City’s third Community Entertainment District designated in Price Hill

City and neighborhood leaders gathered in Price Hill yesterday to celebrate the designation of Cincinnati’s third Community Entertainment District (CED). The new CED will cover the Incline District and is expected to facilitate redevelopment efforts ongoing in the neighborhood.

Price Hill was required to go through an application process in order to receive the CED designation which requires that an area include entertainment, retail, sporting, cultural, and/or arts establishments.

Once the designation is in place it allows new restaurants to open with a liquor license thus reducing startup costs by an estimated $30,000. Nine additional liquor licenses will be up for grabs in the new Price Hill CED.

City and neighborhood leaders gather in Price Hill to celebrate the CED designation. Image provided.

“We decided to pursue the CED designation after seeing its potential to free up capital for smaller restaurateurs,” Diana Vakharia, director of operations at Price Hill Will, told UrbanCincy. “The costs of installing a commercial kitchen and other upgrades are burdensome enough.”

Vakharia said that the tools and resources provided with the designation will help Price Hill better compete in the initial years of economic revitalization taking place there.

In addition to the $50 million Incline Square development, a new residential development called The Flats reached 100 percent occupancy in 60 days, and the area is also soon house the region’s second Bayou Fish House location. Price Hill Will officials also say that property owners are in negotiations with another potential restaurant.

In total, the 48-acre Price Hill Community Entertainment District includes more than 70,000 square feet of commercial space available within existing and potential new structures.

In addition to Price Hill, Pleasant Ridge received the CED designation with the help of Cincinnati City Councilmember Laure Quinlivan (D) last December. Two other CED designations exist in downtown Cincinnati along the central riverfront for The Banks.

City officials say that neighborhood leaders in Over-the-Rhine, Northside and Madisonville are also working on applications to receive the coveted designation.

“Helping neighborhoods thrive and grow is my goal,” Councilmember Quinlivan said. “It’s going to be exciting to see what happens in the Incline District now.”

‘Transportation poverty’ predicted for Cincinnati’s aging Baby Boomer population

A new report, Aging in Place, Stuck without Options: Fixing the Mobility Crisis Threatening the Baby Boom Generation, released by Transportation for America finds that more than 64 percent of Cincinnati’s population between the ages of 65 and 79 will have poor transit access by 2015. In the Cincinnati metropolitan area, that accounts for approximately 200,000 people.

The Cincinnati region is not alone when it comes to providing adequate transit options to a growing aging population. Out of 48 regions studied with 1-3 million people, Cincinnati ranked as the 17th worst. Columbus and Cleveland, meanwhile, ranked as the 18th and 24th worst respectively.

The lack of transit options provided in the regions studied is matched by an increasing number of seniors utilizing public transit. A 2011 report from the AARP Public Policy Institute found that the total number of trips by seniors on public transit grew 51 percent between 2001 and 2009, and that seniors now account for nearly 10 percent of all trips taken on public transit in the United States.

St. Bernard bus stop photograph by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy.

Nancy Schuster, executive director of Independent Transportation Network of Greater Cincinnati (ITNGC), believes that these facts are on a collision course that will very soon result in transportation poverty for many Cincinnatians.

And the data comes as Cincinnatians face an important decision at the ballot box in November. Issue 48 would prohibit the City of Cincinnati from spending any money on rail transit for the next decade.

Schuster refrained from offering an official position on Issue 48, but did say that much of the focus has been on the price tag of mass transit, not on its benefits to the city and how transit serves the needs of seniors and those with disabilities.

“Hopefully we can find suitable, affordable transit options that will enable seniors and visually-impaired adults to remain independent, contributing members of our Greater Cincinnati community,” Schuster told UrbanCincy.

The Transportation for America report listed five best practices to help address the pending crisis for seniors and the disabled. Those practices include coordination between different levels of government for planning and service integration, promotion of mobility management, designing communities that accommodate all demographics, improved transportation safety, and encouraging community-based transportation programs.

“Failing to plan for mass transportation options will likely hinder the vision of Cincinnati as a retirement destination,” Schuster explained. A situation made even more troubling by the fact that more than 85 percent seniors have a strong desire to age in place.

Washington Park continues construction

The 47.3 million dollar renovation currently undergoing Washington Park is progressing at a fantastic clip. Though all the general public normally sees is a green construction fence, make no mistake: improvements are happening, and it is already amazing to see what 3CDC has accomplished since closing the park last year.

UrbanCincy had the opportunity to join a private tour of the park with the ArchNATI 2011 week. The updated park includes classic elements of the original greenspace that opened in 1855 – the bandstand is being restored, the original monuments are still intact, and a majority of the old trees stand tall – two of which will be highlighted and decorated in the winter months instead of bringing in a new tree a la Fountain Square.

There are several green features incorporated into the park. “We (3CDC and the Parks Department) wanted to be cutting edge with our sustainable elements of the space,” said Jeff Martin, project manager and the tour guide for the event. “These features will save us money over time, and help the city as well.” Located in four locations of the park are “dry wells” – storage containers for excess rain water that will keep two million gallons of storm runoff out of the MSD system. The public restrooms are spacious and incorporate natural lighting with solar tubes – circular skylights that go through the roof and use reflective metal to bring sunlight into the space. All the new buildings in the park will have green roofs.

The garage at Washington Park has been designed with light and safety in mind.

The 450-space parking garage has been designed with light and safety in mind. The three exits from the garage serve as light wells into the space, and are built twice as wide as normal stairwell allowances, encased in storefront glass to bring as much sunlight into the two level garage as possible. The bays of the structure inside are designed so that cars park at the level with the supporting columns, not next to them (like the Newport Levy garage) which creates better views for drivers and passengers getting out of their cars.

New features of the park are progressing as well. The playground area has been designed specifically for the park, with play towers representing the water tower in Eden Park, and taking other cues from the historical architecture of the city. The dog park on the western end of the space incorporates special “pup-pea” gravel that will allow pups to do their business and keep the space looking and smelling fresh – there is also a small trough that runs through, allowing dogs to play and drink potable water.

The football-field sized green space will soon have specialized sod laid down. The grass initially incorporates a synthetic structure in order for the root system to grow strong and remain springy for the public to run and play. It is the same system that the Cincinnati Reds use in their outfield, according to Martin.

“It’s great to see how much detail and attention was paid to the material selection,” said John Back, local designer and co-chair of the Young Architects and Interns branch of the Cincinnati American Institute of Architects, who assembled the ArchiNATI week and subsequent tour. “When [Washington Park] is finished, it’s going to be an incredible asset to the entire community. I can’t wait.”

Check out the rest of the pictures below, and for more construction updates, you can follow the progress on the 3CDC website.

Washington Park pictures by Jenny Kessler for UrbanCincy.

Hamilton County looking for public input on development of 2012 budget

The Hamilton County Administration is looking for community input on the development of its 2012 budget. Hamilton County residents will be able to share their thoughts on transportation, economic development and various tax levies now through October 23.

The 2012 Hamilton County Citizen Survey also asks participants how they would handle various tax proposals to help balance the stadium fund.

A theme continued from last year’s citizen survey is that of regional governance and planning. In this year’s questionnaire participants are asked what role regional planning should play in Hamilton County, and how county-wide programs like the sewer district and sheriff patrols.

According to the Hamilton County Office of Budget and Strategic Initiatives (BSI), many of the more than 1,300 respondents last year expressed a desire to share additional thoughts not otherwise provided in the multiple choices presented in the survey. As a result, BSI officials have added comment boxes to this year’s survey in order to ascertain even more ideas and potential solutions.

The survey will run from October 10 through 23, with final results being shared on October 26. Those interested in participating can also do so by utilizing the QR code shared in this article.

Those who would prefer to share their thoughts in person will have the ability to do so at two remaining public budget hearings. The first will take place today at 11:30am at the Hamilton County Administration Building downtown (map). The second, and final of four total budget hearings, will take place at the Springfield Township Administrative Building on October 20 at 7:30pm.

Recycling participation up 75% after debut of Cincinnati’s Enhanced Recycling Program

One year ago city leaders gathered in East Walnut Hills to celebrate the start of Cincinnati’s use of RecycleBank as part of the then new Enhanced Recycling Program. While including some upfront capital expenses, city leaders sold the program to city residents by touting not only its environmental sustainability, but also its projected long-term cost savings.

The upfront capital cost covered 64- or 96-gallon recycling carts for all households, approximately five times larger than previous bins, that offer smart chip technology for the RecycleBank rewards program. The potential benefits of the program were slightly more debatable and kicked off a passionate debate amongst various special interest groups. After one year the program has seen a 75 percent increase in recycling participation, but the positives do not end there.

According to the Office of Environmental Quality, the City of Cincinnati saw a 49 percent increase in the recyclable material tonnage collected in the past 6 months compared to the same period the previous year. The data also shows that the City increased recycling diversion to 17 percent.

“We had a great first year,” said Larry Falkin, director of the Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ). “We were able to grow participation in the recycling program by nearly 75 percent, increase the amount of recyclables collected curbside by nearly 50 percent, and save the City nearly $1 million through decreased landfill disposal costs and increased revenues from the sale of recyclables.”

The huge participation growth is a coup for environmentalists and waste management professionals looking to reduce overall solid waste production. The money savings, on the other hand, is a major win for City Hall as it continues to look for ways to reduce spending and grow revenues.

The growth in recycling participation has not come as a surprise to everyone though. In 2009, Rumpke invested $6.5 million in its Cincinnati Material Recovery Facility to improve the facility’s technology. That investment has allowed the waste management company to handle the larger flow of material through its plant and expand the list of acceptable items for recycling.

“Cincinnati’s enhanced recycling program is even more successful that we expected. It is clear that our community wants to recycle more to help the environment and save the City money,” Mayor Mark Mallory said in a prepared statement. “The more we recycle, the less the City has to pay to dump our garbage at the landfill. As we head into year two, we look forward to even higher levels of recycling and more savings.”

Cincinnati recycling picture by Jenny Kessler.