Share opinions and perceptions about downtown with DCI

Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI) is asking people to participate in an online survey about downtown Cincinnati. The survey takes about ten minutes to complete and asks general questions about how your experiences have been, and inquires about your perceptions/opinions of the area.

The responses are completely confidential, but those interested can choose to enter their name into a drawing to win a $100 Downtown Cincinnati Gift Card that is valid at more than 125 destinations.

DCI officials state that survey results will help to measure the perceptions of downtown while helping direct programs and services provided by DCI. The survey is being conducted by R.L. Repass & Partners, an independent research firm, on DCI’s behalf and must be completed by July 14, 2010.


Park+Vine relocating to larger space, adding full vegan grocery store

One of Over-the-Rhine’s most popular stores, Park+Vine, will be relocating to a new larger space this fall. Dan Korman announced today that the green general store will move from its original location at 1109 Vine Street to a larger space at 1202 Main Street (two blocks east) in late September 2010.

The move will finally give Park+Vine room to expand and begin offering more food products than their current space would allow. The new 2,881 square-foot space at The Belmain gives the store an additional 1,100 square feet of space to work with.

The additional space will reportedly be used to create a full vegan grocery store that will offer bulk grains, local produce, bulk cleaning supplies, and a food bar with Fab Ferments Kombucha, fresh pressed juices and single-cup drip coffee and espresso from La Terza. The new store will also include a book wall, indoor and outdoor seating areas, bicycle parking, and a separate room for Park+Vine’s popular classes.

Park+Vine celebrated its third anniversary earlier this month and has long eyed expansion either at its current location, or somewhere else in the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

The new location also fits with Park+Vine’s environmentally sustainable ethos in addition to offering up extra square footage. The Belmain, developed by Cincinnati-based Urban Sites, was awarded LEED Silver certification for its sustainable building features and construction practices.

Greg Olson of Urban Sites said, “Park + Vine is exactly the type of retail business meant for the LEED Certified Silver Belmain Building,” exclaimed Greg Olsen, COO of Urban Sites. “It will help us turn the corner and bring sustained economic vitality to one of Cincinnati’s finest commercial streets.”

Korman is also excited about being a part of the resurgence taking place along Main Street in Over-the-Rhine which has brought new commercial tenants like Neon’s Unplugged, JackPotts Tavern, forkheartknife, Atomic Number 10, Original Thought Required, and You Do Yoga to the area recently.

“This is a beautiful and culturally alive area–full of people who see potential in every corner of the neighborhood and are doing something about it,” Korman stated in a media release. “It’s an ideal place for budding entrepreneurs.”

The new Park+Vine location (map) is expected to celebrate a grand opening during the Midpoint Music Festival which takes place between September 23-25, 2010.

Broadway Tower at St. Xavier Park reduced to nothing more than parking

In 2003, the City of Cincinnati opened the $9 million, 400-space 7th & Broadway Parking Garage.  The above-ground parking garage was designed to eventually accommodate a 12-story condo tower addition on top that would create approximately 166 condo units.  The condos have yet to materialize, but more parking space has.

Early on the project was once seen as a potential site for a new downtown grocery in an area surging with new residents at the nearby loft conversion projects including Sycamore Place and the Renaissance Apartments.  But while condo projects flooded the downtown Cincinnati market, the developers of the proposed Broadway Tower at St. Xavier Place were unable to get in on the action.

As part of the initial agreement, the City paid $2 million for structural supports that would support the residential tower envisioned atop the parking garage – a figure City officials expected to recover upon completion of the residential tower.  To guarantee such a return officials gave developers, a partnership between Al Neyer Inc. and North American Properties, until June 2010 to apply for a building permit for the residential tower, and while the residential tower is no where in sight, an expanded parking garage is nearing completion.

Procter & Gamble announced last year that it would relocated 650 employees from its Governor’s Hill location to its world headquarters in downtown Cincinnati.  As part of that move P&G needed additional parking for its expanded downtown workforce, and the City was eager to provide that by expanding the 7th & Broadway Parking Garage.  The additional employees will add approximately $630,000 annually in payroll tax revenues, but also seems to be the proverbial nail in the coffin for a bold project that would have put an exclamation point on northeastern downtown’s residential resurgence.

The inability to get the residential project done during relatively good market conditions eventually led developers to the housing crisis of 2008 which has basically paralyzed the housing market ever since.  The net result might be good for city coffers, but for downtown Cincinnati it means 650 more part-time occupants, hundreds of new parking spaces and more than 300 fewer residents.  If people come first, then you would have to view this as a net loss for downtown.

New Cincinnati bicycle safety ordinance to be one of strictest in Midwest

In addition to the progressive Bicycle Transportation Program unanimously adopted by Cincinnati City Council last week, Cincinnati policy makers also approved safety ordinance that will be one of the most comprehensive of its kind in the region, and even stricter than what is found in Chicago.

“What this plan really does is not add additional transportation infrastructure,” said Gary Wright, President, Queen City Bike. “It adapts the existing transportation infrastructure to new needs in a cost-effective way.”

The new safety ordinance approved 8-0 by Cincinnati’s City Council requires motorists to maintain a three-foot distance when passing bicyclists. The ordinance also makes driving or parking an automobile in a bike lane illegal, and places extra responsibilities on drivers when opening doors as to avoid endangering bicyclists.

“This bike plan can help turn this into the 21st Century city that we all want it to be, one that can look forward to more streets, shops, cafes, and parks filled with people, where people will want to be,” Wright concluded.

Additional $2.3B made available to high-speed rail projects, national safety committee envisioned

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is taking the next step in developing a national high-speed passenger rail system. The FRA has begun accepting applications for the next round of grants that will be used to develop high-speed intercity passenger rail corridors like Ohio’s 3C Corridor.

The High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program includes $2.1 billion in grants available in this round of applications.  This round of funding compliments the $8 billion invested in high-speed rail last January that awarded $400 million to Ohio’s 3C “Quick Start” Plan. In addition to the $2.1 billion, another $245 million has also been made available for individual construction projects within a corridor. Applications will be accepted through Friday, August 6, 2010 and recipients will be announced by September 30, 2010.

“We are excited to move the President’s vision on high-speed rail forward and are working quickly to get money in the hands of states,” FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo stated in a prepared release sent to UrbanCincy. “These new funds will allow the states to further advance their high-speed rail plans and represent a commitment to developing a world-class transportation network.”

The news comes on the heels of the creation of a new Transit Rail Advisory Committee for Safety that is being tasked with drafting national safety measures for rail transit. The new committee will reportedly assist the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) with developing the national safety standards.

The U.S. DOT states that this is the first time any Administration has sent a bill to Congress that is specifically about transit. As safety oversight is currently regulated, the FTA is prohibited from implementing national safety standards or performing oversight of the State Safety Organizations. The hope is that with the passage of this bill the FTA will be able to better implement new transit safety requirements and regulations that enhance rail safety.

“While public transit is one of the safest ways to get around, we still experience preventable accidents, including fatal accidents, far too frequently,” FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said. “This advisory committee of industry experts will lay the foundation for the implementation of national safety standards once Congress passes President Obama’s safety legislation.”

The 20 individuals chosen to serve on TRACS were chosen from 79 applicants from around the country. The final committee includes two members from the Midwest (Chicago, Cleveland), and according to the U.S. DOT, individuals from state and local transit agencies, state safety oversight organizations, transit employee unions, industry associations, and other stakeholders.