Final Friday tonight in Over-the-Rhine

Tonight is Final Friday in the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The monthly event is a celebration of the neighborhood’s rebirth with more than 30 participating artist galleries and merchants. Those attending enjoy dozens of free art galleries and venues displaying the work of local artists. Neighborhood merchants will also have special deals, food, drink, music and more.

Starting at 5pm tonight, the free gallery hop will feature dozens of destinations each offering their own unique atmosphere and attractions. At 13th & Vine streets, Joseph Williams Home will have free food and drink, and will also allow guest to tour one of the remaining units in Trideca Lofts above.

Just a few doors down, Senate will be open offering up its craft cocktails and gourmet street food. It has also been rumored that Cafe de Wheels will be setting up shop outside of Outside on 12th Street starting at 5:30pm.

Over on Main Street you’ll find most of the art galleries in addition to two of the neighborhood’s newest merchants – Original Thought Required and Atomic Number Ten. Also be sure to check out the famous Pendleton Arts Center between 6pm and 10pm. The PAC (map) boasts more than 200 artists – the largest collection of artists living under one roof in the world – and offers breathtaking views of historic Over-the-Rhine and Downtown.

Final Friday photo by 5chw4r7z.

Mural hunting in Cincinnati

I can assure you that this will be the last of the Shepard Fairey-related content on UrbanCincy for some time. You went to the opening night party, you read the controversial review, and now you can plot out your mural hunting adventure of Fairey’s murals around town.

Leading up to his first museum retrospective, Fairey installed seven murals around town (2 in Northside, 2 Downtown, 2 in Over-the-Rhine, and 1 in Pendleton) that reflect some of his work that can be seen inside the walls of the Contemporary Arts Center. These murals vary in size, meaning and placement, and until now, those looking to find the murals were largely on a hunt trying to find the mysteriously placed seven murals.

The mural journey is a fun way to spend an afternoon without spending a single cent (transportation costs aside). And while the mural locations may no longer be a mystery, it is still fun to try to find the little messages left behind by the Fairey crew near each of their designated mural locations.

Beyond the murals themselves it is interesting to see how they react with the surrounding urban environment. The E. 14th Street mural is placed next to graffiti in the adjacent alley which presents an interesting dichotomy. The mural on the side of Arnold’s Bar & Grill, on the other hand, peeks around the corner of the alley onto 8th Street as if it’s trying to get your attention and draw you nearer for its message.

Also of interest is how people react to the often provocative murals. Many seem to be going mural hunting and specifically seeking out the art installations, while others are simply passing by and are surprised by the unexpected display. Most stop and pause, others look more closely, but all seem to be interested in the new element interjected into their neighborhood, place of work, or destination. And in the end no matter what you think about Fairey or his work, isn’t this what we look for in art?

Tie-Dye Ball This Friday

Looking for something a little different to do this Friday evening? Look no further than The Redmoor in Mt. Lookout Square for the Tie-Dye Ball which features two of Cincinnati’s longest running bands dedicated to playing the music of the 1960s. Not only should this evening be a step back in time, but it also benefits a great cause which is the Cincinnati organization, Play it Forward.

Play it Forward was founded by Gary Burbank, known famously for his stint on 700 WLW as the afternoon drive time host. Gary has many more passions in this world, one of which is music and so he helped found Play it Forward back in 2008. This organization attempts to help musicians in need by getting their story to the media as well manage an investment fund that will give them assistance in times of catastrophic need.

Doors open at 8pm this Friday night, with The Spookfloaters taking the stage at 9pm. Following at 11pm is Jerry’s Little Band. Both bands feature music from the likes of The Grateful Dead, Phish, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan and to fit with the theme of the evening party goers are encouraged to wear their best tie-dye shirts as well as beads and their best dancing shoes.

In addition to the music Play it Forward will have some of their items for sale including the piece of Cincinnati history that is The Ludlow Garage Project Volume One CD, Ludlow Garage T-shirts, and the Play it Forward compilation CD. Additionally, there will be a raffle featuring many items donated by local businesses.

So, if you’d like to relive your past, or just take a step back in time, pony up $10 and check it out. With a portion of the proceeds benefiting such a great cause it’s hard not to want to crash the gates like they did back in 1969 at Woodstock.

Is Main Street getting its groove back?

You remember the northern stretches of Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. The downtrodden, turned entertainment district, turned tech zone, turned entertainment district again, turned gallery space, turned neighborhood again eastern area of historic Over-the-Rhine that has as much potential as any.

The reasons behind these tectonic shifts could be debated endlessly – neighborhood demographics, investors, perception, mega-events, etc. But as the Gateway Quarter continues its creep onto other unassuming portions of Over-the-Rhine south of Liberty Street, the once premier street in OTR for neighborhood rejuvenation seems to be sitting pretty once again…especially when you add in the fact that a new casino employing thousands of workers (temporary and permanent) will be opening just a couple blocks away attracting tens of thousands of more visitors to the neighborhood each year.

Part of this most recent shift began a year or so ago when the dependable Over-the-Rhine developers worked some of the magic on Main Street that they had on Vine Street. New residents began moving in, and the ripple effect officially began anew for Main Street.

Main Street resident James Marable was able to not only set roots there, but he was able to realize a life-long dream when he opened Original Thought Required – a new street wear boutique. Across the street from Marable’s shop, Katie Garber decided to open an eclectic vintage shop called Atomic Number Ten.

The new shops join ever-establishing neighborhood icon Iris Book Cafe serving as the requisite coffee shop and third place for this corner of OTR. Also in the mixture of new businesses and residents are new nightlife destinations looking to rightfully reclaim some of Main Street storied nightlife past, while also trying win big on an early casino bet.

Original Thought Required street wear boutique [LEFT], and Atomic Number Ten vintage shop [RIGHT]. Photos by Randy A. Simes.

Longtime Over-the-Rhine resident, neighborhood advocate and Main Street enthusiast Michael Redmond is especially excited about the prospects of the casino for entertainment destinations along Main Street and nearby areas. Redmond is part owner of Neon’s Unplugged that will be opening this spring just off of Main Street, and while the casino didn’t directly make the decision on reopening the legendary establishment, Redmond said that it certainly got the ball rolling a bit faster.

A bit more directly casino related, the Fries brothers will be opening Jack Potts Tavern this spring in the former Jefferson Hall space along Main Street which is playfully named after Paul Fries’ son and inspired by…you guessed it…the new casino opening just blocks away in 2012.

Will the latest transition of Main Street that is a hybrid of the Main Streets of past finally be the way to a sustainable business and resident future, or will the historic street be looking for a new vision another five years from now? While this much may be unclear, it is always a good idea to diversify your investments, and dare I say, hedge your bets.

Hamilton County "well-positioned" for future growth and prosperity

Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper gave the second annual State of the County Address on February 18. In that address, Commissioner Pepper recapped what was accomplished and experienced in a difficult 2009, and what the County needs to do to be successful in 2010. You can watch the State of the County Address yourself, or you can read through a brief summary below.

  • With record decreases in sales tax receipts (7.5%), property sales and transaction revenues (42% since 2007), and interest earnings (50%), Hamilton County was forced to make tough decisions to balance its budget and shave off 22% ($60 million) of its overall costs and back to 1998 levels.
  • Making job creation and retention a top priority, Hamilton County officials were able to create more than 50 economic development projects and create or retain 13,000 jobs.
  • The balanced budget without adding any additional tax burden on the citizens earned Hamilton County high marks in Moody’s credit rating.
  • The County’s free foreclosure counseling program has saved 2,175 homes from foreclosure and 985 in 2009 alone…thus saving the County from an estimated $50 million in lost property value.
  • The County’s new prescription drug discount card was used 17,000 times in the first year and generated savings of 21.17% for its users resulting in $200,000 of savings.
  • Of Ohio’s six largest urban counties, Hamilton County has the lowest property tax as a percentage of income, and is tied for the lowest sales tax.
  • Hamilton County’s SuperJobs center linked 2,200 people to jobs and provided job training to 660 youth in the community. New training programs are focusing on health care, construction and green job industries.
  • Public Safety takes up 70% of the County’s budget.