Popular Walking Tours Showcasing Cincinnati’s Evolution Since 1940s To Return This June

Max Grinnell is an author, historian, and professor who enjoys sharing unique perspectives of American cities. Last summer, he visited Cincinnati to host a series of walking tours that offered a historical look at the city’s urban core. This June, Grinnell is bringing back the tour, which compares the Cincinnati of 1943 to the city today.

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 10.57.51 AMThe walking tour is inspired by Cincinnati: A Guide to the Queen City and Its Neighbors, a book published in 1943 for the Federal Writers’ Project. This book was a part of the American Guide Series, also known as the WPA guides, which was a program funded by the New Deal to employ writers during the Great Depression. Today, the book serves as a snapshot of 1943 Cincinnati, when the city’s population was 455,610 and now-iconic structures like Carew Tower and Union Terminal were just a decade old.

“I consider it one of the better city guides produced by the Federal Writers’ Project, and that’s significant, considering other volumes considered New Orleans, Philadelphia, and others,” Grinnell told UrbanCincy.

The 60-minute tour will be similar to the ones Grinnell hosted last year, but also include some new elements, such a focus on the Netherland Plaza Hotel and its intricate details.

The tours will take place on June 2, 3, and 6, and will cost $15 per person. Tickets can be purchased at Grinnell’s website.

Carabello Coffee Expansion And Slow Bar Set to Open This Summer

What began with a $300 home coffee roaster and an eight-pound bag of coffee has become a mainstay of the local coffee scene. Now Carabello Coffee is set to increase its presence in Newport even further with its expansion into an adjoining storefront on Monmouth Street.

The expansion, nearly two years in the making, will open later this summer and include a new-to-market “slow bar” concept, called Analog, and a larger roasting operation. Aside from the updated offerings, the owners say the new arrangement will also free up space for 16 additional tables in the café.

One of the reasons Carabello Coffee has become well-known is due to its unique philanthropic business model in which a portion of the profits go to support causes in third world coffee-growing communities – including a signature relationship with an orphanage in Nicaragua. According to Justin and Emily Carabello, owners of the café, their mission of serving “coffee and compassion in tandem” has helped the business double in size every year since it opened.

The couple says that they started roasting coffee as a hobby in their garage back in 2009; then moved operations to a 10-foot by 10-foot space at Velocity Bike & Bean in Florence in 2011. By September 2013, the couple quit their daytime jobs to work on the venture full-time, relocated to their current 1,200-square-foot space at 107 E. Ninth Street, and broadened the original wholesale business to include a retail café.

After only a year at the Newport location, both the roastery and café had already outgrown the space. In a fortuitous series of events, the Carabellos were able to buy the building next door, which was home to a former check-cashing business, in order to expand and maintain both the production and retail on-site.

While no firm date has been set for its opening later this summer, the Carabellos say that the expanding roasting area, along with the region’s first dedicated slow bar, will offer customers a truly unique experience that utilizes manual brewing techniques.

The goal of the slow bar, Justin says, is to help customers connect more intimately with the art and craft of coffee.

“We want it to be a place for baristas and customers to get creative, explore, and experiment,” Justin told UrbanCincy.

Analog will have a large farm table bar, barista-curated menu, and specialized equipment like siphon brewers and yama drip towers. And in order to deliver on the experiential element of the slow bar, they say that nothing will be offered for take-out.

Justin and Emily say that the slow bar space will also double as a training lab for wholesale clients, as well as classes for the general public on topics ranging from coffee brewing to latte art.

In fitting with Carabello Coffee’s business model, funding the expansion has been a true community effort, beginning with a Kickstarter campaign that raised a total of $47,000 toward their $40,000 goal. This allowed for the couple to make the down payment on the new space, and move forward with the expansion.

Through assistance with the Catalytic Fund, Carabello Coffee became the first business in Newport to land a Duke Energy Urban Revitalization Grant, which was awarded in March, and is covering $42,000 in project soft costs. Another grant from the City of Newport will provide up to $15,000 in matching funds for façade improvements, while even additional financial assistance is being sought through the use of historic preservation and rehabilitation tax credits.

Carabello Coffee is open Monday through Friday from 7am to 8pm, Saturday from 8am to 8pm, and closed on Sunday. Free bike parking is available nearby, and a Cincy Red Bike station is located just two blocks from the cafe.

Asian Food Fest Returns to Washington Park This Weekend

Pho, Pad Thai, Nasi Lemak, Bibimbap. Great Asian cuisine can sometimes be hard to located with it being spread throughout Uptown, Northern Kentucky and northern suburbs like Fairfield or Springdale. However, this weekend many of the best Asian dishes will be available at the sixth annual Asian Food Festival in Washington Park.

This two-day extravaganza will celebrate and feature the diverse and tasty cuisines of Asian countries including Vietnam, Thailand, China, Korea, Malaysia and many more.

Created in 2010 by a diverse group of friends who wanted to spread their love of Asian food and culture, the festival has since been building awareness of the city’s diverse Asian population and food scene.

Over the past six years, the festival has showcased some of the city’s best Asian restaurants and chefs, while fostering connections between community members and local Asian-American organizations and businesses. Past vendors, such as Pho Lang Tang and Huit, have since started retail establishments in the center city; and festival organizers hope the event can play a bigger role in continuing to grow the local Asian food scene.

A new feature at this year’s festival is the “Secret Menu” booth, which will feature unique food from home chefs and aspiring food entrepreneurs.

“This is a special chance for foodies to get a taste of a homecooked Asian meal from local amateur chefs who are excited to share the food they grew up with,” Marketing Director Tessa Xuan told UrbanCincy. “We hope the Secret Menu chefs will gain enough experience to become independent vendors and even restaurant owners someday.”

New vendors this year include Hawaiian food stand Ono Grindz, Clifton-based carryout spot Thai Express, and the West Chester-based Filipino restaurant Dai Trang. And, of course, many crowd favorites will be returning, including the Indonesian Fusion restaurant Huit BBQ, Taiwanese bubble tea cafe Boba Cha, and Red Sesame – the food truck famous for their Korean BBQ Tacos.

Admission to the festival is free, but donations are encouraged – proceeds from the festival will go towards supporting the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Asian American Cultural Association of Cincinnati (AACAC), and to host future Asian cultural events throughout the region.

Asian Food Fest will be held at Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine this Saturday and Sunday. Hours on Saturday are from 4pm to midnight, and Sunday from 12pm to 8pm. The event is free and open to the public, but dishes from vendors will range from $2-$6.

The festival is easily accessible from #21, #64, #78 & #46 Metro bus routes and Cincy Red Bike with a station in the park.

Roughly 39% of Hamilton County’s Workforce Commutes From Outside of County

Of the 490,222 workers in Hamilton County, 39% of them are commuters from outside the county. This is according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Compared to other similarly sized metropolitan areas, this is a larger than normal percentage. In Cuyahoga County, home of Cleveland, for example, only 28% of the almost 700,000 workers commute from outside the county; and in Allegheny County, PA – the center of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area – that number is 22% of more than 680,000 workers.

The difference, some say, may be attributable to the fact that the Cincinnati region’s job center sits directly on a state line, and borders three counties in Northern Kentucky.

However, in Jefferson County, KY, with a similar amount of workers in the county as Hamilton County, only 26% of employees commute from outside Jefferson County. This is in spite of the fact that Louisville sits directly on the Ohio River, like Cincinnati, with commuters crossing the state line from Indiana each day.

Perhaps further explaining the matter is the merging of Cincinnati and Dayton’s economic activities, which increasingly promote cross commuting between Cincinnati’s northern, and Dayton’s southern counties.

Such commuting patterns complicate transportation management for regional planners. Not only does it mean heavy rush hour commutes, but also more unpredictable reverse commutes.

While Hamilton County was a bit of an outlier, it was joined by Davidson County, TN (Nashville), and St. Louis County, MO (St. Louis) with similar complex commuting patterns.

Madisonville To Celebrate Completion of Historic Bank Building Renovation

Madisonville neighborhood leaders believe that strategic investments over the past few years are finally starting to bear fruit, as is evidenced by the restoration of the historic Fifth Third Bank Building at the corner of Madison Road and Whetsel Avenue.

The $644,000 project was led by the Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (MCURC), and includes a street-level restaurant space with two, two-bedroom apartments on the building’s second floor. The hope is that the project will help stimulate other private reinvestment in the neighborhood.

Built in 1927, the building used to be a bank and still has the vault inside to prove it. Today the 2,800-square-foot street-level “white box” restaurant space is now being marketed to potential tenants. Those interested in the space are asked to contact Matt Strauss, Real Estate and Marketing Manager at MCURC, at 513-271-2495.

Community leaders will gather for a ribbon cutting ceremony next week to celebrate bringing the historic structure back to life.

“MCURC was asked by the community to save this signature building in the heart of the business district,” said Sara Sheets, Executive Director of MCURC. “Our hope is to attract a unique restaurant tenant bringing newcomers to the neighborhood, while offering residents a chance to have a date night in their own neighborhood.”

The Bank Building’s future restaurant tenant will join a growing roster of new dining options nearby.

Lala’s Blissful Bites, a bakery, opened down the street in January; plans for two coffee shops, Mad Llama Coffee by Lookout Joe and CooKoo’s Coffee Shoppe, are in the works; and a commissary retail store from the owner of Mazunte Taqueria is coming soon.

Due to what community leaders attribute to decades of disinvestment and targeted demolition, the Bank Building is one of the few historic buildings still standing in the business district. Many of the surrounding properties are vacant lots, but that too may soon be changing.

Since 2008, the City of Cincinnati has been buying vacant parcels in the area in order to assemble a large site suitable for development. In 2014, the City issued an RFQ to developers on the 7.5 acres of property it had acquired to date, which comprises most of the four blocks that form the intersection of Madison and Whetsel.

City leaders say that the team selected to redevelop these properties will be formally announced in the coming weeks, but early indications point to the Ackermann Group as the leading candidate.

This is all coming at the same time as the $200 million development at Medpace’s campus at Madison Road and Red Bank Expressway, a half-mile west of the neighborhood business district, which includes 250 apartments, 100,000 square feet of commercial space, 250,000 square feet of office space, and a 239-room Dolce Hotel, which is expected to be completed in 2018.

The ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at the Bank Building at 5900 Madison Road at 11am on Thursday, April 28. The Ohio Community Development Finance Fund, Fifth Third Bank, the James A. Schroth Family Charitable Trust, PNC Bank, LISC of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky, Duke Energy Urban Revitalization Initiative, and the City of Cincinnati provided funding for the project.