OTR Flags installation aims to unite inner-city neighborhood through art

Hundreds of brightly colored squares of silk ripple in the breeze amid the trees of the newly renovated Washington Park. Each square tells a story of a person or organization somehow intertwined in the past, present, or future of the Over-the-Rhine community. Furthermore, the OTR Flags project is the first public event celebrating the re-opening of the 157-year-old park.

Though the grand reopening of the park is heralded as a triumph, it brings with it lingering memories of crime, homelessness, and drug dealing that plagued the area over recent decades. Some organizations and people had trepidation surrounding the renovation – that not everyone would get to share in the joy of the new space.


OTR Flags installation in Washington Park. Photograph by Jenny Kessler for UrbanCincy.

In an effort to help bridge the proverbial divide between old and new residents, local artist and resident Angela Morrow teamed with Joan Kaup in 2009 to create the public art project with the goal of uniting the diverse neighbors of Over-the-Rhine and encouraging communal ownership of Washington Park.

“There’s still some tension, with old residents, new residents, black and white, rich and poor,” said Morrow. “Art is a safe, positive way to create dialogue. We wanted to bring everyone together and start the healing process.”

Inspired by The Gates installation in New York City’s Central Park, the team developed a plan to unite organizations, artists, and neighbors by creating personalized silk flags to hang in Washington Park. Some 57 organizations contributed in some way – by being a media sponsor, contributing financially, or sponsoring a flag.

Morrow served as the lead artistic director, Kaup worked with development and community outreach, and Nicole Ware, CEO of Emanuel Community Center, oversaw the financials. A committee with representatives from ArtsWave, ArtWorks, Cincinnati Arts Association, 3CDC, Drop Inn Center, OTR Community Council, OTR Community Housing, Society for the Preservation of Music Hall, and YMCA met together to match 17 local artists with 30 neighborhood organizations that combined to create 26 flags.

The artists, ranging from 15-year-old Zoe Kolstaza, a student at the School for Creative & Performing Arts, to Matt Dayler of public art company Higher Level Art, were paid a stipend for their work. Each artist met with eight to ten members of their respective organization and participated in a facilitated discussion about their involvement in Over-the-Rhine.

“This isn’t a marketing ploy for companies,” Kaup explained. “The point of the flags is to tell the story of each participant.”

The final piece of the project came from public workshops where area residents could paint smaller, individual flags illustrating their involvement with the neighborhood. Workshops were held at the Drop Inn Center, Second Sunday on Main, Art Academy of Cincinnati, and Emanuel Community Center.

“At the Drop Inn Center charrette, people were so excited to be able to give something and be a part. Fifteen flags were painted that day,” Morrow told UrbanCincy. “People from the Drop Inn, from the neighborhood, even from an outside group that does ministry in Over-the-Rhine stopped by. The Drop Inn members got to show them how to paint for the first time, they got to give something back, and there was no power play. Everybody was there painting and learning together.”

More than $64,000 was raised with sponsorship money, and after expenses, an estimated $10,000 will be left over. Organizers say they plan to use the extra money to sponsor programming for Washington Park.

OTR Flags will remain on display in Washington Park through September 2012, and a reception will be held to commemorate the exhibit on July 19 at 5pm.

Jenny Kessler is a former UrbanCincy writer and now works for ArtsWave as a Communications Assistant.

Silver Ladle offers fresh fast casual with local twist

Sixth Street’s Restaurant Row will soon have another eatery open to hungry downtowners. On March 17 the Silver Ladle will open its doors to the public, offering a variety of healthy, fast-casual food with friendly service and a fair price.

The Ladle serves up burgers, sandwiches, chili, soups and salads oriented for a variety of palates. Gluten-free, heart-healthy and veggie options are detailed on the menu.

The space itself, located next to Mr. Sushi in the 580 Building, is clean and bright without feeling sanitized or fluorescent. Modern light fixtures and blond laminate tabletops make for a pleasant experience. The kitchen is open-air and it is easy to see the crew prepping meals.


Exterior of Silver Ladle photograph by Jenny Kessler for UrbanCincy.

UrbanCincy took the opportunity to sample two offerings on the menu: Italian Wedding Soup and the Stuffed Mushroom Burger. The soup was full of mini meatballs and noodles, satisfyingly salty and pretty delicious. For those who might be trying to relive Stuffed on Vine’s glorious filled burgers, steel yourselves for a letdown. The burger is good, but not the same.

The burger is a step up from fast food restaurants but still prepared in a similar manner. The ‘stuffing’ is a welcome layer of bacon and chive cheese spread between two patties, which adds a much appreciated flavor and fat to the sandwich. The honey Kaiser roll the burger is served on is positively fantastic- buttered and griddled, it contains the fillings nicely. There are a variety of burgers to choose from if mushrooms aren’t your thing, and there are other sandwiches including a delicious looking muffuletta. Be aware, it costs extra to add sides to your meal, but the fries are worth it.


Silver Ladle Burger photograph by Jenny Kessler for UrbanCincy.

The most interesting portion of the menu is the chili – no surprise, coming from the Lambrindes lineage of Cincinnati chili parlors. Pick between several bases – burrito, fries, greens, spaghetti and coney- pick your chili – beef or chicken, both spiced Cincinnati style. Top it off with cheddar cheese, onions, jalapeños, black bean soup or sour cream. Vegetarians could forgo the meat and top with black beans instead. We’ll let the experts review the coneys, but others eating said the taste was very similar to Skyline.

One of the owners, Tim Lambrindes, is ecstatic to have his first restaurant open in downtown Cincinnati. “I’m from the Bridgetown area originally, and when we wanted to open this restaurant, we looked in West Chester and other suburban areas,” he explained.

“I worked with CJ Judge when trying to decide on a location, and he said, you gotta check out the downtown market. Being from Western Hills, I didn’t know a lot about downtown. All of my thoughts were completely false – as soon as I came down and started studying the people coming in during the day – and even at night, in this area – I loved it.”

The biggest draw for Lambrindes with the downtown location was the built-in clientele. “My customers don’t have to commute by car to my restaurant,” he said. “So many people live and work down here, that even at night, they can just walk up and here we are.”

If you are looking for a meal downtown that won’t bust your wallet or your waistline, check this out. The Silver Ladle is open from 10am to 9:30 pm every day, and will open to the public on March 17.

Silver Ladle (Opening in March) on Urbanspoon

Main City Station to create new Asian food concept, co-op space in Over-the-Rhine

Sushi Bears PartyA little over a year ago, Dan Wells opened Sushi Bears, a health-oriented food stand in the center of Findlay Market, selling veggie sushi and other specialties. After opening up the brand to two other “Bear” varietals (Indian – Bolly and wheatgrass lemonade – Sippy), and finding a popular niche in offering food lessons and sushi-making parties, Wells is expanding his concept.

Wells informed UrbanCincy in an exclusive interview that he will open a grab-and-go Arner-Asian food shop, a small grocery, and several small co-op spaces at the corner of Orchard Street and Main Street in Over-the-Rhine (map). The location was most recently home to the CS13 art studio space, and at 1,700 square feet, was a daunting space for just one business to fill.

“After looking all over, this building’s rent was a steal at nearly half of what other locations were charging,” Wells explained. “I’m not one to turn down a good deal, but I don’t need that much space – so that’s why I thought, let’s open this up to other people who are in my shoes, who are looking for something in the $300 to $500 range.”

At this point, the idea for Main City Station was born. Wells says that he plans to section off the expansive space into several smaller units and give entrepreneurs a chance to open a small store.

“Why not take a risk, for $400 more a month, and get a space where I can provide three or four other people with what I was looking for,” said Wells. “I think it’s a good thing. I don’t know who’s going to want to be in there, but I can imagine all sorts of different people – art studios to retail and everything in between.”

Sushi Bears will take up the forefront of the floor plan, and the remaining units will be constructed into approximately 225-square-foot spaces that can be built to suit. Wells says that the rent for the co-op spaces will include utilities, cable, internet and a security system.

While Wells’ business is focused around his love for the city, he says that the majority of his business has come from selling Indian food and sushi-making lessons to suburban customers.

“There’s a great opportunity for crossover with Main City Station,” Park+Vine owner Danny Korman said of the potential synergies between Wells’ new operation and his business. “We’re so lucky to have a wide variety of customers who come in and support Park+Vine, many of whom live outside the city limits.”

The Sushi, Bolly and Sippy Bears space will add a unique offering to the burgeoning Main Street business district. Initially Wells will sell grab-and-go sushi and microwavable Indian food, and will eventually expand to table service following the build out of the establishment’s kitchen. The grocery aspect of the store will also be a first for this portion of Over-the-Rhine.

“When you’re doing sushi, you want to carry produce,” Wells explained. “We’ll carry all the things you need to make sushi, even if you don’t use it to make sushi.”

The market may also serve as a precedent for other retailers to build upon, not only with the co-op element, but also by having a reasonably priced, small-scale store offering grocery staples south of Liberty Street. Those interested in renting space from Wells can send him an email.

Cincinnati selects final streetcar station design

The City of Cincinnati has chosen a final design for 18 station shelters along phase one of the Cincinnati Streetcar route. Designed by Cincinnati-based DNK Architects, the stations are described as clean, minimal and are compliant with the US Department of Transportation “Buy America” guidelines. The firm researched station designs in other cities, and developed a design that would be easily recognized and protect riders from the elements for the short time they will be waiting at stops.

“The streetcar project is a series of smaller pieces that must come together before construction of the track begins. The shelter design is another milestone in that list of items,” said Chris Eilerman, the City’s Streetcar Project Manager. “This design combines a modern look, while at the same time, fits in with the historic architecture served by the streetcar.”


The stations along the Cincinnati Streetcar route will have a clean, contemporary design like this one shown outside the Main Library.

Project officials say that the modular design ensures various elements will be easy to maintain and replace. The materials themselves are thin, light, and durable – allowing natural light to come in while protecting waiting riders from the elements. Each station will include a route map, information about the streetcar system and an electronic sign displaying the arrival time of the next car, as well as other important messages for riders.

“We designed the station structures to call to mind what the streetcar will bring to Cincinnati — a public transportation system that everyone can use to connect to neighborhoods,” said David Kirk, founder and principle architect, DNK Architects, and lead architect for the streetcar station design. “We want people to look at the stations and see how easy, safe, and comfortable it is to explore all that Cincinnati has to offer.”

Selection of the station design was the final step in reaching a complete design on the first segment of the Cincinnati Streetcar. In order to reach final design, the streetcar team completed a number of other critical steps, including surveys of the entire route, inspections of basements near the route that lie under sidewalks, coordination of vehicle options, completion of an independent peer review of the project and performance of a quality control review of the entire project.

Next steps for the project are continued negotiations to reach agreements with utility companies. The shelters will be built as part of the construction contract, which is scheduled to be bid in the first quarter of 2012.

Streetcar project expands with new funding

UPDATE: The Fiscal Year TIGER III grants have been released, and it is official: The Cincinnati Streetcar has received funding to complete Phase 1 with the Riverfront Loop. Along with a transit building upgrade in Cleveland, the Cincinnati Streetcar project was the only other Ohio project to be awarded money. Out of 848 applicants, the project was one of 46 to move forward with funding.

Undisclosed Congressional sources notified UrbanCincy Monday that the shovel-ready Cincinnati Streetcar project will receive 10.9 million dollars in funding from the federal TIGER III grant. As reported earlier in November, the city applied for $58 million in funding through the program, to restore the project to its original aim of connecting the Uptown and Downtown employment centers. The $10.9 million will potentially be able to expand the adjusted route down to the Banks.

“This TIGER III grant was awarded on a competitive basis and shows that the Cincinnati Streetcar is one of the best transportation projects in the country for generating economic development and putting Cincinnatians back to work,” said CincyStreetcar blog founder and local transit expert Brad Thomas.

Over $50 million of the project’s original funding was cut by Governor Kasich’s office in April for other much lower ranked projects, including a bus line in Canton, Ohio.

According to Transportation Issues Daily, no other cities in Ohio have received funds from the grant. However, TRAC director and former asphalt lobbyist Jerry Wray wrote a letter of recommendation for a TIGER III grant to widen 3.75 miles of roadway in Pickaway County, Ohio. Despite major pushback at the state level, local support has never been stronger with the new election of 7 pro-streetcar council-members.

Council-member, OTR resident and ardent supporter Chris Seelbach told UrbanCincy, “IF the news is correct, as the Business Courier is reporting, then it’s great news! The goal was always to connect Cincinnati’s two biggest job centers, downtown and uptown. Only when Governor Kasich cut the State’s funding was the route shortened. I’m hopeful this new funding source will again allow us to have fixed rail from the stadiums to the University of Cincinnati and hospitals, and everywhere in between.”

Cincinnati Streetcar picture by 5chw4r7z.