Most socially networked city in the world poised to win $25k

Happy Social Media Day! To celebrate, Mashable named Cincinnati the most socially connected city in the world. The honor was given to the Queen City due to people who love to love the city together. “Social Media is one way we connect,” according to Cincinnati’s #SMDay event organizer, Anne Castleberry. Over 100 people are meeting up today at the Pub in Rookwood Pavilion at 7pm.

One powerful way we’ve watched Cincinnati come together in the name of social connectedness is through the grassroots organizing and voting for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s This Place Matters contest. Rising from 84th to 2nd place in a number of weeks, the city has truly rallied behind this contest in an effort to show the rest of the country how significant the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood is, especially in terms of preserving historic architecture.

It’s been an arduous process, but if you have a chance to share with friends and colleagues, please help by voting with unique email addresses. The contest ends at 5pm today. Vote now, and show the world how a socially connected city can truly make a difference.

Nolen Park development to complete Mariemont’s original town plan

In 1862 an 18-year-old Brooklynite named Mary Hopkins came to Cincinnati with ideas for a walkable community in her new home. Long story short, she soon became Mary Emery, one of Cincinnati’s most celebrated philanthropists, and is credited with founding the planned community of Mariemont.

She was at the groundbreaking of the neigborhood in 1923. 90 years later, Mariemont is a walkable community worth emulating, and its newest development, Emery Park, will help to finally complete Mary Emery’s original town plan. In conjunction with North American Properties, Cincinnati-based Greiwe Development Group broke ground for the $12 million project on August 31, 2010 and it is expected to be complete this November.

Emery Park is an extension of the Village Square, and thanks to CR Architecture + Design, continues the tradition of Tudor Revival design signature to the Mariemont community. Developers tout the project as having interior features open one-level floor plans with expansive windows, large balconies, and immaculate finishes, providing both a perfect space and location for Baby Boomers. To date, nearly one-third of the 31 units of been sold.

“Emery Park is the realization of Mary Emery’s vision for downtown Mariemont, and 90 years later, we’re able to say that we have fulfilled a part of her well-designed plan for this walkable community,” said Rick Greiwe, principal of Greiwe Development Group.

Emery Park is one of three condominium complexes in Mariemont that have been built by the development team. The first of which, Jordan Park, was dedicated in October 2008 and has since sold all 26 of its residences. The other, Nolen Park, is slated to break ground in spring of 2012 and has already sold six of the 29 units. And developers say that all of the developments are available in one to three bedroom floor plans with energy-efficient materials to provide residents with comfortable, low-maintenance living.

The project is in partnership with Greiwe Development, Sibcy Cline and North American Properties. Sibcy Cline listing agents are Patti Harrier and Elaine Greiwe. Homes at Emery Park start at $295,000 and open houses take place at the Mariemont Lifestyle Sales Center each Sunday from 1pm to 4pm at 3514 West Street.

‘Cincinnati: City of Immigrants’ to premiere tonight at LULAC conference

The League of United Latin-American Citizens (LULAC) annual conference is well underway in downtown Cincinnati. The conference, and its thousands of attendees, is in the process of diving into issues surrounding Latinos in America while also exploring the Queen City through a host of events.

One unique event at the conference is the premiere performance of Cincinnati: City of Immigrants which takes place this evening, appropriately enough, at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The event begins at 7:30pm, and is free and open to the public.

Cincinnati: City of Immigrants was written by critically-acclaimed playwright Joe McDonough. Produced by ArtsWave and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the story follows six fictional characters representing the six major waves of ethnic immigrants – German, Irish, African-America, Jewish, Appalachian and Hispanic – to Cincinnati over the past 180 years.

The fictional characters include a young German woman living in Over-the-Rhine in 1850, an African-American former slave in search of her son, and a Latino family celebrating a birthday in Cincinnati’s west side Price Hill neighborhood. The goal, producers say, is to tie together common experiences and encourage audience members to think differently about how their family history might connect them to other Cincinnatians.

The show will be performed at the theatre on the third floor of the Freedom Center. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (map) is located along downtown Cincinnati’s riverfront in The Banks development. Convenient parking is available in underground parking garages located directly beneath the museum, and the Freedom Center is easily accessible by Cincinnati’s future streetcar line.

There are four other opportunities to see the show, which includes a dialogue with the cast after each performance. Additional performance dates and locations include:

Friday, July 8th Fairfield Arts Center
Tuesday, July 12 Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati
Wednesday, July 13th Irish Heritage and Cultural Center in Columbia-Tusculum
Thursday, July 14th BLOC Mission in Price Hill

These performances begin at 7:00 p.m. and include time for a post-show community dialogue with the actors. Performances are free and open to the public.

Metro to install new eletronic payment system on entire bus fleet

In February 2011 UrbanCincy challenged Cincinnati transit leaders to create a universal transport payment system that would rival the world’s very best. The challenge was made, in part, because we knew an overhaul of Metro’s 17-year-old fare collection system was imminent.

On Friday Metro officials announced those long-anticipated changes. By the end of 2011 Metro will install new fareboxes on their entire 333-bus fleet. The new fareboxes will utilize smartcards that can be loaded with monthly passes or set pay amounts ($10, $20 or $50). The use of smartcards will allow riders to simply tap-and-go, and it will allow transit planners to more accurately track ridership patterns system-wide. The new GFI Odyssey fareboxes will also automatically issue transfers upon payment.

“One of our goals is to make riding Metro easier and more convenient for our customers and potential customers,” Terry Garcia Crews, Metro CEO, said in a prepared statement Friday. “The new fareboxes will help Metro boost productivity by generating detailed ridership data that Metro needs to manage our service.”

Each year Metro collects approximately $23 million in fares, which accounts for roughly 27 percent of Metro’s total operating revenue. The new fareboxes are being purchased largely through a $3.6 million federal grant which is providing 80 percent of the total cost. The remaining $900,000, officials say, will come from local funding.

Officials say that future improvements may be made to the smartcards that could allow for more flexible spending accounts, but for now only set payment amounts will be accepted. While the system is an enormous improvement over Metro’s nearly two decade old system, it still falls short of UrbanCincy’s challenge.

As currently planned, the system does not integrate with the other regional transit agencies or with local businesses, and there is no mention of the smartcards compatibility with financial institutions. Furthermore, the new system does not integrate with other modes of transport like taxis or the University of Cincinnati’s bike share program, for example.

As the new GFI Odyssey farebox system is implemented over the next six months, regional leaders should meet to discuss how this $4.5 million investment should be leveraged to improve Cincinnati’s quality of life for tourists, businesses and residents. A truly integrated payment system, like London’s Oyster Card or Seoul’s T-Money Card, has the ability to change the game. Cincinnati should be so bold.

Cincinnati wins national CDBG award for Ohio River Trail project

City leaders will gather today in downtown Cincinnati to accept a national award for its Ohio River Trail project. The John A. Sasso National Community Development Week Award will be presented at the National Community Development Association (NCDA) convention currently being held in Cincinnati.

NCDA officials say that the Ohio River Trail project is helping to improve neighborhoods and better the lives of low- and middle-income residents through the use of the association’s Community Development Block Grants (CDGB). In 2011, eight departments within the City of Cincinnati made more than $13 million in total CDBG requests. Over the past five years, the City has requested approximately $13 million annually in CDBG funds.

The association specifically looked at a 1.1-mile stretch of the Ohio River Trail through Columbia Tusculum which was recently completed thanks to a CDBG Economic Development Initiative grant of $745,125. In May, UrbanCincy partnered with the City of Cincinnati to give future bicycle commuters a tour of the Ohio River Trail.

Once entirely complete, the Ohio River Trail will connect with the Little Miami Scenic Trail to the east and downtown Cincinnati at its western terminus. Future segments could go further west along the Ohio River.

The Ohio River Trail project was chosen for this year’s award out of 550 local governments who work with NCDA on community development projects. Those projects include a wide variety of efforts that are targeted to improve economic development, housing and human services.

Officials will be presented the award by Cardell Cooper, executive director of NCDA, at 12:30pm today at the Pavilion Room inside the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel.