2nd Forgotten Cincinnati exhibition tonight

While you’re out and about for Final Friday this evening be sure to swing on by Park+Vine, Joseph Williams Home and Atomic #10 for the second Forgotten Cincinnati photograph exhibition. There will be abandoned photography from around Cincinnati by Ronny Salerno, Zach Fein and Sherman Cahal.

The Forgotten Cincinnati exhibition will start at 6pm and run through 9pm at the aforementioned Over-the-Rhine locations. The exhibition will actually run through Sunday, February 21 so that those interested will have plenty of time to make their purchases – but don’t wait long because these powerful photographs will sell quickly.

This morning Ronny Salerno and Zach Fein were on Fox 19’s morning show to discuss their work.

Mercantile Library Renovations

The Mercantile Library is one of those easily overlooked gems, and is located in the heart of downtown Cincinnati. Housed on the 11th and 12th floors at 414 Walnut Street, this quiet oasis in the middle of the city is one of the best kept secrets around town. Few folks have heard of it, and even fewer would be able to tell you where it is, but hopefully that is about to change.

Executive Director Albert Pyle states that “there are about 2,000 members currently and we could easily welcome in 2,000 more.” This year marks the library’s 175th anniversary making it one of the three oldest cultural organizations in the city, and they have been in the same location since 1903. Recently, the Mercantile went through its first major renovation since moving into the space over one hundred years ago and UrbanCincy got to take a peek.

Mercantile Library restoration photograph by Scott Beseler.

“This library deserves it” said Mr. Pyle, as it relates to the renovations made, at a recent preview event. This massive undertaking led by local architecture firm Brashear-Bolton and local construction firm HGC Construction. The main goal was to add modern touches while trying to maintain the Machine Age feel, and based off what we saw, they did a wonderful job.

Some of the changes are more cosmetic than anything, such as the movement of the 16 portrait busts featuring presidents and authors, among others, to eye level mounts throughout the room. This was done so that members could appreciate the art and “hold better conversations with them” joked Mr. Pyle.

Other changes were made to help accommodate a more modern era such as the replacement of an old and noisy air conditioning on the south side of the reading room which will allow the library to comfortably host events during the summer. In the same part of the room, two story stacks were built out of steel beams which were actually hoisted up from Walnut Street and through the windows so that they could be installed.

Two final updates move the library firmly into the 21st century modernization as the card catalog has been made electronic and moved online. Not only is it now accessible through the Mercantile’s website but it actually forced the library to make its first official count of its collection. Totaling over 78,000 books, many first editions, the Merc provides a unique collections as about 2/3 of it cannot be found elsewhere in the city. Additionally, the walls that used to separate The Ladies Reading Room from the rest of the library have been removed to allow for a more open and bright space in the northeast corner of the room.

The Mercantile is a membership library, one of only about twenty in the United States, and dues start at $45 for an individual membership. Mr. Doyle stated that many members like to visit on their lunch hour during the week and will actually bring their lunch along with them. Others come to find peace and quiet and have been known to doze off during their visit. Aside from their traditional website, the good folks at the Mercantile also maintain the blog Stacked.

New street wear boutique to open in OTR

Cincinnati’s freshest business and Over-the-Rhine’s newest neighbor, Original Thought Required (OTR), will open this Friday, January 29 on Main Street for Final Friday. The street wear boutique will be one of the first of its kind for Cincinnati and has an owner that is very excited to be a part of the renaissance taking place in the historic neighborhood.

“I really believe in what 3CDC is doing and I’m really excited to be able to make my dream a reality,” said Original Thought Required owner James Marable.

On Friday, the store will be open for Final Friday from 5pm to 10pm, and Marable encourages people to just come and check out the store even if they are not intending on buying anything. “I wanted to create a space where people come in with an open mind and where people can just be themselves.”

Original Thought Required (map) will be much more than just a street wear boutique, and will eventually include regular events and be representative of the larger street wear culture where people focus on individuality, personal style, and music. Visitors on Friday can expect a small mixer atmosphere where they can get a peek of the new place and hang out.

Ohio receives $400M for high-speed rail

The winners have been chosen, and Ohio’s efforts to land money for rail service along the Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland (3-C) Corridor have been successful. Today it has been announced that Ohio will receive $400 million for track upgrades, grade crossings, new stations, and maintenance facilities.

Meanwhile the larger Midwest region pulled in a collective $2.6 billion which was second only to the West Coast region which nabbed an impressive $2.942 billion of the total $8 billion available. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, views this as an investment that will make passenger rail more efficient while also providing better service in travel markets across the nation.

  • High-speed rail travel offers competitive door-to-door trip times
  • It reduces congestion on key routes between cities
  • It reduces transportation emissions
  • And, most of all, it creates the jobs of the future, the jobs America needs right now

For Cincinnati there are still questions though about a station location. The $400 million is a significant investment, but will still not enough to cover the $517.6 million needed to extend the line through one of the nation’s most heavily congested rail yards to Union Terminal. Additional track to run the line all the way to Lunken Airport might also prove be to costly according to project officials.

Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio, responded to those questions by saying, “The state could trim costs by using rebuilt, rather than new, passenger cars and by ending the route in Sharonville rather than at Lunken Field, and when there is enough money run trains to Union Terminal.”

The 250-mile 3-C Corridor has long been seen as one of the nation’s most promising rail corridors with projections estimating that 478,000 passengers will use the rail service annually. The new service will operate three daily round trips with top speeds of 79mph and serve a population of more than 6.8 million people, close to 40 colleges and universities, and 22 Fortune 500 companies.

Phase 1a of The Banks to rise quickly

This past Tuesday, January 27th, Cincinnati City Council’s Strategic Growth Committee gathered at City Hall to listen to and review construction updates on the long-awaited Banks development project. David L. Holmes, Assistant City Manager and John F. Deatrick, Banks Project Executive were both on hand to explain the project’s progress in further detail.

The update focused on Phase 1a of the construction plan, which includes 300 apartments and nearly 80,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space with parking garages below street level. As of this January, Phase 1a is 65% constructed and staying well within the budget previously set for the development.

Construction of Phase 1a of The Banks is 65% complete as of January 2010 – Photo Provided

Both the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County have pledged monies towards The Banks. The City has pledged $20 million and has so far paid $7.5 million, while the county has committed some $5 million. After both the city and the county have paid their committed shares, they will split the remaining cost 50/50.

Phase 1a of The Banks is projected to open by Opening Day 2011. According to the presenters, apartment leasing will begin in fall of 2010, though the projected price points of said apartments are still up in the air. As soon as the exterior facades on the buildings are finished, the streets that are currently closed off due to construction will reopen.

Construction has begun on 300 apartments and 80,000 square feet of retail at Phase 1a of The Banks – Images Provided

The scope of construction that has been most recently completed is mostly structure for parking and mechanical, electrical and plumbing infrastructure. They are currently laying shear walls and columns in the south site by the bridge. The workers are waiting for warmer weather to come back in order to pour more concrete.

One of the financial directors gave an update on the amount of local, small business, minority and women employees and businesses currently engaged in the Banks project. She emphasized that 74% of construction workers for the project currently live in the Cincinnati metropolitan area, 20% are minorities, and 2.5% are female. Council members Charlie Winburn, Laure Quinlivan and committee chair Chris Bortz expressed concern for making sure that “as many Cincinnatians as possibly are involved in the construction and in the business of the Banks.” Winburn stressed making sure that “this project has the utmost integrity” when it comes to keeping money local, (despite hiring out of Birmingham for the general contractors).

Phase 1a site plan for The Banks – Image Provided

After Phase 1a is complete in early 2011, work will begin on reconstructing Mehring Way to cut a wider arc above the river, bordering the new Central Riverfront Park. As a result, project managers are currently in the process of appropriating stimulus funds for this development.

While retailers for the Phase 1a portion of the project are not yet set in stone, much has been speculated about a potential grocery store, entertainment venues like an ESPN Zone, and other restaurants, bars and entertainment venues to compliment the evolving riverfront district. Connectivity to the existing Riverfront Transit Center, and proposed Cincinnati Streetcar, will help connect The Banks to the rest of Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, and Uptown neighborhoods resulting in a live/play/work situation that will be attractive to all.