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.

Neighborhood Development Strategies Focus of Niehoff Urban Studio Event

Cincinnati is a city known for its unique and dynamic neighborhoods; and over the past few years many of these neighborhoods have transitioned through the work and dedication of community development groups, active and engaged stakeholders and residents, and the assistance of leading experts in the field.

Successes like new developments, restoration of historic buildings, and implementation of placemaking strategies, however, have not come without challenges and lessons learned. Building healthy and resilient places, such as in some of the neighborhoods of Cincinnati, is the focus of this semester’s Neihoff Studio open house.

The Niehoff Urban Studio and UrbanCincy have invited several community development experts to gather for an in-depth discussion on creating success in several of Cincinnati’s great neighborhoods on Thursday, April 21.

Building on the second year of the Building Healthy and Resilient Places theme, the open house is the culmination of a semester-long effort by DAAP students working with six neighborhoods in Cincinnati and Covington to identify potential redevelopment opportunities in neighborhoods such as Roselawn, College Hill, Walnut Hills, East Walnut Hills, North Avondale, Price Hill, and downtown Covington.

Kathy Schwab, of LISC, will present awards to the winning student group.

“Our theme is Building Healthy and Resilient Places, and students are encouraged to make places that promote health in a number of categories,” Frank Russell, Director of the UC Niehoff Studio told UrbanCincy. “Above all students were challenged with how to make form and program that would make these NBDs ‘centers of activity’ in accordance with Plan Cincinnati.”

The event will culminate with a panel of experts moderated by UrbanCincy. Panelists include Phil Denning from the City of Cincinnati Department of Economic Development; Kathleen Norris, who is the Principal and founder of Urban Fast Forward, a real-estate consulting firm; and Seth Walsh with the Community Development Corporation Association of the Greater Cincinnati.

The event will kick off at the Niehoff Urban Studio Community Design Center on Short Vine at 5pm this Thursday, with the panel discussion starting at 6pm. The event is easily accessible by Red Bike with a station conveniently located across the street. It is also accessible via Metro Bus Routes #24, #19 and Metro Plus.

OKI Survey Results Show Cincinnati Region Wants More Transportation Choices

The OKI Regional Council of Governments recently released survey results affirming the region’s desire for more public transportation and other carless commuting alternatives.

The survey was part of the organization’s public involvement in their 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, which will ultimately set the priorities for the metropolitan planning organization as it looks to distribute federal funding for transportation.

OKI has conducted several surveys to gather feedback on the plan, each one confirming similar desires for more non-automobile transportation options.

The vast majority of the respondents stated that their most frequent mode of transportation is driving their vehicle alone, with only 2% taking the bus and the same amount walking.

In the only open-ended question of the survey, OKI asked what part of their commute to work or school or some other frequent route could be improved. While a common theme was complaints on the massive reconstruction of the Mill Creek Expressway on I-75, respondents also called for a light rail system connecting the region’s suburbs and airport.

Those surveyed complained about a lack of coverage and frequency of Metro bus routes. A universal fare card for TANK and Metro, which is something area transit leaders have been developing. Altogether, 15% of respondents wanted more public transportation options and 11% wanted to improve the transit options that already exists.

While the survey results reinforce the notion that the car reigns supreme in Cincinnati, it also shows that area residents have few, if any, alternatives. As such, more than 56% of respondents said that they would keep their car, but drive much less if non-vehicle modes of transportation were available.

Officials at OKI have recently taken criticism for the planning assumptions they have been using to develop their regional plans, which often include VMT increases that have not been realized in many years.

Survey respondents said they were most concerned about traffic congestion and the lack of public transportation over the next 25 years. Should regional leaders decide to focus transportation investments on building transit, they could seemingly address both concerns at the same time.

Another them that came out of the survey results was that public officials should focus spending resources on maintaining and fixing outdated infrastructure, rather than building new capacity. The idea of institutionalizing “fix-it-first” policies is one that has garnered bi-partisan support across the country, including Ohio.

OKI has conducted several surveys of similar nature over recent years as the work to update and develop their regional plans. Despite the frequency of such surveys, the results have been consistent along the way, with many people asking for more transportation choices and better maintained infrastructure.

“This feedback is providing valuable insight into the transportation needs and issues most important to the public,” officials explained. “It is helping us identify projects that should be recommended for inclusion in the plan.”

The 2016 update to the OKI 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, which includes a recommended project list, is scheduled to be reviewed by OKI’s Board of Directors in June.

VIDEO: Mary Beth McGrew Overseeing UC’s Continued Bold Campus Plans, Designs

The University of Cincinnati has almost completely transformed itself, both academically and physically, over the past 20 years; and one of the people most responsible for that transformation is Mary Beth McGrew.

Over the past decade, McGrew, as University Architect, has overseen the master planning, design, construction, renovation and beautification of 117 buildings with 13.5 million square feet of space, across seven UC locations. She and her team have also managed the sustainability efforts.

What was once a largely commuter school now has become more of an on-campus university – sparking the construction of thousands of residential units in Uptown‘s neighborhoods. What’s more, UC’s main campus has seen virtually every surface parking lot replaced by new development or green space; and continues to see above-ground structures replaced by other more productive uses.

Through her work, and others that preceded her, the University of Cincinnati now boasts one of the world’s most distinctive and award-winning campuses. Such accolades only continue to grow as the university continues its transformation through major projects such as the $86 million renovation of Nippert Stadium, $87 million renovation of Fifth Third Arena, or the construction of the planned new Colleges of Business and Law.

Learn more about the woman behind the designs and plans in the following three-minute video.

Mt. Auburn CDC Hosting Public Meeting to Kick-Off Auburn Avenue Development Plan

The Mt. Auburn Community Development Corporation is one of Cincinnati’s newest CDC, and they are actively working on a number of efforts to position the neighborhood for success as investment continues to spread outward from both downtown and uptown.

In order to get to that point, community leaders say that they need a better understanding of where the community stands, what it wants, and how to get there.

“The future of Mt. Auburn is to have successful development that responds to the needs of the neighborhood,” Carol Gibbs, director of the MACDC, explained to UrbanCincy. “It needs to be inclusive.”

Understanding these needs, Gossman Group, DDA and MKSK submitted a strategic development plan proposal to the MACDC in early March. The proposal includes a multi-phase approach to assessing current conditions, identifying potential improvements, conducting a market study, and determining future land uses, massings and the type of development and redevelopment that would be appropriate for the Auburn Avenue Corridor.

“This plan lays out a process that helps it be inclusive,” Gibbs continued. “It has a history to lay out the foundation and it will include all of the stakeholders – those who live, work and play in Mt. Auburn, developers who are here or have plans to be here, and the City departments that have stepped forward to help make it a smooth process.”

News of Uptown Properties bold plans to move their investments into Mt. Auburn, particularly along the Auburn Avenue corridor, sent shock waves through the uptown community last year when the plans became public. The real estate development company, which got its start by redeveloping properties and marketing them to students at the University of Cincinnati, has, in recent years, transformed swaths of Corryville with new apartment complexes that have often replaced smaller and more historic structures.

Dan Schimberg, President and CEO of Uptown Properties, told UrbanCincy that their plans are to, at first, focus on rehabs along Auburn Avenue, along with a new medical office building at the southwest corner of Auburn and McMillan. From there, he says they intend to look elsewhere throughout the neighborhood at redevelopment opportunities.

It is not yet certain how these plans will factor into the strategic development plan that will get started soon, but so far there has been little talk about retail along Auburn Avenue. That may change, however, through this planning process as some neighborhood leaders are interested in establishing a neighborhood business district in Mt. Auburn.

“The CDC hopes that this plan will help us approach businesses and other investors to point out the potential profitable successes in our neighborhood,” said Gibbs. “Our hope is that this will lead to a neighborhood business district in Mt. Auburn.”

Neighborhood leaders will be kicking off the process of thinking about the future of the neighborhood, and the Auburn Avenue corridor in particular, at a public kick-off meeting tonight at 7pm at Taft Elementary School at 270 Southern Avenue. Organizers say the meeting will be structured as an informational session, and will be followed-up by future public meetings for more people looking to get engaged.