Join Us for a Special URBANexchange with Ed Glaeser Thursday at 5:30pm

Triumph of the CityThis month our URBANexchange event will highlight an influential urban thinker and writer who is in town to speak at the University of Cincinnati.

Noted author, urbanist and economics guru Dr. Edward Glaeser will be at the Lindner College of Business this Thursday to speak on behalf of the TAFT Research Center. In 2010, Glaeser, an economics professor at Harvard University, wrote the book Triumph of the City which received a great deal of praise from the urban planning community.

Glaeser’s ideas on cities, skyscrapers and the future economy are much debated yet very carefully considered. As a result, his discussion at this event is expected to be very interesting and thought provoking.

The event will be held in Room 112 in the Lindner College of Business. The event is free and will begin at 5:30pm. The event is a short walk from the #19, #24, #78 and Metro*Plus bus routes, and is located near the Jefferson and University Avenue Cincy Red Bike station.

After the lecture, UrbanCincy will trek over to Taste of Belgium on Short Vine for an informal gathering to further discuss the lecture and current events. Dr. Glaeser, if you’re reading this, you are more than welcome to attend.

Tiny Living Space Concept Intrigues Capacity Crowd at Niehoff Studio

Last month UrbanCincy worked with the Niehoff Urban Studio to host our annual fall event. This year the partnership focused on the idea of tiny living, or living in a space that is less than 400 square feet.

According to the information presented at the event, the average tiny home is, on average, about 243 square feet. They can be either completely mobile, as in mounted on a truck, or somewhat permanent such as constructed out of shipping containers. They can also, but rarely are not in the United States, constructed as normal practice with standard materials.

The event saw a larger than expected turnout with well over 100 attendees. Food truck Bistro de Mohr was on hand to serve hungry patrons. The main room hosted a display of different tiny living arrangements.

Presentations were given by a local design firm named Department 7, and Dan Elkin who is developing a tiny home project in Detroit. Following the formal presentations, a panel discussion was held that was moderated by UrbanCincy.

The panel included Vince Sansalone with SAID-DAAP, tiny home owner Natalie Hendricks, artist and designer Joe Hedges, architect and UrbanCincy contributor Bradley Cooper, and University of Cincinnati professor Leah Hollstein. The panel’s discussion was very engaging and ranged from the reasons for developing tiny houses, which includes demographic shifts in the way Millennials view housing, to how tiny houses can fit into the urban fabric of cities. The group also discussed the various challenges for developing ways to make tiny houses legal in cities.

Overall the event was informative and engaging. Participants came away asking for more information about tiny homes and the audience generated good discussions with the panel conversation.

Cooper also distributed a survey about living preferences on tiny houses to those in attendance. Cooper is assembling the information as part of his application to develop a tiny living project through the Haile Foundation’s People’s Liberty Fellowship grant. If you were not able to complete that survey in person, you can do so now online.

UrbanCincy, as a public outreach partner for Cooper’s project, will provide regular updates on his efforts.

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.