Thanks for the memories Huggs

A brief tribute video for former Bearcats basketball coach Bob Huggins. Huggins was back in town to play the Bearcats with his West Virginia Mountaineers team on Thursday. The tribute was gracious – the game not so much as the Bearcats went on to beat the Mountaineers and improve to 18-10 overall and 8-7 in the Big East.

Hopefully this is a cathartic moment for the many basketball fans that never really got over the departure of Huggins. Mick Cronin has done a heck of a job and has achieved success earlier that what many people thought possible.

Thanks for the memories Huggs. Go Bearcats!

Mr. Mallory and the Streetcar

In Cincinnati’s annual State of the City address, Mayor Mark Mallory took an early opportunity to vaunt about the proposed streetcar system, stating in a lofty voice that “the benefits of the Streetcar system are too significant to allow the naysayers to derail our efforts. The facts are clear. Streetcars must be a part of Cincinnati’s future and we will fight to make it happen.”

His charged comments drew one of the largest applause from the crowd of 600 at the Duke Energy Convention Center.

Mallory stated that streetcars and fixed-rail investments will spur new development along its proposed route, citing that the first phase of the streetcar would connect two of Cincinnati’s largest employment bases: uptown and downtown, and cut through the heart of Over-the-Rhine. Mallory cited Tampa’s TECO Line Streetcar System, which has attracted more than $900 million in new investment and development along the line and Charlotte’s streetcar and the LYNX light rail line that has attracted over $1 billion in new investment along the corridor. It goes without saying that the role model for Cincinnati is Portland, where over $2.8 billion has been invested along its streetcar network.

According to HDR Consulting, a modest investment of $102 million to construct phase one of Cincinnati’s streetcar would generate $1.4 billion in new investment along the line. While a lot of the funding is in place for phase one, Mallory submitted a request for more than $60 million from President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package with the hope that some, if not all of the requested funding will be received.

If the funding is received, it is conceivable that phase one of the Cincinnati streetcar project can become reality in the next two years. The Cincinnati Streetcar Blog has constructed a map that shows the various alignments proposed, with their mileage and cost labeled. It can also be seen below:


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Share your thoughts on the Ensemble Theatre

Are you one of the many people who have taken in a show or performance at the Ensemble Theatre? Do you look forward to the theatre’s future in Over-the-Rhine and the Gateway Quarter?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you should TAKE THE QUICK SURVEY to let the ETC know what you think about their productions, place in the community and what your ideas are for their ongoing capital campaign to improve the theatre and its facilities.

The survey is available now, and will be up until April 28th. It honestly only takes a couple of minutes and will go a long way in shaping the future operations and physical appearance of the ETC.

Ensemble Theatre expansion news/information on Building Cincinnati

Lessons from Charlotte – New Urbanism

A couple weekends ago I traveled to Charlotte, NC to visit a friend and learn a little more about a relatively young southern city that also considers itself to be the Queen. I took lots of photos and had a great time. Of my experiences, they can be roughly broken down into two main categories for discussion – New Urbanism and Rail Transit.

These two topics are of interest to me because they are areas in which I think Cincinnati can greatly improve. Aside from being a smaller city that hasn’t really experienced much growth to speak of until the past two decades, Charlotte has done a good job at implementing the components that are defining America’s newest and best cities.

In this article I will discuss a development known as Baxter Village. The neighborhood embodies the ‘New Urbanist‘ ideals that make for a traditional neighborhood design. Now we could debate how “new” these principles are, and just how these development rank in terms of being “urban.” My point is simple. If we’re going to build suburban communities, this kind of development is better than the standard we have grown accustomed to – especially in the Midwest.

Design influences behaviors:
The homes, in Baxter Village, are built on small lots with small setbacks. Instead of large backyards, the community boasts large common areas for children to play and families to enjoy. What this does is promote a greater sense of community and interaction that was quite evident during the time I spent there.


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Children played soccer in the street, neighbors chatted with one another from sidewalk to porch, and strangers to the area were even engaged in conversation about the daily joys of dog ownership.

All of this was complimented by the readily available sidewalks that have become more of a rarity than a typical neighborhood feature in our present-day communities. The tree-lined streets provide a comfortable buffer between pedestrians and the slowly moving vehicular traffic, and the large front porches with direct connection to the front sidewalk encourage residents to come out into the open, rather than retreat into the depths of their home or backyard.

Execution:
With these types of developments two things often happen. 1) They become unreasonably priced for any middle-class homeowners. 2) They give off a Disney feeling of cleanliness and predictability.

Baxter Village was able, in my opinion, to avoid falling into the pit of homogeneity, but the prices still weren’t at the levels for most people to consider it affordable. This is unlikely to change until these high-quality developments become more wide-spread thus meeting the demand for such a product and reducing its cost.

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The first problem was avoided through careful mixtures of architectural styles, a long-build out time, variety in home builders, and gradual maturation. If developed right, these neighborhoods can and will mature beautifully as they have all the staples of a fantastic neighborhood.

Conclusion:
In Cincinnati we have been building our communities in a “business friendly” fashion in fear of pushing away any potential investment in our admittedly slow-growth Midwestern city. What this has done is lowered the standard of development and forced Cincinnatians to settle for what works best for the developers bottom line, instead of what works best of our communities and our people.

Maybe higher growth rates will dictate higher demand and a better end product. Maybe our regional population doesn’t deserve such qualities? What I think is that our politicians, and our governing bodies should have the backbone to require such a product that is evident in our older neighborhoods that are thriving to this day. Forty years from now are we going to look back at the neighborhoods we’re building in the exurbs with the same pride and joy as the inner-city neighborhoods we are working so hard to preserve? Unfortunately, I would say no.