Will Saks Fifth Avenue Remain in Downtown Cincinnati Following Collapse of its Kenwood Move?

News spread quickly yesterday that the deal for Saks Fifth Avenue to relocate from downtown Cincinnati to Sycamore Township at the new $200 million Kenwood Collection had fallen through.

The announcement drew immediate speculation about what happened and where the high-end department store might locate instead, if anywhere at all. Since representatives at Saks Fifth Avenue have been mum during the whole process, little information is known about what will happen in 2016 when they had been expected to relocate to Kenwood.

Here’s what we do know.

The current Saks Fifth Avenue store downtown opened in 1983 and was renovated in 1996 and again in 2003 thanks to $8.7 million in city funds. The 2003 renovation also included a stipulation that Saks extend the lease for their downtown Cincinnati store for 15 years (2018), and not open another store within 30 miles for at least seven years (2010). For what it’s worth, Kenwood Collection is located approximately 11 miles from Fountain Square.

The terms of that 2003 agreement, however, are a bit murky. According to the Business Courier,

Part of the agreement with the city says Saks can be released if “Saks sells the Saks store on the property to an entity which acquires the majority of the Saks stores then located in the states of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.” Toronto’s Hudson’s Bay Co. acquired Saks in a deal that closed at the beginning of November.

The clause basically appears to give Saks an out on their lease agreement that would otherwise keep them at 101 W. Fifth Street until 2018. While the existing store is 72,640 square feet, Saks had reportedly signed a letter of intent with Kenwood Collection for a slightly larger 80,000 square-foot space.

The rumors following yesterday’s announcement largely discussed one of three potential scenarios: 1) Saks closes its only store in the Cincinnati region as it has done in other mid-sized markets; 2) Saks relocates into the retail space at the $140 million dunnhumby Centre, which, interestingly enough, was to become the home of a Maison Blanche in 1998 and then eyed for a Nordstrom in 2000; or 3) Saks relocates into the retail space at a restructured unnamed development at Fourth/Race.

The first scenario is something that would be very difficult to predict, but the second and third scenarios present interesting opportunities and challenges.

The biggest challenge with Saks moving across the street into the dunnhumby Centre is that it only has 30,000 square feet of retail space. Since the building is already far along in construction, it seems unlikely that the development team would be able to modify it in a manner to provide an additional 50,000 square feet of space for Saks.

The unnamed development at Fourth/Race had a grocery store lined up to occupy its even smaller 20,000 square feet of retail space, but that development agreement has since been substantially restructured and is currently being reworked. This leaves open the possibility that Flaherty & Collins and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) could adjust the design as to accommodate Saks.

In both of these cases it would allow for the redevelopment of Saks’ existing structure at the southwest corner of Fifth and Race Streets. This would prove to be important in order to clear the way for developers to build a new residential high-rise in its place. Both of these options would also keep Saks within a block of Macy’s 180,000 square-foot downtown store, and along the stretch of Race Street that city officials hope to turn into a shopping corridor.

The combined demolitions of the aging Pogue’s Garage and existing Saks Fifth Avenue store would also allow for the removal of two to three skywalks/bridges over Race Street.

Of course, there is one more option. Saks could simply stay where they are and live out their lease through 2018, or even renew it beyond that.

CORRECTION: In the original story it was incorrectly stated that the existing Saks Fifth Avenue store in downtown Cincinnati is 185,000 square feet. The store is actually 72,640 square feet.

Apple Street Market Cooperative Hoping to Fill One of Cincinnati’s Food Deserts

For the first time there are no grocery stores in College Hill, Northside or Clifton. At one time each neighborhood had their own store including a Kroger in College Hill, IGA in Clifton and Save-A-Lot in Northside.

When Save-A-Lot closed its Northside store in November 2013, however, it got the attention of the Cincinnati Union Coop Initiative (CUCI) and sparked an effort to open a community-owned grocery store in its place called Apple Street Market.

There is only one full-service grocery store within a three-mile driving distance from Northside – a Kroger on Mitchel Avenue. That Kroger, however, is not served by Metro’s #17 bus route, thus leaving carless households with only Metro’s #16 route as their option. The problem is that the #16 bus route does not run on Sundays and only runs every half-hour after 4pm.

“This makes a grocery trip an arduous and time consuming journey if you do not have a car,” said Casey Whitten-Amadon, legal counsel for Apple Street Market. “The trip can take more than three hours, in all types of inclement weather.”

It was the closing of the Save-A-Lot, however, that really sparked the effort to open a new community-owned grocery store in Northside.

“I knew that CUCI had been starting worker owned ventures. So, I approached them about a grocery store within the first week of Save-A-Lot closing,” said Heather Sturgill, a Northside resident and community advocate.

CUCI did a lot of searching to find the best fit for the new store. They were not specifically tied to Northside, but after surveying about four different neighborhoods, along with conducting market studies and market analysis for grocery stores, they found Northside to be the perfect fit. One of the key reasons for this, they say, is that Northside had an existing space that was in great shape and needed little to no demolition or remodeling.

This was important, and stands in contrast to the ongoing difficulties Clifton is having in trying to open their own cooperative grocery store on Ludlow Avenue, because they did not have the capital nor did they have a large investor that would finance the project.

This is particularly complicated by the financial model of union co-op businesses, where a large investor cannot have a larger share of the profit or a larger share of the governance rights. Rather, each person or entity that invests in the store gets an equal share and one vote regardless of the investment.

In the case of Apple Street Market, CUCI is accepting $100 or $10 from lower-income investors.

While raising the capital for a union coop startup can prove to be extremely difficult, Northside’s effort has been aided by a large number of enthusiastic volunteers that also set the community apart from others in the city.

While this collection of neighborhoods represents a relatively new and small food desert in Cincinnati, it comes at a time when many policy makers are looking to fix such problems.

“This is another reason that we decided to go ahead with the project in Northside,” said Whitten-Amadon. “The main benefit to community ownership is the opening of a unique store that is owned by the workers and the community.”

He also says that success and profitability will be shared by the community, and that being able to make decisions collectively will help create a sense of pride in the neighborhood store.

While community leaders are excited about the potential benefits for the community investors and workers, they are also looking forward to the local specialty items that will be stocked at Apple Street Market. Organizers say that the plan is to provide a larger than average organic and produce section, and sourcing much of it from Our Harvest – another area worker-owned business started by CUCI.

But Sturgill says that they will also be including up-and-coming brands to give the store an affordability that most health food cooperatives do not have.

“We tried to get fresh foods in some of the other corner type shops but the owners didn’t seem interested enough to follow through,” Sturgill told UrbanCincy. “This is intended to be the first in a chain of worker/community owned groceries.

A future additional location for this type of store, she says, could be in College Hill at the new development planned for North Bend Road and Hamilton Avenue.

An official opening date has not yet been set for Apple Street Market, but Sturgill says the goal is to have it completed by spring 2015. Those who are interested in providing funding and making an investment in the store can do so by buying a share online.

Off the Vine Juice Bar to Bring Healthy, Cold-Pressed Juices to OTR

Off the Vine Juice Bar will open between A Tavola and Sloane Boutique in Over-the-Rhine at the end of September.

Owners Annie McKinney and Cydney Rabe currently teach fitness classes at Core Pilates Studios and are embarking in the food industry for the first time. They will be joined by and Rabe’s brother, Steve Vickers, who has been in the food industry for many years.

The juice bar will have cold-pressed juices made with fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs – meaning the juice is extracted without the use of heat. Each drink will have about two to three pounds of fruit in it, and the owners say that the process they will use allows the juice to maintain its maximum nutrients without compromising the enzymes.

“It’s an easy and delicious way to incorporate raw fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens that so many Americans lack from their diet,” explained McKinney.

Off the Vine will also offer juice cleanses that are meant to rest and detox the body from any poor eating habits. Overall, the owners say their goal is to create an environment where people can be comfortable with coming in and asking questions about the importance of incorporating more raw fruits and vegetables into their daily lives.

The Over-the-Rhine location, which was previously home to Cincy Haus and served as the base for the popular American Legacy Tours, was also extremely important for the team.

“OTR is our home, and it’s important for us to help build the neighborhood that we love, and share our passion for fresh, cold-pressed juice with our neighbors,” McKinney told UrbanCincy. “Cincinnati is such a wonderful place to be right now.”

In addition to serving those visiting the increasingly trendy neighborhood, the owners say they hope to capture local residents as their customers and make it into a local, healthy hangout.

“We understand that life is about balance and we want everyone to be the best and realest versions of themselves by supplying their bodies with real fruits and vegetables.”

An official opening date has not yet been set, but is targeted for the end of September. Once open, Off the Vine will be open from 9am to 6pm Monday through Friday, and 10am to 2pm on Saturdays. Prices for a typical 16-ounce juice will range from $7 to $9.

MOVE Coworking Aims to Offer Non-Traditional Workers Healthy, Active Workspace

Ryan Meo and Patrick Hitches will open a coworking space in the Brighton District of Cincinnati’s West End neighborhood later this month. The two are taking a different approach and hoping MOVE Coworking will fare better than its predecessors.

Hitches and Meo describe the concept as an “active collaborative environment” that mixes the traditional shared working space with a fitness training facility. It will be the first of its kind in the region and stands in contrast to the three shuttered coworking spaces – Cincy Coworks, Working Side by Side and The Offices – that came before it.

“We believe living an active, healthy lifestyle helps to spark innovation, creativity and productivity,” Hitches explained. “We know from experience that the integration of hard work and play creates an element of true productivity, creativity and innovation in whatever your work or business may be.”

The business partners say that they believe part of the problem with other coworking spaces is that they essentially recreate a quiet office environment that many independent workers are looking to escape – something new pay-per-minute cafes are also trying to combat. To that end, they say that MOVE Coworking will include communal tables, stand-up desks, hanging hammocks, lounge areas and eventually treadmill desks.

Meo and Hitches come from different non-traditional work backgrounds that they believe will contribute to the success of their new business venture. Hitches has worked as a fitness entrepreneur, splitting time between Washington D.C. and Cincinnati, and Meo has spent his professional career doing web development outsourcing. They also say that, in addition to their non-traditional work backgrounds, they were motivated to make this investment due to all of the positive changes taking place in the city.

“There’s no denying the momentum and excitement of the changing neighborhoods all across downtown Cincinnati,” Hitches said. “I look around at all the architecture that has for so long been underutilized and really can’t believe we’ve waited this long to utilize these unique buildings. To me this is a huge opportunity to snag up one of these spaces to create a vision while cultivating a community of people who are also passionate about the positive changes to the city.”

The two are particularly excited about the historic warehouse building they will be located in, and Hitches, who lives car-free, says that as an avid cyclist he is also thrilled about the new Central Parkway Cycle Track out front.

MOVE Coworking will take up 5,000 square feet of space in the basement of the historic Mohawk Building. In order to get the space into the proper condition and fully outfitted, they say that they have invested somewhere around $100,000.

Those looking to use the coworking space or fitness component will have several options. Hitches says that every coworking package will include a membership to the gym space, but that people can also purchase fitness memberships independent of the coworking space. He also says that a yoga space will be added later this fall, and be inclusive in specific membership packages, while also being sold separately for those who just wish to access the yoga studio.

It will cost $20 for drop-in use of the coworking space, or $199 per month for a three days per week package and $270 per month for full-time 24-hour access. As of now, rates start at $70 per month for those who just wish to get a fitness membership.

“Instinctively I always wanted a place where I could go part-time to do some focused online work outside the gym or coffee shops where I would set up my laptop,” Hitches told UrbanCincy. “I now have a place in D.C. where I can utilize space that allows me to have a network of people outside the fitness professionals who I’m around daily in the training studio.”

With that in mind, Hitches and Meo are now hoping they can attract local entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and young professionals that are in search of an alternative workspace, where they can also surround themselves with other health-minded individuals.

MOVE Coworking will start giving private tours to potential members this week, and will have an official launch party on Wednesday, August 20.

Covington Estimates It Will Make $516,113 on Parking This Budget Cycle

While Cincinnati leaders would like to see their parking system generate more in revenue than it costs to operate and maintain it, that is not the reality. It is, however, the reality across the river in Covington.

A review of Covington’s recently approved 2014-2015 budget estimates the parking system will bring in approximately $1.6 million in revenue, while costing only $1.1 million for operations, maintenance and upgrades.

One of the largest chunks of Covington’s annual parking revenue, however, comes from lease payments which total about $491,000 – or nearly one-third of the city’s annual parking revenues.

Had Cincinnati followed through with its parking lease agreement, it too would have realized these benefits by offloading expenses and locking in fixed lease payments. Under Cincinnati’s parking lease, the city would have received anywhere from $3-4 million in annual payments from the concessionaire.

In order just to break even, the City of Cincinnati has and continues to defer needed maintenance and upgrades, while also depleting its parking fund.

Covington will also benefit from increased parking rates, which will net the city an additional $68,500 in the first year. Those changes include a 10-cent per hour increase for on-street parking meters, and a $2 per day increase at the RiverCenter Parking Garage.

In addition to on-street parking meters throughout downtown, Covington has 818 parking spaces in 16 surface lots and another 1,574 spaces in three different parking garages.