Design Competition to Test Neighborhood Infill Guide

Development in the city of Cincinnati and particularly in the basin can sometimes be heavily scrutinized. However, a new effort and design competition hosted by the Over-the-Rhine Foundation may prove to steer development of new construction projects.

Currently, the development process is complicated, often times involving many meetings with community councils, city staff and approvals and recommendations from certain boards and City Council.

That particular challenge has been felt most intensely in Over-the-Rhine, where developers, community leaders, and city officials are struggling to reach compromise over historic guidelines that have not been updated since 2003. For the past few years the OTR Foundation’s Infill Committee, established in 2013, has been working to address the challenges of infill design in this historic neighborhood. They are working with the city’s Historic Conservation Office to modernize the 15-year-old historic district guidelines. The goal of the update is to provide clear and comprehensive guideline language paired with illustrative graphics to assist in designing new construction that will enhance the long-term coherence of Over-the-Rhine and its desirability to both residents and visitors.

Part of that update is to test the new guidelines amongst the architectural and urban design community hosted by the Over-the-Rhine Foundation in conjunction with the proposed update to the New Construction Guidelines for the Over-the-Rhine Historic District.

The competition is open to the public. Participants are tasked with designing a new construction project, site, and exterior envelope only, at 1716-18 Vine Street following the proposed new construction guidelines, see the brief here.  Interested parties can pre-register by 1/20/18 at the following link. There is a registration fee of $15.00.

First, second, and third place cash prizes will be awarded and announced on March 23, 2018. The first place prize is $5,000.00. The competition team will host a kick-off question and answer event on Friday, January 26 at Graydon on Main, 1421 Main Street in OTR, from 5:00 to 7:00 PM.

Two public input sessions will be hosted to gather public input for the proposed guidelines by the Historic Conservation Office on Tuesday, February 6, 2018, at 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM. A location in OTR has yet to be determined.

Editors Note: Mr. Yung is a member of the Over-the-Rhine Foundation Board of Trustees.

  • Matt Jacob

    I’m interested to see what comes out of this competition, but I’m skeptical that the guidelines don’t just constrict the possibilities for great urban infill within the historic district. There has always been a tension between the idea of respecting the old but not copying it that has raised questions about how in the hell you are ever supposed to actually build something practical. Modern requirements for parking, fire safety, egress, and living styles are so hard to make work in an urban context already, which makes the exterior design secondary (at best) and exterior materials even lower in priority when cost cutting; so I’m not sure it makes sense to start any design from the approach that they’re taking.

    It’ll be interesting to see what the new guidelines look like (when they release them on 1/25), but I hope this competition makes them ask some serious questions on how we actually allow cool things to get infilled and allow for existing historic buildings to get re-purposed in a way that they can actually be used by modern society for the next 100 years (the best way to actually preserve anything).

    Here are a few questions that I hope they answer:
    – Will they allow for anything other than new bland cornices? Can you ever copy a historic cornice (and to what degree)? Can you ever do a new creative cornice with modern materials (could I use aluminum/modern metals & styles or go crazy incorporating mini-windmills/stylized lighting/solar)?
    – How will they handle tack-on outdoor spaces like rooftop decks, fire escapes, and balconies? Will they allow new fire escapes at all (may be needed for modern egress requirements)? How far can we go with balconies (can you mimic the more ornate old ones [ex.1218 Main] or even do modern takes on NOLA style ones that go to the sidewalk or other modern styles like What is the actual rule on rooftop decks and their top houses (is it “can see from across the street on the front”? What is allowed on the front in terms of setback and view from below?)
    – How can roof styles change? Can front dormers (with or without windows) be added to existing historic attic spaces to make modern usage? Can new infill orient roofs for optimal solar collection and with alternative styles like sawtooth?
    – How will solar installations be treated? Can solar tiles (like proposed by Elon Musk) or new panels that are visible be added to existing historic buildings with metal or shingle?