PHOTOS: Downtown Construction Boom Underway

With well over $2 billion in new construction projects underway in Cincinnati’s urban core it is not hard to miss with construction fencing, cranes and lifts working at full tilt all over downtown and Over the Rhine. Many new construction and building renovations are underway throughout downtown and Over-the-Rhine. This gallery features photos of 16 projects taken this month. If added up the projects in the photos below are just a fraction of overall development with just over $400 million in construction activity.

 

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Cincinnati Bell Connector Makes Its Debut With New Branding Scheme

Local transit officials on Tuesday rolled out the first vehicle to bear the colors of the new branding scheme for the Cincinnati Bell Connector. Naming rights for the local rail transit system, formerly known as the Cincinnati Streetcar, have been purchased by Cincinnati Bell.

Under the sponsorship contract, the communications company has agreed to pay $340,000 per year for the next decade. The funding will be used to help cover costs for streetcar operations.

The new graphic scheme for the transit vehicles features the blue and green colors of Cincinnati Bell on the ends of the cars, and above the windows. While some remnants of the original branding scheme remain, the burnt orange color that had become synonymous with the streetcar will entirely go away in time for the system’s opening.

The new branding will be used throughout the system, including on the website, on all printed materials, and on support vehicles. Stations will be rebranded as Cincinnati Bell Connector stations; and several stations already have new signage reflecting the change.

After a photo session for the media, the vehicle departed along Race Street to start regular operations for the day. All five streetcars will display the new branding by the start of regular service on September 9.

With Commuters Slow to Embrace It, Cincinnati Bike Center Finding New Niche

Tucked away beneath the Schmidlapp Event Lawn at Smale Riverfront Park is a great resource for the local cycling community. The Cincinnati Bike Center serves downtown commuters, as well as tourists and locals who may want to take a spin around riverfront parks and urban neighborhoods.

The bike center opened with the first phase of the park four years ago. Located at 120 East Mehring Way, the facility is built into the park structure at the bottom of the Walnut Street Steps, which features a bike runnel for easy movement between levels of the park, and operates in this location under contract with Cincinnati Parks.

Brady Willenbrink, who has served as the manager for the past year-and-a-half, told UrbanCincy that he is setting out to increase public awareness of the center and its many services.

While the center does not sell bicycles, it does operate as a repair shop, performing small fixes such as tire replacements and minor adjustments, or larger jobs like full tuneups and part replacements. Some cycling apparel and accessories are available for sale.

The original vision for the facility was to serve as a commuter station for downtown workers. Such an operation was seen as being similar to the famed McDonald’s Bike Center in Chicago’s Millennium Park. In fact, Cincinnati’s concept even used the same operator and hired the director of Chicago’s center to come and run the new outpost along Cincinnati’s central riverfront.

Over the past four years the Cincinnati Bike Center has signed up just 30 members – a number they say continues to grow. True to the original vision, those commuting members have 24 hour access to a secure, camera guarded space with bike racks and locker rooms. Members are also provided with 20% discounts on repairs, apparel and most other services offered at the CBC.

“They get a locker, take a shower, clean up, go to work, come back, change into their bike clothes and go home,” Willenbrink explained.

Commuters may join with monthly or annual memberships, and the option to use the station on a daily basis is available for occasional commuters or those wishing to try out the facility. Riders also can take advantage of bike valet parking in the secure space during Cincinnati Reds baseball games at the nearby Great American Ball Park. This service is open to all, not only members, and costs just $1 per bike.

It is these more temporary service offerings, however, that have proven to be most popular. Of those, none has been more well-received than the bike rentals offered at the facility.

The resounding popularity of Smale Riverfront Park has made it a day or weekend destination for many visiting the center city since it has opened. With a variety of bikes available by the hour or by the day – including cruiser, road, electric assist, kids, tandem bikes, and bikes that are driven by hand-powered cranks for free use by the disabled. In addition, the center’s small, large, and extra large ‘Quadcycles,’ which have four wheels and seat up to nine people, have been extremely popular with families and other large groups.

Taking lessons from this, the Cincinnati Bike Center has established several popular bicycle and Segway tours. These are scheduled daily along several routes throughout the center city and even extend into Northern Kentucky.

While the center’s operators are hopeful the completion of the Ohio River Trail to the city’s eastern and western suburbs will bolster commuter memberships, Willenbrink says that they will also build on their strengths by soon hosting group bike rides one Friday per month that will be open to the public.

Detailed information on those rides, he says, will be shared soon through their social media pages.

Area Organizations Teaming Up to Encourage Active Transportation This Spring Season

Tri-State Trails is aiming to encourage the public to get outdoors with the Opening Day on the Trails Challenge – a seven week series of hikes, group bike rides, and other events on trails and in parks throughout the Cincinnati region.

The challenge starts with an event at Sawyer Point from 12pm to 5pm on Saturday, April 16, which is also Earth Day.

The Opening Day on the Trails Challenge is part of a national kickoff by the Rails-to-Trail Conservancy to promote the spring outdoor season. Running from mid-April to early June, the challenge overlaps with National Bike Month in May.

Information on the challenge can be found online at MeetMeOutdoors.com. Participants can register on the website, and sign up to receive email newsletters and social media alerts. A Trails Challenge Passport is also available for download. To participate, individuals and families attend group events, which are listed on a schedule included with the passport. Attendance at activities is logged on the passport, and those who attend at least one event are eligible to win a prize.

Organizers say that the challenge will conclude with an award ceremony on National Trails Day on June 4 at the Purple People Bridge. Participants who complete the challenge will receive a Nalgene water bottle and other items. A raffle will also be held to award prizes, donated by local businesses and Cincy Red Bike, to registered participants.

Tri-State Trails, a program of Green Umbrella, is the local host of the challenge, and is hoping it will encourage more people to get out and explore the region’s network of bike paths and trails.

Wade Johnston, Regional Trails Coordinator for Tri-State Trails, sees the event as an opportunity to showcase not only the many multimodal trails in the Cincinnati region, but also the hiking and mountain biking trails. Tri-State Trails has been told by the Rails to Trails Conservancy that the Challenge in the Cincinnati region is the largest and longest program of any opening day trail event in the United States.

Johnston told UrbanCincy that public support and usage of the region’s trail system is increasing, citing the Cincinnati Connects plan, and efforts to expand the Mill Creek Greenway, Ohio River Trail, and Wasson Way.

The Opening Day on the Trails event is supported by a $25,000 grant from Interact for Health. While this is the first year for this event in Cincinnati, it is intended to be an annual event in the future.

Green Umbrella’s Outdoor Event Series will continue through the summer with the Kids Outdoor Adventure Expo on July 22 at Winton Woods Harbor, and the Great Outdoor Weekend on September 24 and 25 at a variety of locations around the Cincinnati area.

City Officials Gathering Public Feedback On $718,000 Westwood Trail Extension

The Cincinnati Department of Transportation & Engineering is taking public input on the proposed second phase of Westwood Trail. A public meeting was held last Wednesday, at the recently christened District 3 Police Headquarters on Ferguson Road, at which the proposed route was presented.

At that time it was explained that things are moving forward thanks to a $500,000 Federal Transportation Alternatives grant for the $718,000 project. The remainder of the budget, officials say, will come out of Cincinnati’s capital budget.

The new half-mile extension is proposed to connect to the existing loop trail at Dunham Recreation Center; and run approximately 1,200 feet between the Kroger parking lot and the Gilbert Dater/Western Hills High School sports facilities to the south. Engineers and planners with the City say that a cross slope on this portion of the route presents a challenge, so the path is to be cut into the slope, with a new 8-foot high, 355-foot long retaining wall.

Along Ferguson Avenue, the sidewalk in front of the newly constructed District 3 Police HQ was built as shared use path, and has a width sufficient to accommodate people walking and biking. The trail will then continue north on Ferguson, and west on Glenhills Way to Western Sports Mall.

City officials say that the existing sidewalks to the north and west of the police substation are not the width required for a shared use path and will need to be rebuilt. This may be, in part, due to the fact that the Bicycle Transportation Plan adopted in June 2010 called for on-street bike lanes along Glenhills Way, not a shared use off-road trail like what is now being proposed.

City Hall has not currently identified the funding to build the next extension of the trail to the west of the Western Sports Mall, but officials say that the intent is for it to eventually extend northwest to the Green Township Trail, and east to the Lick Run Greenway.

These extensions would incorporate the Westwood Trail into a larger regional trail network, including the Mill Creek Greenway. The work also fits into the Cranley Administration’s aim of prioritizing trails over on-street bike facilities.

DOTE officials say that they will be taking public feedback on the proposed trail alignment, and connections to local community institutions, until Wednesday, December 2. Those that were unable to attend last week’s meeting can submit their feedback online at: http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/bikes/bike-projects/westwood-trail-phase-2/.

Construction is projected to begin in the spring of 2017.