Taste of OTR Returns This Weekend As Expanded, Two-Day Event

The Taste of OTR returns this weekend as an expanded two-day event for craft beer, local eats, and live music in Washington Park.

The announced lineup includes more than 25 of the neighborhood’s best restaurants, food trucks, and retailers selected as vendors for this year’s event. Returning favorites from past years include Taste of Belgium, Alabama Fish Bar, and Dojo Gelato; as well as newcomers Eli’s Barbeque, Ché, and Nation Kitchen & Bar.

Conceived four years ago as a creative way to raise awareness for local nonprofit Tender Mercies and celebrate Over-the-Rhine’s renaissance, Taste of OTR has quickly grown into a signature community event. Attendance has grown exponentially from 2,500 in the first year to 15,000 in 2015. This year, organizers anticipate 20,000 people will attend.

The larger, two-day event will also include several new features, including a Craft Beer Village showcasing locally brewed beer from Samuel Adams and Rhinegeist. A new kid’s zone is intended to make sure the event has plenty to offer for families interested in attending.

All of the proceeds from Taste of OTR go to Tender Mercies – the Over-the-Rhine nonprofit that plans and produces the event, and provides permanent supportive housing for homeless adults with mental illness. It assists nearly 200 residents each year with affordable housing and a suite of support programs such as employment and life skills training and benefits assistance.

Since the event’s inception, Taste of OTR has raised $100,000 for the organization. This year, Tender Mercies hopes to net another $60,000 for their cause.

Taste of OTR will take place Friday, August 26 from 5pm to 10pm, and Saturday, August 27th from 11am to 10pm. General admission is free. For more information about Taste of OTR or to purchase VIP tickets, go to www.tasteofotr.com.

Carabello Coffee Expansion And Slow Bar Set to Open This Summer

What began with a $300 home coffee roaster and an eight-pound bag of coffee has become a mainstay of the local coffee scene. Now Carabello Coffee is set to increase its presence in Newport even further with its expansion into an adjoining storefront on Monmouth Street.

The expansion, nearly two years in the making, will open later this summer and include a new-to-market “slow bar” concept, called Analog, and a larger roasting operation. Aside from the updated offerings, the owners say the new arrangement will also free up space for 16 additional tables in the café.

One of the reasons Carabello Coffee has become well-known is due to its unique philanthropic business model in which a portion of the profits go to support causes in third world coffee-growing communities – including a signature relationship with an orphanage in Nicaragua. According to Justin and Emily Carabello, owners of the café, their mission of serving “coffee and compassion in tandem” has helped the business double in size every year since it opened.

The couple says that they started roasting coffee as a hobby in their garage back in 2009; then moved operations to a 10-foot by 10-foot space at Velocity Bike & Bean in Florence in 2011. By September 2013, the couple quit their daytime jobs to work on the venture full-time, relocated to their current 1,200-square-foot space at 107 E. Ninth Street, and broadened the original wholesale business to include a retail café.

After only a year at the Newport location, both the roastery and café had already outgrown the space. In a fortuitous series of events, the Carabellos were able to buy the building next door, which was home to a former check-cashing business, in order to expand and maintain both the production and retail on-site.

While no firm date has been set for its opening later this summer, the Carabellos say that the expanding roasting area, along with the region’s first dedicated slow bar, will offer customers a truly unique experience that utilizes manual brewing techniques.

The goal of the slow bar, Justin says, is to help customers connect more intimately with the art and craft of coffee.

“We want it to be a place for baristas and customers to get creative, explore, and experiment,” Justin told UrbanCincy.

Analog will have a large farm table bar, barista-curated menu, and specialized equipment like siphon brewers and yama drip towers. And in order to deliver on the experiential element of the slow bar, they say that nothing will be offered for take-out.

Justin and Emily say that the slow bar space will also double as a training lab for wholesale clients, as well as classes for the general public on topics ranging from coffee brewing to latte art.

In fitting with Carabello Coffee’s business model, funding the expansion has been a true community effort, beginning with a Kickstarter campaign that raised a total of $47,000 toward their $40,000 goal. This allowed for the couple to make the down payment on the new space, and move forward with the expansion.

Through assistance with the Catalytic Fund, Carabello Coffee became the first business in Newport to land a Duke Energy Urban Revitalization Grant, which was awarded in March, and is covering $42,000 in project soft costs. Another grant from the City of Newport will provide up to $15,000 in matching funds for façade improvements, while even additional financial assistance is being sought through the use of historic preservation and rehabilitation tax credits.

Carabello Coffee is open Monday through Friday from 7am to 8pm, Saturday from 8am to 8pm, and closed on Sunday. Free bike parking is available nearby, and a Cincy Red Bike station is located just two blocks from the cafe.

Pendleton Apartment Development Becomes City’s First “Bicycle Friendly” Residential Destination

One of Pendleton’s newest multi-family residential developments has not only saved a historic structure from the wrecking ball, but it has also become one of the city’s most bicycle friendly destinations in the process.

Cincinnati-based BiLT Architects designed, developed and rehabbed the 1870s tenement building to fit what they called a modern urban lifestyle. They were able to do this by retaining original architectural details, while also responding to new trends in Cincinnati’s rapidly growing bicycling community.

Located at 512 E. Twelfth Street in Pendleton, the seven-unit development offers an unparalleled amount of amenities for bicyclists looking to take advantage of the building’s central location.

On-site, the property has dedicated bike lockers and a fully outfitted bicycle workstation with bicycle stand, pump, and repair tools. Tenants can also purchase 50% discounted memberships to Cincy Red Bike, connecting them to a network that has grown to 385 bikes at 50 stations throughout Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

These efforts have earned Abigail Apartments the distinction of being the first apartment building in the city to be named an official “Bicycle Friendly Destination” by local advocacy organization Queen City Bike, of which Abigail Apartments is also a member.

The project does not have dedicated on-street parking, but this has not been an issue for prospective tenants. For example, the developers say, some people with employer-provided parking downtown have said they might leave their car parked at work and instead walk and bike for their other trips.

BiLT Architects’ Andre Bilokur said that he and his partner, Patricia Bittner, designed the project with people like their daughter in mind – renters who work in the center city want to live a car-free or “car-lite” lifestyle near all of the action, without sacrificing affordability or good design. More broadly, they expect the project to appeal to people on either side of having a family – young professionals and “never nesters”, or empty nesters, much like Andre and Patricia themselves, who also live and work in Over-the-Rhine.

BiLT purchased the property in late 2014 from OTR A.D.O.P.T., and, thanks to a tax abatement from the City of Cincinnati and an Ohio Historic Tax Credit, they were able to restore the structure and preserve many features of the original tenements, including refinished hardwood floors, restored windows, room layouts, and even privy closets. Accent patches on the walls also cleverly reveal old layers of plaster from former occupants.

The apartments began pre-leasing in April and will welcome the first residents in the coming weeks. Rents range from $840 to $880, or $1.50 to $1.60 per square foot.

This is BiLT Architects’ second adaptive reuse project in the area, following a townhouse project they designed and developed 1431-1435 Elm Street.

Andre and Patricia say more such projects are in the pipeline, including a set of commercial properties currently under construction near the townhomes on Elm Street. They say that these are expected to come on line by the end of the summer. A future phase at 1437 Elm Street will add a new construction, single-family home between the townhomes and commercial properties.

Madisonville To Celebrate Completion of Historic Bank Building Renovation

Madisonville neighborhood leaders believe that strategic investments over the past few years are finally starting to bear fruit, as is evidenced by the restoration of the historic Fifth Third Bank Building at the corner of Madison Road and Whetsel Avenue.

The $644,000 project was led by the Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (MCURC), and includes a street-level restaurant space with two, two-bedroom apartments on the building’s second floor. The hope is that the project will help stimulate other private reinvestment in the neighborhood.

Built in 1927, the building used to be a bank and still has the vault inside to prove it. Today the 2,800-square-foot street-level “white box” restaurant space is now being marketed to potential tenants. Those interested in the space are asked to contact Matt Strauss, Real Estate and Marketing Manager at MCURC, at 513-271-2495.

Community leaders will gather for a ribbon cutting ceremony next week to celebrate bringing the historic structure back to life.

“MCURC was asked by the community to save this signature building in the heart of the business district,” said Sara Sheets, Executive Director of MCURC. “Our hope is to attract a unique restaurant tenant bringing newcomers to the neighborhood, while offering residents a chance to have a date night in their own neighborhood.”

The Bank Building’s future restaurant tenant will join a growing roster of new dining options nearby.

Lala’s Blissful Bites, a bakery, opened down the street in January; plans for two coffee shops, Mad Llama Coffee by Lookout Joe and CooKoo’s Coffee Shoppe, are in the works; and a commissary retail store from the owner of Mazunte Taqueria is coming soon.

Due to what community leaders attribute to decades of disinvestment and targeted demolition, the Bank Building is one of the few historic buildings still standing in the business district. Many of the surrounding properties are vacant lots, but that too may soon be changing.

Since 2008, the City of Cincinnati has been buying vacant parcels in the area in order to assemble a large site suitable for development. In 2014, the City issued an RFQ to developers on the 7.5 acres of property it had acquired to date, which comprises most of the four blocks that form the intersection of Madison and Whetsel.

City leaders say that the team selected to redevelop these properties will be formally announced in the coming weeks, but early indications point to the Ackermann Group as the leading candidate.

This is all coming at the same time as the $200 million development at Medpace’s campus at Madison Road and Red Bank Expressway, a half-mile west of the neighborhood business district, which includes 250 apartments, 100,000 square feet of commercial space, 250,000 square feet of office space, and a 239-room Dolce Hotel, which is expected to be completed in 2018.

The ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at the Bank Building at 5900 Madison Road at 11am on Thursday, April 28. The Ohio Community Development Finance Fund, Fifth Third Bank, the James A. Schroth Family Charitable Trust, PNC Bank, LISC of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky, Duke Energy Urban Revitalization Initiative, and the City of Cincinnati provided funding for the project.

Covington’s Parking Plan for MainStrasse To Go Into Effect March 30

After being approved this past October, Covington’s new parking plan for MainStrasse Village will go into effect later this month.

Historically it has been free to park in the area, but the parking plan, which includes new metered street parking, a pay lot, and parking permits, will change that. According to the City of Covington, pay stations will be installed along Main and W. Sixth Street on March 26, signs will go up a few days later, and the pay stations will be live on March 30.

The project is intended to increase parking turnover and create designated parking for residents, so that it is easier for both visitors and residents to find a spot to park in the popular business district.

MainStrasse has seen a surge of new business activity of late. The last year alone saw the opening of Son & Soil, Bean Haus, Frida 602, and Mac’s Pizza Pub. Three more – Commonwealth Bistro, Craft & Vines, and Lisse Steakhouse – are slated to open soon.

Since being announced last fall, the plan has proven to be controversial. Business owners, residents and area patrons have all spoken out both in favor and against the idea.

One of the common concerns is how the new parking fees will affect new and existing businesses. The worry is that the plan will hurt MainStrasse’s ability to compete with other nearby entertainment and restaurant districts including Over-the-Rhine, Downtown, and The Banks, even though those districts also include payment-based parking setups.

The enforcement hours in MainStrasse will be limited, relative to street parking in Newport or downtown Cincinnati, particularly in the evenings, which are prime business hours for restaurants and bars that make up the district.

With street parking free after 5pm, and lots capped at $2 after one hour, businesses may actually still struggle with limited parking turnover during their busy hours at night.

At $0.35 per half hour on the street, and $1 per half hour (with a maximum charge of $2) in lots, the cost of parking in MainStrasse will be somewhat lower than what is charged in Over-the-Rhine, downtown Cincinnati, or Newport, although slightly more expensive than parking in Cincinnati’s other neighborhood business districts.

In addition to visitor-oriented changes, the plan includes modifications to improve parking availability for nearby residents – for a fee.

Sections of Philadelphia Street, Bakewell Street, Johnson Street, W. Sixth Street, and part of the Fifth Street lot will become resident-only parking. Passes to park in these spaces will cost $25 to $30 annually, and each property will be allowed to purchase two passes. Going against national trends to get rid of one-way streets, Bakewell Street, between W. Sixth Street and W. Ninth Street, will become one-way to allow for even more residential parking spaces.

The move will place MainStrasse alongside Pendleton, Newport, and Clifton as areas that also have resident-restricted parking, but it will be the only area charging a fee for the residential permits.

While efforts continue to take place to establish something similar in Over-the-Rhine, such efforts have been stymied due to an impasse between Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley’s (D) administration and neighborhood residents and business owners. Under those previously proposed plans, Over-the-Rhine parking permits would have cost $108 per year or $18 per year for low-income households.