national rankings. The top three teams all boast undefeated records and all hail from BCS affiliated conferences (SEC, Big XII, Big East respectively).

The win over Big East rival Pittsburgh on Saturday secured the Bearcats back-to-back Big East football championships, and their second straight BCS bowl game appearance. Last year the Bearcats struggled against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl and lost 20-7. This year the Bearcats will travel to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl to take on the Tim Tebow-led Florida Gators who are coming off a crushing defeat in the SEC Championship Game to Alabama.

Tim Tebow is arguably one of the greatest competitors in college football, and ended the game against Alabama crying on the sidelines. It will be a test to see if Florida comes ready and prepared for the Bearcats' offensive onslaught, or if they'll be disappointed about missing out on a chance to play for the National Championship which most people believed they would do from the beginning of the season until just now.

The Gators have a terrific defense, but so far there really has not been a defense that has been able to slow down the Bearcats' prolific offense led by Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard. Instead the best defensive strategy has been to just keep the Bearcats offense off the field by running a slow paced offense that eats of game clock.

Will Tim Tebow and company be able to keep the Tony Pike and company off the field? Will the Bearcats' young defense be able to scheme for Tebow and the fast-strike Gators? Will Bearcats coach Brian Kelly still be around to coach in the game on January 1, or will there still be talks of him leaving acting as distractions? Will Urban Meyer and his coaching staff have similar problems as they entertain other coaching opportunities? In a nutshell, who will come ready to play?

The game will be played on Friday, January 1 at 8:30pm in New Orleans. Bowl Central is the spot to get all the information on the game including tickets, travel accommodations, and game notes. This is the Bearcats second BCS bowl game appearance, and their first appearance at the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Whoa, Who Arted?

In case you're still looking for something else to do this Saturday night there is a art show at the Leapin’ Lizard gallery in Covington that sounds interesting. As you may have guessed, the name of the show is "Who Arted?"

The show starts at 7pm at the Leapin Lizard (map) along Main Street in Covington, and it features LPs as art! Yes, you know old school vinyl records? Well over fifty artists have taken them and created pieces of art that will be on display, and of course for sale. The cost to get in is just a mere $2 and there is a cash bar once you are inside. All the rest of the details can be found here including links to many of the artists homepages out on the interwebs.

If you are headed over, you may consider dinner at Europa which run by the same folks that run Angelina’s Fine Foods at Findlay Market. It is only about a two blocks north (that’s towards the river Ohioans) from Leapin Lizard and choices include one of the many sandwiches they offer, or a more formal dinner menu which they started just last week. If nothing else, they have some great gelato for a post Who Arted snack.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Main Street Shop & Stroll this weekend in OTR

Well, another weekend is here and so is another reason to come out and support your local establishments in downtown Cincinnati. Last weekend was “Holidays in the Bag” in Over-the-Rhine's Gateway Quarter, and this weekend you have the Main Street Holiday Stroll & Shop! Ever been to Second Sunday on Main? Well, it is kind of like that which means fun places, fun people, and fun things!

The main difference between this and Second Sunday? Well, Main Street Stroll & Shop officially runs Saturday from 11am to 7pm and Sunday from 12pm to 5pm. While you can go at any time, I highly recommend going early on Saturday. You see, in conjunction with Stroll & Shop the Art Academy will be holding its annual Snowflake Sale. While their site says that it runs until 3pm, I have seen 2pm elsewhere so come early and check it out so you don’t miss it.

Whenever you go, there are plenty of places to visit on north Main Street. The only holdover from “Holidays in the Bag” is Atomic Number 10 which will be participating with nearly every other establishment along the stretch of Main between 13th and Liberty streets. As you probably already know there are a ton of art galleries on that stretch as well as a bunch of unique shops where you can find that gift that you cannot find anywhere else. While there is no “official” discount feel free to ask each merchant about exclusive holiday specials.

Surely you are bound to work up an appetite or get thirsty along the way! There are many options to choose from including Mixx Ultra Lounge, Iris BookCafe, and Shadeau Breads right there along Main Street. Of course there are a few just off Main like Grammers, Lucy Blue, and Coffee Emporium.

So get out and find some fun gifts this weekend, support your local businesses, and experience some of the magic of downtown! A few other things worth checking out include the ice rink at Fountain Square and the Duke Energy Train Display. Of course, you could just be a little adventurous and find your own way around!

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