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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 Tunes & Blooms concert series at the Cincinnati Zoo

The annual Tunes & Blooms concert series at the Cincinnati Zoo starts tomorrow at 6pm. Just as in the past, this series features local music in a very unique setting and promises to be a great way to get back outside and enjoy the Spring season in Cincinnati.

Presented by CityBeat and WNKU, Tunes & Blooms is a free weekly concert series put on each and every Thursday evening throughout the month of April. The bands that come to play at the Zoo are some of the most respected and admired local acts and they promise to put on quite a show. The kickoff event this week features both Chuck Cleaver’s Wussy as well as local indie pop sensation Pomegranates. A fairly unique pair, this promises to be quite a show on a night where the weather should be nothing but spectacular.

There are a few other things you should know about Tunes & Blooms which has five incredible shows over the next month. First off, admission to the Zoo is free after 5pm and the shows start around 6pm. While parking is $7, it is a good deal whether you drive a car over or jump on the Metro lines 1, 46, or 78. Secondly, the event will happen rain or shine. Tomorrow's weather looks very promising, but as Spring carries on it is a great reminder that regardless of what the weather is there will still be music happening at the Zoo each Thursday.

We are lucky enough to have five Thursdays in April this year, and the schedule is packed for each one. Stop over and enjoy some free music at the Zoo as one way to get back outside and enjoy all that Cincinnati has to offer. You will find the schedule of shows for this year's Tunes & Blooms below.

April 1 – Wussy + Pomegranates

Cincinnati's Airport Location Failure

In an ever globalizing economic system, it becomes increasingly more important for metropolitan regions to have a strong international airport that not only provides reliable high-quality air service to the residents and businesses of that region. Cincinnati's robust corporate community has historically helped position the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport as one of the major players in the nation thanks to a large Delta presence.

That presence is nowhere near the same today and Cincinnati's international airport may soon be positioned to lose its Delta hub status altogether thanks to the recent Delta/Northwest merger that left the Cincinnati with the odd airport out with nearby hubs in Atlanta and Detroit.

Atlanta is Delta's hometown and has the busiest airport, as measured by enplaned passenger, in the world. Meanwhile Detroit Metro Airport is a large newly renovated facility that was a major hub for Northwest prior to the merger. The new mega-airline no longer has a need for the overlapping hubs and seemingly has its eyes set on giving Cincinnati the treatment Pittsburgh received US Airways reduction from a prominent "hub" to a mere "destination" in 2008.

With Cincinnati's large and growing business community, a region experiencing regional population growth, and a central location to other large metropolitan markets it would seem like Cincinnati's international airport should be anything but the odd airport out in this shuffle - especially with recently upgraded facilities, top-of-the-line security, and large capacity. The problem might be that Cincinnati's international airport is located in Northern Kentucky.

This is not said as a slight to Kentucky, but rather said as a reality that Northern Kentucky represents the southern most reaches of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), and is very distant from the southern reaches of Dayton's MSA that is poised to be merged with Cincinnati following the 2010 Census creating the Cincinnati-Dayton Metroplex with roughly 3.1 million people.

Imagine this: Instead of having the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport on Cincinnati's south side and the Dayton International Airport on Dayton's north side, the new metroplex has one mega-regional airport located in the middle of the two population and job centers. The draw would be so great that the airport would attract travelers from Columbus and Indianapolis alike for its profound reach much like the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport view during early stages of construction of the third parallel north/south runway (top left) - image from Landrum & Brown.

A mega-regional international airport located around the Monroe area in Butler County would been a further distance from the center cities of both Cincinnati and Dayton when compared to both cities existing airports, but Cincinnati would not have the difficult and expensive navigation over the Ohio River and Dayton would be able to benefit from an international airport with the pulling power of Cincinnati combined with their own.

The region is currently pouring $2-plus billion into the construction of a new river crossing primarily needed because of the sprawl in Northern Kentucky, and by association, the related industries that locate around airports. This money instead could have been used to construct high-quality rail connections between the population and job centers of Cincinnati and Dayton with the international airport located in northern Butler County. The inevitable metroplex then would have not only had a larger and more effective international airport serving its residents and businesses, but the metroplex would have had passenger rail connecting the two centers with one another.

Had this scenario played out, would we be talking about Detroit's international airport experiencing reduced service instead? Would we be talking about a $2-plus billion bridge replacement over the Ohio River? Would the northern and southern sprawl outward from Cincinnati been instead consolidated into the northern corridor along I-75 that has been met with Dayton's southern sprawl? How much economic and population impact would this have represented for the State of Ohio? Would the Cincinnati-Dayton Metroplex be an even greater center for aviation industries than it already is?

The answers to these questions may not be easily identifiable or defined, but it does seem clear that the best location for a large international airport serving the Cincinnati-Dayton Metroplex would have been in the middle of the two population and job centers - not the far southern or northern reaches.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

This Week in Soapbox - 3/30

This Week in Soapbox, UrbanCincy has the following five stories to check out. Read about Cincinnati's newest food truck, home builders' shift to urban projects, Wake Nation's new practice pond, a new Hispanic business initiative, and a feature story about the Cincinnati's burgeoning fashion scene.

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 3/30/10:
  • Taco Azul to hit Cincinnati's streets in late April - full article
  • CitiRama sells first home, installs innovative geothermal system - full article
  • Wake Nation breaks ground on expanded facility - full article
  • Hispanic 100 initiative helps Latino professionals branch out - full article
  • Cincinnati Gets Fashionable (feature story) - full article

Putting the Food Cart Before the Horse

Yesterday, Cincinnati Enquirer editor Tom Callinan wrote an opinion piece about Cincinnati's growing street food scene. The column discusses his past experiences with street food and elaborates on how Cincinnati's street food scene has changed since he arrived in Cincinnati some eight years ago.

Personally I appreciate the comments shared by Mr. Callinan and his apparent enthusiasm for the Cincinnati Streetcar project he mentioned four times in his relatively short op-ed piece about street food. The reason for this response piece is not to challenge his experiences with great street food (I too love street food), or his passion for the Cincinnati Streetcar project (also a passion of mine), but rather to explore his explanation of cosmopolitan cities and experiences.

Mr. Callinan explained how the growing street food options are making Cincinnati a more cosmopolitan place much like the Cincinnati Streetcar will. This however is putting the food cart before the horse. Street food options are not a driver of cosmopolitan behavior, but rather the result of a city becoming more cosmopolitan and craving such offerings. Likening this to the Cincinnati Streetcar which will actually drive additional lifestyle changes that make Cincinnati more cosmopolitan is inaccurate.

For example, when people living at The Banks development along Cincinnati's riverfront ride the Cincinnati Streetcar to Findlay Market for their weekly shopping needs it is not the businesses that sparked this behavioral change, it is the streetcar that enables this, as Mr. Callinan would put it, cosmopolitan lifestyle. The lifestyle changes influenced by the streetcar system will create additional demand for cosmopolitan offerings like the street food vendors Mr. Callinan details as more people, instead of cars, begin to populate our streets.

You could almost view something like street food as an indicator species for the liveliness of a city. William H. Whyte's groundbreaking research in New York City examined the social behaviors and usage of public spaces, and he discovered that people do in fact have a tendency to cluster around street food vendors. This is for two primary reasons: 1) the street food attracts people to the vendor for the product, and 2) people are attracted to other people and have a tendency to self-congest. But without people on the streets to begin with, there is no demand for a street food vendor. So the question is really how to increase the number of people out on the streets if we are trying to figure out how to grow the number of street food vendors in a given area.

Cincinnati's food carts vie for the heavy foot traffic areas in downtown Cincinnati. The locations for each vendor is determined by an annual lottery held by the City.

New York City has no shortage of people walking around the city where there is a proliferation of these fantastic street food vendors. And it is no coincidence that Cincinnati's food carts fight over the spaces surrounding Fountain Square during the annual lottery that allocates food cart locations. Those food cart spaces are located in the highest pedestrian count areas of downtown Cincinnati where each of the nearby intersections boast between 4,000 to 7,000 pedestrians per hour between 11am and 2pm.

But what about street food vendors in Portland that is the oft-cited streetcar case study for Cincinnati's contemporary proposal?

Marisa Robertson-Textor wrote for Gourmet Magazine that, "Portland's bustling street-food scene may soon be rivaling the hawker centers of Singapore in terms of quality, scope, popular appeal, and value for money. In other words, the Pacific Northwest is doing for street food today what it did for coffee in the 1990s." She went on to say that picking just eight venues out of the sea of stands, stalls, carts, trucks, trailers, and even bicycles was a tough job.

Portland's street food vendors tend to cluster around the streetcar and light rail lines...especially so around line crossings.

I spent the last week in Denver where I visited one of America's most famous street food vendors. I got to speak with Jim Pittenger, owner of Biker Jim's Dogs, during that time about his gourmet hot dogs that have drawn national acclaim and recent praise from food rock star Anthony Bourdain himself. Jim's loyal assistant explained the importance of a high foot traffic location to me, and said that their prominent location at 16th & Arapahoe streets in the heart of downtown Denver has been critical to their success.

In Cincinnati we need to continue to do things like remove the hideous and life sucking skywalks, build modern transport options like the Cincinnati Streetcar to give people greater options to get out of their cars and onto the streets so that we can continue to create additional demand for the wondrous street food vendors that help make cities great.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Cincinnati Riverfront Park on schedule for spring 2011 opening

The Cincinnati Riverfront Park is currently under construction and progress is being made on the first phase of the project that will be completed in spring 2011. The Moerlein Lager House, Bicycle Center and Event Lawn are all making headway while the support elements are put in place. The project is on schedule according to project manager Dave Prather who gives us the update.

Meatless Monday: Mac & Cheese with a View

When it comes to eating meatless one day a week, hungry diners are out of excuses. Do yourself a favor. While trend-worshippers flock to Senate Pub on Vine Street for pumped up street grub and urban chatter, take an evening to check out the View in East Walnut Hills. Stephens Restaurant Group has seized control of the Edgecliff Room -- formerly owned by Martin and Marilyn Wade of Local 127 -- and have revamped both the name and the menu.

You may be dining next to a slightly more mature crowd (it’s located in the towering Edgecliff condos on Victory Parkway), but who cares when the restaurant’s backdrop is a sprawling panoramic of the Ohio River Valley? Instead of elbowing for a bar stool, you can easily score a table here overlooking a stretched out horizon dotted with twinkling city lights.

The View's mac and cheese - before/after - photography by Courtney Tsitouris.

And fancy hotdogs and duck fat fries got nothin' on the fever-inducing, down home goodness of the View’s mac and cheese. It's an angry, bubbling mess of elbow macaroni, butter and cream topped with a hit of herbed breadcrumbs. It comes in a piping hot casserole dish with brown baked sides that will singe the tips of your fingers. As you break its surface with a spoon, two types of cheddar cheese hiss and scream and a wave of steam forms curlicues in the air.

But watch out kids, this one is for the pesce-vegetarians. Beneath the velvety blanket of cream and pasta, lump crabmeat marries an exotic twirl of truffle essence. If your mother and a young whippersnapper chef got together, this is the homespun decadence they’d come up with. It’s Sunday supper on crack -- soul food with the complicated, evocative bend of revved-up ingredients. For just ten dollars, even red-blooded meat lovers will be hard pressed to find this much comfort and flavor packed on a plate.

It’s the “classic with a twist” style that Alfio Gulisano -- the same chef behind Bella Luna -- hopes to implement throughout the rest of his menu. The View may not be a fully baked concept yet (other dishes like the grilled cheese with onions fell short of such transcendent musings), but he’s making his point. In a time of glorified bar food and kicked-up bistro classics, Gulisano shows Cincinnati that he’s coming out with guns blazing.

'Meatless Mondays' is an ongoing series on UrbanCincy that explores one of the recommendations of Cincinnati's Climate Protection Action Plan (aka Green Cincinnati Plan) - try to go meatless one day a week. UrbanCincy's 'Meatless Mondays' series is written and photographed by Courtney Tsitouris who is a cook, designer and author of, a blog about dining in and dining out in Cincinnati.

View on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 26, 2010

24th Annual Oyster Festival kicks off downtown this Friday

The Washington Platform Saloon & Restaurant in downtown Cincinnati will play host for the 24th Annual Oyster Festival starting this weekend. The festival will kick off this Friday, March 26 with a new 24/ 20.10 special where oyster lovers can get 24 freshly shucked oysters "with all the trimmings" for $20.10 that will go along with Washington Platform's happy hour drink specials Monday through Friday from 4pm to 7pm.

The month-long festival will feature a 40-plus item oyster menu prepared by award-winning chef Jon Diebold. "A Smoked Oyster Salad, Oysters Mardi Gras, and Nantucket Oysters are just a sampling of Oyster Festival fare," said Diebold who added that Washington Platform's famous fresh-shucked Oysters On The Half Shell will also be available.

The longest running oyster festival in Cincinnati will include the popular "Pearl Count" and "Pearls of Wisdom" contests which will give participants a chance to win gift certificates and other prizes. According to festival organizers, proceeds from these special festival events will go to benefit the Esme Kenney/SCPA Memorial Sculpture Fund. There will also be a $50 Washington Platform gift certificate giveaway to those who find a big red 24 on the bottom of their oysters during the festival.

As the festival continues into April, Washington Platform (map) will host the annual "Cork 'N Shells" six course wine and oyster sampling on Thursday, April 22. Seating is limited and guests are encouraged to make reservations in advance by calling (513) 421-0110. The 24th Annual Oyster Festival will run from this Friday, March 24 through Saturday, April 26.

Oyster photo by Gary Sharp.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

'Carousel Kids' opens at Museum Gallery/Gallery Museum - 3/26

Museum Gallery/Gallery Museum will host its third show, entitled Carousel Kids, in historic Over-the-Rhine Friday, March 26 from 7pm to 11pm after being founded just months ago. The new gallery space in Over-the-Rhine's art community places the focus of its shows on local talent.

"Museum Gallery is run by six artists working as individual curators," explained Matt Wiseman. "Our goal is to promote local and up and coming contemporary artists working in all mediums, while creating different experiences among each show."

The show will feature primarily installation-based work assembled by the artists' collective SLAPface, and will "explore 1840's Americana," that was complete with freak shows and dime museums, and examine this era's influence on contemporary art display.

"Oddities, the grotesque and the uncanny were once the common spectacles which the circus and carnival revolved around. As a form of mass entertainment, these institutions showcased mysterious and weird creatures, human and animal alike," described Wiseman. "The popularity of these shows fell into decline in the wake of the ever widening media and modern scientific discovery, only to survive in cult culture. Carousel Kids takes a lighter approach on the notion of modern day anomalies, while staying within the same vein of its predecessors."

The show opening at Museum Gallery/Gallery Museum (map) includes a reception and is free if you reserve a ticket, and just 75 cents without a ticket. Tickets can be reserved online or by calling (859) 462-3799.

Increasingly urban Hamilton County Fair goes green

Last year's 155-year-old Hamilton County Fair saw its return to relevance, with a 56% increase in fair-goers, but it also saw the debut of the GoGreen Area. The GoGreen Area of the Hamilton County Fair focuses on environmental and sustainability awareness and educational opportunities, and it got its start thanks to the frustration of a Carthage resident.

"I didn't really like what was going on with the fair," said Jennifer McWhorter, GoGreen Area chairwoman. "I live down the street and I really wanted to see things change and get better [at the fair], so I thought I should share some of my ideas."

That's exactly what McWhorter did, and with that, the GoGreen Area was born at the 2009 Hamilton County Fair. For the first year, McWhorter was able to have 23 recycling bins placed around the fair grounds in addition to the extremely popular Kids Day activities focused around her concepts.

"A lot of people out there want to go green," explained McWhorter. "So I thought, why don't we bring this to the fair and help make a positive change in the community. I wanted to create educational opportunities for children and other residents so that they could learn how to go green."

McWhorter was able to do this in part because she is certified as a Master Composter and Gardener by Purdue University. She also is a practicing vermicomposter - a composting process that uses red worms. In the end, McWhorter just wanted to share her talent and passion with other people in the community.

GoGreen Area at the 2009 Hamilton County Fair - images provided.

McWhorter continued, "The Hamilton County Fair is leaning towards being more of an urban fair nowadays, and while there is still a good amount of agriculture in Hamilton County, there is a strong desire amongst people wanting to be sustainable in their urban communities throughout the county."

This year fair-goers can look forward to GoGreen Area partnerships with Building Value, Findlay Market's urban gardening program. The 2010 Hamilton County Fair will take place from August 10 through August 14 and will once again include the GoGreen Area. McWhorter is looking to grow the impact this year by engaging other Hamilton County residents to come up with ideas for green events that they want to make happen by contacting The GoGreen Area is also looking for a sponsor and volunteers for this year's Kids Day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pecha Kucha + Ignite = ?

Pecha Kucha came full circle this past Friday at the Contemporary Arts Center in downtown Cincinnati when it returned to the spot where PK Cincinnati got its start. But there is a new addition to the "interesting presentation" scene in Cincinnati, and that is Ignite Cincinnati.

Ignite Cincinnati and Pecha Kucha are very similar in scope and execution. The biggest difference is that Ignite presenters get 15 seconds per slide while Pecha Kucha presenters get a whopping 20 seconds. The PK idea was started first and has a more international audience, but Ignite is no less of a format for presenting ideas. Founders for both forums have acknowledged the similarities and are currently working together to collaborate on future projects.

"We're competing for the same spaces, same presenters, same audience," Pecha Kucha Cincinnati leader Greg Lewis says. "They have more of a handle on the young professional crowd, and obviously we want to work together to achieve the same goals."

It is too soon to tell how this coalition will manifest itself, but it is safe to say there will definitely be something new happening in the future. In the mean time, let the battle of the interesting presentation styles continue in Cincinnati...we are all reaping the benefits.

Northside leaders develop plan for alley reuse

An often overlooked piece of an urban community's infrastructure is the alley. Alleys once provided a great deal of service, but have since fallen out of use in some areas due to an ever-changing urban form and demographics.

In Northside, neighborhood leaders there have begun examining their alleys as part of a mission to "Clean Up, Green Up and Light Up" the alley network in Northside. In September 2009, planners inventoried the surface types of 24 alleys in Northside.

"In the beginning of our talks I researched alleys and what other cities were doing," said Lisa Auciello of the Northside Community Council about the neighborhood's early efforts to discover what could be done with the alleys.

Auciello described Chicago's Green Alley Handbook as being a great example on how to cut down on crime in alleys by providing additional lighting and encouraging citizens to use the alleys more frequently in creative ways.

"Boswell Alley Restaurant has a beautiful herb garden in their alley that the cook uses daily, and we have found that some residents are also planting flowers in their alleys," said Auciello. "Our Citizens On Patrol Program is going to "Adopt A Spot" through Keep Cincinnati Beautiful and our spots will be a couple of the main alleys off of Hamilton."

Alleys have long provided critical access to hard-to-reach urban areas throughout Cincinnati, and as the city redefines itself it will become increasingly important for neighborhood and city leaders to continue to examine how we treat this significant part of our urban landscape.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This Week in Soapbox 3/23

This Week in Soapbox, UrbanCincy has the following five stories to check out. Read about Sen. Voinovich's involvement with the CRP, an advertising agency relocating to OTR, an upcoming conference on neighborhood walkability, Bellevue's four-day form-based code charrette, and a feature story about Zipcars in Cincinnati.

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 3/23/10:
  • Senator Voinovich tours Cincinnati Riverfront Park construction site, pledges additional support - full article
  • Cincinnati-based Lohre & Associates relocating to historic Over-the-Rhine - full article
  • ULI Cincinnati to host Walkable Neighborhoods Conference - full article
  • Bellevue hosting four-day charrette on form-based code - full article
  • Is Cincinnati Ready to Zip It? (feature story) - full article

Women And The City

I am a strong, independent woman. I love Cincinnati, and there is nothing that will keep me from experiencing the urban core. However, as a female, there are certain stressors in place that keep me vigilant and watchful... just in case. When I walk alone at night, I take extra precautions to ensure I will be safe and not bothered. I separate my valuables and put them in my pockets instead of my purse. I walk briskly with intention, and am aware of what is going on around me. I slap a serious expression on my face that says "don't mess with me, man." And if it's too far, I drive and park closer, or enlist a male friend to escort me to my destination. For the most part, it seems to work. Am I being too careful? Why do I even bother? Cincinnati is amazing, but it is still not always hospitable for women.

The city as we know it today was not designed for females. Our country was founded by men, and our cities were designed according to their desires and needs. Victorian philosophy dictated that a woman's place was in the home, not out in the wild world, where bad things can and do occasionally happen. Thus, public spaces were designed with men in mind; men who could deal with the combativeness and friction of the public realm. If a woman were to wander out in public alone, she was harassed - "what's a nice girl like you doing out here?"

Unfortunately, this still carries through today as I regularly endure catcalls and jeers in public from men of every size and color. Even now, I am one of the only female bloggers writing about urban issues in this region (and on this site - love ya, guys!) It certainly seems to be a man's world out there. Why is this still acceptable in modern culture? What about the urban setting can be so inhospitable toward women... and what can be done to reverse it?

In Dolores Hayden's work, Domesticating Urban Space, she examines the separation between public life and private life. In order for a city to be inclusive towards women and families, she explains, the two spheres need to intermingle. When the public life - experiencing the city- feels more like an extension of one's private living space (safe, hospitable, welcoming, fun), then those who are more vulnerable will be apt to inhabit it.

Local activist and entrepreneur Candace Klein extrapolated along these same lines in her recent editorial which ran in the Enquirer earlier this year. She described her experience of living in Over-the-Rhine for three days without a car, and how it opened her eyes to the community all around her. She is one example of a fearless, independent woman who has figured out how to make the city work to fit her needs. But... does she walk home alone at night?

There are both basic and complicated changes that can be implemented in communities to make experiencing them safer and more enjoyable for women and families. One basic necessity is adequate lighting in neighborhoods. Another is simply for there to be enough activity during the evening hours to increase the amount of eyes out on the street. Both of these details were lacking when I was mugged last November. Hayden describes having a system of safe houses or businesses (much like the Safe Place signs back in the 90's) where anyone could go to if they did feel threatened at all. As neighborhoods become denser and we get to know each other, the cold and faceless city suddenly is colored with life, friends, and a strengthened sense of community.

Hayden writes, "As long as the domestic world remains a romantic haven "outside" of public life and the political economy, politically active women can always be sent back to it, and men can justify the exclusion of women and children from their public debates and analyses... yet... if they (women) can transcend the female world of a segregated place, new kinds of homes and neighborhoods might become the most powerful place in America for progressive political coalitions on urban issues."

I believe that policy and design has moved forward somewhat since Hayden's work was written in 1984. Now women make a whole .75 cents on the dollar instead of .50 cents, and gradually more attention is being paid and gender stereotypes are slowing down. They are not gone completely, but things are improving.

One of the greatest indicators of a truly great city is how safe and comfortable the most vulnerable feel interacting in the city. In the case of Copenhagen, Denmark, babies are left in prams outside of shops to get much needed sunlight, and I had no fears traveling on my own from place to place while living there in 2008. I don't know when that day will come for Cincinnati, but I am looking forward, and doing my part by refusing to give in to fear or intimidation.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Building Value manager explains environmentally sensitive deconstruction process

Dave Hunt, De-Construction Manager with Building Value, explains the process of deconstructing a building in a way that salvages the valuable resources enclosed for a later use in a different building construction project. Dave is joined by Alyson Moritz, Planner with the City of Wyoming, who discusses the value the Wyoming community sees in the environmentally sensitive deconstruction process.

Roebling Suspension Bridge gets fresh coat, impacts nearby neighborhood

The Roebling Point Planning Committee for the City of Covington is meeting tonight from 6pm to 8pm to discuss design, land use, economic conditions and potential public improvements in the Roebling Point area of Covington. The Committee hopes to take the information gathered at this meeting and use it to formulate plans and recommendations for changes that might be made in the area.

Meanwhile the Roebling Suspension Bridge, connecting downtown Covington with downtown Cincinnati, is getting a fresh coat of paint. The new coat will help protect the 144-year-old river span designed by German immigrant John A. Roebling who later gave the world New York City’s famed Brooklyn Bridge.

Work continues on the bridge's new paint job - photos by Jake Mecklenborg.

Specifically, the paint will protect the suspension cables from rust and corrosion, and thus extend the serviceable life of the bridge. In 2007, the Roebling Suspension Bridge had a new 11-ton weight limit put in place by the state of Kentucky that prohibited large vehicles, most notably TANK buses, from crossing the span to help preserve the bridge’s functionality for automobiles and pedestrians.

The $16.2 million paint job is ongoing and will continue for another eight months before the bridge will finally be reopened to automobile traffic in November 2010. During that time, project officials state that pedestrians will still be able to cross on the bridges walkways as they normally would.

The Roebling Point Committee meeting is being held at the Commission Chambers at Covington City Hall (map). Those driving to the meeting are instructed to park in the City Center Garage adjacent to Covington City Hall, and bring their parking receipts for validation.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Only one week left to see Becky's New Car

Currently running in the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood’s Ensemble Theater of Cincinnati (ETC), Becky’s New Car by Steven Dietz will hold its final performance on Sunday, March 28 at 2:00pm.

In this hilarious comedy of errors, Kate Wilford's character Becky Foster allows herself to try on a new life for a while – complete with a new lover and a new home. But when her lie begins to unravel, she discovers that her two separate lives were significantly more intertwined that she had thought. She engages the audience for assistance, but their help cannot possible avert the mess Becky has created.

The show will run Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, and close on Sunday with a 2pm performance. The ETC sells discounted $15 tickets 15 minutes prior to each show, so make a night of it in the Gateway Quarter and see what you’ve been missing. Grab dinner or drinks at Lavomatic or at the brand new Senate, visit the shops, then head over to the theater. Plenty of cheap and secure parking is available in one of the 3 garages within a block, but why worry about parking when you can take the bus? Visit Metro to calculate your route.

Ticks are selling fast, and range from $30-40. Numerous discounts apply for children, seniors, students, holders of the Public Radio Perks Card or the FAF Card, and Enjoy the Arts members. Patrons may purchase tickets online, in person at the ETC box office (1127 Vine Street), or by phone at (513) 421-3555.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bellevue 'Smart Code' workshops begin Monday

You may know Bellevue, Kentucky for its historic neighborhoods and the unique shops in the pedestrian-friendly Fairfield Avenue business district. Or you may know its “shopping center district” with big box retailers and fast food restaurants in an auto-oriented plaza. City leaders want new developments to be more like the former and less like the later. That’s why the Bellevue community is working on a new form-based zoning code that fits with the city’s motto of “Preserving the Past, Preparing for the Future.” The code will reportedly encourage walkability and the mixing of uses in new developments.

People who live, work or play in Bellevue have been able to get involved in the efforts to adopt a 'Smart Code' from the beginning. On January 27, the first public meeting featured architect Jeff Raser of glaserworks explaining how the code works. At the meeting, many residents were initially skeptical, not understanding the purpose or implications of the change, but came to understand the benefits as Raser answered their questions.

Raser explained that public involvement is essential if the code is to be successful. If citizens participate now, they have the chance to “prescribe” how new developments should look, feel, and function. Residents and developers will both benefit as new projects get off the ground quicker due to the reduced need for zoning variances and other time-wasting processes.

The next public meeting was held in February, allowing citizens to participate in a “visual preference survey.” Results from the meeting showed that citizens overwhelmingly wanted new developments to better fit in with existing historic structures. They also wanted to preserve public parks, plazas, and views of the Ohio River and Cincinnati skyline.

The last chance for citizens to have their voices heard will be next week, from Monday, March 22 to Wednesday, March 24, when the city is holding a charrette, or public workshop, at Bellevue’s Callahan Community Center (616 Poplar Street). Various topics will be covered throughout the charrette, and open house hours will allow citizens to share any other opinions or concerns they may have. An open house "pin up session" will be held on Thursday, March 25 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., where final results from the charrette will be presented.

Photo courtesy of the Coding Bellevue.

Cincinnati: A Love, Love, Hate Relationship

This guest post by Greg Meckstroth originally appeared on urbanOut.

Oh Cincinnati, Oh. How I love, love, hate you. Before moving to Indianapolis I spent 2 years living in Cincinnati, Ohio in the neighborhood of Clifton. During this time I gained a true appreciation for what the city is and all the quirks that exist there. What I concluded is that there is a lot to love about the City, but also some things to hate…but more love than hate. Culturally, physically, and emotionally, Cincinnati is an amazingly unique place with a provincial attitude completely different than any other Midwest counterpart. With these oddities and attitudes comes certain social down sides that gives the City a bad reputation and why it ultimately isn’t a creative class destination. Below, I list the positives and negatives of Cincinnati.

Here is why I love, love Cincinnati:

  • Identity: The region has a unique, provincial culture not found anywhere else. Whether it’s the food (Skyline Chili, Dewey’s, Graeter’s to name a few), the government, or the institutions, Cincinnati seems to have retained its sense-of-self in ways other Midwest cities have not. People in the area don’t consider themselves from Ohio, but instead just from Cincinnati. Cincinnati is its own city-state.
  • Local: Locally owned businesses seem to thrive in Cincinnati. While other Midwest towns have become ‘Chain City USA’s’, Cincinnati celebrates their local businesses and builds community around them. What I find interesting about downtown Cincinnati’s renaissance is the number of locally owned establishments fueling the rebirth. Unlike other towns, Cincinnati isn’t marking their downtown’s success by which chains it does and does not have.
  • Community: The sense of community pride in the City is strong. More often than not, people who live in Cincinnati love Cincinnati. Also, since the City is so neighborhood focused, each having it’s own flavor and sense-of-place, people latch on to their respective communities, keep up on current events, and actively voice concerns. More so than other places, Cincinnati citizens definitely care about their community.
  • Density: Cincinnati is structurally America’s oldest inland City and thus developed before the car and in extremely dense fashions similar to East Coast cities. Plus, the City’s hills constrained development, making the neighborhoods even denser (Cincinnati was the densest City in the United States outside of New York for quite some time).
  • Geography: Cincinnati’s hilly geography allowed each neighborhood to develop separately, each with their own business district and each in different forms. On top of this, the hilly, river valley geography provides great views and interesting urban landscapes and juxtapositions.
  • Architecture: The City’s core features the Midwest’s best collection of 19th Century architecture as well as innovative new architecture (hello The Ascent and Contemporary Arts Center).

So enough gushing about how great the City is, because with this love, love comes the ‘hate’:

  • Cliques: Because of the provincial culture, Cincinnati seems closed off to outsiders and their respective ideas. Newcomer’s often describe Cincinnati as ‘cliquey’ and find it difficult to fit in to social circles.
  • Close-minded: The City has a negative reputation with being open to minorities, namely the gay and lesbian population and African-Americans. As a gay man living in the City, I feel this stereotype applies more to the surrounding suburbs than the liberal leaning City, but it nonetheless is a perception problem the reigon has to deal with.
  • Status-quo: While other parts of the country progress on certain issues, Cincinnati seems to take a ‘wait-and-see’ approach. If something is proven successful time and time again, Cincinnati will come on board, and probably when other places like New York and San Francisco have already moved on to the next big thing. Thus, the City seems comfortable with the status quo, and progress happens slowly here.

There are plenty of other things to both love and hate about Cincinnati, but my analysis is limited to the region’s provincialism and unique culture. I have to say that I have seen great progress in Cincinnati over the past few years, with current leadership and community activism geared towards ending the status quo, ridding the City of this ‘hate’ I speak of, and moving forward in positive ways. With this progress comes the question: if Cincinnati continues to open itself to other ideas and virtues, can it hold onto its uniqueness?

In general, can a City continue celebrating it’s uniqueness while opening up to the outside? I think the obvious answer is ‘yes’, a City can do this and there are plenty of examples. But unfortunately, there are also examples that point to the contrary. So as Cincinnati moves forward it must be aware of this give and take and find the proper balance in becoming a bigger and better 21st Century City.

For as long as I can remember, I have had this love, love, hate relationship with Cincinnati. However, my ideas are not new and have been examined before. Check out this post by the Urbanophile for a similar take on Cincinnati.

Greg Meckstroth holds a Geography degree from the Ohio State University along with a Masters in Community Planning from the University of Cincinnati's nationally-ranked School of Planning. Greg currently works as a planner with an urban design firm in Indianapolis.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pecha Kucha Cincinnati comes full circle at CAC

The visionary presentation format that is Pecha Kucha (pronounced "peh-chak-cha") is back with its fifth evening of Cincinnati area speakers that have something to say. Friday, March 19th, PK Volume 5 will be held at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) from 6pm to midnight. Pecha Kucha, Japanese for "chit-chat," is a format of sharing ideas designed to move the speaker along at a quick page and get their message across in a succinct and interesting way.

Each speaker gets 6 minutes and 20 seconds to present their information. They show a series of 20 slides, and get 20 seconds to speak about each particular slide. This style prevents the presenter from getting stuck on one point, and allows the audience to remain interested and engaged throughout.

Pecha Kucha is an international movement dating back to 2002, but the Cincinnati chapter is just over a year old. Its inaugural event was held at the Contemporary Arts Center in February 2009, and has since hosted events at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and most recently a breakfast meeting for professionals at the METS Center in Northern Kentucky. The upcoming event at the CAC has PK Cincinnati founder Greg Lewis excited.

"We've got a pretty good representation from students and faculty at both the Art Academy and University of Cincinnati," said Lewis. "One stand out presentation I'm really looking forward to is Jim Rauth, who has written a book about mannequins from all over the world."

So far the majority of PK presenters have been architects and design professionals, but the reality is that anyone can be a presenter. "We're really trying to diversify outside of architecture and design. We are trying to reach into science, medicine and philosophy," explained Lewis who emphasized that the point is to have an interesting story to share, and from there, the presentation topics are limitless.

Pecha Kucha Night Volume 5 is Friday, March 19 at the Contemporary Arts Center in downtown Cincinnati (map). Tickets are $8 for CAC members and $12 for non-members. You can order tickets online or at the door. The doors and art galleries open at 6pm, presentations run from 7.45pm to 9.30pm, and the after party is from 9.30pm to 12am.

CAC Pecha Kucha photograph by Scott Beseler.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010 Bockfest Photos

Two weeks ago today, the 2010 Bockfest celebrations kicked off at Mecklenberg Gardens in Corryville. The festival celebrating the coming of bock beer, among other things, carried on through the weekend and attracted thousands of visitors to Cincinnati's historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

Visitors came to celebrate Cincinnati rich brewing heritage, explore historic churches and breweries in Over-the-Rhine, take part in the Bockfest's many festivities including the parade from Arnold's Bar & Grill up Main Street through Over-the-Rhine, and drink lots of beer. The fair weather brought huge crowds out to this year's festival, and Cincinnati photographer and historian Jake Mecklenborg (no relation to Mecklenberg Gardens) was there to capture it all.

UC students working to solve Cincinnati's urban issues

When it comes to finding solutions to fix the problems our city faces, we can’t overlook the talented minds found at the universities and colleges right here in our city. And for urban design issues, many of these minds can be found at the University of Cincinnati in the fields of urban planning, engineering, architecture and political science.

68 students in these fields have been working on solutions to problems in Downtown, Uptown, Northside, Camp Washington, and other Cincinnati neighborhoods recently, and many will be presenting their findings today at the Turner Building (2728 Short Vine, Corryville) from 1pm to 5pm.

One group focused on improving the interchange between I-71 and Taft/McMillan Streets in Uptown. Their plan adds a giant roundabout connecting Taft & McMillan and adding access to southbound I-71. Their plan also calls for converting McMillan Street through Walnut Hills from a one-way street to two-way.

“The chief part of our business district (located on McMillan Avenue between I-71/Gilbert Avenue and Victory Parkway) was harmed when the city designated McMillan and William Howard Taft as one-way streets years ago,” said Kathy Atkinson, president of the Walnut Hill Area Council. “People speed right through our business district. It’s no longer a destination due to traffic patterns. Top on our list is to have that changed.”

As bold as the students’ plan may sound, there are other, even bolder options for improving the urban landscape of Uptown. Several neighborhoods have been pushing for a completely new interchange to the north at Martin Luther King Drive. This would allow for improved access on the already auto-oriented MLK Drive, while taking much of the traffic demand off of Taft and McMillan streets. Both streets could then be converted to two-way for their entire lengths, making them more pedestrian- and bike-friendly.

Eventually, a streetcar loop could be added to the Taft/McMillian pair, connecting the Clifton Heights and Walnut Hills business districts together while also connecting those areas with the proposed north-south Cincinnati Streetcar line at Vine Street. New businesses and residents would be attracted to this energetic, accessible, multi-modal corridor.

Other students' plans focused on Broadway Commons, the future site of Cincinnati’s casino; an area in Northside and South Cumminsville that will be affected by the Mill Creek Expressway I-75 construction project; and many other sites throughout the city. Learn more about the students’ plans by visiting the presentation tonight, or read more about the plans online.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This Week in Soapbox - 3/16

This Week in Soapbox UrbanCincy has the following seven stories that you must check out. Read about how to maximize the use of the city's historic alleys, a new first of its kind land use modeling program, Bartini joining the downtown nightlife fold, the challenges facing individual investment in the urban core, SORTA's newest board member, and two terrific feature stories about the hidden gem that is North Avondale and how the arts community is helping change the conversation in Cincinnati.

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 3/16/10:
  • Making the most of Cincinnati's alleys - full article
  • New modeling program to help region with future land use decisions - full article
  • Bartini to open in downtown Cincinnati's Backstage Entertainment District - full article
  • Resolving the challenges facing individual investment in Cincinnati's urban core - full article
  • Cincinnati transit authority to swear in youngest ever board member - full article
  • Neighborhood Gem in North Avondale (feature story) - full article
  • Changing the Cincinnati conversation through art (feature story) - full article

UC*Metro Improving Incrementally

The UC*Metro program has seen a number of changes since its introduction in 2007. Unfortunately, most of these have made the program more difficult to use or more expensive for riders. However, one upcoming change will make the program a little simpler.

Starting in Spring Quarter 2010, Metro will print the photo and name of the purchaser directly onto new fare cards. This means that riders will no longer have to show a separate UC ID card in addition to their UC*Metro fare card when boarding. Spring Quarter cards are available for purchase starting today. There is no need to have new photos taken, as existing UC ID photos will be used.

When the program was introduced in 2007, UC*Metro provided all University of Cincinnati students with free rides on any Metro route by simply showing their UC ID. Currently, the program costs $40/quarter for students ($120/quarter for employees) plus 25 cents or more per ride, depending on the route.

If you’re a University of Cincinnati student, faculty or staff member, is using UC*Metro a good deal for you? Or does the complexity and per-ride cost make it not worth your time?

Monday, March 15, 2010

South by Southwest conference comes to Cincinnati

The nation's largest interactive conference takes place today in Austin, Texas, but the newly-formed New Press Club is helping bring the conference to local interested in interactive media with the first-ever "South by Southwest by Cincinnati" which will tap into the South by Southwest conference being held in Austin.

Event organizers say that for one hour, and possibly longer, South by Southwest by Cincinnati attendees will be able to hear some of top thinkers and most influential people in the world of interactive media. Those attending will even have the opportunity to ask questions of these individuals and get the latest news about what is developing in the industry.

“Greater Cincinnati has one of the most active social media communities in the world,” said Joe Wessels, New Press Club founder and board member. “This event provides an excellent opportunity for those in Cincinnati to get a cut of the action in Austin and bring some of that knowledge back here without leaving home.”

The live discussion will start at 5:30pm at Mainstay Rock Bar tonight in downtown Cincinnati (map), and will include a networking and social time immediately after the live discussion. The event is free and open to anyone who wants to come, and those with Twitter accounts are encouraged to follow @NewPressClub for live updates.

Mainstay Rock Bar exterior photo by 5chw4r7z.

Meatless Monday: Terry’s Turf Club burger is no laughing matter

I am a recovering vegetarian. That doesn’t mean I’m not proud of the four-years I restrained from meat or that I am unnecessarily self-righteous about it, either. It just means that when it comes to ordering vegetarian food at a restaurant, I know a thing or two about how to do it right.

It also means that I’ve heard every vegetarian joke under the sun. I’m still slapping my knee over the ever sarcastic, “Hey, I think there was bacon in that soup you just ate!” variety. In fact, I’ve heard so many of these quips, I’m completely immune to their underlying maliciousness. To the clever jokesters, to the “I just ate a vegetarian” bumper sticker collectors and to the rest of the haters, this one’s for you.

Terry's Turf Club shitake burger photos taken by Courtney Tsitouris.

It’s the Terry’s Turf Club shitake burger – a non-meat selection that tastes as good as any meat-centered burger you ever ate. Call for whatever toppings you like and have it capped off with a big, fat wallop of roasted red pepper and goat cheese sauce. I tried to count the layers in it – I think it came to about seven – but the idea is that it’s enormous. It’s the kind of no-nonsense, no-rules attached, go-get-some sweatpants, you’re gonna’ feel it tomorrow sort of burger that will have you clutching your heart for sweet mercy.

And when you get the first creamy, hearty, savory bite in your mouth, you won’t be able to stop until it’s gone. The blend of goat cheese and roasted red pepper in the sauce is genius and the way it slides so effortlessly down the side of the burger is wicked. If you have any wits about you, you'll have the guys in the back grill your onions so that they become caramelized and sweet. I’m so in love with this thing that the thought of someone talking bad about it sends me into a protective fit – as if my own mother were being insulted.

The concept of Meatless Monday is to skip meat for just one day a week. Will you be able to go to Terry’s and pass up the ground beef burger option in favor of the shitake one? Maybe. Maybe not. The answer to this question relies on a lot of things – your experiences and your feelings about meat in the context of our political, environmental and social climate. Ultimately, whatever you decide is fine – it’s your choice and you should own it. Just don’t say it’s a lack of delicious options that blocked your way.

Say what you will about vegetarians, just don’t say anything bad about this towering, dripping, flavor-packed stack of burger heaven. Cause nobody talks smack about my momma’.

'Meatless Mondays' is an ongoing series on UrbanCincy that explores one of the recommendations of Cincinnati's Climate Protection Action Plan (aka Green Cincinnati Plan) - try to go meatless one day a week. UrbanCincy's 'Meatless Mondays' series is written and photographed by Courtney Tsitouris who is a cook, designer and author of, a blog about dining in and dining out in Cincinnati.

Terry's Turf Club on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 12, 2010

Uptown neighborhoods endorse Cincinnati's streetcar project

Today the Uptown Consortium Board of Directors voted unanimously to endorse the proposed Cincinnati Streetcar project. The consortium represents Uptown's largest employers including Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, The Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, TriHealth Inc. and the University of Cincinnati that combined represent close to 50,000 employees, a payroll of $1.4 billion and an annual economic impact of more than $3 billion.

The Board of Directors stated that the Cincinnati Streetcar represents "an important economic development tool that will connect the city's two largest employment centers - Uptown and Downtown."

The newly formed Neighborhoods of Uptown (NOU) represents seven city neighborhoods including Corryville, Clifton, Clifton Heights, University Heights, Fairview, Mt. Auburn and Avondale, and has also unanimously extended its support for the streetcar project and see it as an exciting prospect to link their neighborhoods with Downtown.

“The streetcar project is the kind of bold initiative the neighborhoods are looking for from City Hall,” said Neel, who is president of the CUF Community Council and an assistant professor at UC’s College of Medicine. “We think the streetcar will bring a welcome dose of vitality to our neighborhoods.”

Phase 1 of the proposed Cincinnati Streetcar will run from Cincinnati's riverfront, through downtown Cincinnati and historic Over-the-Rhine, and up the hill into the Uptown neighborhoods and business districts.

“We believe the streetcar will help attract talent to our city’s key economic centers,” said John Prout, president and CEO of TriHealth, Inc. and the consortium’s board chairman. “The project will also stimulate job growth and serve to revitalize our neighborhoods.”

The announcement comes just months after the unprecedented unanimous vote by University of Cincinnati Student Government Association to support the streetcar project as well. Once complete, the Cincinnati Streetcar will introduce modern streetcar service to the Midwest and will connect the region's two largest employment centers and many major attractions.

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