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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.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

2010 MPMF Reveal Showcase at the CAC this Friday

This Friday night marks the return of all things MidPoint to Cincinnati's urban core. It seems hard to believe that the 2009 version of MidPoint Music Festival is already seven months behind us, but it is. It also seems like just yesterday that bands like The Heartless Bastards and Chairlift were filling the tent in the parking lot at Grammer’s, and that acts were packing smaller venues like the Havana Martini Club and Mainstay throughout the course of a rainy September weekend. In any case, while the 2010 version of MPMF is a full five months away, MidPoint organizer Dan McCabe and his team have been very busy getting everything organized.

One such event upcoming is the 2010 Reveal Showcase being held at the Black Box at the Contemporary Arts Center in downtown Cincinnati. Tickets to the showcase starting at 8pm will cost $10 (tickets also available at the door). The event will feature three up-and-coming bands: The Buried Wires, Cincinnati’s own Pomegranates, and Aloha which will be headlining the event.

McCabe has been most proud about how MPMF has brought such a positive music experience to all of the attendees. Since 2008 attendance has increased at the music festival a whopping 27%. And while last year's festival was widely publicized for the programming debacle at Cadillac Ranch, at the end of the festival, McCabe pointed out how in the year that historic Over-the-Rhine was dubiously listed as America’s most dangerous neighborhood, MPMF went off without incident. He attributed this to a close relationship with businesses, a great crowd that is there to experience the music and a strong working relationship with District One of the Cincinnati Police Department.

With the biggest stage right in the heart of OTR at Grammer’s, many music lovers walked from the historic neighborhood to the Central Business District and vice versa. Without question, MPMF has had a positive impact on the community and the perception many concert goers may have had about OTR prior to visiting. Instead of reading the headlines and being scared away, everyone enjoyed themselves safely even if they had to dodge a few raindrops over the course of the weekend.

Instrument [LEFT] and The Sleeping Sea [RIGHT] perform at the 2009 Midpoint Music Festival - photos by Dave Rolfes.

While some businesses stayed open longer hours during 2009, the hope from MPMF organizers is that all of downtown will benefit from the music lovers roaming the streets for three consecutive days and even more businesses will find a way to partake this year through extended hours, specials or by partnering with the music festival in some way.

This year's festival will include even more bands than last year's record of 270. The success of last year’s expansion has given MPMF increased credibility which McCabe has described as being "embraced by the industry.”

2010 is currently shaping up to be the biggest year in the festival’s history with a hope of bringing in 350 acts. So far this year, submissions are about on pace with last year's where roughly 1,000 different acts submitted material for consideration. It is fully expected that 2010 will also push, if not exceed, the same number by the time the deadline comes around Friday, May 14.

For the immediate future though, this Friday's Reveal Showcase will offer up an opportunity for those interested to learn more about all things MidPoint. Aside from the show, there will be announcements regarding some of the acts already confirmed for MPMF 2010, an unveiling of the venues for the festival this fall, the new MPMF website will be launched and the full line-up will be revealed for the PNC MidPoint Indie Summer Series on Fountain Square.

Contemporary Arts Center photography by Jeremy Mosher.

Cincinnati's Northside community celebrates region's first on-street bike corral

Today Northside residents and business owners will be gathering with bicycling advocates at Lingo Street and Hamilton Avenue to celebrate the installation of the region's first on-street bike corral.

The City of Cincinnati first began working on the new bike corral last month. Now complete, the bike corral removes one on-street automobile parking space and creates 12 on-street bicycle parking spaces. The bike corral project is the first of its kind in the region, and is similar in scope to recent projects in Portland and Seattle.

“Providing plenty of convenient and secure bicycle parking is a critical aspect of serving those who currently use bicycles for transportation and encouraging future cyclists," said Michael Moore, Interim Director of the Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE).

In total the project cost about $1,000 and was managed by the City's DOTE which has been aggressively implementing infrastructure improvements that make Cincinnati a more bicycle friendly city including new dedicated bike lanes, sharrows, trails and new bicycle parking requirements in parking garages.

Those interested in checking out the new bike corral are invited to join the Northside community, Cincinnati Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (Bike/PAC), Queen City Bike and the Mobo Bicycle Coop at 6:30pm tonight at Lingo & Hamilton (map). Plenty of bicycle parking is available within the immediate vicinity, plus the site is served by Metro (plan your trip) and nearby automobile parking both on- and off-street.

Northside business district photo by Scott Beseler.

Mark Mallory offers words of praise, responsibility in 2010 State of the City

As required by Cincinnati’s City Charter, Mayor Mark Mallory delivered the annual State of the City address to an enthusiastic crowd at the Duke Energy Convention Center last evening. As the mayor described it, the annual speech serves as a “report on the state of affairs of this great city,” and a way to ask ourselves, “where are we?”

The mayor, whose presentation lasted just over an hour, spoke casually and extemporaneously, without a hand-held microphone and without the assistance of a teleprompter or a podium.

After highlighting recent accolades the city has received for being the fourth best city in the U.S. for college graduates and the ninth most literate city, the mayor warned against just perusing the top 10 lists to know where we stand. Instead, he called on us to examine our character as a city.

“We have to place public safety as our number one priority,” Mallory stated as he began his discussion on the character of a quality city. The mayor used the example of two public safety officials in attendance whose heroics demonstrated great character. Their bravery, the mayor advised, ought to inspire Cincinnatians to work for the city’s betterment in their own lives. “What are you willing to do,” he asked, “to make this community safer?”

Mayor Mallory then stepped aside to show what would be the first of five brief videos during the address. The video highlighted the work that Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) has done to address public safety and described the successes of CIRV as an alternative to the narrow minded “throw away the key” mentality that often does little to reduce crime.

The mayor then turned his attention to the economy. “We cannot talk about building our economy without talking about jobs,” he proclaimed. Citing an increased focus on public/private partnerships, 5,000 new jobs were created, he declared. Furthermore, the mayor cited how investments in public infrastructure projects grow the economy by employing workers on the construction, but also by creating desirable, livable places for future business growth. In a moment of self-deprecation, the mayor informed the audience that while he is excited that The Banks project will be complete by Reds Opening Day 2012, he would definitely not be throwing out the first pitch.

In “an effort to help those in the region better manage their money,” Mayor Mallory announced the creation of Bank on Greater Cincinnati. The program is a collaboration with the regions eight largest banks, Cincinnati, Covington and Newport. Recent reports indicate that those who patronize businesses that offer services like pay day loans pay on average pay $900 per year in fees. Instead, the Mayor’s program will encourage citizens to “save and build wealth” with healthier financial practices.

Furthermore, the mayor commented that we as a city must invest in those large projects that work to responsibly grow the economy. He cited the Cincinnati Streetcar is one such project, as described in the second of the four short videos. The clip noted the proven economic impact of rail transportation, with a ratio of more than a 10 to 1 return on investment, and that the proposed streetcar route will connect the city’s two largest employment centers.

The mayor stepped aside a third time to show the winning video from a contest that the Young Professional’s Kitchen Cabinet (YPKC) hosted to showcase local civic pride. The neighborhood of Pleasant Ridge submitted the winning clip, which showcased the area’s vibrancy, safety and diversity.

“We need to do all that we can to be green,” Mallory opined, shifting focus once more. Doing so requires investments in the future, like the work the Office of Environmental Quality (OEC) is doing. They are installing a green roof on City Hall, a project paid for by the savings the city is seeing from making other facilities more efficient. Recently, the OEC was awarded $20 million in grants to fund city efficiency projects, and just yesterday, another $17 million in stimulus finding was awarded to Cincinnati to help perform energy efficiency retrofits.

Mayor Mallory praised the work the YPKC is doing to help in the city’s effort to be more environmentally aware. They created a civic garden in Over-the-Rhine, and produced an award-winning video to encouraging people to recycle.

After noting that the city’s rich cultural heritage has a “definite impact on our economy,” Mallory praised the economic impact of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB). Their efforts bring thousands of visitors yearly who collectively spend millions of dollars in our local economy. The mayor showed the fifth video clip, a video that the CVB uses to promote the city and the region to prospective visitors like the estimated 200,000 people who will attend the World Choir Games in 2012, driving an economic impact of more than $13 million.

Mayor Mallory closed with an acknowledgment that as citizens, “we must be good stewards to this home we call Cincinnati.” In an effort to increase the value of the city for future occupiers of this space, the city is building the tallest building ever in Cincinnati, completing a stunning new mixed-use development at The Banks, opening a casino and linking them all together with a modern streetcar system.

Mayor Mallory’s “enthusiasm for the city is contagious,” observed Vice Mayor Qualls after the program ended. “His call for responsibility to move the city forward is welcome." A recent Xavier graduate commented that the mayor seemed to be leading the city in a good direction, and that he seemed “more focused on the younger population” than others in the past. But perhaps CIRV's Greg Baker summed the address up the best when he commented that it was a “grand slam in demonstrating what it means to be a great Cincinnatian.”

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cincinnati region lands $17M for energy efficiency retrofits

The Greater Cincinnati region landed $17 million for energy efficiency retrofit projects through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The grant was awarded through the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Retrofit Ramp-Up initiative that is a collaborative effort to reduce energy costs for thousands of home and business owners throughout the Cincinnati region.

The energy efficiency retrofit funds will be supported locally by the Greater Cincinnati Retrofit Ramp-Up program run by the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance (GCEA). U.S. Representative Steve Driehaus (D-OH) states that the funds will help modernize the region's energy infrastructure and create jobs that are critically needed.

“Retrofit projects put people to work, increase energy efficiency in older buildings, and save ratepayers money on their utility bills,” Driehaus explained. “The Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance has offered a plan to retrofit thousands of homes and businesses in our community, and I look forward to the alliance putting these resources to good use.”

According to the U.S. DOE, Cincinnati's retrofit program will involve community and organizational outreach efforts that will include the expertise of energy adviser services in residential, commercial and public sectors. This process, led by GCEA, seeks to utilize a model of community collaboration, including marketing, utility program integration, financing affordability and accessibility, customer participation and workforce development.

“This federal funding allows us to leverage private capital to potentially create a local energy efficiency market of up to $50 million per year," said GCEA Executive Director Andy Holzhauser. "That means residents and business owners are saving money on their utility bills, moving our country toward energy independence, and creating or retaining as many as 1,400 quality jobs to serve this market.”

In total, national Retrofit Ramp-Up projects make up part of the $80 billion Recovery Act investment aimed at developing clean energy and improving energy efficiencies. Cincinnati's program won its $17 million grant through a competitive bidding process.

Photo of Andy Holzhauser provided.

Cincinnati hospital achieves LEED for Existing Buildings certification

The Christ Hospital has been recognized as the nation's first hospital to achieve LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). This certification has been verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

The announcement comes as the Cincinnati region continues to position itself as a green building leader in the Midwest and even nationally. The recently completed Christ Hospital Imaging Center received LEED Silver certification for Commercial Interiors due to its lighting systems, heating and air systems, low-flow water fixtures and Energy Star-rated appliances among other things.

"Our employees have been incredibly supportive of efforts to bring green concepts and technology into our hospital, and it is an honor to be a national leader among hospitals for LEED certification," said Susan Croushore, President and CEO, The Christ Hospital. "By reducing our costs on energy, water and other resources, we are able to better serve the healthcare needs of our patients, their families and the entire community."

The 555-bed hospital in Uptown achieved the certification for its energy use, lighting, water and material use in addition to other sustainable efforts. The sustainability measures are seen as more than a gain for the environment, but also an economic gain for the families, businesses, workers, taxpayers and community involved.

"With each new LEED-certified building, we get one step closer to USGBC's vision of a sustainable built environment within a generation," said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council. "As the newest member of the LEED family of green buildings, The Christ Hospital is an important addition to the growing strength of the green building movement."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

2010 Party in the Park series gets started - 4/21

Over the last few weeks spring has begun to take root in Cincinnati. Among others, the Reds Opening Day had a huge turnout as usual, trees are blooming and the Genius of Water began flowing again as the ceremonial start to the spring season in Cincinnati. This Wednesday marks yet another seasonal rite of passage as Party in the Park returns to the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati at Yeatman’s Cove.

Party in the Park is one of the old standbys for many Cincinnatians as it embarks on its 34th season this year. Festivities kick off at 5:30pm every other Wednesday, with the exception of the back-to-back Wednesdays in April. $2 off drink prices greet party goers for the first 90 minutes making it a favorite after work destination. Historically crowds range anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000, depending on the week and weather, which turns the park into the largest watering hole in town.

The presenting sponsors and the 2010 slogan tell you all you need to know about the music you will find at Party in the Park. With 96ROCK and Bud Light leading the way and the slogan “The Original Social Network” you should expect cover songs so that folks can sing along all evening long. While it may not be ideal for someone seeking out original music, this weekly party definitely makes for a great social setting to hang out with old friends and meet new ones in the shadows of Cincinnati’s growing skyline and on the banks of the mighty Ohio River.

Party in the Park (map) starts at 5:30pm and lasts until 10:30pm. The festivities will run through Wednesday, August 8. There are several parking options available nearby, but it often coincides with Reds or Cyclones games that will make parking more difficult. There is bicycle parking and bus service to the park, and it is within walking distance to many of Cincinnati's major employers in the center city.

Cincinnati has several great live music offerings during the summer months that include both original and cover music. In its 3rd year, Fountain Square played host to the 2009 PNC MidPoint Indie Summer Series and saw record crowds show up to enjoy the live music in the heart of downtown Cincinnati every Friday night. Midpoint Music Festival will fill Cincinnati's center city with all sorts of live music again this summer (stay tuned for more details later this week). And there are still two shows left at the Cincinnati Zoo Tunes & Blooms which takes place each Thursday evening in April.

Party in the Park photo by 5chw4r7z.

Weeklong fashion celebration begins in Cincinnati

Cincinnati Fashion Week got kicked off yesterday with a promotional campaign for the city's fashion enthusiasts called "Spring into Fashion." Now underway, the community driven collaborative including Keep Cincinnati Beautiful will run through Saturday, April 24.

Cincinnati Fashion Week (Facebook Page) organizers say that the goal of the week-long event is to "improve the quality of life by promoting sustainable action through fashion and style," and that it includes a wide variety of events that will celebrate Cincinnati fashion, design, craftsmanship, artistry and even include a cleanup event on Saturday as part of the Great American Cleanup.

"Throughout its history, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful has initiated and implemented many on-going projects that have made a clear difference in the quality of life for Greater Cincinnati," said Nathan Hurst, an independent fashion designer. In addition to the cleanup partnership, a portion of the proceeds from Cincinnati Fashion Week will be donated to Keep Cincinnati Beautiful.

“A passion for art brought me to share my love for fashion with the city I adore just as much,” explained Hurst. “I began my fashion career in Cincinnati with three successful runway shows and quickly made my national debut at the ‘Hip-Hop Meets Couture’ annual fashion show in San Francisco. When I returned to the Midwest I had one goal in mind: Cincinnati Fashion Week.”

The remainder of the week is packed with unique events throughout Cincinnati's urban core including an exclusive VIP Appreciation Party that takes place tonight at the trendy downtown Cincinnati nightclub FB for those who have purchased an 'all week pass' for Cincinnati Fashion Week (doors will open at 8pm). Throughout the rest of the week Cincinnati Fashion Week attendees will be able to enjoy a merchant fair, fashion shows, design shows and the aforementioned Great American Cleanup.

The can't miss Fashion Finale will feature the works of of Laura Dawson, Amy Longo and David Meister, among others, who will be showcasing his famous gowns. The fashion show will be hosted by Jen Dalton with music being provided by DJ Fuse. The Fashion Finale will take place at the Hyatt Regency's Grand Ballroom in downtown Cincinnati with general admission tickets starting at $60. Special VIP tickets are also available for $100 that include additional perks. Tickets can be purchased online.

Cincinnati Fashion Week is also sponsoring a clothing drive as part of their collaboration with the Great American Cleanup, and those who donate clothing to Kenzie's Closet or Dress for Success will receive 25% off any level ticket purchase.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cincinnati City Council approves critical funding for streetcar project

Cincinnati City Council gathered today to vote on allocating $2.6 million for the Cincinnati Streetcar project that will allow the project to move forward and signal a local financial commitment to the Federal government in the next round of TIGER grants.

An initial motion by Councilman Monzel opposed to the Cincinnati Streetcar was soundly defeated five to two with Winburn abstaining from the vote. Following that motion 31 members of the public spoke on the matter of allocating the $2.6 million.

The group consisted of students, young professionals, business and property owners, and those interested in seeing a better city. Out of the 31 speakers only two spoke against the project - one of which being Tom Luken. The message was clear to Cincinnati's City Council: If you want the support of the next generation of Cincinnatians, you need to support improved public transportation.

Business owners also spoke overwhelmingly in favor of the project touting its economic benefits with Bob Pickford, President and CEO of Findlay Market, going as far to say that, "The single-most important investment this city can make to keep Findlay Market viable long-term is the streetcar."

A student from the University of Cincinnati's world renowned college of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning then went on to urge City Council to prove his classmates wrong by investing in the streetcar and showing them that they can stay in Cincinnati after graduation and be welcomed by a progressive, forward-thinking city.

After the long public comment session Cincinnati's City Council discussed the matter amongst themselves. Councilman Berding went on in his comments and quoted creative economy expert Richard Florida's recent book that discussed the need for vibrant city centers in a new economy. Berding also mentioned Jane Jacobs' progressive vision for American cities as places that are vibrant and foster creativity.

Councilman Bortz then brought the discussion back home and stated how an affirmative vote to allocate these funds will go a long way towards closing the financial gap and securing the necessary Federal funding for the project. Meanwhile Monzel sounded off on Teaparty talking points about "feeding the beast" when it comes to getting Federal grant money.

When all was said and done, Cincinnati's City Council voted 6-2 to allocate $2.6 million to the Cincinnati Streetcar project with only Leslie Ghiz and Chris Monzel voting no (Winburn abstained). While initially small, this commitment will go a long way in terms of the total $63 million local commitment as Cincinnati sends its application to the Federal government for the next round of TIGER funds.

Interestingly enough, both Ghiz and Monzel have their sights on the vacant Hamilton County Commissioner seat and have since shifted further to the right to appeal to a broader, more conservative county population. Ghiz has made the greatest shift after having authoritatively saying that she had always supported the project - that is until now that she has the suburbs in mind as she is voting on city issues.

Downtown resident John Schneider has seen all of Cincinnati's public transportation discussions as the chairman of the Alliance for Regional Transit, and summed it up near the end of the public comment session when he said, "This is a day that will go down in the history books." Speculation is not typically my thing, but I believe this will be the day that we look back and realize when Cincinnati stepped up to the challenge of redefining itself for a 21st Century economy.

Follow along with the live Twitter discussion from earlier today here.

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