Construction to begin on $78M mixed-use development uptown

After lengthy delays, U Square at The Loop, a new mixed-use development planned for Calhoun and West McMillan streets just south of the University of Cincinnati’s campus, is finally set to begin construction in January.

For Clifton Heights, it means the largest development since University Park Apartments (UPA) was completed in the fall of 2005. But for residents, it will mean construction and traffic detours through much of 2012 that will transform a long-vacant piece of real estate into $78 million development.

The site once housed a smattering of drive-thru restaurants and a small collection of historic building stock, but was cleared in 2003 to make way for the development. The project then became entangled in a messy eminent domain case with Acropolis Chili and Inn the Wood restaurants which did not end until 2005 when UPA was completed across the street.


The $78M U Square at The Loop development is set to break ground in January 2012.

“While there is undoubtedly a lot of work converging at once, we have phased a lot of other work in prior years,” explained Clifton Heights Urban Redevelopment Corporation (CHCURC) director Matt Bourgeois in reference to various streetscaping projects, renovation of Classen Park in 2010, and construction of 65 West Apartments in 2011.

Developers anticipate groundbreaking on U Square at The Loop to take place in January 2012 on more than 150 apartments, two parking garages totaling 750 spaces, office and retail space. The final hurdle has been financing, and was finally cleared when the University of Cincinnati (UC) signed a lease on 40,000 square feet of office space for its Campus Services Department.

The lease signed by UC then triggered the signing of several retailers which had signed letters of intent on approximately nine-percent of the development’s total street-level retail space. Those retailers include DiBella’s Old Fashioned Submarines, Great Clips and Firehouse Subs.

Growing Pains
Final drawings and permit acquisition for the project are currently underway, with site excavation set to begin soon. Developers say that the project’s two blocks—one primarily office and one primarily residential—will undergo construction simultaneously, with the residential component set to begin in late February and the office component to begin in mid-April.

Though the smaller office block is expected to be complete by the end of 2012, developers do not expect the site’s residential component to be finished until July 2013. At the same time, city officials will continue streetscape improvements throughout Clifton Heights which will include two phases of work in the spring of 2012.

“Both projects are a part of the original urban renewal plan from 10-plus years ago and they are finally coming to fruition,” Bourgeois stated. “I wouldn’t discount the “growing pains” that are part of that, but I think that was to be expected and it becomes simply a matter of planning and managing a difficult scenario with the construction and maintaining good communication.”

A future phase of the development at U Square at The Loop includes the vacant “Gateway” site at Vine Street and Calhoun Street. There, a mid-rise office building is envisioned at what would become the junction between Uptown and Downtown streetcar lines.

“Our goals [set forth in the urban renewal plan] are being met and that is certainly something to celebrate,” concluded Bourgeois. “This is a continuation of that work, and another hugely positive step towards the rejuvenation of the Clifton Heights business district.”

Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati kicks off 2012 DIY Urbanism Competition

The Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati (AFC) and the University of Cincinnati Niehoff Urban Studio have launched the DIY Urbanism Competition 2012 for the city of Cincinnati. Organizers say that the competition is looking for entrants to identify the most creative visions for temporary installations that could enhance the use, perception, and enjoyment of public space in urban areas throughout Cincinnati.

Entries for the DIY Urbanism Competition 2012 are open to individuals or groups associated with architecture, planning, art, or design disciplines that reside or operate within the Cincinnati region. Students must be currently enrolled.

Organizers state that proposals may vary in content from architectural, fine art, or programming concepts, but must be illustrated for a site specific context. A $10 entry fee paid upon delivery, and competition work must be submitted to the AFC by January 18.

The Exhibit Opening Reception and announcement of winners will take place on Tuesday, February 7. Winners for ‘Best in Show’ and ‘Best Student Work’ will be awarded $500 and $200 respectively from the AFC.

More information about registration, design submissions and the competition is available through the University of Cincinnati Community Design Center website. Questions may be addressed by email only to design.center@uc.edu. All questions and answers will then be compiled and posted on the competition web site.

ArchiNATI festival hopes to bring new spark to Cincinnati’s architecture scene

Cincinnati’s architectural design scene will take center stage this month at the first annual ArchiNATI architectural week: October 14 through 21.  In a week of architecture-related events bringing together relevant themes in local design, ArchiNATI will showcase Cincinnati’s rich urban history, vibrant contemporary design practices, esteemed cultural arts institutions, and world-class design education.

“We were completely amazed to learn that Cincinnati has never had an architectural festival,” remarks John Back, local proprietor and one of several coordinators for ArchiNATI, “and with all the progress and growth we’re experiencing here in Cincinnati, we think the city is certainly ready for one!”

During the week-long ArchiNATI architectural festival, local organizations such as 3CDC and the Cincinnati Preservation Association will showcase a wide range of Cincinnati’s built environment.  Partner institutions including the University of Cincinnati, the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and the Cincinnati Art Museum will hold events throughout the week incorporating current themes of architecture and design in the Queen City. “and by ‘City’, we mean Cincinnati as a whole,” Back reiterates, “This is not a professional conference–this is a festival about architecture and the urban environment for EVERYONE!”

“We have a strong architecture and design community here in Cincinnati,” adds Nicholas Cristofaro, a local architectural professional and event coordinator for ArchiNATI, “and I look at this festival as a way to raise awareness about the architecture of our city, both the old and the new, as an important cultural asset.”

ArchiNATI is hosted by AIA Cincinnati’s YAiF (Young Architect’s and Intern’s Forum). Mercedeh Namei, current president of YAiF, says that the week of events will aim to spark interest in local architecture and the built environment.

In order to reach as many Cincinnatians as possible, the festival will include events all across the city including Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, the West End, Northside, Uptown and other urban neighborhoods.

Go OTR 5k and Summer Celebration take place this Saturday

This Saturday the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce is hosting its annual GO OTR 5k and Summer Celebration. This year marks the first year for the Cincinnati Triple Crown, which encourages cross promotion between three urban races, and includes the Hyde Park Blast, Downtown Dash 5k and GO OTR 5k.

Race registration can be done online for the GO OTR 5K, and is $20  in advance and $25 the day of the race. All participants receive an official race t-shirt, designed by Nati Evolvement, and top finishers will receive specially designed Rookwood Pottery awards. This year’s race will feature chip-timing to more quickly and accurately publish race results.


2010 GO OTR 5k race photograph by 5chw4r7z for UrbanCincy.

The race begins at 10am (with sign-in starting at 8:30am). Awards will be given to the top five male and female finishers, first-place runner with dog, first-place runner with stroller, first-place walker, and the first-place boy and girl finishers.

Following the race, the OTR Summer Celebration will be held at the corner of 12th and Vine streets in the Gateway Quarter of Over-the-Rhine. Organizers say that the all-day celebration will highlight the artistic character of the historic neighborhood.

Over 30 local artists and craftspeople will display and sell their one-of-a-kind work alongside the independent shop owners in the Gateway Quarter. Local bands including The Hiders, Cincy Brass, Faux Frenchmen, Comet Bluegrass Allstars, and The Cliftones will perform live music all day.

Over-the-Rhine restaurants Lavomatic, Senate, and the new A Tavola Trattoria, as well as a variety of mobile food vendors, will be open for lunch. This year there will be a kids activity tent where children can participate in simple craft projects. You can also follow Saturday’s events on Twitter and Facebook.

Neighborhood picnic to raise money for Tucker’s shooting victims

Bring your picnic blankets and chairs to St. Francis Seraph Church this Saturday, April 30 for a community support picnic in Over-the-Rhine.

The picnic will be held from 1pm to 5pm in the Franciscan Secret Garden to benefit two victims of a shooting incident that took place at Tucker’s Restaurant earlier this year.

City residents and businesses have rallied around the victims’ families for this event, and free local entertainment will be provided by Wild Mountain Berries, Robin Lacey & Dezydeco, and Chico & Friends. Free food will also be provided from Over-the-Rhine establishments, and Christian Moerlien beer will be available for $3.

Raffles, split the pot fundraisers and a silent auction will benefit the victims’ families. Event organizers say that prizes will include theater and concert tickets, restaurant and bar gift certificates, and more.

Organizers are requesting a minimum donation of $10 at the door. All proceeds will go to Carla Tucker and Ronisha Burgin, the victims of a January shooting at Tucker’s Restaurant. Free parking will be available in St. Francis Seraph parking lot (map), and an indoor location, in case of rain, has been set aside next door at St. Francis Seraph School.

Tucker’s Restaurant exterior photograph by 5chw4r7z.