OTR Foundation Crowdfunding Campaign to Support Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden

The Over-the-Rhine Foundation is looking to raise money to support the Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden.

The non-profit group typically advocates for historic preservation, and was instrumental in saving the historic school. As a result, Over-the-Rhine Foundation leadership sees the support of this rooftop garden and the school itself as one of its primary initiatives.

“The Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden is a transformational project that builds community by connecting students in OTR to the values of gardening in their school environment,” W. Kevin Pape, President, Over-the-Rhine Foundation, said in a prepared release. “The Foundation proudly supports Rothenberg’s students and the realization of the rooftop garden project.”

In the case of this project, digital crowdfunding site Indiegogo is being used, but there will also be a happy hour event tonight at Goodfellas Pizzeria on Main Street.

The Indiegogo campaign offers a variety of funding levels, but donors can also pledge their own amount of financial support. Organizers have listed a goal of $5,000, of which nearly half has been raised since the campaign was unofficially launched three weeks ago.

Pape says that the funds will allow for the purchase of 15 cold frames to protect the plants from cold weather, irrigation systems, rain barrels, four new fruit trees, work stations and potting benches, and all the materials needed to stock a Garden Kitchen – electric skillets, mixing bowls, knives, utensils, salad spinner, camp stove and more.

Since reopening in 2013, the Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden has served as an active learning experience for Cincinnati Public Schools students, and also provided students at Rothenberg Preparatory Academy with fresh, healthy foods to eat. In fact, the garden allows for daily gardening lessons to be integrated into the students’ curriculum, with each teacher at the school managing a garden bed that has a space for each student within the class.

The happy hour fundraising event tonight at Goodfellas Pizzeria, located at 1211 Main Street, will take place from 5pm to 8pm. Entrance to the event will cost $20, which will support the fundraising effort but also get you pizza and a beer.

Long-Planned $30M Lytle Tunnel Rehabilitation to Begin Next Week

Ohio Department of Transportation officials have announced that work will begin next week on the $30 million rehabilitation of Lytle Tunnel.

Construction crews will begin work on Tuesday, May 26 to add ITS cameras, a fire detection system, upgrade tunnel lighting, repair existing concrete and tiling, upgrade mechanical and ventilation systems, install a new power supply and replace existing underground vaults under the Fourth Street sidewalk.

In addition to this, ODOT crews will move the tunnel’s ventilation system and add new access hatches to several locations so as to not interfere with future plans for Lytle Park.

The work will require Lytle Park itself, and portions of Lytle Street to be closed while construction takes place. Gary Middleton, ODOT District 8 Acting Deputy Director, says that the effort will take approximately two years, with completion coming near the end of 2017.

Over that period of time, the work is expected to cause some headaches for those driving in the immediate area. In particular, project officials are saying that they will go to great lengths to avoid impacts during major events like the All-Star Game, Riverfest and Oktoberfest.

While numerous small disruptions will occur, project officials have noted that the work will force an entire weekend closure of southbound I-71 and the southbound I-71 ramp to Third Street. The southbound I-71 ramp to Third Street will be closed at a later period for 20 consecutive calendar days. The longest closure off all, however, will be when the Second Street ramp to northbound I-71 is closed for 60 consecutive calendar days.

While some scheduling details have yet to be ironed out, Middleton says that a detailed road closure schedule will be released in mid-June.

The road closures will add to those already found all over the center city due to the huge volume of construction taking place that is adding hundreds of residences, hotel rooms, offices and introducing new public transportation and park amenities.

While officials at the City of Cincinnati have not made a specific statement on the matter, the road closures, once finalized, are expected to be posted and updated on RoadmapCincy.com.

The work may also require the closure of the eastern portions of the 2.3-acre park to be closed for up to 10 months.

“This essential project will complete a major rehabilitation of the tunnel and its mechanical and electrical systems, improve safety for drivers and first responders, and ensure future maintenance activities minimize impacts to traveling public and users of the park,” Middleton said.

While the work on Lytle Tunnel, which was originally built in 1970, will be largely unseen, the updates will bring the tunnel into compliance with current fire codes and design standards. It is also presenting a unique opportunity to make improvements to Lytle Park at the same time – an effort that Western & Southern Financial Group has been strongly advocating.

According to ODOT documents, the project is currently on-schedule, but is now estimated to cost approximately $8 million more than what was originally planned.

Neighborhoods Committee Supports Additional Dense, Walkable Development in Avondale

Avondale’s desire to capitalize on the upcoming $106 million MLK Interchange with more dense, walkable development took a big step forward on Monday with the approval of the rezoning of several properties by City Council’s Neighborhoods Committee.

If approved by the full City Council on Wednesday, the move would rezone approximately 16.76 acres along Reading Road from commercial community-auto to commercial community-pedestrian.

The properties were recommended for the creation of “a more structured street edge” in the September 2014 MLK/Reading Road Corridor Study, and were chosen by the Avondale Community Council, Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation, and Uptown Consortium.

“We really looked at the areas that they felt maybe were at the most risk for auto-oriented development,” said supervising city planner, Katherine Keough-Jurs. “Obviously they want to make this the gateway to their community, and they felt that these were the areas they really wanted to focus on.”

Under commercial community-pedestrian (CC-P) zoning, new construction must be built to the front lot line. Existing buildings can remain as they are, unless altered.

Uptown Consortium President and CEO Beth Robinson has stated that she expects the construction of at least 3 million square feet of real estate within five years of the interchange’s completion, which is scheduled for November 2016.

Clifton Working With City Hall to Complete Funding for Co-Op Grocery

Cliftonites who have raised more than $1 million to establish an “uptrend” neighborhood grocery store got a big boost of support from the City last Monday.

Cincinnati City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee considered a motion by Vice Mayor David Mann (D), who also resides in Clifton, to include a $550,000 loan to the Clifton Market co-op in the fiscal year 2015-2016 budget. While this idea received general support at the time, it was put on hold for further vetting.

City Manager Harry Black’s proposed budget, which was released on Wednesday, included no line item for this project.

To date, 991 people have paid $200 for a share of the $5.6 million market, which would occupy the 21,972-square-foot space, at 319 Ludlow Avenue, that formerly held Keller’s IGA.

Keller’s IGA closed in 2011, and the community has been unsuccessful in several attempts since then to reestablish a neighborhood grocery store there, including local grocer Steve Goessling who sold the building to the Clifton Market group last month.

No grocery store exists within 1.7 miles, and some of the investors live in nearby neighborhoods.

“They all look to getting Clifton Market up and running as a kind of beacon of hope for getting groceries in their neighborhood,” said Charles Marxen, a field director for Clifton Market who often spends time in the newly-bought building to answer residents’ questions. “Having a grocery in this central location is pertinent to the success and well-being of all of the communities around Clifton.”

Adam Hyland, chair of the Clifton Market board, said that the project would restore the economic engine of the business district. He also said that the closure of Keller’s resulted in a 40% drop in business for Ludlow Avenue establishments.

“It was a social space for the community,” he said. “It was an important place for neighbors to see each other and come together.”

Hyland estimates that the new grocery would create between 60 and 70 jobs, and market studies show that it could attract about 15,000 shoppers per week. Financial estimates show that the group could see $13 million in revenue within the first year.

Brian Frank, co-chair of the Food Action Team of local sustainability network Green Umbrella, added that food co-ops have nearly three times as many local food producers contributing as the average major grocer. They also get more than three times of their inventory from local companies, have higher wages, and provide more healthcare benefits.

“Co-ops may be new to Cincinnati, but this sort of an organization has a national presence in our country,” he said. “There are [grocery co-ops in] 38 states that represent $1.7 billion of economic development across this country.”

Councilmember Chris Seelbach (D) was skeptical at first, but changed his mind when he heard that the co-op had a bank on board to support the project.

“They took it upon themselves, after the City tried unsuccessfully to find another person to operate the grocery store, to find a solution,” Seelbach clarified. “They’ve gotten a bank, whose sole purpose is to make money. Banks are not in the business of helping people open grocery stores. They may say that, but they’re not going to take a risk unless the risk is a good one.”

Both Charlie Winburn (R) and Wendell Young (D) also voiced their support for the specific plan, and the actions being taken by the Clifton community.

“What’s really good that’s going on here is that people in Clifton have made it clear, in no uncertain terms, they want this grocery store,” Young said. “They’re not going to go away; they’re going to get that store. I think it would be a shame if we ignore all the hard work that has gone into making this happen by not doing our part to make sure that they’re successful in this effort.”

Several members of the committee, including Winburn, suggested that the funding package could be a grant, loan, forgivable loan, or a combination of several types. While Councilmember Yvette Simpson (D) was also on-board, she expressed a preference for a grant or forgivable loan due to tight profit margins for grocery stores.

Meanwhile, Winburn managed to cast both his doubts and support for the effort to bring a neighborhood grocery store back to Clifton.

“Be cool,” Winburn cautioned. “Be cool now, because you’re talking about the taxpayers’ money and loaning money, and we have to be fair in the process. I think it’s important that our excitement don’t get in the way of having this group having what we call proper vetting and due diligence.”

In lieu of a line item in the City’s budget, he also suggested that there may be grant money available through the Ohio Department of Development.

Episode #51: Cincy Stories with Allen Woods, Joe Boyd, and Kathryne Gardette

On the 51st episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, we are sharing three of the stories from the second Cincy Stories event, which was held on May 5, 2015 at MOTR Pub. Allen Woods, Joe Boyd, and Kathryne Gardette each shared personal stories which we are bringing to you on this podcast. Stay tuned to Cincy Stories’ Facebook page to learn more about future events.

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