Great Traditions Planning High-End Townhomes for Northside

While focusing on providing housing for Cincinnati’s increasing population, one might think primarily of downtown density, supported by multi-family apartments or highrises. In addition to the appeal of center city living, however, Cincinnati’s neighborhoods are becoming increasingly appealing to developers looking for a rich and diverse urban form with a mix of housing types.

As part of their City Series, which is focused on challenging infill sites throughout the city, D-HAS Architecture Planning & Design partnered with Great Traditions Land & Development Company and has proposed five new single family homes at the northwest corner of Fergus and Lingo Streets in Northside on what is now vacant land.

The team says that the 2-3 bedroom homes will have a flexible studies and detached garages. Ranging in size from 1,600 to 2,000 square feet, the homes are planned to be financed through pre-sales.

As of now, D-HAS offers 12 different exterior schemes and various floor plans to customize the model for each potential homeowner. The homes starting price will be in the mid-$200,000; while options for a third floor and accessory dwelling unit could push the size to around 3,000 square feet and closer to $350,000.

The price points are a bit higher than what has been developed in Northside in recent years, but Doug Hinger, owner of D-HAS and President of Great Traditions, told UrbanCincy that he believes a development need not be limited by the past performance of a neighborhood.

In fact, Hinger, who began his career in San Francisco and developed an interest in the unique character of urban housing, says that philosophy is what guides his company and made them interested in the neighborhood.

In addition to being attracted to the neighborhood because of its character, Hinger says his company also looks for neighborhoods that have community development corporations with a good structure and leader that is passionate about their work. In this case, D-HAS was worked with Cincinnati Northside Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (CNCURC) and presented to key stakeholders in the community, including community council members.

This is not the first project taking such a bold approach for Great Traditions. In 2006 the company’s Stetson Square development in Corryville earned it the Community of the Year award from the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati. The project has turned out to be such a success that in November 2014, Tom Humes, President of Great Traditions, was recognized by the Niehoff Urban Studio at the University of Cincinnati for the company’s leadership as an urban visionary and city builder.

Similar to Corryville, Northside had experienced a tremendous loss of home-ownership in the mid 1990’s. This drew the attention of the Northside Community Council; and Stephanie Sunderland, now executive director of CNCURC, also began to be concerned with homes being purchased and rented by out-of-town interests that did not maintain the properties.

In 2006, CNCURC was donated the first parcel for this project, and purchased the remaining three parcels by 2013.

According to Sunderland, the homes on each of the parcels were in deplorable conditions and were all demolished by 2008. Then after considering the hundreds of new multifamily units already completed or under development in Northside, and the setting at Fergus and Lingo, CNCURC said they were looking for a developer interested in single family homes and that would also be responsive to the neighborhood.

“We wanted someone that listens to the community as a whole and is sensitive to what the community wants to see,” Sunderland explained.

With single family homes that CNCURC helped complete nearby that are marketed toward moderate income earners, the aim is for this new Great Traditions development is to continue the diversity for which Northside is known, and CNCURC hopes to reinforce. Additionally, Hinger says that the new homes will capitalize on an often overlooked aspect of urban single family homes – quality outdoor space.

As part of the design schemes, land between the home and detached garage will offer a unique exterior space that will serve as an extension of each home. From there D-HAS believes the quality of the homes will reinforce the fabric and architecture of the community to be a good neighbor and a catalytic development.

A groundbreaking date has not yet been set, but the development team estimates each home will take approximately six months to complete. Variances for the development are currently pending with the City of Cincinnati.

Are Aaron Betsky and his architecture contemporaries ‘out of touch’ with society?

As we all know by now, most architecture today is pure shit. Well, a recent piece by the architecture critiques at The New York Times that says contemporary architects are largely out of touch with society didn’t sit well with architecture power broker Aaron Betsky.

In a response piece to Betsky’s commentary on the matter, Forbes published a piece from Justin Shubow, President of the National Civic Art Society and author of The Gehry Towers over Eisenhower, panning the former outspoken director of  the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Betsky rained down on Bingler and Pedersen with ridicule and scorn: Their piece was “so pointless and riddled with clichés as to beggar comprehension.” He summarized their position: “we have three of the standard criticisms of buildings designed by architects: first, they are ugly according to what the piece’s authors perceive as some sort of widely-held community standard (or at least according to some 88-year old ladies); second, they are built without consultation; third they don’t work.”

Yet Betsky then admitted, “All those critiques might be true.” They are irrelevant, he claims, since architecture must be about experimentation and the shock of the new. (Why this should be the case he does not say.) And sometimes designers must stretch technology to the breaking (or leaking) point: “The fact that buildings look strange to some people, and that roofs sometimes leak, is part and parcel of the research and development aspect of the design discipline.” Ever brave, he is willing to let others suffer for his art.

At no point did Betsky consider the actual human beings, the unwilling guinea pigs who live in the houses. He implicitly says of the poor residents: Do their roofs leak? Let them buy buckets. And as for sickness-inducing mold, there’s Obamacare for that. Betsky also does not consider what a leaky roof means to people whose prior homes were destroyed by water. The architects, having completed their noble experiments, effectively say like the arrogant King Louis XV of France: “Après moi, le deluge” [After me, the flood]. No wonder architects have an image problem.

Wanderu Introduces One-Stop Booking Site for Intercity Bus, Train Operators

For years, travelers have been able to compare prices and schedules between multiple airlines in one place by using sites like Kayak.com. With the rising popularity of intercity bus options like Megabus and BoltBus, it has been a wonder why a similar functionality was not in place for those modes of transportation.

Until recently, there was no site that offered this service. Comparing these providers required making a separate trip to each company’s website – much like one must make separate trips to each individual carrier’s terminal or station.

Wanderu, however, was launched in 2012 and solves this problem by aggregating schedules from dozens of bus and rail services, including Amtrak, Boltbus, Megabus, and Greyhound. Wanderu originally focused on the northeastern United States but the site’s coverage now stretches across the country. After launching services in the Midwest in August of last year, co-founder Polina Raygorodskaya reached out to UrbanCincy to explain how it all works.

“Wanderu is the simplest way to find and book bus and train travel,” Raygorodskaya wrote. “We are the first ever comprehensive ground travel search in North America and have partnerships with Megabus, Greyhound, Boltbus and over 28 other major brands to help millions of people find and book the best trip at the best price in just a few clicks.”

We recently tested out the site by looking for travel options from Cincinnati to Cleveland on the morning of Monday, March 9. As a comparison, we also searched Kayak.com for flights on the same date.

Wanderu presented us with several Greyhound and Megabus options, with prices starting at just $1 and a travel time of around five hours. On the other hand, the cheapest flight available was $221 on US Airways, and still took over 9 hours as it required two layovers. The cheapest flight with only one layover was $284; and there were oddly no direct flights available for this busy route.

We also searched Wanderu for trips to other destinations, and were able to find service from additional carriers such as Barons Bus Lines.

While the service is akin to Expedia, it is a bit different in that when you select a trip on Wanderu you are sent off to the carrier’s website to make the purchase. Raygorodskaya says this is because Wanderu is not set up to handle the financial transaction.

An added convenience that could be added is the ability to book all aspects of a trip, including hotels and rental cars, the same way that sites like Kayak.com or Expedia allow. An even better service might be to create an integrated search of all travel options – bus, rail, and air – so that users can compare them side-by-side.

Until then, if you are looking to take a trip without the hassles of airport security and expensive in-flight wi-fi, you can search Wanderu to find the bus or rail option that best fits your needs.

Mt. Airy Looking to Transform Part of Colerain Avenue Into Walkable Business District

On October 30, Klosterman’s Dry Cleaners, in the heart of the Mt. Airy neighborhood business district, was torn down. Long seen as an eyesore, the demolition was heralded by community leaders hopeful that it would spark a revitalization movement along the quarter-mile stretch of Colerain Avenue.

The demolition project came as part of the City of Cincinnati’s most recent award-winning Neighborhood Enhancement Program where various departments work together to improve neighborhoods through blight removal and code enforcement. It was funded through a $55,000 grant from the Department of Trade & Development and acquired through the Hamilton County Land Reutilization Corporation.

This is the first phase of a more comprehensive plan to redevelop the district that was put together by the Mt. Airy Community Urban Redevelopment Enterprise (C.U.R.E.), CR Architects, Urban Fast Forward thanks to a $30,000 grant from the City of Cincinnati. The Mt. Airy Revitalization Strategy was completed in March 2013 and provides a four-phase vision to enhance the business district.

The 20-page report concludes that buildings separated from the street by parking on the western side of Colerain Avenue have diminished the quality of the business district. The authors of the report also point to the prospects of implementing a form-based code for the area.

“Ideally new construction in Mt. Airy would apply the principles of a form-based code, at least in such matters as relationship of the building to the sidewalk and the placement of parking,” the report stated. “This will protect and build upon the existing good of the business district and help to give Mt. Airy a unique character as a neighborhood.”

Leadership at Mt. Airy C.U.R.E. says that the demolished dry cleaner will allow for the creation of a new centrally located parking lot in the business district that will also function as a gathering space for community events. The second phase of work, which community leaders hope can be completed by the end of 2015, will make streetscaping improvements and look to address existing storefronts.

“The existing conditions of the facades and storefronts are not that good,” Gerald Fortson, Senior Development Officer at Cincinnati’s Department of Trade & Development, told UrbanCincy. “Upgrading them will allow property owners to attract the caliber of tenants the district desires.”

Phases three and four of the plan call for more aggressive action through the development of new structures along the western side of the street currently dominated by auto-oriented buildings.

As part of phase three work, a vacant lot and an existing 3,200-square-foot structure would be torn down and replaced by a new street-fronting 3,500-square foot retail building and a 24-space parking lot. Then, in phase four, two structures totaling 9,400 square feet of retail space would be razed to make way for a new 7,500-square-foot retail building that would also front onto Colerain Avenue. This part of the plan also calls for the creation of a new mid-block crossing for pedestrians.

“We hope to make this area a place that could encourage people to slow down and to see the business here,” explained Corless Roper, President of Mt. Airy C.U.R.E.

Over time neighborhood officials also hope to develop a wayfinding system and branding for one of the west side’s rare neighborhood business districts. If all goes according to plan, the whole revitalization program could be complete within five years.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Mt. Airy to rebrand and market itself in a new light, focusing on a safe and clean community that will draw our diverse neighborhood together, and eventually attract new businesses as we achieve the phases in our plan,” Roper stated. “Moving forward, we will creatively launch a campaign to raise funds in order to make our dream a reality, knowing that Mt. Airy is on the move!”

Prefabricated tiny living spaces are on their way to America’s biggest city

While the concept of living in micro-apartments is not new to many cities around the world, it is a fairly novel concept in North America where large dwelling units have traditionally dominated the marketplace. That, however, is changing and we are excited to be covering the emergence tiny living in Cincinnati. Meanwhile, New York City will soon celebrate the arrival of its first prefabricated “microunits” that will make up the city’s first tower of such apartment units. More from The Atlantic:

For another, this will be the city’s first “microunit” building. In 2013, its design won a city-sponsored “micro-housing” competition devoted to compact housing for single occupants. (Forty-six percent of Manhattan households are made up of one adult.) The architects, Eric Bunge and Mimi Hoang, hope that large windows, high ceilings, and floor plans featuring multipurpose living areas—fold-up furniture sold separately—will make the apartments feel more spacious than their 255 to 360 square feet.

Bunge says that drafting a modular, microunit building is, in terms of complexity and precision, something like designing a car. The little boxes flirt with minimum-habitable-space laws as well as mandates regarding disability access, so there is absolutely no room for error. “If we were to … change drywall from half an inch to five-eighths,” he says, running his fingers across some plaster, “we’re screwed.”