Covington Embraces Idea of Transforming On-Street Parking Into Public Spaces

Five sites and designs were recently selected for bringing parklets to the heart of Covington. The announcement came on Friday, January 15 and marked the conclusion of a design-build competition called Curb’d.

Organizers say that the intent of the competition was to support Covington’s business districts by promoting walkability, connectivity and placemaking – topics that align with the Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation, Renaissance Covington and MainStrasse Village Association, which provided financial support for the competition.

The five selected sites are also seen as a pathway link between the MainStrasse and Renaissance districts in Covington’s downtown.

First popularized in North America in San Francisco, parklets have grown in popularity over the years particularly in neighborhood business districts looking to reclaim public space from cars for people walking, biking, shopping or simply relaxing. Over the years, cities, like Chicago, have even embraced the idea so much that specific design guidelines and practices have been institutionalized to lend legitimacy to the movement.

In Cincinnati that has so far not been the case.

In 2012, a parklet program was proposed for Over-the-Rhine, but the effort never gained the community support, funding and endorsement from City Hall that it would ultimately require. Since that time, ideas have been pitched to develop a parklet in front of Tucker’s Restaurant on Vine Street, but those efforts have also fallen short.

Aside from that, the closest the region has come to experiencing the transformation of on-street parking spaces into other uses has come in the form of the international celebration of PARK(ing) Day.

While parklets have generally become known as public seating areas or small parks, the organizers of Curb’d said they wanted to push the limits with this competition.

“The examples that we showed the businesses and designers in our information sessions were glow-in-the-dark swings, a mini-movie theater, and a bus stop that resembled an old school radio,” explained Sam O’Connor, Curb’d project coordinator. “Ultimately, we wanted our design teams to really discover the potential of a parking space.”

After finding businesses interested in participating, O’Connor says they, in cooperation with the participating businesses, then proceeded to curate a collection of 12 design teams that would come up with proposals for the spaces. The selected design teams then worked with local fabrication workshops to discuss their ideas and work through the logistics of turning their designs into reality.

After some further refinement, five design teams had their proposals selected to receive funding to have them built.

A+D Design developed what they called Hopscotch Garden for space in front of Braxton Brewing on W. Seventh Street, and will work with 3dx on fabrication. The concept calls for a space that will allow for people to sit and enjoy a beer or coffee outside, while also offering a hopscotch zone.

BPHOGS Design came up with The Boxing Ring for a location in front of Cutman Barbershop and Flow. They will work with Weld Rite Industries to produce the parklet, which will include passive spaces for seating and dining. The parklet will also include several programmed spaces, which, fittingly enough, will include speed bags positioned along the sidewalk to allow for maximum accessibility, and a center area for a game of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em.

Hub+Weber Architects designed a parklet intended for people to exercise and enjoy virtual trips to far away destinations, or even classic movies shown on a projector powered by the pedaling of the bikes. The stationary bicycle space will be located in front of Inspirado at Madison Gallery.

In front of Left Bank Coffeehouse, Seth Trance and Harry Ross developed a concept they call Wish-Igloo, which they hope will promote engagement between the first person who uses the parklet and the last person who does so. Trance and Ross believe this will be accomplished through the parklet’s striking design that is both changeable and invites users to physically manipulate the space.

The final project is also, perhaps, the most unique. To be located next to Stoney’s Village Toy Shoppe, John Noble & Team came up with a design that includes a range of engaging toys for children of varying ages. In essence, the parklet is seen as a way to extend the shop’s culture out onto the street, while also encouraging children to be more active.

Fabrication of each of the five parklets is expected to begin within the next week or so, with installation taking place the first week of May. O’Connor says they plan to do a grand reveal on Friday, May 6, with the parklets staying in place until the end of October when they will then be taken down.

EDITORIAL NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that MSA Architects designed ‘The Boxing Ring’ parklet for in front of Cutman Barbershop. That parklet design was actually produced by BPHOGS Design. Additionally, due to a mix-up in winning project announcements, it was incorrectly stated that Hub+Weber Architects designed the coloring lounge concept for in front of Madison Gallery. Hub+Weber Architects actually designed a stationary bicycle parklet. Both items have been corrected in this story.

Over-the-Rhine Exhibit Offers Place-Based Look At Neighborhood’s Past

Internet forums often serve as a popular location for people to share historical photos of the cities they love, but a new project from a People’s Liberty grantee is bringing that historical looking glass to the streets of Over-the-Rhine.

Anne Delano Steinert, a doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati studying urban and public history, says that she came up with the idea after enjoying place-based historical projects elsewhere – including Jay Shell’s rap lyrics project in New York City, RepoHistory’s work on Civil Disturbances (1998-1999) and Queer Spaces (1994), and The Museum in the Streets in Hastings-On-Hudson, New York.

The idea she employs is simple. She posts historical photos in public places to contrast what that view looked like generations ago. Her initial effort has focused on Over-the-Rhine, but has the possibility of expanding to other places depending on funding and demand.

The project, called Look Here!, is already offering a refreshing analog experience in a city so often defined by tech and digital communications. It is even more beneficial due to the fact that it is equally available for all to experience, regardless of income or access to technology.

“I strongly believe that all of us, regardless of age, class, or training have the ability to read the built environment as a way to enrich our understanding of the past,” Steinert explains. “As a result, I have chosen to post only historic photographs without informational text. The exhibit relies on you to read the photographs, ask questions and make meaning for yourself.”

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Steinert says that she hopes this exploration leads people to conduct their own additional exploration and research. She also hopes that it serves as a bridge between the established residents of the historical neighborhood, and the many newcomers.

“The rapid change happening in Over-the-Rhine makes it an ideal location for the exhibit,” Steinert says. “As buildings are rehabilitated and new users join long-established residents, it is important to root the present in an understanding of the past. As the neighborhood evolves, this exhibition will allow Cincinnatians to make connections between the past and the present.”

The 69 exhibits positioned throughout Over-the-Rhine are planned to stay in place through March 2016.

EDITORIAL NOTE: All 17 photographs were taken by Eric Anspach for UrbanCincy in December 2015.

Finding Inspiration From Seoul For Cincinnati’s Public Staircases

ArtWorks has become well-known for its mural program. Over the past eight years, the program has created 90 murals that have added to the vibrancy of 36 city neighborhoods.

This year, however, ArtWorks started to branch out a bit more. In addition to 10 mural projects, they also installed more than 50 public art pieces throughout the city. Some were poetic, while others charming. Regardless of the project, they have always worked to actively engage young people in the city with the artist community.

The program’s impact on the visual appearance of the city cannot be overlooked. Public spaces have been dressed up and walls have been decorated in truly Cincinnati fashion. When considering one of Cincinnati’s most defining features – its hillsides – another opportunity seems to be sitting in waiting for future ArtWorks programs.

Over the years The Hillside Trust has worked to promote and preserve the city’s hillsides and the view sheds that they offer. At the same time, many of the city’s public staircases, which long served as a critical component of the sidewalk network, have fallen into disrepair. In many cases, due to either lack of maintenance or neighborhood distrust, public staircases have been closed off altogether.

This should not be the case.

One potential way to address this would be to focus an ArtWorks program on the city’s public staircases. Artists could be engaged to come up with creative mural designs for the stairs themselves, or perhaps suggest other installations. These could then be complimented by lighting installations that would not on

ly add an artistic touch after dusk, but also make the corridors safer for their users and the neighborhoods around them.

Seoul’s Ihwa neighborhood has done exactly this.

Set on the side of a steep hill leading to Seoul’s historic fortification wall, the neighborhood has seen many of its staircases painted, along with surrounding building walls, to create a truly unique environment. A variety of art installations were also undertaken in order to create an even more dynamic experience.

Today visitors flock to the area to view the murals and experience the other installations some 60 artists created in 2006 as part of Naksan Project. Due to this influx of people, small cafes, galleries and restaurants are now prevalent throughout the neighborhood.

While Cincinnati’s hillsides and surrounding neighborhoods present a different challenge than what exists in Ihwa, there are equal, yet different, opportunities that also exist.

Right now Cincinnati’s hillsides and their public staircases are mostly viewed as barriers and have been constrained to afterthoughts in the city’s public psyche. ArtWorks has changed the way we viewed vacant walls and barren streetscapes. Here’s hoping they can work similar magic on the city’s long-forgotten staircases.

Cincy Stories returns to MOTR on November 3rd

The bimonthly storytelling event Cincy Stories will be returning tomorrow evening to MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. The series focuses on well-known public and community figures telling personal stories from their lives.

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The November 3rd edition of Cincy Stories will feature:

  • Cincinnati City Council Member Chris Seelbach
  • Community Activist Jay Shifman
  • Mandy Smith, Pastor of University Christian Church
  • Desi Marie, “The Silent Poet”
  • Bonnie Meyer, Director of LGBTQ Programs & Services at NKU
  • Abdullah Powell, Creative Director of Elementz
  • Music from Andrea Bustin

Stop by MOTR Pub at 7 p.m., grab a drink, and enjoy some unique stories and live music.

You can hear several of the speakers from past Cincy Stories events on The UrbanCincy Podcast.

Angst Coffeehouse & Pub To Have Grand Opening in Walnut Hills on October 21

After some unexpected delays, Angst Coffeehouse & Pub is set to have a grand opening in Walnut Hills on Wednesday, October 21.

The owners started welcoming some initial customers a few weeks back as part of a soft opening, but now they are prepared to welcome the public with a grand opening celebration.

“We wanted to open ASAP after being delayed by contractor and inspection issues for about a year,” said owner Ron Ordoñez Reblando. Angst 2.0, as he refers to it, is the next generation for the establishment which first opened back in the 1990’s.

The opening comes after Angst became the first recipient of the THRIVE Grant, which was established to help spur new business investments in the Peeble’s Corner business district.

A board member of the Greater Cincinnati Independent Business Alliance, Ordoñez Reblando also says that the shop is representative of a larger movement to develop more locally owned, independent businesses. And he says that he is thrilled to open in the Walnut Hills neighborhood where he has been active as a volunteer for neighborhood clean-ups.

While the original Angst was located nearby in Mt. Auburn, Ordoñez Reblando says that he was impressed with everything that was happening in Walnut Hills; and, with the support of his friend Paul Meise, decided to move the operations to the historic neighborhood.

The location of Angst Coffeehouse & Pub is located within the Walnut Hills Community Entertainment District nearby Fireside Pizza, thus enabling them easier access to a liquor license. But first and foremost, he says, the goal is to create a welcoming third place – somewhere people can be comfortable that is neither their home nor workplace – in the neighborhood.

Ordoñez Reblando is originally from Los Angeles after he and his parents immigrated to the United States from the Philippines when he was only nine years old. He has been in Cincinnati since 1993 after being hired by P&G from Yale University’s business school; and is hoping to bring his travels and experience to Angst’s menu.

“Our specialties are delicious carnitas tacos,” Ordoñez Reblando said in reference to LA’s popular street taco stands. “The type that I serve at Angst represents that style. We also created a version with melted cheese that adds to the umami flavor of the pork.”

Alongside the tacos Angst has a selection of local beers to pair with them. By choosing locally brewed beer, they hope to keep the money flow within the community. In addition to that, he highly recommends their house lime pineapple punch to go with the tacos.

Prices are set at a range that is meant to be affordable for a wide range of customers, and they offer a “Beer It Forward” system where neighbors can pay for each other. The way it works is that if you forgot your wallet or are short on cash, you can claim one of the tabs that has already been prepaid.

Angst Coffeehouse & Pub is located 2437 Gilbert Avenue and will host its grand opening party on Wednesday, October 21 from 6pm to 9pm, but will remain open until midnight.