Construction to Start on $29M South Hamilton Crossing Project This March

Hamilton city officials recently celebrated the announcement that Barclaycard would bring up to 1,500 jobs to Vora Technology Park for a new call center. Now, in almost perfect timing, public officials say they are ready to move forward with a $29 million project that will greatly improve access to the site.

Last week the OKI Regional Council of Governments awarded $3.75 million to the South Hamilton Crossing project. This is in addition to a previous allocation of $2.45 million from OKI, and $10 million from the State of Ohio. The remaining funds are coming from the City of Hamilton and Butler County.

“OKI’s support of the South Hamilton Crossing project is crucial to its success and illustrates how important the overpass is to our regional transit network,” City Manager Joshua Smith stated in a prepared release.

Hamilton has long been defined by its numerous freight railways. While they have been productive for the city, they have also served as barriers between neighborhoods since they typically operate at-grade.

The Jack Kirsch Underpass on High Street is the only grade-separated rail crossing in Hamilton that offers east-west flow. As a result, the South Hamilton Crossing has long been envisioned; with some plans showing it that date all the way back to 1911.

As of now, Grand Boulevard terminates at the CSX and Norfolk Southern tracks in Lindenwald. People walking, biking or driving must then head north along Central Avenue and then cut across the four railroad tracks diagonally.

This new project will extend Grand Boulevard to the west to University Boulevard, serving Vora Technology Park and Miami University Hamilton. Instead of crossing the four railroad tracks, the extended road will bridge them, thus offering fewer conflicts for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, along with fewer restrictions for freight operators.

“SHX is very important for both safety and economic reasons,” said Smith. “With the recent announcement that Barclaycard is opening a 1,500 person facility at Vora Technology Park, the need for better access to the area is more important now than ever.”

Transportation officials say that 56 trains travel through this crossing on a daily basis, which results in its blockage a total of 15.3% of the time. As a result, the new overpass is expected to greatly improve connectivity, reduce travel times, and increase safety.

Project leaders say that construction should begin in March 2016 and be completed in mid-2018.

Relax at Smale Riverfront Park Between Beers at Oktoberfest This Weekend

Construction activities at Smale Riverfront Park will remain at a minimum for the foreseeable future as additional funding is lined up for the remaining phases of the 45-acre park along the central riverfront.

The $120 million project has, along with private real estate development at The Banks, completely transformed the look and feel of the northern banks of the Ohio River. Of course, this has come at a time when the city overall has undergone a dramatic transformation many would not have considered possible a decade ago.

For the hundreds of thousands of people expected to visit the center city this weekend for Oktoberfest and the home opener for the Bengals, now would be a good time to check out Smale Riverfront Park and its surroundings. In fact, the Überdrome at Moerlein Lager House is actually situated within the park and gives you a great overview of the rest of its features.

The following video offers a good overview of what all is there and what you should see and do while at the park. Prost!

Bengals Partnering With Miller Lite to Offer Free Bus Rides For Home Opener

Free Metro Rides for BengalsThe Bengals will have their season home opener this Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. While a sellout crowd is not expected, tens of thousands of football fans are still expected to make the trip to the central riverfront in order to attend the game or participate in nearby festivities.

As is to be expected, many of those people will be drinking alcohol. This presents a business opportunity for nearby restaurants and bars, but it also presents a challenge for law enforcement as the likelihood of people driving while under the influence increases.

In order to help combat that, Miller Lite is partnering with the Bengals to provide free rides on all Metro bus routes on Sunday.

This is the 28th year for the program, and this season Miller Lite is partnering with six NFL cities. In total the program has come to 20 cities and provided approximately 4.8 million free rides.

“We’re excited to work together with local public transit companies, our distributor partners and our NFL alliance partners to remind fans that the best moments of the game are those enjoyed responsibly,” a Miller Lite representative told UrbanCincy. “We’re happy to begin a new partnership with Metro and hope to grow our relationship in the future.”

While the free rides will only be available for this Sunday’s home opener, Metro officials are hoping it makes people aware of the transit alternatives available for getting to and from all Bengals games.

Those who wish to take advantage of the free rides need only to get on the bus during regular service hours. No game ticket or verification will be necessary.

The Bengals won their first game of the season in Oakland against the Raiders, and will host the San Diego Chargers this Sunday at 1pm. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online or at the Paul Brown Stadium ticket office.

Model Group Moving Forward With $30M Second Phase of Broadway Square

Despite missing out on millions of dollars in state historic tax credits, Model Group is moving on undeterred with the next phase of work at Broadway Square.

Project officials say that the $30 million Broadway 3, which is actually phase two, should get started within the next week and will include 30 residential apartments and 1,200 square feet of commercial space.

“It’s a pretty sterile scoring system, so it’s pretty fair and to the point,” Bobby Maly, Chief Operating Officer at Model Group, told me when asked about missing out on the tax credits.

Undeterred, Maly then quickly changed to a more positive note and spoke about how Model Group is excited about the changes on tap for nearby Ziegler Park.

“Anytime you can create high quality green space that is safe and programmed is terrific,” Maly said. “Even the planned parking can be helpful for a high density neighborhood like Pendleton.”

One of the big differences about Broadway Square from the other developments taking place in Over-the-Rhine is that it has a different and unique setting. As many longtime residents know, Pendleton is less a district, and more of a pocket neighborhood.

To that end, he says that Model Group’s Broadway Square project is trying to not recreate what is happening on Vine or Main, but rather create a nexus that has a high concentration of professionals and niche businesses in a “high energy” environment.

So far the first phase of Broadway Square has lived up to that motto by attracting a collection of small, creative businesses, along with Urbana Cafe’s first brick-and-mortar location and the recently opened Nation Kitchen & Bar. While this next phase of work will have considerably less commercial space, Maly says that they have their eyes set on a small brewery for the corner of Thirteenth and Broadway Streets.

With apartments in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine at nearly 100% occupancy, and the first phase of Broadway Square fully leased within months with new marketing, the climate seems even better for the 30 new units this investment will bring online.

“There’s so much demand for Downtown and Over-the-Rhine right now that Cincinnati is still catching up with demand in that regard,” said Maly. “This is still more the beginning, than the middle or end.”

With work expected to get started soon on phase two, project officials say that the third and final phase could break ground as soon as January.

Red Bike, CityLink Agree to Partnership to Offer Low-Cost Memberships

Red Bike and CityLink Center will announce a new partnership tomorrow to make bike share more affordable for low-income individuals.

Under the agreement, annual Red Bike memberships would be sold to CityLink for $20, which typically sell for $80. Those passes will then be offered to CityLink members for just $5.

Jason Barron, Executive Director of Red Bike, says that the program will start with 20 members who will receive bike safety classes from Riding Forward, and learn how to use the Red Bike system along with its website and data tracking.

“We really believe in what CityLink is doing, and we think Red Bike is a great option for those folks as they’re looking to get to job interviews, training and work,” Barron told UrbanCincy. “Hopefully this will help CityLink and their members be even more successful.”

The move comes at a time when bike share systems are growing rapidly around North America, but continue to struggle with equity issues. In Chicago, the Divvy bike share system has recently announced a similar partnership and will even have a few days where the entire system is free.

Beyond just the membership fee, bike share systems around the country have also been criticized of avoiding lower income neighborhoods. This is something that Barron said they tried to address in their latest expansion.

In that effort, Red Bike added 17 new stations, including one on Bank Street in front of CityLink. He says that this station was funded through a grant that was applied for by Interact for Health, which is a system sponsor of RedBike, and CityLink.

While the initial pilot program will start with just 20 members, Barron is hopeful that it can be expanded to new groups of members at CityLink on a regular, perhaps quarterly, basis. From there he says that the model could be expanded even further to other organizations throughout the region.

“Our hope is that the CityLink Station and partnership with Red Bike could serve as a catalyst for creating a model to cultivate new physical activity habits and overcome transportation barriers for our clients,” explained Johmark Oudersluys, Executive Director of CityLink. “This program promotes the spirit of health equity when health disparities are at record highs right here in our own city.”

It is this hope and spirit that also made Red Bike want to enter into the agreement, even though that meant the non-profit bike share organization had to eat the cost difference.

“We have always wanted to do this,” Barron said. “We’re really excited to roll out this partnership with CityLink, and believe it could be rolled out to other organizations around town if it proves to be successful.”

The official announcement will come tomorrow outside of CityLink at 3:30pm. Meanwhile, the one-year anniversary of Red Bike’s operations is coming, along with a full release of the organizations fiscal health and operational performance.