UC’s Campus Recreation Center named best in America

Most everyone knows by now that the University of Cincinnati has transformed its previously drab uptown campus into one of the world’s most beautiful college environments with stunning architecture and public spaces. One of those stunning pieces of architecture is the university’s Campus Recreation Center (CRC), which opened in 2005, and has been rated as the best college recreation center in America. More from Best College Reviews:

The UC Campus Recreation Center is an impressive building, with over 200,000 square feet of recreation facilities. A juice bar and a convenience store are also available to students for immediate refreshing during or after a big workout. The CRC has three pools, over 21,000 pounds of weights, a climbing wall, and a suspended track.

The University of Cincinnati has always placed a premium on impressive architecture, and the CRC is an example of this. UC’s facilities for student athletes are also impressive…UC students have all the amenities that modern students expect, but they enjoy partaking of them in world class architectural achievements, which is a big part of why Cincinnati takes our top spot.

Episode #18: Immigrant-Friendly City

On the 18th episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, we’re joined by Alfonso Cornejo, President of the Cincinnati Hispanic Chamber, and Kristin Hoffman, and Immigration/Administration Lawyer with Hammond Law Group. We discuss city council’s recent motion to declare Cincinnati an “immigrant-friendly” city.

Mr. Cornejo explains how the Midwest is “stuck in the past” when it comes to immigration matters, and how city council’s motion helps improve the the city’s image. Ms. Hoffman describes some of the challenges immigrants face while trying to become citizens of the United States, and how new “path to citizenship” reforms could improve our nation’s economy. We also discuss the need to attract highly-skilled immigrants and retain international students after they graduate from the region’s top universities.

Inadequate regional transit burdens Infrastructure Grade

Last week the American Society of Civil Engineers released their report card on the state of our nations infrastructure. Earlier,  we broke down the report and analyzed what the numbers mean for Ohio and Cincinnati infrastructure but Next City has reviewed the numbers for rail and mass transit. Even though regional rail infrastructure has improved through Amtrak, local mass transit continues to lag behind with a D grade from the ASCE. The report highlights that even though more people are riding transit, the condition of our nations mass transit infrastructure has a backlog in $78 billion worth of repairs. More from Next City:

Transit that doesn’t fall under Amtrak’s purview fared much worse on the ASCE’s report card, earning a D and therefore pulling down the nation’s overall lousy-to-begin-with G.P.A.

Public transit ridership increased by 34 percent between 1995 and 2011, according to the American Public Transit Association, and the ASCE report states that access to transit across the country has grown by nearly 10 percent. Although transit investment has also increased, “deficient and deteriorating” regional transit systems cost the national economy $90 billion in 2010.

Lee Fisher to Discuss the Future of Cities at UC’s School of Planning

The University of Cincinnati’s School of Planning will host Ohio’s former Lieutenant Governor and current CEOs for Cities President, Lee Fisher, next Thursday.

The event will start at 4pm with Fisher explaining what CEOs for Cities does and what they stand for. Organizers also say that those who attend will also hear about civic activists can work with professional architects, planners, designers and artists in a collaborative way to change their communities.

While serving as Lieutenant Governor, Fisher was perhaps most well-known for his economic development work and the implementation of the Ohio Hubs of Innovation & Opportunity to foster urban-based collaborations between businesses, colleges and universities, and research institutions.

Cincinnati was named an Ohio Hub of Innovation & Opportunity for Consumer Marketing in July 2010.

Fisher’s interest in these collaborative approaches to building up cities aligned him perfectly with CEOs for Cities which helps lead these types of discussions and has becoming a prominent voice on these topics over recent years. Specifically though, leadership at CEOs for Cities believe that great cities are not simply places that are born, but are rather made and improved over time.

“A living place is someone’s success,” Paul Grogan, who founded CEOs for Cities in 2001 with Richard M. Daley. “These are matters of choice and skill, not laws of physics.”

This work of enhancing cities has spread throughout North America to more than 60 cities, and CEOs for Cities currently has offices in Chicago, Cleveland and Washington D.C.

Following the speech, organizers say that the audience will get an opportunity to meet and discuss their ideas with Fisher during a reception to be held at 5:10pm.

The main event will kick off at 4pm on Thursday, April 4 inside the Kaplan Auditorium (Room 5401) at UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning. The event is free and open to the public, and light refreshments will be served.

The University of Cincinnati is well-served by Metro bus service (plan your trip), but those taking personal automobiles should be able to find cash parking in the nearby Clifton Court Garage.

Ohio Fails to Show Improvement in Latest Infrastructure Report Card

We take for granted that bridges, roads, highways, water treatment facilities and dams will function as expected and take us to where we need to go. But our nation’s aging infrastructure has long been in decline as money is diverted from maintenance to construction of new projects, many times for politicians eager for the photo op of a ribbon cutting event.

Recently, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its latest report on the current state of the nation’s infrastructure. The last such report, issued in 2009, had given the country a rating of D. This year’s report showed the nation’s rating had improved to a D+ grade.

“Our country’s association of civil engineers continues to do the yeoman’s work of sounding the alarm on our country’s infrastructure — the roads, rails and waterways that we depend on to move our goods from place to place and get us where we need to go each day,” James Corless, Director of Transportation For America (T4A), stated in a prepared release.

I-75 Reconstruction
Work on the multi-billion dollar repair and widening of I-75 through Cincinnati proceeds, but the project still has yet to receive the full funding it needs to be completed. Photograph by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy.

As the nation sifts through a backlog of infrastructure replacement projects, national policy has shifted away from funding such critical infrastructure needs as budgetary concerns linger.

The current transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), offers no new funding for investments in transportation alternatives to relieve congested corridors or encourage smart solutions to these complex problems.

“It’s a sad reality that little has changed since the last report card in 2009,” Corless continued. “Has anything in Washington changed to drastically improve the condition of our roads, bridges and transit systems in the four years since?”

Without new revenue sources, Corless says, the funding problem is only poised to get worse as revenues continue to decline from the federal gas tax, which has not been raised since 1993. Such a lack of necessary revenues may soon leave the federal government unable to perform basic infrastructure maintenance.

Local Implications?
In both 2009 and 2013, the ASCE gave Ohio a C- grade in their infrastructure report card. While the grade places Ohio ahead of the national average, it still translates to 2,462 structurally deficient bridges and approximately 42% of its roadways in “poor” or “mediocre” quality.

While the State of Ohio raised its gas tax in 2006, the extra revenues have not been enough to keep pace with the demand for larger transportation projects like the expansion of I-75 through Cincinnati, the  Brent Spence Bridge project, and the long-planned MLK Interchange project, which all currently stand unfunded or only partially funded.

“Some other states aren’t waiting for billions that are unlikely to come and are thinking about ways to make their dollars do more. Like Massachusetts, where the DOT director issued a goal of tripling the number of trips taken by foot, bike and public transportation — reducing the load on roads and bridges that are among the oldest in the country,” explained Stephen Lee Davis, T4A’s Deputy Communications Director.

Ohio Infrastructure

The City of Cincinnati has been working towards improving some of its worst-rated infrastructure since the last report card was issued in 2009. Since that time, Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE) has performed a $22 million rehabilitation of the W. Eighth Street Viaduct and is in the midst of a $55 million replacement of the Waldvogel Viaduct which connects the west side with the center city via the Sixth Street Expressway.

Additionally, Cincinnati’s 3,500-foot-long Western Hills Viaduct also is considered structurally deficient. Replacing a span that is nearly twice as long as the longest Ohio River span, and crosses the Midwest’s second busiest rail yard, will be one that is both difficult and costly.

Cincinnati officials say that they are currently studying whether a rehabilitation of the existing 82-year-old, double-decker viaduct or a replacement will be more appropriate.

“That is one of those kind of icons in the Mill Creek Valley that you like to look at,” noted Michael Moore, Cincinnati’s DOTE Director, on The UrbanCincy Podcast. “But we will need to be very cognizant of how we spend the public’s money in making sure we have a good safe mode to get across that area.”

Moore says that the department hopes to wrap up the study on how to fix the Western Hills Viaduct early this spring. Once that is complete, he says that there will be a good idea on how to accomplish that. Where the funding might come for such a large project, however, is still up in the air.