More Developers Building “Convertible” Parking Garages

UrbanCincy readers may know that the 84.51° Center (formerly Dunnhumby Centre) in Downtown Cincinnati includes an above-ground parking garage that can be converted into office space at a later date. The building was designed this way because of anticipated future growth of the building’s namesake tenant.

An increasing number of parking garages across the country are now being designed in this way. That’s partially because developers are starting to understand that our urban real estate is better used for office space, residential, and retail as opposed to car storage. Developers also predict that the demand for urban parking garages will decline as self-driving cars start to appear in the coming decades — why park your car in an expensive garage downtown when you can send it back home after it drops you off at work?

From the Denver Post:

“It’s smart use of resources and space is a resource,” Cohen said. “If you’re designing a building and there’s space that potentially could become obsolete over time, that’s just a wasted opportunity.”

Building parking that has future life as something else requires particular thought to the garage’s floor-to-ceiling heights and slope of the floors, Fisher said.

“The typical sloped-ramp parking garage has about a 5 percent slope,” Fisher said. “You can’t work in that space.”

Instead, the floor plates need to be flat, with discrete ramps between the levels, Petersen said. At WTC Denver, the ramps are being designed so they can be removed someday, leaving a light-filled courtyard.

“It doesn’t take much more initial investment or cost,” he said. “It’s more just thinking creatively.”

Episode #65: The Cardinal

Amtrak TrainOn the 65th episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, TravisRandy, and John are joined by Charlie Monte Verde of Amtrak.

We discuss the Cardinal Conference that was held in late September and the possibility of upgrading the Cardinal — Cincinnati’s sole intercity passenger train — to daily service.

We also discuss why Amtrak’s overall ridership is continuing to rise year over year, and what it would take for additional Amtrak routes to be added to Cincinnati’s Union Terminal.

Episode #64: Jason Barron of Red Bike

A Cincy Red Bike stationOn the 64th episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, TravisRandy, and John are joined by Jason Barron, the Executive Director of Red Bike.

We discuss how the first two years of Cincinnati’s bike share program have gone, what tweaks have been made during that time, and where the system is going next. We also discuss Red Bike’s challenges in neighborhoods that are hillier and not as bike-friendly as Downtown Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine.

PHOTOS: Cincinnati Bell Connector Gives 50,000 Rides Opening Weekend

The much-awaited Cincinnati Bell Connector opened to the public on Friday, September 9, and gave over 50,000 rides during its grand opening three-day weekend.

Councilwoman Amy Murray, who serves as Chair of the Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee, hosted the grand opening ceremony at Washington Park. In addition to Murray, there were 12 speakers including current and former politicians, transit officials, and business leaders. Many of the speakers thanked the streetcar supporters who kept the project going over the years as it faced obstacle after obstacle. Several used the opportunity to call for an expansion of the system, with former mayor Mark Mallory saying that it’s not a question of “if,” but “when” and “where” the streetcar goes next.

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After the first five ceremonial rides, the Connector opened to the public around noon. It was free to ride all weekend thanks to donations from Believe in Cincinnati, streetcar manufacturer CAF, Cincinnati Bell, Fred Craig, the Haile Foundation, and Joseph Automotive Group. Each station was staffed with volunteers who helped inform riders about the how the system works, where it goes, and how to pay your fare after the start of revenue service. Additionally, a number of special events and activities took place place near each of the streetcar stations, ranging from DJs to ballet dancers to sidewalk chalk artists. Many businesses along the route offered special streetcar-themed food, drinks, and merchandise.

The system initially opened with four out of the five streetcars in service, but the fifth was put into service around 4 p.m. on Friday and all five continued to operate for the remainder of the weekend. The system operated at nearly maximum capacity all weekend, with lines of people waiting to board at each station.

Unfortunately, the system was forced to close on Saturday afternoon due to a bomb threat. The threat, which appears to be connected to similar threats made over the weekend at the Cincinnati Zoo and two local high school football games, was not believed to be credible, but the system was closed down as a precautionary measure. After a bomb-sniffing dog searched all five streetcars and found nothing, they were put back in to service.

Despite this setback, the system transported passengers on 18,141 trips on Friday, 17,160 on Saturday, and 15,345 on Sunday, for a grand total of 50,646 trips during the grand opening.

After the free weekend, revenue service began Monday morning on the Cincinnati Bell Connector. The fare is $1 for a two-hour pass, or $2 for an all-day pass. No streetcar-specific monthly pass is available, but a monthly Metro pass includes rides on the streetcar as well as Metro buses. Tickets can be purchased at kiosks at each station, or using the Cincy EZRide app which is now available in the iOS App Store and Google Play.

PHOTOS: $30M Renovation of Historic YMCA Building Now Complete

Following a year-and-a-half renovation process, the historic Central Parkway YMCA reopened last month, and leaders at Episcopal Retirement Homes, the company overseeing the residential portion of the project, have recently welcomed the project’s first residents.

The $30 million project overhauled the entire 123,000-square-foot structure and was undertaken by Model Group. The upgraded YMCA includes a new saline lap pool, all new equipment, and expanded class offerings. Officials hope the renovated club attracts 1,600 members by the end of the year and eventually reaches 2,000 members.

The building’s upper six floors include 65 residences for seniors, providing much-needed affordable housing in the heart of the center city. A similar partnership has been tried before with the Parkview Place project in Anderson, Indiana, which also consists of affordable senior apartments located above an historic YMCA.

Nearby, scores of multi-million dollar development projects are underway that will add dozens of hotel rooms, hundreds of residents, and tens of thousands of square feet of commercial office and retail space. Such changes are expected to both raise rents and further increase the desirability of Over-the-Rhine, Downtown and the nearby West End neighborhood.

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