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Friday, May 7, 2010

Live Jazz & Wine Tasting on Fountain Square - 5/7

Fountain Square will play host to a wine tasting and sampling event with dozens of wines from around the world Friday, May 7 - making it the place to end the work week.

Event organizers state that knowledgeable staff will be on hand Cork 'N Bottle to help guests explore the wine selection and learn about each wine they taste. There will also be food available for purchase and live jazz by the Faux Frenchman (5pm to 8pm) and the Chris Comer Trio (8pm to 11pm) filling Fountain Square with music.

The wine tasting will start at 5pm and last until 11pm. Admission is free, but those wanting to engage in the wine tasting will have to purchase wine tickets that can be exchanged for small tastings or full glasses. For those not interested in the wine, then the music and calm spring night should be enough to get you out and out on Fountain Square for the evening.

Fountain Square Wine Tasting photograph by PicNewbie.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cincinnati hosts EACC high-speed rail conference

The 2010 Urban and Regional Public Transportation Conference, held May 5 at The Westin Hotel and sponsored by the European-American Chamber of Commerce, featured presentations by over a dozen industry experts including a keynote speech by John D. Porcari, Deputy Secretary of Transportation of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“America’s rail infrastructure is in shambles”, said Parcari, whose department is shifting policy away from a decades-old process that considered road or rail projects individually but could not easily approve multimodal projects.

In working to rebuild “the squandered investments of our grandparents”, Parcari described a profound turnaround in federal transportation policy from one that encouraged sprawl to one that will promote walkable smart growth. He promised that America’s new generation of passenger trains will not be assembled here from components manufactured overseas, but rather be “100% American” in order to “capture every piece of the high speed rail value chain”.

Although the announced policy changes portend an increased opportunity for federal assistance for local rail transit projects, Parcari stressed that in the short term those places with their “act together” will be first to benefit from these changes.

Speaking on the matter of the $400 3C’s grant, Matt Dietrich, Executive Director of the Ohio Rail Development Commission, remarked that early in the planning of the 3C’s line, Amtrak offered to sell Ohio a variety of retired and surplus locomotives and passenger cars for $10-$15 million. But after grants were awarded to projects in other regions, that equipment has been directed elsewhere, and Ohio has now budgeted $175 million – almost half of the 3C’s grant – for new passenger trains.

The constricted budget means grant funds are presently unavailable for construction of a track connection to Cincinnati Union Terminal. A permanent suburban station is planned for Sharonville and a temporary terminal station is planned for Cincinnati in Bond Hill.

Cleveland’s station will be located on that city’s lakefront, with a convenient connection to its Waterfront light rail line. Both Dayton and Columbus will have stations located in their respective downtowns.

Dietrich also discussed plans for a station at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, possibly within walking distance of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The base is the state’s largest single-site employer and the museum is, aside from King’s Island and Cedar Point, the state’s most popular tourist attraction.

The conference also featured speakers from France, Spain, Germany, and England, each of whom discussed not only the technical aspects of their high speed trains, but also how their networks are funded and administered.

Tom Stables, Senior Vice President of Commercial Development for First Group, discussed how England awards franchises to approximately a dozen different companies who for periods of seven to ten years operate the county’s various commuter and intercity train lines.

Juergen Wilder, representing industry giant Siemens, described how a ticketing and revenue sharing agreement was achieved with Lufthansa after a high speed rail line extended to Frankfurt’s airport drew significant patronage away from the airline. In the face of competition from passenger rail, Wilder suggested that American carriers might seek similar arrangements or even bid to operate the country’s envisioned high speed rail lines.

Herve Le Caignec, representing SNCF, the company that operates the French TGV network, discussed attempts at private-public partnerships in the construction of new TGV lines. He also offered evidence of the TGV’s staggering success – every day trains seating 750-1100 passengers leave the French capital bound for Lyon and Marseilles every five minutes and do not just sell out individually, but all trains – more than 300 of them -- often sell out each weekend as Parisians escape their drizzle and migrate en masse to the Mediterranean coast.

Written by Jake Mecklenborg.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dogfish beer tasting at Morton's - 5/7

Morton's Steakhouse is hosting a "Hoppy Hour" beer tasting this Friday, May 7 at 6pm. The tasting will feature a variety of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery beers which is one of the fastest growing breweries in the country.

According to event organizers, guests will be able to sample four different Dogfish brews that will be paired with selected cheeses and accompanied by Morton's Petite Filet Mignon sandwiches, Tuna Tartare Canapés, Smoked Salmon Wedges and Lamb Chops with Brie. There will also be a beer specialists on hand that will give a short presentation on each beer being sampled.

The four Dogfish brews being sampled include their Midas Touch, Raison (Belgian Ale), 90 Minute IPA and Palo (Brown Ale). The 90 Minute IPA is one of Dogfish's most popular selections and has been identified as the "Best IPA in America" by Esquire Magazine. The four beer selection will offer a variety of tastes and styles though ranging from the simplicity of the Midas Touch to the complexity of flavors found in the Palo and Raison.

Tickets for the Hoppy Hour this Friday at Morton's (map) cost $45 which includes your beer samplings, food, tax and gratuity. Tickets can be purchased now by calling (513) 621-3111. Nearby on- and off-street parking is available along with valet service. Metro bus service is available (plan your trip) along with free bicycle parking on surrounding streets and on Fountain Square.

Dogfish Sampling photo by Bubli.

Collapsed wall of Cincinnati’s oldest brewery to be rebuilt

Despite initial reports of the impending demolition of the structure, the western wall at the northeast corner of Stonewall and McMicken, nicknamed “Brewers Blvd” will be rebuilt and saved from the wrecking ball. The building in question is the oldest of seven structures that comprise the Clyffside Brewing complex in the northern section of Over the Rhine’s Brewery District.

In true micro-brewery fashion the two-story brick building, constructed in 1846, brewed only a modest 275 barrels of beer in its first year of operation under its original moniker of George Klotter & Company. Since those days, expansions and ownership changes have seen the buildings produce ales and lagers under the banners of Sohn, Mohawk, the aforementioned Clyffside, and most recently as Red Top Brewing Company, before closing its doors on September 27, 1957, leaving over 150 Cincinnatians jobless.

All is not lost however for Cincinnati’s oldest brewing structure. Owner Duane Donohoo confirms the wall will be rebuilt and the redevelopment plan, which includes condos with terraced, city-view decks and indoor parking, will move forward. When it is all said and done, Donohoo plans to put between $3-$3.5 million in the historic property, and hopes for it to be an anchor of a revitalized Brewery District.

“The whole reason I came to the Brewery District in the first place was to make a difference," exclaimed Donohoo. "It's such a gorgeous area and I want to do whatever I can to preserve the history and restore the buildings.”

The Clyffside Brewery redevelopment was first announced in April, 2008 to much fanfare. The building is not only in the historic Brewery District, but it is also at the northern end of the proposed Cincinnati Streetcar line. Once complete, the redeveloped Clyffside Brewery building will house 19 condos ranging from low-100's to the mid-200's.

Image of the historic brewery structure circa 1933 provided.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

UrbanCincy Visual Showcase Wrap Up

Allister Sears, Jake Mecklenborg and Jeremy Mosher gathered various pieces of their video and photography work highlighting Cincinnati's unique cityscape this past Friday, April 30 at the first-ever UrbanCincy Visual Showcase. The temporary exhibit drew around 100 or so people throughout the Final Friday Gallery Hop, and guests were treated to the work of these local artists.

Outside of the exhibit, Cafe de Wheels fed the masses along Vine Street. The buzz throughout Over-the-Rhine was palpable. If you were not able to make it out this past Friday, enjoy these photos from the event courtesy of 5chw4r7z. UrbanCincy would also like to thank Urban Sites for allowing us to use the commercial space along Vine Street for the gallery exhibit.

Cincinnati aims to double number of cyclists by 2015

Cincinnati has been making bold efforts recently to establish itself a more bicycle friendly city. New bike lanes, sharrows, on-street bicycle parking, bicycle parking development requirements, a bike share program, a bicycle commuter station and a bold new Bicycle Transportation Plan are all helping to change Cincinnati's bicycling community for the better.

So far, the City's Department of Transportation & Engineering has made bicycle infrastructure improvements in several city neighborhoods including Clifton, University Heights, O'Bryonville, Walnut Hills and Northside. City officials hope that the new bicycle infrastructure and public policy will double the number of people bicycling regularly for transportation in five years. Many local bicycling advocated believe that some of those future improvements need to start happening now.

"We're urging the City to immediately begin putting bike lanes and other improvements in place on Riverside Drive, Madison Road and Spring Grove Avenue," stated Gary Wright, President, Queen City Bike. "Those three streets must be a critical part of any serious bike network in the City, and doing this now will show that this is not a plan that will sit on the shelf."

Of those three streets Wright mentioned, Madison Road is scheduled to be repaved this year making for a perfect opportunity to install bike lanes at the least possible cost to a major transportation route between eastern neighborhoods like Hyde Park to the center city.

Wright adds that Spring Grove Avenue runs right through the epicenter of Cincinnati's bike culture in Northside and that additional investment along Riverside Drive could bolster that corridor from the popular recreation route it is now to something much more.

"Adding bike lanes now and making other changes to slow traffic through the East End community will encourage more people to give street riding a try while also doing a lot to enhance the neighborhood," Wright explained. "Bike lanes along Riverside will not serve as a substitute for completing the Ohio River Trail, but they will also make the Little Miami Trail connection planned for Lunken more accessible to a few more riders right away."

Following eight months of surveys, open houses and on-the-street focus groups, the City is ready to release a draft of the plan and receive final comments from the public. The release of this plan will take place on Wednesday, May 5 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center (map).

The Bicycle Transportation Plan calls for additional infrastructure improvements, educational and encouragement efforts, and enforcement programs. Those interested in providing feedback may do so by contacting the City with comments online or by calling (513) 591-6000 prior to Friday, May 14th.

On-street bike corral parking in Northside photograph provided

Downtown Cincinnati experiences strong progress during recession

If Cincinnati is our home, then downtown is akin to our city’s kitchen. Downtown is where we, as a community, watch television (Fountain Square), downtown is where we eat, and downtown is where we complete our financial transactions. This is the analogy Mayor Mark Mallory used at the 2010 State of Downtown meeting held this past Thursday, April 29th.

Mayor Mallory also likened downtown to an engine that is “hot and running well” at the Annual Member Meeting hosted by Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI). The positive 2009 report identified several positive indicators during one of the most difficult economic years the nation has seen including:

  • $116 million in completed construction and renovation project with another $1.6 billion in projects currently in progress
  • More than 445,000 square feet of office expansions, renewals and relocations in 2009
  • 30 new retail/restaurant/entertainment establishments opened in the central business district
  • 140 single family homes were sold, keeping population growth consistent with projections
  • $59 million economic impact of total room nights marked a record setting year for hotels
  • The Main Library, Cincinnati Museum Center, Krohn Conservatory and Fountain Square all posted record attendance years
  • Overall crime rate for the central business district/riverfront was down double digits in Part 1 and Part 2 offenses over the past decade, helping make Cincinnati the 7th safest city for pedestrians out of the nation’s 52 largest metro areas
  • DCI’s 3rd annual pedestrian count study showed a continued increase during peak weekday times (11am to 2pm), and a total increase of 20% in pedestrians during the evening hours
  • A partnership with the Hamilton County Department of Pretrial Services and the County Jail, University Hospital, Summit Behavioral Healthcare and others to identified the top 16 high risk panhandlers; placing 3 of the 16 cases in permanent housing to date

The meeting, which lasted for just a little over an hour, also included remarks from the Senior Regional Officer of the Cincinnati/Cleveland Branches of the Federal Reserve Bank Dr. LaVaughn Henry, Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney, and DCI president David Ginsburg.

The speakers focused on the importance of economic development in the greater downtown areas, each bringing a different viewpoint to the podium. Commissioner Hartmann spoke briefly about the importance of downtown to all of Hamilton County and the region, while using the casino development as a prime example of how to get the public excited and involved in the development process. Dr. LaVaughn Henry addressed the national economic recession and stated that while unemployment is still high here in Cincinnati and across the country, the rate of job loss is slowing and consumer confidence is on the rise.

Downtown Cincinnati's population has experienced steady population growth since 2005, and is expected to double by 2012 with the continued renovation of Over-the-Rhine and the opening of The Banks.

City Manager Milton Dohoney stressed the importance of taking risks, while also being cautious in our approach. His remarks on economic development revolved around the creation of new jobs, smarter land use, and partnership and investment in our community.

“Big steps equal big gains,” Dohoney commented in regards to taking risks. “We must work on expanding our tax base, while also proving that we are an inclusive community.”

Following the meeting, UrbanCincy caught up with DCI President David Ginsburg where he discussed the importance of projects like The Banks and the Broadway Commons Casino ultimately not becoming a single destination. Ginsburg also brought up the importance of “zoning flexibility” when it comes to downtown vacancy issues.

“Our primary role is to enhance downtown’s potential as a vibrant, clean and communal place that attracts employers, art, music and the creative class,” Ginsburg stated. “We must continue to improve downtown’s perception by getting more people downtown to witness the improvements firsthand. You wouldn’t buy a new car until you test drove it, so we need to get more people to test drive downtown.”

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cincinnati finally in compliance with 1997 federal air regulations

The Cincinnati-Hamilton Metropolitan Statistical Area has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for finally meeting 1997 federal air quality standards. The achievement by Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren counties now puts all of Ohio in compliance with the 1997 federal ozone standard for the first time.

"Today we celebrate that the entire state of Ohio, for the first time, is meeting the 1997 ozone standard," said Ohio EPA Director Chris Korleski. "Air quality in the Cincinnati area and throughout the state has improved, but our work is not done."

The U.S. EPA first proposed the redesignation in March, 2010 that also included Dearborn County in Indiana. The Cincinnati MSA had to undergo air quality tests between 2007 and 2009, and prove it can maintain that status for 10 years in order to earn the redesignation from the U.S. EPA. But while all of Ohio and Cincinnati's MSA are now meeting the 1997 standard, this is not the case for newly proposed ozone standards that are more stringent and will be enforced starting in 2011.

"Ohio has achieved this milestone through sound air quality planning and effective pollution control programs," explained Bharat Mathur, EPA Acting Regional Administrator. "With this accomplishment, Ohio has helped to ensure that its residents are breathing cleaner air."

Seasonal market returns to Fountain Square May 4th

The third annual Market on the Square returns to Cincinnati's central gathering point this Tuesday, May 4th. The seasonal market attracts hundreds of shoppers and visitors to Fountain Square every Tuesday afternoon through the summer months.

The Fountain Square Management Group has announced that this year's Strauss & Troy Market on the Square will include 20 different vendors and has been extended four weeks running from Tuesday, May 4 through Tuesday, September 28 between 11am and 2pm. This year's vendors will be selling produce, bakery goods, ready-to-eat foods, flowers/plants, jewelry and some other select items.

Fountain Square (map) is easily accessible by bike, Metro bus service (plan your trip) and automobile with daily parking available directly underneath the square in the Fountain Square Parking Garage.

Market on the Square photo by Thadd Fiala.

New renderings, details released on $46M Washington Park renovation

A $46.2 million renovation and expansion of Washington Park is shaping up as one of those transformational projects that help push a neighborhood on the rebound even further. Throughout the first decade of the 21st Century, Cincinnati has seen just this happen with the renovation of Fountain Square downtown. Now as Over-the-Rhine continues to open new residences and businesses, projects like the Cincinnati Streetcar and the renovation and expansion of Washington Park may finally push the long-troubled neighborhood into wide-reaching prosperity.

The Washington Park project will include a $21.6 million, two-level underground parking garage that will lie beneath a 2-acre expansion of the park to 14th Street. The completed 500-space underground parking garage will mirror designs often found in dense European cities and that found at Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati where an underground garage is integrated underneath the public space.

One of the major sticking points with the overall project has circled around the financing to make it happen. At the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation's (3CDC) OTR Work Group meeting last week, officials secured nearly $21 million of the total $46.2 million needed to complete the project, with the remaining $25.2 million identified and pending approval.

Music Hall Plaza sits in front of the new Civic Green at the expanded Washington Park [TOP]. The new interactive water feature integrates a new element to the historic park in place of the pool that once sat next to the elementary school [BOTTOM]. Images provided.

The renovation of Washington Park will also create a central gathering space directly across the street from Music Hall's main entrance on Elm Street called the Music Hall Plaza. Music Hall Plaza will then flow directly east into a newly created civic lawn space that will cover roughly the size of a football field. On the south side of the Civic Lawn a new water feature will be created that will lead all the way to the park's historic bandstand.

The historic bandstand centrally located in Washington Park will be restored and "modernized for contemporary use" according to officials at 3CDC. Those enhancements will include audio/visual upgrades and the addition of a dramatic new lighting canopy encompassing the area surrounding the bandstand.

The historic bandstand will be upgraded and include a dramatic new lighting scheme [LEFT]. The $46M project will transform and expand one of Cincinnati's oldest parks [RIGHT]. Images provided.

One of the more anticipated features of the newly renovated Washington Park is a roughly 1/4-acre dog park to be located immediately west of the historic bandstand along Elm Street. The dog park will add a second dog park to Cincinnati's under-served urban core that has been experiencing tremendous population growth over recent years in both people and dogs.

Officials are finalizing the financing components and designs now and hope to begin construction work by summer 2010. Should construction begin at that point, a fall 2011 completion date is targeted.

Friday, April 30, 2010

UrbanCincy Visual Showcase tonight in OTR!

Tonight Final Friday takes place throughout historic Over-the-Rhine. There will be dozens of galleries and businesses to visit, wine, food music and more. As part of this month's Final Friday gallery hop, UrbanCincy has organized the first-ever UrbanCincy Visual Showcase that will run from approximately 6pm to 10pm in the former A Lucky Step showroom on Vine Street (map).

Participating in the showcase are Jake Mecklenborg, Jeremy Mosher and Allister Sears. Together they will be displaying a variety of print and video pieces that highlight Cincinnati's urban core and city life in general.

Mecklenborg will be debuting a video that features a bike ride from Cincinnati's Fountain Square to the Ohio State Capital Building in Columbus. Sped up to roughly 600mph, or about the speed of sound, the video takes viewers along the network of bike trails that connect the two cities highlight the scenery along the way in addition to the gaps found in the trail system. Jake will also be showing his photography work of the Cincinnati Subway he has put together for a book he is currently writing on the rapid transit system's history that will be published later this year.

Mosher will be showcasing his unique Cincinnati cityscape collection through his critically acclaimed videography tonight. He will be joined by Allister who will be participating in his first gallery exhibition that will showcase his cityscape photography with a particular social perspective.

All of the participating artists will have prints available for purchase either on-site, or have ordering forms ready to be filled out in case you are interested. There will also be light refreshments and music at the gallery space - making it a perfect stop before or after a trip to Lavomatic or Senate. The gallery is free and open to the public, so be sure to come out and support local artists and businesses tonight in Over-the-Rhine for Final Friday.

Walnut Street photograph by Jake Mecklenborg

WNKU celebrates 25th Anniversary, plans for bright future

Thursday, April 29 marked the official 25th anniversary for local radio station 89.7 WNKU. WNKU serves as a strong force in the local community and will be engaging in some terrific things they have planned to celebrate this special milestone.

First though, a little perspective on the station and my experiences with it might be useful. In the early 1990s, my brother-in-law started telling me about WNKU and I would tune in on occasion. Things were much different then at the station than they are today. While they did play good music, it was secondary to the news offering and it was hard to even know when music was going to be played. Oh, and the signal, the major complaint for years, was awful which made it hard to pick up the station.

Around 2000, I started to listen to the station more as I had moved back into Cincinnati from college and things had become a little more musical. From that point I have had an ongoing and interactive relationship with the station. This involvement included volunteering for fund drives (they are a public station, you know, which means you can become a member here), helping at events, and even recycling my Christmas Tree with them. Needless to say, the station holds a special place in my heart. Forget Clear Channel, WNKU even with its warts, is the one radio station for me in Cincinnati. As for that signal? Well it is significantly better now than it was two decades ago, though it is still imperfect. Oh, and did I mention that I won the contest for the Top 89 of 2006 (yes that is me in the picture)?

Aside from community involvement such as presenting this weekend’s Spring Pottery Fair, WNKU does play some great and diverse music. Just a few of the artists played earlier this week in a one hour stretch on Michael Grayson’s Morning Music include Widespread Panic, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Brazilian Girls, The Avett Brothers and Norah Jones. There is a little something for everyone, and WNKU is bound to introduce some new artists to us as well.

To celebrate their 25th anniversary WNKU will be hosting a concert series of course! In talking through plans with Director of Development Aaron Sharpe earlier this week, there is palpable excitement over some of the shows they are helping to bring to town. It all starts tonight with a special show featuring Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $20, or in advance online or by calling (859) 572-6700 - $15 for members and $18 for non-members.

If you are unable to make it to the show tonight at Highlands High School (map), there will be plenty of other shows in the series for you to attend. Most of these are in the traditional venues around town, but Aaron did say that the station is hoping to organize a special blowout concert towards the end of the summer as the grand finale, so stay tuned for details.

The anniversary party they hosted was at last night's final Tunes & Blooms show which featured a live broadcast and had about 3,200 people show up to catch Jake Speed as well as The Turkeys.

As WNKU embarks on the next 25 years, I asked Aaron what the future held. There were a few things he mentioned including offering a second station on their HD broadcast, and acquiring other frequencies to help with distribution as they recently did with 94.5FM in West Chester. Additionally, the station just hired its first full time sales position as things continue to grow and change.

Whatever the future may hold, we do not know. But what we do know is how great a community partner WNKU is today. Happy anniversary WNKU! You have risen from humble beginnings to places that nobody dreamed of, and we all look forward to seeing what is up your sleeve for the next 25 years.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Community Campaign raises $11M for Fine Arts Fund

The Fine Arts Fund announced this evening that the Cincinnati community gave $11 million for the arts in during their annual campaign - matching their aggressive goal set last year. Julie Janson, Chair of the 2010 Annual Community Campaign for the Fine Arts Fund, said that the amount matched 2009's contributions and was more than any other such campaign in the nation.

The news comes as nonprofits and arts organizations around the country have struggled to raise money during a difficult economy, with many organizations scaling back their expectations. Fine Arts Fund leadership noted that donations came from people all over the region, with most people making less than $150 contributions.

"We decided that we had to set an ambitious goal in order to ensure that people continue to share the benefits of the arts that make our community such a vibrant and appealing place," Janson described in a press release. "And this year, setting a goal equal to last year's donations was very ambitious."

The Fine Arts Fund benefits nearly 100 arts organizations throughout the Cincinnati region including museums, theatre companies, dance companies and instructional organizations. Cincinnati's arts community received another major boost during this difficult economy when Louise Nippert donated $85 million in December to create a musical arts fund supporting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Opera.

"This is an extraordinary sign of community support for the arts and the benefits they bring to the entire area" Lee Carter, Chair of the Fine Arts Fund Board of Trustees, said. “People recognize that our dance, theatre, museums, music, art centers, and so forth make communities more vital and bring people together throughout the region."

On top of the $11 million raised in the Annual Community Campaign, several foundations contributed special initiative funding that totaled $12.3 million.

"We've heard from all corners of the region: the arts make our community a great place to live and visit,” Janson concluded.

CORRECTION: The Fine Arts Fund provides funding to nearly 100 organizations throughout the Cincinnati region, and provides additional services to dozens more. View a full list of grantees here.

Know Theatre to host 2nd Annual Derby Day Party - 5/1

The Know Theatre will host their second annual Derby Day Party at Sycamore Place in downtown Cincinnati this Saturday, May 1 from 4pm to 7pm. The party will also celebrate the Know Theatre's 12th Season, and will help raise money for the non-profit theatre in historic Over-the-Rhine.

According to event organizers, the Derby Day Party has a $15 suggested donation and will include a live viewing of the race, bourbon tasting and mint juleps. There will also be prizes awarded for the three best hats and for those picking the horses that place in the 136th Annual Kentucky Derby. Raffle tickets purchased for the horse placing competition will have all proceeds go to benefit the Know Theatre.

The event will be held in the lobby of Sycamore Place at St. Xavier Park (map) in downtown Cincinnati. The location is served by on- and off-street automobile parking, nearby bicycle parking and Metro bus service (plan your trip).

Historic structures threatened by wrecking ball in OTR

Early yesterday morning several buildings in the 1400 block of Vine Street were badly damaged by fire. The collection of buildings included the long-standing Smitty's clothing store and several apartments above where the residents lost just about everything.

The risk now is losing additional historic structures in one of the most at-risk and important historic districts in the nation. One building was already demolished yesterday following the fire clean up, and others are scheduled to be demolished today - including the building that houses Smitty's.

The Over-the-Rhine Foundation is asking residents to call Amit Ghosh (513-352-3433) from the City of Cincinnati immediately and ask that these buildings not be torn down, and instead be examined to see if they could be saved.

Danny Klinger, known for helping save the historic Meiner Flats building down the street recently, states that the City is required by ordinance to first attempt to preserve these buildings rather than demolishing them.

In historic districts, the administration will encourage the use of demolition funds to repair buildings rather than demolish them. At the very least, repair of a building will be funded for the same amount that it would cost to demolish the building.

"The City is ignoring its own laws by going straight for the demolition option rather than at least considering using the demo money to preserve these structures," Klinger implored. "Mr. Ghosh and his department must understand that those of us who care about preservation and about OTR are not ok with this. We expect that preservation be given full consideration."

UPDATE: Danny Klingler has just confirmed that the City has backed off of demolishing the remaining two structures for now, but he encourages everyone to continue to call to inform the City on their stance on preserving Over-the-Rhine's historic building stock, and to thank them for saving these structures for now.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Covington examining dog park for MainStrasse Village

Residents of Covington's historic MainStrasse Village are yearning for a dog park that will provide another amenity in their neighborhood. Dog parks have become highly sought after by urban dwellers as city living becomes increasingly more attractive.

In Cincinnati, early efforts were stalled for a dog park downtown due to the lack of capital money to build the park. The efforts to create a downtown dog park yielded fruit earlier this year when Procter & Gamble's Pet Care division announced that it would contribute $50,000 towards the construction of a dog park on a half-acre piece of land on the eastern edge of downtown Cincinnati. Planners have also included a dog park in Washington Park's redesign that is to be reconstructed over the next year in historic Over-the-Rhine.

Dog park supporters in Covington will meet on Thursday, April 29 at 5:30pm on the second floor of Chez Nora (map). Those in attendance will hear from Tom Biedenhorn who was instrumental in making the Pioneer Paw Park reality. Biedenhorn will be joined by Covington Commissioner Sherry Carran who did the site design for the Pioneer Paw Park, and will share information from that project with the audience.

Urban Dog Park image courtesy of Ask Dog Lady.

Cincinnati to host conference on high-speed rail

The European-American Chamber of Commerce (EACC) will host the Urban & Regional Public Transportation Conference on Wednesday, May 5 at the Westin Hotel in downtown Cincinnati. The EACC 2010 Conference & Gala will gather a group of international, national and regional transportation experts to discuss Ohio's 3C rail corridor and high-speed rail in general.

“High-speed rail has brought economic, social and environmental benefits to many countries around the world,” said EACC Executive Director, Anne Cappel. “The United States and the Midwest region can learn from case studies and experiences from our European counterparts and, hopefully, provide time and economic savings as we move forward."

Event organizers say that the conference is designed to address issues surrounding the 3C rail corridor with a pragmatic approach. Conference attendees will hear from experts involved in Ohio's high-speed rail plan in regard to its cost-effectiveness, safety and environmental impacts from local, regional and national levels.

Ohio's 3C rail corridor was recently awarded $400 million from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, and will eventually carry nearly 500,000 passengers annually between Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland. The 3C rail corridor itself serves an estimated 6 million people and is considered to be the most under-served passenger rail corridor in America, and would eventually be connected into the larger Midwest High-Speed Rail Network.

The EACC 2010 Conference & Gala will include three panels made up of representatives from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Ohio Department of Transportation, Midwest High-Speed Rail Association, American Public Transportation Association, FirstGroup America, General Electric, the City of Cincinnati and representatives from England, France and Spain. The three panels will focus on Economic Development, Performance/Environmental Impact, Financial/Operational Models.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation, John D. Porcari, will deliver the conference's key note address to the hundreds of decision-makers and thought leaders expected to be in attendance.

The EACC 2010 Conference & Gala will take place at the Westin Hotel (map) in downtown Cincinnati from 10am to 9:30pm and include lunch, a cocktail/networking session following the conference, and the gala dinner. A variety of registration packages are available until Friday, April 30 at 5pm.

If you are unable to make the event, be sure to follow UrbanCincy on Twitter where we will be live tweeting from the conference using the #eaccConference hashtag.

High-Speed Rail image from Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Bold Fusion 2010 invites young professionals to realign

The 6th Annual Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber summit for young professionals takes place this Thursday, April 29. Called Bold Fusion, the event offers an opportunity for the next generation of movers and shakers to come together and "challenge the way they work and live in Cincinnati USA."

The focus of this year's half-day event is on innovation and reshaping traditional work and lifestyles for the future. An impressive array of presenters is lined up to inspire and invoke new thoughts. Most notably, the keynote speaker is Cincinnati-native David Pescovitz, research director at The Institute for the Future and the co-editor of popular blog BoingBoing. His goal is to shake up the views of the Bold Fusion attendees and get them to rethink they way they live and the companies they represent professionally.

“Many of the best ideas may come from unexpected contributors," explained Pescovitz who went on to say that those contributors can come from so far outside an organization's own walls that they even speak a different language.

2009 Bold Fusion attendees [LEFT] were treated to Richard Boehne, CEO of E.W. Scripps [RIGHT], who served as the summit's keynote speaker last year. Images provided.

The other speakers are nothing to scoff at, either. The day kicks off with LPK's Vice President of Trends, Valerie Jacobs, giving a "back cast" that will look at the ways sociocultural trends have shaped our lives over the last several years, in order to propel us into the future.

There will also be other local professionals giving their personal accounts of jumping into the murky waters of innovation, and how they have grown and changed through those experiences, including Chris Ostoich of Blackbook and Ignite Cincinnati; Chris Graves, Enquirer Media/Locals on Living and Amy Storer-Scalia of CincyChic; Erika Brown, P&G Beauty & Grooming Brand Manager of Digital Strategy & Innovation, Founder of and Co-founder of Tremor; Meredith Holthaus and Pete Healy, Museum of Advertising; Elizabeth Edwards, Metro Innovation; and Steve Burns of AMP Electrical Vehicles.

A new twist this year is the introduction of Bold Fusion's "Lounge 140" which will feature an assemblage of local social media gurus. This group will be updating attendees and those who unable to make the event through their various social media outlets. UrbanCincy's own Jenny Kessler has been asked to be a part of Lounge 140, and will be tweeting about the event live @jenlkessler and from @UrbanCincy. Those looking to follow along with the live tweets about Bold Fusion can follow #CincyHype and even join in the conversation.

So, in a nutshell, why should you come to Bold Fusion?

"Bold Fusion 2010 wants all of Cincinnati USA's creative makers, hackers, innovators and passionistas to participate in the largest convergence of young talent in a single place, around a single topic in the region," said Jennifer Young, Marketing Communications Manager for Cincinnati USA. "Press pause, realign and decide what to make of your future."

Bold Fusion will take place Thursday, April 29 from 1pm to 5pm at the Westin Hotel (map), with a happy hour event following the summit from 5pm to 7pm. Nonprofits and companies sending two or more people to Bold Fusion can purchase tickets for $45. College students can register for $35, Cincinnati USA members will be able to get in for $60 and all others will be able to attend for $85. You can register online now or by calling (513) 579-3111.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Banks development team releases new website, renderings for $600M development

The progress being made at The Banks development along the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati is palpable. Underground parking garages have been built to lift the development out of the 100-year flood plain and provide parking spaces for those living, working and visiting Cincinnati's central riverfront. With that complete, the buildings that will house 300 apartments, retail and office space are now rising on the eastern portion of the site near Great American Ball Park.

The development team responsible for the $600 million private investment has now released a new website, updated renderings for Phase 1 of the project and has begun a branding and marketing campaign intended to "define and illustrate" what it will be like to live, work and play at The Banks. The new campaign focuses around a slogan of "It's happening on the river" and includes a new logo in addition to the new website and marketing effort.

“I think after all these years, it’s hard for people to believe that things are finally happening at The Banks,” said Malloy Peterson, vice president of marketing at Carter. “This campaign, along with the ongoing construction now visible at the site, will help change that perception and start to build interest among the community that The Banks is really taking shape.”

The updated renderings illustrate the large sidewalks that will accommodate the many visitors and residents of the mixed-use development. The mid- and high-rise structures will include street-level retail that has apartments with balconies or office space on the upper floors.

Residential development above street-level retail spaces looking east along Freedom Way towards Great American Ball Park [TOP]. Corner retail development at 2nd & Main streets [BOTTOM]. All images provided by Carter and The Dawson Company.

“Throughout all aspects of this project, we’ve been steadfast in delivering a development that creates excitement and interest throughout Greater Cincinnati,” said Harold A. Dawson, Jr., president and chief executive officer for The Dawson Company. “With a grand opening a year away, this new campaign brings to life our team’s vision of The Banks.”

Those interested in living at one of the 300 apartments in Phase 1 of The Banks can now contact Kristi Fickert from Village Green Management at (888) 371-7241 or by email at

Both the private and public portions of the overall development are currently on-schedule, and will see the underground parking garage to the east of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center open this June 2010, with a grand opening of the private development portion scheduled for spring 2011. Once fully built-out, The Banks development will house more than 3,000 new residents and will be Cincinnati's largest single, mixed-use development composed of residential, office, hotel and retail components.

Cincinnati to debut form-based code implementation strategy

The City of Cincinnati will present its recommended strategy for implementing form-based codes at a special Planning Commission meeting on Friday, April 30 at 9am.

Form-based codes are two years in the making in Cincinnati where officials have met with communities around the country that have successfully implemented form-based codes of their own. Locally, the City of Bellevue, KY has finished the public involvement portion of their form-based code development process and is now moving towards adoption of the non-conventional zoning practice.

Cincinnati's implementation strategy will detail how form-based codes can be incorporated into the existing Cincinnati zoning code while also developing a process for creating and applying them throughout city neighborhoods.

This strategy has been developed through a collaborative effort between the City, Opitcos Design and Lisa Wise Consulting over the past four months. In 2008, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Councilmember Laketa Cole introduced a motion directing the administration to develop such a plan. Stakeholders have been meeting month since that time and are now getting closer to implementing a form-based code in one of the largest cities nationwide to date.

The special Planning Commission meeting being held on Friday, April 30 will be held from 9am to 11am at Two Centennial Plaza (J. Martin Griesel Room, 7th Floor) in downtown Cincinnati (map). Free bicycle parking is available nearby and the site is served by Metro (plan your trip). Cash parking garages and on-street parking is available nearby for automobiles.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cincinnati's Clark Montessori High School seen as national model of success

The nation's first public Montessori high school is a feather in the cap of Cincinnati Public School District, and Clark Montessori is also one of the best schools in Ohio's third largest public school district by student population. The school has now gone even further and been recognized on a national level as a model of educational success for other high schools across the United States.

This accomplishment has not gone unnoticed by President Obama who has established a goal of having the world's highest proportion of college graduates by 2020. As part of President Obama's education goals, he has established the Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge which has been whittled down to six finalists including Cincinnati's Clark Montessori.

“These six schools represent just a few of the stories of success that are happening all across the country,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We won’t accomplish the President’s national goal of leading the world in college completion by 2020 without the hard work and dedication of the school leaders, teachers and students exemplified by our six final high schools.”

To get to this point, Clark Montessori seniors worked with representatives from the Get Schooled Foundation to produce a video illustrating the excellence at their school. The video is currently being used as a judge for those voting for a winner from the six finalists. Starting today, voting opened to the public and Clark Montessori's application and video have been posted to the White House website. The winner of the competition will receive a visit from President Obama where he will deliver the spring commencement speech at the winning high school.

“The quality of the applications we received is a testament to the exciting work happening in schools throughout the country, and I look forward to visiting and speaking at the winning school later this spring," said President Obama.

In 2009, Clark Montessori graduated 100% of its senior class. You can vote for Cincinnati's Clark Montessori in the Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge now until 11:59pm on Thursday, April 29.

Race to the Top Challenge announcement photograph provided.

LEED building practices helping turn around Covington neighborhood

Two new homes in Covington have been awarded LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for their green home building and design. The two homes become some of the first LEED certified homes in Kentucky, with the home at 520 Thomas Street being the first home to achieve LEED Gold.

The home was built by the Center for Great Neighborhoods (CGN), with assistance from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky and the City of Covington, and incorporates a variety of sustainable design features that include low-flow plumbing, low-e windows, EnergyStar-rated appliances, high efficiency HVAC systems, recycled construction materials, bamboo flooring, sustainably-harvested wood moldings and more. In total, the green building features of the new home scored the project 78.5 out of 136 total points possible in the LEED for Homes certification - Gold status projects must score between 70.5 and 85.5).

“As a LEED certified home, 520 Thomas Street serves as a model of greener living for the entire community,” said Nate Kredich, Vice President of Residential Market Development for the U.S. Green Building Council. “The home is at the national forefront of quality; and their example can help us all to live better by reducing our environmental footprint, cutting our utility bills, and coming home to a healthier place to live.”

The new homes are part of a larger revitalization wave happening in the Austinburg neighborhood of Covington which is bordered by the Licking River and the proposed Licking River Levee Walk.

"The Center for Great Neighborhoods aims to make Covington a place where people choose to live, work, and play," Rachel Hastings, Director of Neighborhood & Housing Initiatives with CGN, described. "We built homes on a formerly vacant lot in Covington’s Austinburg neighborhood at the request of the Austinburg Neighborhood Association in an attempt to increase home ownership and remove blight."

Hastings explained that the CGN uses its housing development program in a targeted effort to increase property values, reduce blight and increase high-quality affordable market-rate home ownership. She is also excited about the positive impact the Seneca Place development is having on the neighborhood which is seeing its first new construction in over 50 years.

"When neighbors saw the new homes being built, it helped restore their confidence in their neighborhood and encouraged them to make improvements on their home because they saw that they could get a return on their investment," explained Hastings. "The homes also show that, for a reasonable price, you can build LEED Gold homes that are easy for the average homeowner to maintain."

The new homes also mean an addition to Covington's tax base and new residents populating Covington's urban core. The success is planned to continue as CGN owns additional lots in the Austinburg neighborhood where it plans to construct an additional eight homes, and invest another estimated $1.6 million into the immediate area.

520 Thomas Street construction photograph provided.

Friday, April 23, 2010

First-ever UrbanCincy Visual Showcase - 4/30

UrbanCincy will host its first-ever gallery exhibition at this month's Final Friday gallery hop in historic Over-the-Rhine. The gallery will focus on the works of three local Cincinnati photographers and videographers. Their work will celebrate Cincinnati built form and cityscape through photographs and engaging video pieces.

Photographer and transportation historian, Jake Mecklenborg, will be showcasing his cityscape photography in standard print form. Additionally, Mecklenborg will be premier his bicycle ride from Cincinnati's Fountain Square to the Statehouse in Columbus. The video has been sped up and will highlight the 100-plus mile journey.

North College Hill resident and UrbanCincy writer, Jeremy Mosher, will be showcasing his work covering Cincinnati's unique urban landscape through his critically acclaimed videography mode. Finally, Allister Sears will be participating in his first gallery exhibition and will showcase his urban cityscape photography in a variety of formats.

All of the participating artists will have prints available for purchase either on-site, or have ordering forms ready to be filled out in case you are interested.

The first-ever UrbanCincy Visual Showcase will take place on Friday, April 30 from 6pm to 10pm in the former A Lucky Step showroom on Vine Street (map). The location makes for a perfect stop before or after you visit Senate or Lavomatic. At the free showcase, visitors will be treated to light refreshments, music and an engaging gallery space perfect for anyone fascinated by Cincinnati's urban landscape.

Walnut Street photograph by Jake Mecklenborg.

Cincinnati Port Authority lands $1M grant for brownfield redevelopment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced yesterday that the Port Authority of Greater Cincinnati has been awarded a $1 million grant that will be used to investigate contaminated properties throughout Hamilton County referred to as brownfields.

The $1 million grant is broken up into two separate categories that includes $800,000 to investigate properties contaminated with hazardous substances, while the remaining $200,000 has been earmarked for the investigation of properties contaminated with petroleum.

Brownfield sites are more problematic to redevelop due to the contamination of the site that is often very costly and time consuming to clean. As a result it is quite typical that government agencies assist in such remediation processes in the form of financial assistance or liability deferral. Most recently the City of Cincinnati pledged to assist Boston Beer Company in its expansion efforts that include the redevelopment of a contaminated property adjacent to their existing West End operations.

“Returning brownfield sites to productive use has tremendous benefits for Cincinnati and Hamilton County,” said Port Authority President Kim Satzger. “A clean site is an enduring contribution to our environment and our economy.”

The collaborative effort between the Port Authority, City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County will focus on priority areas identified in the GO Cincinnati report including the Mill Creek Corridor, Madison Road Corridor and Seymour/Reading Road Corridor.

“As Greater Cincinnati’s industrial base declined, many Hamilton County communities were left with a legacy of abandoned and underutilized properties,” said Christine Russell, Director of Brownfield Development at the Port Authority who believes that the grant money offers an opportunity to continue to redevelop affected properties throughout the county.

According to the Port Authority, since 2001 it has worked on nine brownfield sites in Hamilton County, returned 157 acres of land to productive use, removed over 80,000 tons of contaminated soil, captured nearly 384,000 gallons of polluted water, recycled more than 1.7 million tons of steel and over 164,000 tons of concrete. Port Authority officials estimate that these projects have resulted in a $1.35 billion annual economic impact and supported 13,793 jobs.

Brownfield clean up work photo provided.

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