Mechanical Optimizers Aiming to Help Area Nonprofits Assess, Update Facilities

Local contracting companies, from air conditioners to electricians, have teamed up to form a group called Mechanical Optimizers to help local nonprofits with the upkeep of their operations.

The newly formed group creates, for the first time, a single point of contact for an audit of a nonprofit’s building’s situation and help with the budgeting and finding grants and funds for the project. All of this, remarkably, is done free of charge for the area’s churches, mosques and many other private institutions.

Jeff Wilmink, an executive at Century Mechanical Solutions since 2012, said that he noticed an acute need for long-term strategies for local nonprofits to maintain their buildings. He told UrbanCincy that he saw institutions were not spending money on proper upkeep and were repairing things that long needed to be replaced. With no master plan for how/what to fix, these nonprofits were putting band-aids on visible problems while invisible problems were compounding, thus creating crisis situations that cost much more money to fix.

With this in mind, he created Mechanical Optimizers to help local nonprofits be proactive and find funds to proactively tackle such projects. When I asked Jeff whether there was a light-bulb moment for this idea to come about, he told me of a call he received from the pastor at St. Louis Church downtown.

The pastor, he said, called because of a noise coming from the basement. After traversing an old, narrow stairway with limited access and even more limited use, Wilmink’s team found an ancient boiler that was leaking, and a basement covered in asbestos. The emergency fix needed for St. Louis Church ended up being much more costly than it would have otherwise been if fixed sooner.

There is not much blame to lay, either. Leaders of nonprofit organizations often do not know or understand the mechanical problems going on in their buildings and, therefore, do not know to fix it. In addition, technicians will often solve superficial problems that create short-term fixes, but neither party tends to think about what will need to be done in a year, five years or ten years.

Add this to the tight budgets of local nonprofits, and many cruise from emergency to emergency without ever fixing the underlying problems in their aging buildings.

“It’s irritating that we’ve allowed these buildings to get in the condition they’re in,” said Wilmink. He continued by saying that many institutions will spend thousands of dollars on cosmetic fixes while the mechanics of their building are literally rotting; or spend $25,000 every other year to fix a unit in order to save $75,000 upfront.

Mechanical Optimizers comes into the equation by offering to provide a free assessment of a nonprofit’s building. Then, after telling “the blunt truth” about what it will take to fix it right, Wilmink and his team will help locate grants and create a budget for fixing the problem and updating aged equipment.

The goal is to be smarter about maintaining a building’s mechanical systems so that high-priced emergency projects do not emerge later. Furthermore, Wilmink says that the very nature of these buildings – churches, mosques, markets, etc. – means finding funds can often be easier once the problem is identified, because someone is typically willing to step up and donate money to help out.

There is, as you might suspect, more to it for Mechanical Optimizers than the charitable work. Once they complete their free assessment, Wilmink says that they will often times submit a bid to perform the work like they would for any other project. Essentially, Mechanical Optimizers has found a way to combine charitable work with their daily business operations. At the same time, this “no agenda” charity is helping many local nonprofits save thousands of dollars.

One of the biggest savings that nonprofits typically receive comes from technology and equipment that can replace outdated systems with ultra-efficient units.

When asked about how government policies help or hinder his efforts, Wilmink pointed to a recent program in New Jersey where the state will pay 80% of the costs for upgrading systems and improving efficiency. The money for the program, he explained, comes from funds utility companies there are mandated to set aside for the state to use for such purposes.

In addition to St. Louis Catholic Church, Wilmink says that Mechanical Optimizers has worked on Old St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Findlay Market, the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, and a slew of other buildings throughout the region.

Pointing to the work’s importance, the contractors involved with the group say that they will do whatever it takes to offer up their help and get the project done.

“If you want our help, we’ll find a way to make it happen.”

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.”

A Look Back at the Top Stories on UrbanCincy in 2014

Findlay Market StorefrontsNow that 2014 has come to a close, we at UrbanCincy would like to take a moment to look back on what’s happened in the past year. The following are UrbanCincy‘s top five most popular news stories from 2014:

  1. Eli’s Barbeque, Maverick Chocolate First of Several New Tenants to Open at Findlay Market
    This year marked a turning point for the area known as the Northern Liberties in Over-the-Rhine, with several new developments being announced. The first of these announcements was in April, when craft chocolatier Maverick Chocolate and popular East End restaurant Eli’s Barbeque announced they would open at Findlay Market. Later in the year, Model Group announced a $14 million office development along Race Street and Urban Sites announced their plan to renovate the historic Film Center building.
  2. Uber and Lyft to Soon Enter Cincinnati Market
    In 2014, Cincinnatians gained a brand new transportation option as ridesharing services Uber and Lyft came to town. Our own Jake Mecklenborg began driving for Uber shortly after their launch and told us about his experiences on The UrbanCincy Podcast Episode #41. In November, Cincinnati City Council passed new regulations for carsharing providers, and we discussed this at the beginning of Episode #44.
  3. City Planners Recommend Transportation Overlay District for Wasson Railroad Corridor
    For years, UrbanCincy has been following the Wasson Way project and writing about the corridor’s potential usage as both a bike trail and a rail transportation corridor. The project took a step forward this year, as the Department of City Planning & Buildings announced a plan that would allow for both uses. We’ll be keeping our eye on this project in 2015.
  4. Popular St. Louis-Based Pi Pizzeria to Open Cincinnati Location in AT580 Building
    In collaboration with our partners at nextSTL, UrbanCincy reported on Pi Pizzeria’s entry into the Cincinnati market. The restaurant opened in the AT580 Building, which is currently undergoing a transformation from office space into residential. Pi co-owner Chris Sommers mentioned that the company was “amazed at the resurgence of Downtown and OTR” and chose the location based on its proximity to the Cincinnati Streetcar route.
  5. Findlay Market Ready to Work With Developers Poised to Transform Area Around It
    UrbanCincy talked to Joe Hansbauer, President and CEO of Findlay Market, about how Findlay Market can serve as the hub for new retail, office, and residential development in the Northern Liberties.

Ohio RiverOccasionally, we like to share a photo gallery or video taken by an UrbanCincy team member or a guest contributor. In 2014, our top five most popular visual features were:

  1. Take a Look at These 20 Breathtaking Photos of Cincinnati’s Center City
    Brian Spitzig shares some of his aerial photography from the Central Business District and Over-the-Rhine.
  2. Take a Look at CVG’s Abandoned Concourse C Through Ronny Salerno’s Lens
    Photographer Ronny Salerno documents the abandoned Concourse C at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport, which serves as a symbol of how far the airport has fallen.
  3. Check Out These 14 Amazing Images of Cincinnati’s Inner City Neighborhoods
    Enjoy more of Brian Spitzig’s aerial photography, this time from the West End, Queensgate, Corryville, Mt. Auburn, Mt. Adams, Clifton Heights, Walnut Hills, and University Heights.
  4. Thousands of New Residential Units to Transform Downtown
    Anyone visiting Downtown Cincinnati in 2014 was certainly aware of the huge amount of construction happening in the urban core. Looking back at this photo set shows how much progress has been made on Seven at Broadway, Mercer Commons, AT580, Broadway Square, and other projects in just a year.
  5. 49 Shots from the 2014 Northside Fourth of July Parade
    Jake Mecklenborg captures some interesting sights from Cincinnati’s most eclectic parade.

 

Local Companies to Showcase Custom-Made Products at Cincy Startup Store in Over-the-Rhine

Cincy Simple SpaceLocal startups will host a one-day product exhibition this Saturday from 10am to 10pm at 16 E. Thirteenth Street in Over-the-Rhine.

The event, called Cincy Startup Store, will take place inside a newly opened pop-up hub called Simple Space, which was funded through an Indiegogo campaign and is envisioned as a destination for short-term popups.

Kapture, an original backer of the Simple Space Indiegogo campaign, will join six other local startups for the event. Organizers hope it will be able to bring startups with tangible products together to sell their items inside the unique brick-and-mortar space not typical for many startups that focus on Internet sales.

Cincy Startup Store will also provide last-minute holiday shoppers with an opportunity to complete their shopping, while also supporting the local economy and small business startups.

In addition to Kapture and their audio-recording wristbands, PlusBlue will be selling custom-engraved mobile battery packs; Frameri will offer glasses with interchangeable frames and lenses, Artfully Disheveled will have their ties, bowties and pocket squares; Petbrosia with their custom-designed pet food; Beluga Shave Co. will be selling their single-blade razors; and GoSun Stove will be showcasing their portable solar cookers.

Organizers say that they are excited to have the small storefront space turned into a showcase of these products born in Cincinnati by Cincinnati companies. Backers of the event include Cintrifuse, CincyTech, The Brandery and HCDC.

Collection of Young Entrepreneurs Open First-of-its-Kind Coworking Space in Over-the-Rhine

Another coworking space has opened in the center city; and like the others, this one has its own unique twist.

The Office, as it is casually called by its owners and users, is a small 800-square-foot space at the southeast corner Twelfth and Walnut Streets. The space is located next to HalfCut, which opened earlier this year, and is now directly connected with the beer café and its partner Gomez Salsa operations.

“Whether you’re looking to answer emails, hold weekly meetings, brainstorm new marketing techniques or partake in a game of ping pong on your lunch break, The Office is for you,” explained Jack Heekin, co-owner of HalfCut.

As of now, those operating HalfCut, Venn, Pedal Wagon, Squirrel Films, Gomez Salsa and Push Pull Studios are utilizing the space most often. Others that are interested in using the space can set things up by simply contacting Heekin at 513-382-2734.

The cozy space is a bit different from the other coworking spaces that have opened around the city in recent months due to its casual nature. Most striking is that there are no memberships or regular fees. The main requirement to be able to use the space, Heekin says, is a good attitude.

“We have created a space, where entrepreneurs can come and learn from each other,” Heekin said in a prepared release. “We focus on sharing the combined love for creating and developing ideas into unique experiences. Everyone brings different skills, contacts and energy to the table.”

The reason for setting things up like this, as opposed to charging traditional rates to use the space, is to create an atmosphere where ideas and skills can be exchanged quickly and easily.

“I believe we’ve developed a culture within this office that promotes fine-tuning ones strengths and discovering your passion,” Heekin concluded. “It’s a great feeling watching young companies challenge each other to become more successful, and deliver the best product possible to their customers.”