TIGER II grants to target projects that make impact, create jobs

Photo by Jake Mecklenborg

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will distribute $600 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) II grants for capital investment in surface transportation projects later this year. Pre-applications are due on Friday, July 16, and formal applications are due on Monday, August 23 from state and local governments. The City of Cincinnati is expected to apply for the TIGER II grants to help fill the remaining $41.5 million needed for its modern streetcar system.

Over the past month, Cincinnati officials have secured $86.5 million for the project, but local politicians have vowed to seek out federal funds to help fill the financing gap. Project officials are hopeful that the project will fare better in this round of TIGER grants because of the recent approval of $64 million in local money to the effort – something federal officials noted as a critical missing element for Cincinnati’s proposal in TIGER I.

Another critical item federal officials docked Cincinnati for was the lack of zoning policies along the proposed route that would encourage mixed-use development, transit ridership and walkability. Since that time, Cincinnati has introduced an amendment that would reduce parking requirements for residential buildings located within 800 feet of a streetcar stop by 50%, and complete eliminate parking requirements for those buildings needing fewer than five spaces after the initial 50% reduction is calculated.

The $600 million available in the latest round of TIGER funding is less than half the $1.5 billion available in its first round that was distributed February. DOT officials state that the money for TIGER II will be awarded on a competitive basis to projects that have a significant impact on the nation, a region or metropolitan area and can create jobs.

“The enormous number of applications we received for the first round of TIGER grants shows that we have a backlog of worthwhile transportation projects waiting for funding,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “This money will go to the kinds of projects that will help spur lasting economic growth, reduce gridlock, provide safe, affordable and environmentally sustainable transportation choices and create jobs.”

Selection criteria for applications will include those that contribute to the long-term economic competitiveness of the nation, improving the condition of existing transportation facilities and systems, improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving the safety of U.S. transportation facilities and improving the quality of living and working environments of communities through increased transportation choices and connections. The DOT will also give priority to projects that are expected to quickly create and preserve jobs and stimulate rapid increases in economic activity.

Local vendors, entertainment embody the best of Taste of Cincinnati

Everyone’s favorite food festival is just around the corner. The 32nd Annual Taste of Cincinnati is this weekend, May 29-31. Originating in 1979 as a one-day event with 5,000 people in Piatt Park, Taste of Cincinnati has grown to a three-day extravaganza with over 500,000 people in attendance last year at the longest running culinary arts festival in the country. The food fest is now ingrained into Cincinnati culture, and this year promises to be spectacular.

Any restaurant that can pony up the money for a booth is welcome to set up at Taste of Cincinnati, and this is evidenced with the inclusion of franchised booths such as P.F. Chang’s, Rusty Bucket and The Melting Pot. However, the spirit of Taste of Cincinnati is about trying the new and unexpected, so instead of gravitating towards a familiar favorite, try one of the many other booths from local independent restaurants with delicious treats you may not have had before. Snag some gazpacho from Hyde Park eatery Indigo, or perhaps Best of Taste winning entree Vegetarian Lasagna from Bella Luna. The real joy of Taste is stuffing yourself with delicious new experiences. The full menu and pricing for the Taste of Cincinnati is available online, so be sure to plan accordingly.

Another fantastic ingredient to the Taste of Cincinnati experience is the entertainment. Almost 70 musical acts are gracing the festival’s seven stages along 5th Street over the weekend. Some of the more notable performances include The Seedy Seeds; You, You’re Awesome; Daughters and Sons; The Minor Leagues; and Mia Carruthers and the Retros.

Even if you are not feeling hungry, it would be a travesty to miss out on the sheer musical awesomeness that is going to happen, and it is all free of charge! In addition to music, comedy acts will be included for the first time, with the headlining act being Josh Sneed.

We are so lucky to get the chance to stuff ourselves silly with delicious food this weekend. Please remember to bring a can or dry good with you to the festival, and drop it off at the Cincinnati USA-P&G booth on Fountain Square to support “Bringing Hope to the Table,” partnership with P&G and Kroger supporting the FreeStore Foodbank.  In exchange for the donation, guests will receive a coupon for a free reusable Kroger Shopping Bag and discount coupons to the Butterfly Show at Krohn Conservatory.

Those on Twitter can keep up with all that is happening at the Taste this weekend by using the hashtag #CincyTaste and by following @CincinnatiParty on Twitter.

Queen City Underground tours through OTR start Memorial Day weekend

The wildly successful Newport Gangster Tour started last summer during Italianfest. What was meant to be a one weekend event caught fire and ran all the way through Halloween with great crowds and even better stories about the history of Newport. While those tours continue through 2010, the group has expanded with a new Cincinnati walking tour called Queen City Underground through historic Over-the-Rhine that will begin this Memorial Day weekend.

UrbanCincy was invited along for a sneak peek this past weekend during the OTR Summer Celebration and we walked away very impressed. The Newport tour is full of great stories and is presented in a way that is not only educational but also fun, and the Queen City tour is much the same. We met in front of Mica 12/v and soon headed north along Vine Street. Asked to put our minds into the 1880s when Boss Cox was in power in Cincinnati, many stories were shared of theaters, saloons, and even “Murder College.”

While the tour stops along the way to point out different places of interest along with their accompanying stories, the thing that makes this tour a little different than the Newport companion is the chance to get into some of the buildings along the way. Without divulging all of the tour’s secrets, one of the highlights has to be the trip into what was the Kauffman Brewery in Guildhaus building on Vine, just north of Liberty Street. The Queen City Underground Tour really takes you underground here into the former lagering cellars that were rediscovered not that long ago and are usually only open to the public during the popular (and always sold out) Prohibition Resistance Tours during Bockfest.

Queen City Underground photography by Travis Estell

The Queen City Underground walking tours last approximately 90 minutes, and present a great way to get to know the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The total trek is just over one-mile with some tight spots along the way as you head into the cellars, so it is recommended to wear comfortable shoes if you are interested in attending. Tours taking place this Memorial Day weekend include the following times:

  • Saturday May 29th – 10:30am, 12:30pm, 2:30pm, & 4:30pm
  • Sunday May 30th – 12:30pm, 2:30pm, & 4:30pm
  • Monday May 31st – 12:30pm & 2:30pm

Tickets for this coming weekend are $15 and can be purchased (cash only) upon arrival. A good reminder too is that both the Newport and Cincinnati tours have charitable benefits as well. With the help of these fundraisers, many Northern Kentucky students are able to go to Jamaica and help those less fortunate.

Either tour makes for a great compliment to Taste of Cincinnati which is this weekend. We recommend spending time sampling some local food and getting to know more about the wonderful history in Cincinnati’s dynamic urban core.

Cincinnati City Council celebrates Bike to Work Week

Last week several Cincinnati City Council members took to the streets, on their bicycles, for a ceremonial ride from City Hall to Fountain Square for National Bike to Work Week.  The Bike Month celebration encouraged individuals to commute to work by bike instead of by car.  In Cincinnati, Queen City Bike established bicycle commuter stations all over the city to help motivate even more to ditch their automobiles.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Laketa Cole and Jeff Berding were those participating last week from Cincinnati’s City Council.  After arriving at Fountain Square, the four council members addressed the crowd on-hand, and took part in the festivities taking place.

The following photographs were taken by Thadd Fiala.

WatchThis presents Indiana Jones at 20th Century Theatre – 5/26

Alex Shebar and Allison Johnson are on a mission to watch all of the American Film Institute’s top 100 films in a year. They have been hosting screenings all year in various locations, and today marks the most epic film viewing yet as WatchThis hosts a free showing of Raiders of the Lost Ark at the historic 20th Century Theatre in Oakley.

The classic Indiana Jones movie will be shown on the theater’s movie screen and will be the largest venue to date out of the 40 movies viewed thus far. Alex and Allison are hoping that they can “pack the house” and are encouraging people to bring their friends and a healthy appetite.

Admission is free, and food and drink (including alcoholic beverages) will be available for purchase.  The movie will start at 7pm tonight at the 20th Century Theatre on Madison Road (map).  Free bicycle parking is available nearby, and Metro bus service is available (plan your trip).