C-Change Class Hoping Interpersonal Challenge Starts to Break Up Cincinnati’s Provincialism

It’s a question that no one from outside Cincinnati has a good answer for. A question feared or reveled in by a native from the city. It is almost a code question determining a person’s origin, their loyalties, their location and even their net income or political affiliations. It’s probably the most daunting question anyone could ask in any random conversation here in Cincinnati: What high school did you go to?

And some believe that it needs to stop.

“Our story isn’t Skyline or the Reds. Our story is the different people that came here,” Aftab Pureval, co-chair of the Grand City Experiment told UrbanCincy.

The Grand City Experiment will feature daily challenges, throughout October, that will aim to plug people into what can oftentimes be Cincinnati’s insulated social circles. And Pureval says that the goal is to go beyond targeting young professionals and engage as many people as possible, even those that do not use technology.

The idea for the project project came from a team within C-Change, a program run by the Cincinnati USA Chamber of Commerce. This year’s C-Change class was challenged to come up with ways to better engage residents and newcomers to the city alike.

“You don’t have to be a part of the experiment for the experiment to have an affect on you,” Pureval explained.

So how does the experiment work?

Basically, participants sign-up through the Grand City Experiment website. Then, beginning on October 1, they will receive daily challenges via email that could be as simple as striking up a conversation with someone in line next to you, or something more involved like taking a trip into uncharted territory – things like westsiders going to the east side, Northern Kentuckians checking out areas north of the river, and so on.

Not every challenge, however, needs to be accomplished; only the ones participants feel comfortable doing.

Participants are then encouraged to share their experiences on social media with the hashtag #thegrandcity. The C-Change group will be tracking these experiences and sharing different stories of their own.

For people looking to participate that do not have access to the Internet, the group reached out to Cincinnati area Community Councils, who will then distribute challenges through the area’s many community councils. Organizers also say that daily challenges will be broadcast on the video board overlooking Fountain Square.

After the experiment concludes, the group says that they will collect the data to determine whether or not the effort was a success. If so, the idea could find its way to other cities throughout the country. But as Pureval explains, for now the goal of the experiment is to spark real connections with new people and places.

Dive Into the Topic of Tiny Living Spaces This Friday at the Niehoff Urban Studio

Tiny Houses Event FlyerTo most people, tiny homes often are viewed as a novelty. The idea of building a small house or living in an apartment with less than 500 square feet sounds like living in a closet.

However; with the rising cost of housing and the growing desire for people to do more outside their homes, the idea of tiny living is stirring a new conversation. Tiny homes, for example, could be used to address urban revitalization, homelessness or retrofitting existing structures, such as this garage project in Atlanta.

This is why UrbanCincy has partnered with the Niehoff Urban Studio to host Tiny Living as part of Digressions in Art, Architecture and Urban Design. The event, which will take place this Friday, will feature presentations on the subject of tiny homes and an expert discussion panel.

Writing about the event, organizer Ana Gisele Ozaki postulated that tiny homes are “an antithesis of suburbanization and the ‘American Dream’ as we know it, tiny spaces/living fundamentally question consumption of our current system by proposing repurpose of materials, as a clear response to the 2009 housing crisis and many other flaws of our current economic/financial system.”

This event is part of the continuing partnership between the Niehoff Urban Studio and UrbanCincy to examine complex urban issues. Earlier this year UrbanCincy moderated the panel discussion for the Metropolis & Mobility workshop focused on Cincinnati’s Wasson Way Corridor.

The Tiny Living event is free and open to the public, and will run from 5pm to 8pm. The evening will begin with interactive pieces produced by the DPMT7 and ParProjects, and will be followed by a series of short presentations at 6pm to get the discussion started. The panel discussion will begin around 7:30pm.

The Niehoff Urban Studio can be reached via Metro*Plus and the #24, #78 Metro bus lines. The collaborative, public studio is also within one block of a Cincy Red Bike station.

EDITORIAL NOTE: UrbanCincy‘s local area manager, John Yung, will be one of the panelists at this event. John is also a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s Master of Community Planning program.

Will Main Street Follow in Vine Street’s Footsteps and Return to Two-Way Traffic?

City and community leaders are taking a fresh look at some of Over-the-Rhine’s streets and intersections to see if they might be able to better function if managed differently.

In the 1940’s many downtown streets were converted from two-way to one-way traffic in order to stream automobile traffic through the city center. With the completion of Interstate 75 in the late 1950’s and Interstate 71 in the late 1960’s, some of these streets became important feeders into the highway system.

Additionally, many north-south streets, such as Main, Walnut and Vine, remained one-way to help move traffic throughout the new auto-oriented street system.

It eventually became clear, however, that one-way streets were not adding much benefit beyond moving vehicles slightly faster on their way to and from the interstate highways.

As a result, the City of Cincinnati spent around $400,000 in 1999 to convert Vine Street back to two-way travel from Central Parkway to McMicken Avenue. A subsequent study in 2004 found that traffic along Vine Street became slightly more congested, but also reduced the speed of motorists traveling through the historic neighborhood.

Since its conversion, Vine Street has also blossomed with dozens of new businesses, which can, in part, be attributed to slower traffic and improved access and visibility. As a result, there have been several other examples of this type of conversion throughout Over-the-Rhine, including sections of Thirteenth and Fourteenth Streets.

Two-way street conversions are typically credited with improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists, while also helping local businesses along the street by making it easier for drivers to navigate city streets. In addition to that, a civil engineer from Penn State University even found that the conversion of one-way streets can even improve traffic flow.

“Two-way networks can serve more trips per unit time than one-way networks when average trip lengths are short,” Dr. Vikash Gayah wrote in his essay. “This study also found that two-way networks in which left-turn movements were banned at intersection could always serve trips at a higher rate than one-way networks could, even long trips.”

Gayah’s conclusion was that the trip-serving capacity of a street network can actually be improved when converted to two-way operations, and when left turns are banned.

“This framework can be used by planners and engineers to determine how much a network’s capacity changes after a conversion, and also to unveil superior conversion options,” Gayah noted.

In Cincinnati, initiating such conversions can come in the form of streetscaping projects or through formal requests made by neighborhood leaders. From there, City engineers will determine the feasibility of suggested conversions. In some cases, like E. Twelfth, E. Thirteenth, Fourteenth Streets, City engineers have said that the streets are too narrow to be converted and remain one-way to allow for on-street parking.

The Over-the-Rhine Community Council recently submitted a request to the City to convert Main Street back to two-way traffic.

“At most times of the day Main Street has relatively light traffic and motorists speed down the street in order to make every green light,” Seth Maney, head of Main Street OTR, explained to UrbanCincy. “It can seem more like a drag strip than a pedestrian-oriented business district.”

The specific request from Over-the-Rhine activists is to convert both Main Street and Walnut Street. However, transportation officials say that the routing of the first phase of the Cincinnati Streetcar will prohibit such a conversion south of Twelfth Street.

“The streetcar route is something we have to consider if there was a desire to convert the north-south streets to two way traffic.” said Michael Moore, Director of Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE). “The conversion from Twelfth to Liberty Street, however, would be relatively simple.”

In addition to Twelfth Street, the streetcar’s routing along Elm and Race would also seem to make it improbable that either of those streets could be converted to two-way traffic.

Housing Auction Saves Buildings In Baltimore

Often times it is difficult for distressed housing to be taken out of delinquent property owners hands. In Cincinnati this has often led to neglect and demolition of buildings, many of which are historic. Could Cincinnati learn from a program in Baltimore that puts delinquent properties up for auction? More from The Baltimore Sun:

The changes brought by Vacants to Value are creating enough sales volume to make the system financially viable, said board member Bill Romani, one of founders of One House at a Time, started by an attorney who bought his home through a receiver.

“You have a very hard time doing it at a volume to be able to make money doing it,” he said. “As the Vacants to Value program has grown and made more of an impact on neighborhoods, so has One House at a Time.”

PHOTOS: First Phase of Pendleton’s $26M Broadway Square Development Taking Shape

The first phase of Broadway Square in Pendleton is on schedule for completion later this fall. Recently, UrbanCincy had a chance to tour the construction of the project.

This is the first of three phases in the $26 million Broadway Square development. The buildings are being developed by Model Group, and the leasing of the retail and office space is being managed by Urban Fast Forward. Once completed, phase one will include 39 market rate apartments, 8,000 square feet of office and four retail spaces.

The development is located close to Horseshoe Casino and is adjacent to the recently renovated Spring Street Plaza & Playground and “multi-sensory and interactive” Spinnradl sculptures.

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EDITORIAL NOTE: All 17 photos were taken by John Yung for UrbanCincy in late July 2014.