With Opening of St. Lawrence Square, East Price Hill Welcomes New Gathering Space

Yesterday the City of Cincinnati, Price Hill Will and members of the East Price Hill community gathered to celebrate the grand opening of St. Lawrence Square.

Located at the corner of St. Lawrence Avenue and Warsaw Avenue, the opening of the new public park marks the culmination of a years-long effort to develop a community gathering place in the historic west side neighborhood.

“While the space is small, we know it will become a center of events for the community ranging from concerts to theatre performances, and even Christmas tree lightings,” Price Hill Will Executive Director, Ken Smith, explained to UrbanCincy. “The project is a great example of what can happen when you involve residents to help improve their neighborhood.”

Assisted by Jeff Raser at Glaserworks, who has otherwise been well-known throughout the city for his work on developing form-based codes, members of the East Price Hill community came up with the idea for establishing a public gathering place, and subsequently developing the final product which includes a small lawn, performance stage, paver-covered walkways, and a water feature honoring the five branches of the military.

“Projects that turn underutilized spaces into public gathering places through a process that engages the community is true placemaking,” Oscar Bedolla, Director of the Cincinnati’s Department of Community & Economic Development, said at the grand opening. “Price Hill Will and everyone involved in revitalizing East Price Hill’s business district have a lot of momentum right now.”

The project was made possible through an unfortunate situation of a fire bringing down a historic structure. Following that, Price Hill Will acquired the property and received $261,595 in CDBG grant funds, along some grant money from PNC Bank and $20,000 of its own money to make it all happen.

Following the grand opening ceremony, community leaders are not wasting any time programming and activating the space. A kickoff party will take place this Sunday at St. Lawrence Square from 4pm to 6:30pm. Event organizers say there will be live music, food and other activities to welcome the community to their new gathering space.

St. Lawrence Square is located in the heart of East Price Hill. It is easily accessible from numerous bus routes; and free bike parking is also readily available in the immediate surrounding.

As Challenges Persist For Central Parkway Bike Lane, Cyclists Look to Organize

With National Bike Month coming to a close, the rhetoric surrounding the fate of the city’s lone protected bike lane continues. Following weeks of discussion and political wrangling, the city’s latest politicized transportation project will be studied again after two initial reports were found to be inconclusive by some leaders at City Hall.

The debate is, perhaps not coincidentally, taking place while the city’s bike community is becoming more active in terms of numbers of riders, group rides and political activism.

Last night at the Mercantile Library dozens crowded the venue to hear a panel discussion and engage in discussion about the current and future state of Cincinnati’s bike network. Organized by Queen City Bike and other area advocacy groups, the event served as an opportunity for people to constructively discuss the good and bad about the city’s bike infrastructure.

First adopted in June 2010, Cincinnati’s Bicycle Transportation Plan has served as the official document meant to guide policy decisions at City Hall. Since its adoption, however, the planning document has largely sat on the shelf, with targets for the development of bike lanes and other infrastructure falling behind schedule.

Mayor John Cranley’s administration has made it very clear that they are not interested in the development of on-street bike lanes, particularly those that are physically protected from automobile traffic. In lieu of pursuing those targets, the Cranley administration has instead focused on off-street bike trails; while also providing the critical upfront investment to launch Red Bike.

“Under our public-private relationships and support of council and a very vibrant cyclist community, in my opinion, we’re going to be the most bike-friendly city in America in four years,” Mayor Cranley told Aaron Renn in 2014. “We have three major bike trails that can be connected on abandoned train tracks into downtown; and, candidly, we intend to get all three of them build in the next four years. There’s just nothing like it in any city.”

National studies have found that protected on-street bike lanes not only provide the greatest level of safety for both bicyclists and motorists, but also encourage a greater range of demographics to bike. According to the American Journal of Public Health, this is largely attributable to the fact that streets with protected bike lanes saw 90% fewer cyclist injuries per mile than those without.

When it opened in July 2014, the Central Parkway protected bike lane was the first of its kind in Ohio. Since then other cities around the state have developed their own protected bike lanes, but Cincinnati has gone back to discussing the merits of the project after a handful of motorists complained that it made the roadway more dangerous and confusing to navigate.

Those suggestions were refuted in a report issued earlier this month that found conflicts along the 2.2-mile stretch of Central Parkway with the protected bike lane are no different, or even safer, than on other comparable streets around the city; but that further experience and education is needed for motorists.

“The Cincinnati Police Department and DOTE both believe that as drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians become more familiar with the area and with the rules for the bike lane operations, there should be fewer conflicts,” the report concluded. “DOTE will continue to monitor conditions, and improvements may be made in the future as best practices evolve.”

Whether the future of Cincinnati’s bike infrastructure continues to focus on off-street bike trails, or shifts to a more balanced approach is yet to be seen. Queen City Bike is hoping last night’s event, and others to come in the future, will help grow the number of people advocating for a more robust bike network, but also refine the vision based around what it is the community wants to see pursued.

The Cranley administration has put forth a proposed budget that increases spending on bicycle infrastructure, but the overwhelming majority of that money has been tagged for off-street trails, not protected bike lanes or other sorts of infrastructure improvements.

City Council has until the end of June to review, make proposed changes and approve next year’s budget. This will give the growing bike advocacy community a strong opportunity to make their voices heard.

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.

New Group Launched to Focus on Midwest Urbanism

Great places are often referenced as places where people gather in urban centers around the world. In Cincinnati places like Fountain Square and Washington Park are often associated as the City’s front lawn or back yard. Streets are often referenced as great places such as Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine (OTR), Hyde Park Square or Madison Avenue in Covington. These places usually already exist, are reclaimed and sometimes created brand new.

Creating great places not only involves understanding what makes places great but also spreading awareness, education and building partnerships to do the hard work of revitalizing and celebrating the urban environment. That is the central mission of the proposed new Midwest chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism.

The group was engaged by the national Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) to create a regional chapter of the organization spanning from western Pennsylvania to central Indiana and from Lake Erie to Lexington Kentucky.CNU Midwest

They are having their first event which will be an introductory meeting and happy hour tomorrow May 17, at Graydon on Main in OTR.

CNU-Midwest is working to advance the issues of revitalizing urban neighborhoods in cities and towns across the region. The organization has three central goals including reclaiming public space for people, reactivating and reconnecting vibrant neighborhoods and championing urban development that is enduring, adaptable and human scaled.

“The ultimate goal is the reimagining and repopulation of our urban cores and inner ring neighborhoods,” said Chapter Organizing Committee Chairperson Joe Nickol told UrbanCincy, “Starting at the level of the street and continuing up through the neighborhood, town, city, and region, we encourage the development of great, equitable, urban places where all people can enjoy all aspects of daily life.”

By launching the CNU Midwest Chapter, the group aims to positively influence the dialogue around healthy urban policy and design within Midwestern cities.

This event which is from 5:30pm to 7:30pm is open to the public and will serve as an introduction to the group and networking opportunity for attendees. Anyone interested in participating can sign up here.

Graydon on Main is located at 1421 Main Street in OTR. There is a Cincy Red Bike station across the street and is easily accessible via Metro bus routes #’s 16,17,19,24.

The CNU is a national 501c3 organization which is dedicated to the cause of helping to create and advocate for vibrant and walkable cities, towns, and neighborhoods where people have diverse choices for how they live, work, shop, and get around. CNU’s mission is to help build those places.

UrbanCincy is a media partner for CNU Midwest and a promotional partner for CNU24, the organizations annual Congress which is being held next month in Detroit.