VIDEO: $86M Nippert Stadium Renovation On-Schedule for August Opening

With the college football season behind us, the $86 million renovation and expansion of Nippert Stadium is now in its home stretch. At this point, the majority of structure work is now complete and interior work is now advancing during the cold weather.

The project is more of a renovation than it is an expansion. As part of the upgrades just a few thousand more seats will be added, along with the luxury boxes, overhauled concessions and restrooms, lounges and new technology that define the project.

A challenge from the beginning, however, was adding the new amenities in an environment severely constrained by existing buildings that at some points already help frame the stadium’s exterior. In order to accomplish that, Cincinnati-based FRCH Design Worldwide built upward along structure’s east side that sits adjacent to Tangeman University Center. The final results are interesting and unpredictable in a manner that should only add to the venue’s notoriety as the Wrigley Field of college football.

As part of the effort to upgrade the 114-year-old stadium, the University of Cincinnati has been issuing video updates about every three weeks. The latest includes Tom Gelehrter, Senior Director of New Media and Broadcasting at Bearcats Athletics, talking with project manager Bob Marton about recent progress that has been made and looking ahead to what is next.

One of the more notable changes in this update was the start of drilling work on the east concourse, which will eventually allow for construction of the two-story restroom and concession facility, stairways and light poles.

“A year ago we were drilling in this building, and now we’re drilling on the other side,” Marton explained in the the 5:29 video update. “We’ve got two levels of drilling going on…and that’s about a week’s worth of work.”

Due to the careful scheduling of construction activities, project officials do not anticipate ongoing cold temperatures to cause much of an issue since they had gone through it once before when drilling on the west side of the stadium last year.

If the project stays on schedule, it is expected to be complete by August 2015 – just ahead of this year’s September home opener for the Bearcats.

Nine Giant Brewing to Open in Heart of Pleasant Ridge Business District

Nine Giant Brewing has signed a lease at the corner of Montgomery Road and Ridge Avenue in the heart of the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood business district. The announcement comes years after community leaders celebrated the formal establishment of a Community Entertainment District for the area.

According to Urban Fast Forward, the agency in charge of leasing at the site, the signing is part of a larger redevelopment effort called Sixty99, which is being spearheaded by Gene Levental, and will eventually include more than $350,000 worth of upgrades to the 87-year-old building.

According to Blake Bartley, Urban Fast Forward’s leasing agent for the project, Sixty99 includes several yet-to-be-leased commercial spaces. In addition to Nine Giant Brewing, however, A Salon Named Desire is currently located on the building’s second floor.

The Nine Giant Brewing micro-brewpub, Bartley says, will take up 3,413 square feet of space along Montgomery Road and is being spearheaded by Brandon Hughes and Michael Albarella.

Perhaps surprisingly, the announcement comes years after the CED was announced for Pleasant Ridge; but with increasing investment throughout a variety of Cincinnati’s neighborhood business districts, this deal appears to be capitalizing on growing momentum in the city. As a result, community leaders in Pleasant Ridge believe this might spark more business openings in the future – something that would be buoyed by the fact that several liquor licenses remain as part of the Pleasant Ridge CED.

“Nine Giant is a great addition to Pleasant Ridge and the Sixty99 development and provides the neighborhood with a true entertainment destination,” Bartley told UrbanCincy. “This is a huge first step for what is going to be a thriving entertainment district at Sixty99.”

Are Aaron Betsky and his architecture contemporaries ‘out of touch’ with society?

As we all know by now, most architecture today is pure shit. Well, a recent piece by the architecture critiques at The New York Times that says contemporary architects are largely out of touch with society didn’t sit well with architecture power broker Aaron Betsky.

In a response piece to Betsky’s commentary on the matter, Forbes published a piece from Justin Shubow, President of the National Civic Art Society and author of The Gehry Towers over Eisenhower, panning the former outspoken director of  the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Betsky rained down on Bingler and Pedersen with ridicule and scorn: Their piece was “so pointless and riddled with clichés as to beggar comprehension.” He summarized their position: “we have three of the standard criticisms of buildings designed by architects: first, they are ugly according to what the piece’s authors perceive as some sort of widely-held community standard (or at least according to some 88-year old ladies); second, they are built without consultation; third they don’t work.”

Yet Betsky then admitted, “All those critiques might be true.” They are irrelevant, he claims, since architecture must be about experimentation and the shock of the new. (Why this should be the case he does not say.) And sometimes designers must stretch technology to the breaking (or leaking) point: “The fact that buildings look strange to some people, and that roofs sometimes leak, is part and parcel of the research and development aspect of the design discipline.” Ever brave, he is willing to let others suffer for his art.

At no point did Betsky consider the actual human beings, the unwilling guinea pigs who live in the houses. He implicitly says of the poor residents: Do their roofs leak? Let them buy buckets. And as for sickness-inducing mold, there’s Obamacare for that. Betsky also does not consider what a leaky roof means to people whose prior homes were destroyed by water. The architects, having completed their noble experiments, effectively say like the arrogant King Louis XV of France: “Après moi, le deluge” [After me, the flood]. No wonder architects have an image problem.

Prefabricated tiny living spaces are on their way to America’s biggest city

While the concept of living in micro-apartments is not new to many cities around the world, it is a fairly novel concept in North America where large dwelling units have traditionally dominated the marketplace. That, however, is changing and we are excited to be covering the emergence tiny living in Cincinnati. Meanwhile, New York City will soon celebrate the arrival of its first prefabricated “microunits” that will make up the city’s first tower of such apartment units. More from The Atlantic:

For another, this will be the city’s first “microunit” building. In 2013, its design won a city-sponsored “micro-housing” competition devoted to compact housing for single occupants. (Forty-six percent of Manhattan households are made up of one adult.) The architects, Eric Bunge and Mimi Hoang, hope that large windows, high ceilings, and floor plans featuring multipurpose living areas—fold-up furniture sold separately—will make the apartments feel more spacious than their 255 to 360 square feet.

Bunge says that drafting a modular, microunit building is, in terms of complexity and precision, something like designing a car. The little boxes flirt with minimum-habitable-space laws as well as mandates regarding disability access, so there is absolutely no room for error. “If we were to … change drywall from half an inch to five-eighths,” he says, running his fingers across some plaster, “we’re screwed.”

$11.2M Redevelopment of Historic Heberle School to Breathe New Life Into West End

A team of New York-based developers have purchased a number of properties in the West End, and a recent tax credit from the State of Ohio may spark the first major redevelopment investment in the historic district in decades.

In 2012, Zada Development purchased two historic school buildings from Cincinnati Public Schools for $60,000 each at auction. The two schools sit within a block of one another in the Dayton Street Historic District, and have sat vacant for the better part of the last decade.

The development team told UrbanCincy that they intend to begin construction on the 86-year-old Heberle School in February, thanks to a $1.8 million Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit – the biggest award in the recent round of funding in Southwest Ohio aside from Music Hall’s $25 million catalytic project award. It is due to the neighborhood’s proud history that the developers decided to enter the Cincinnati market and take on their first project here.

“This area has been abandoned for some time, which prompted us to collaborate with the Dayton Street Neighborhood Association in order to revive a community rich in history and architecture,” explained Golan Marom from Zada Development Group.

The group’s previous experience is largely comprised of high-rise residential rehabilitations in the New York area.

The $11.2 million Heberle Lofts project, meanwhile, is seen as phase one of the team’s efforts. The second phase will focus on the 100-year-old Lafayette Bloom Middle School on Baymiller Street. There, developers anticipate a project similar in scope to what will be done at Heberle, which is planned to include 59 market-rate apartments and 5,000 to 6,000 square feet of street-level commercial space.

A striking similarity at both school properties is the large open space in front of their main entrances. In both cases, Marom says that the plan is to maintain some of it as parking for the development, while also creating new public and green space for the community.

While redevelopment has been moving northward from Over-the-Rhine’s Gateway Quarter, all the way up to the Brewery District surrounding Findlay Market, it has yet to spread west into the West End or its Brighton District. An injection of activity like this, however, could improve the neighborhood’s ability to support service retail and restaurants, which so far have proved difficult to attract within the Brighton District or along Linn Street at the nearby City West development.

The development team says they are still working to secure some additional financing, but are optimistic they will be able to get started in the coming months. Should everything go according to plan, the Heberle Lofts project is expected to be completed approximately two years after construction work begins.