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Friday, May 7, 2010

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

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

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

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

Fountain Square Wine Tasting photograph by PicNewbie.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cincinnati hosts EACC high-speed rail conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Jake Mecklenborg.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dogfish beer tasting at Morton's - 5/7

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

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

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

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

Dogfish Sampling photo by Bubli.

Collapsed wall of Cincinnati’s oldest brewery to be rebuilt

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

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

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

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

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

Image of the historic brewery structure circa 1933 provided.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

UrbanCincy Visual Showcase Wrap Up

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

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

Cincinnati aims to double number of cyclists by 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On-street bike corral parking in Northside photograph provided

Downtown Cincinnati experiences strong progress during recession

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cincinnati finally in compliance with 1997 federal air regulations

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

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

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

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

Seasonal market returns to Fountain Square May 4th

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

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

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

Market on the Square photo by Thadd Fiala.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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