Episode #59: 2015 in Review (Part 1)

The former Old St. George Catholic church is being renovated into a new church, Crossroads at Old Saint George.

On the 59th episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, Travis, Randy, and John discuss a number of developments in the neighborhoods of Oakley, Pleasant Ridge, Uptown, and the Central Business District.

  • Will new businesses like Nine Giant Brewing will help solidify Pleasant Ridge’s neighborhood business district and result in new development in the neighborhood?
  • How does the Oakley Transit Center fit into the anti-urban Oakley Station development as well as Metro’s larger plans for a regional transportation system?
  • Can Uptown diversify its retail to include more than just restaurants?
  • With the Eighth & Sycamore and Fourth & Race projects moving forward, what’s next step in the Central Business District’s development?


  • matimal

    I just went to the Oakley Station recently and it’s awful…. as is almost all non-city center development around Cincinnati. Yet, I argue that suburban Cincinnati’s seeming inability to create the kind of new urbanism that even Nashville, Atlanta, Charlotte, or suburban D.C. can pull off ironically helps to explain the relative success of downtown/otr. Those seeking to live, work, shop, and socialize in the most connected high-value locations in metro Cincy HAVE to be part of Downtown/OTR, and a few other neighborhoods. There isn’t any ‘pseudo-urbanist’ location that has just enough of the benefits of an urban central location, but is still intended to benefit particular private interests over public ones to compete with downtown/otr. If Cincinnati had an Atlantic Station like Atlanta, it would take a fair share of the demand away from downtown/otr and show other developers how they could do the same further undermining investment in established urbanist neighborhoods.(The thing in Liberty Township is too far and too focused on retail as the age of the national bricks and mortar retailer begins to fade to be a serious threat.) Every new suburban development that includes thousands of surface parking places visible from the street, ironically reinforces the push of urbanism in downtown/otr by keeping it the only urbanist game in town.

    • Eric Douglas
    • One must wonder if the revitalization of downtown and OTR would’ve happened if the planning department wouldn’t have been re-formed.

    • Eric Douglas

      Idk, 3CDC was formed in 2003, which may explain their absence of community planning.

    • Neil Clingerman

      I’d argue that Covington KY too often gets overlooked as a strong urbanist place. As OTR goes up in value, this is probably going to be the next place that turns around (and its actually in way better shape than OTR too – its mostly underutilized not falling down).

      Cincinnati not having something like St. Louis’ Clayton also really helps – a huge prewar streetcar suburb that decided to take on elements of an edge city but at an urban density – its part of why Cincy’s downtown isn’t quite as gutted as it could have been and even Covington is at least just across the river even if it does get its act together so it would compliment instead of hurt the core.

    • Eric Douglas

      When Frida opened in Mainstrasse, I thought that Covington is now down the “hip” chain from Northside that is/was down the chain from OTR. So as people with good money continue to be priced out of OTR, Covington will be a natural option especially since there is no better collection of residential architecture than the Licking Riverside and since you have apt buildings mixed in with mansions that cost $200+ less per month than in Cincinnati (though KY gets that back in vehicle reg and income tax).

    • Neil Clingerman

      Yeah the biggest barrier to the NKY river cities turning around is them being in a different state, however as rents go up crazy things start to happen that you might not otherwise expect – the desire to live near someplace cool outweighs other obstacles after a certain point.

    • matimal

      Exactly. The fact that Cincinnati’s suburbs are so awful and just can’t ever seem to get their act together has left metro Cincinnati’s central areas in a good place by the standards of medium-sized interior metros in America.

    • Covington also has the “fast food district” taking up a lot of its prime real estatin, which could actually be a big asset in the future if those are torn down and replaced with something that’s actually urban. However it would require having the right leadership to put together a cohesive vision.

    • Eric Douglas

      Covington does have the brown Corporex monstrosity that has fractured their downtown from the riverfront, Kasich has lured much of those jobs to Cincinnati.

    • Neil Clingerman

      I don’t think that’s as bad as the fast food district or the IRS buildings – I think those can be worked into a walkable urban district much easier – I’ve been to the Covington convention center before its definitely nothing compared to pre WWII neighborhoods but its not the worst post war urban renewal monstrosity.

    • Eric Douglas

      Fast food heaven is no worse than the west end and Mainstrasse is right there

    • I’d say that The Banks is Cincinnati’s version of Atlantic Station in Atlanta. In fact, the developers are the same and they have even said as much. The exception is that Atlantic Station focused on retailers while The Banks has focused on restaurants and bars. That is most likely due to the location of The Banks being in between three sports stadiums and a museum.

    • matimal

      I see them as quite different. The banks is much more connected to the existing grid. Atlantic Station is stuck next to I-75 miles from the CBD. It’s not remotely walkable.

    • Actually that is the quote from the developer that I will never forget. They said The Banks has a much better location because of the Ohio River. Atlantic Station has The Connector to deal with.

      The walkability of Atlantic Station, or lack thereof, I think has more to do with the odd sloping of the site and the various elements surrounding it. One of those is The Connector, but there are also railroad tracks on the north and west of the site, and then it drops off steeply from the main area of Atlantic Station to the more residential area to the south.

    • I attended a music festival at Atlantic Station a few years ago and while it’s possible to walk there from the nearest MARTA station, it’s not pleasant. I can’t imagine anyone doing it while carrying shopping bags.

    • You are absolutely right. That is why the developers of Atlantic Station have even developed a shuttle bus to bring people to/from the MARTA Arts Center Station.

      The better pedestrian/bicyclist experience is actually if you stay on the west side of the highway. You can then avoid that massive barrier and move yourself through the pleasant neighborhoods surrounding Georgia Tech.

    • matimal

      The bank is an extension of Cincy’s CBD, Atlantic Station is an alternative to Atlanta’s CBD. The banks strengthens downtown Cincinnati, but Atlantic Station weakens Atlanta’s CBD/Midtown. I don’t have any data, it’s just my observation of both places within the last year.

  • Mark Christol

    I heard about an issue with the small bus drivers being paid less than the big bus drivers.

    Seems to me they should be paid the same but how do other towns deal with that?

    Pleasant Ridge has a well established comic book store,too, Queen City Comics, too…

    The Kenard Kroger is in Spring Grove Village I believe. Bus service from Northside has improved but it’s still crappy. I’d opt for NCH & the zone charge over the transfer to get to SGV from Northside.

    I think people are more afraid of garages than lots because TV & movies prefer the closed set of the garages over the open lots.

    Up til like the 70s, people were crammed into all kinds of tiny apartments – usually terrible, but…

    • The issue is that you don’t need a commercial drivers license to drive one of the small buses, since it’s essentially a van. So Metro was proposing two pay rates: one for the CDL drivers who drive the big buses, and a lower rate for the drivers of the small buses. I think that the union ultimately agreed with that.

    • Aaron Hamlin

      You’ve got a rockin’ knowledge base on this stuff!

    • It’s a savvy move by Metro. I’ve seen many large cities move in this same direction. Not all routes get the same ridership, nor should they. Some routes are better served with lower capacity buses at higher frequencies.

  • Matt Jacob

    I agree that Oakley Station won’t be as bad in the long term as many have made it out to be. Short term park and ride and then long term parking lot infill of higher density than other parts of Oakley. Some parts are going to be harder to change over than others, but i think over time even the street grid will get fixed and finished the way it should have been.

    I’m also not sold that Pleasant Ridge has really come back yet with these additions but hopefully they’ll set the stage for it in the longer term. I completely agree that the real key is to get the highest quality retail to succeed. That’s what has been driving the resurgence in other areas.

    As far as Kroger is concerned, I’ve heard talks of the OTR kroger being turned over to 3CDC once the Short Vine kroger is complete. I’d assume it would come down and they’d do a larger development to complete Vine St up to 15th all at once.

    Would you count 8th&Sycamore as TOD from the streetcar? I might, along with 309 Vine and 580 buildings fot sure. I think 2016 will be the year we finially start to see TOD in Cincinnati with projects like these being completed and a few additional ones being announced along the streetcar line. Stay tuned…

    I’m a little on the fence about Metro’s growth plans for some of the reasons you mentioned about mixed messaging. I still think as a region they’d be better to do what you described from Houston with starting fresh. Where is there density for high frequency corridors? Where are jobs located that need these smaller buses to connect them to the corridors?

    From an OTRCBD standpoint I think we need a long term transit plan. Designate a central transit corridor loop in the CBD as a landing point for all buses instead of spreading stops on all streets. It would be a hybrid between Portland’s transit mall and Chicago’s loop.
    Then make conscience links directly to streetcar stops that force you to use it as the downtown circulator and speed up getting these routes out of the CBD. Future plans of where links to NKY, Uptown, westside, and eastside would likely fall could be set aside long term and incorporated piecemeal until funding falls in place.

  • Aaron Hamlin

    I always like when Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) comes up. For whatever reason, this seems to just get lip service in Cincinnati. If an easing in is necessary, it seems like the biggest bang for the buck moving forward would be to (1) require pre-boarding payment and (2) space out stops.

    Naturally, later innovations like (1) bus-controlled stoplights, (2) dedicated lanes, (3) flat onboarding using bus bulbs (this is the case on the stop by Liberty St just by Findlay Market), (4) wait time notification, and (5) high frequency runs.

    • I think Metro is doing a good job with its current (inadequate) funding levels. They have introduced real-time arrival screens at some stops, as well as recently opening up that data for anyone to use. The Metro*Plus route seems to be very popular, with the one common complaint being that its frequency drops off in the evenings and it doesn’t run on weekends. Both of those problems could be solved with more funding.

      As for dedicated lanes and signal priority, both of those would make a lot of sense but would spark a major debate over the role of transit in our city and whether we’re willing to slightly inconvenience drivers to make transit run more efficiently. With our mayor’s recent anti-bike lane comments (saying that our streets should not prioritize one mode over another), I doubt bus lanes fit into his vision.

    • Neil Clingerman

      I’m really hoping that Metro can make the case for more funding vis a vis Metro Plus expansion, its a pretty good incremental improvement. Given the political challenges in Cincy its probably going to be a good starting point for better regional transit.

  • Brian Boland

    Love the comment about Oakley Station being an outdated project that we are already thinking to retrofit. Oh, IF ONLY we had gotten Liberty Center there.

    • It is both sad and comical that awful locations in the exurbs get better urban projects than great locations in the heart of the region. Liberty Center would be infinitely better located at a site like this.