Month in Review – March 2014

The top news story in March 2014 was the arrival of Uber and Lyft in Cincinnati, as two of UrbanCincy’s top articles were focused on their services and what it means for the taxicab industry. Road and bike infrastructure were also in the news, along with a new historic preservation movement bringing people together to save several key buildings.

In case you missed any of them, here’s a look back at our five most popular stories from last month:

    1. Uber and Lyft to Soon Enter Cincinnati Market
      Two ‘ridesharing’ companies are moving into the Cincinnati market.
    2. VIDEO: Are ‘Protected Intersections’ the Next Bicycle Infrastructure Innovation?
      As Cincinnati works to expand its bicycling infrastructure with bike lanes and cycle tracks, we may need to include this one additional consideration.
    3. Uber Officials Credit Cincinnati’s Urban Revival, Tech Scene for their Arrival
      Uber used geolocation information to learn that there was “pent up demand” for their service in the Cincinnati area.
    4. Snow Accumulation Highlights Cincinnati’s Over-Engineered Streets through ‘Sneckdowns’
      Thanks to the large accumulation of snow on city streets this winter, it was easy to tell where roads are over-engineered.
    5. Cincinnati Preservation Collective Draws from Different Backgrounds to Save Buildings
      A new group is channeling their effort into saving five buildings of historic significance in Cincinnati.

 

New Workshops Hope to Assist Homebuyers Looking to Rehab in Over-the-Rhine

Aside from buying the latest condominiums available through 3CDC, owning a home in historic Over-the-Rhine can be a challenge. Many buildings that are not already occupied are typically abandoned and some are in dire condition of falling apart.

There have been plenty of people who have taken on the task to rehab abandoned buildings only to find that they may have taken on too much. The Over-the-Rhine Foundation is hoping that a new workshop will help those interested in rehabbing historic buildings make the connections, get the information and understand the potential challenges involved with such a process.

Beginning in April, the Over-the-Rhine Foundation is launching a series of three workshops geared towards addressing these challenges. Organizers say that boosting home ownership rates is one of the major goals of the foundation.

“We as a foundation are committed to revitalizing the diverse OTR neighborhood, and a key objective is building community by encouraging and promoting owner-occupied development,” Kevin Pape, President of the Over-the-Rhine Foundation, said in a prepared statement.

Pape says that the three-part series will begin with an overview of the scope of rehabbing property in the 19th century neighborhood. That first session will end with an optional walking tour of rehabbed properties, while the second and third sessions will provide a more in-depth look at the process of rehab and financing.

“These workshops will help individuals gain access to the resources, expertise, and development tools needed to ensure the success of their community investments,” Pape continued.

Registration for all three workshops is $35 until April 4, when the registration fee will then increase to $50. The sessions will take place at the Art Academy of Cincinnati (map) and will occur on Saturday, April 12, May 10 and June 14. Those interested can currently register on the Over-the-Rhine Foundation’s website.

All photographs by Travis Estell for UrbanCincy.

Will Detroit actually demolish 117,000 buildings over the next five years?

At the end of 2012 we sounded the alarm about a new grant from the State of Ohio that would allow for Hamilton County leaders to demolish approximately 700 buildings in the name of blight removal. Well try this on for size: the City of Detroit has proposed increasing its blight removal budget so that it can demolish 400 to 450 buildings a week over the next five years. For those keeping score, that would be anywhere from 104,000 to 117,000 total demolitions. More from The Detroit News:

Orr filed his debt-cutting plan of adjustment last month in U.S. Bankruptcy Court and continues to meet opposition from retirees and other city creditors, but says his main focus is getting Detroit on track for its 700,000 residents.

Orr’s plan calls for the infusion of $1.5 billion into capital improvements over the next decade. Among them is an ambitious plan to target Detroit’s blight that Orr insists is “doable.” Orr dedicated about $520 million to blight removal over the next five years. The funding would ramp up demolitions from 114 a week to between 400 and 450.

Cincinnati Preservation Collective Draws from Different Backgrounds to Save Buildings

Cincinnati Preservation Collective (CPC) is a new group of preservationists who are passionate about taking action to save historic buildings.

Founded in late 2013, CPC acts as an open forum for conversation around historic preservation. The group is made up of organizations and individuals bonded by a common passion: their love of historic structures and the belief that the benefits of saving these buildings often outweigh the costs.

“I think the word collective is important in the name because it indicates that we are a diverse group of people open to anybody which can hope to influence preservation in the city,” said co-founder John Blatchford in an email interview with UrbanCincy.

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Led by Blatchford and co-founder Diana Tisue, meetings are held about once a month, and at any given meeting you will find a mix of graduate students, architects, urban planners and former city employees, not to mention members of other preservation groups like Cincinnati Preservation Association and UC’s Preservation Action Network.

Though the group is relatively young, CPC has a lofty mission: to proactively save buildings. This year CPC says they are channeling their efforts around five “impact buildings” that have been chosen by the group and are either in danger of demolition, or are considered in need of awareness, stabilization or mediation.

CPC’s 2014 Impact Buildings
900 E. McMillan (The Paramount Building), Walnut Hills
2012-2014 Vine Street, Over-the-Rhine
1606-1608 Walnut Street, Over-the-Rhine
1706 Lang Street, Over-the-Rhine
1119-1123 Main Street (Davis Furniture Building), Over-the-Rhine

The group hopes to positively impact these buildings in 2014, whether it is simply by drawing attention to a neglected building or ultimately connecting the property with a buyer or a renovator.

“We understand that saving a building or respecting its history is not easy for a building owner, but we, as a group, have the knowledge and resources to help out,” Blatchford said. “The dream is that everybody would look for all alternatives to demolition first and that we could be a key resource to make that viable. We want demolition to be reserved for select and very extreme cases.”

While the group’s primary focus is centered around these five impact buildings, CPC says that they are looking to also build awareness for the organization and attract new members through regular meetings, educational events and fundraising.

So far the group has organized a handful of community outreach events. In February, for example, CPC deployed a guerilla-style “heart bombing” where they covered the impact buildings with valentines.

“We did that to bring up advocacy for the building and show that somebody loved it,” Tisue said. The group also had a float in Friday’s Bockfest Parade, complete with a Chinese Dragon-style goat and a New Orleans jazz band.

While the heart bombing and the Bockfest Parade aimed to get the word out about CPC, their next event will focus on connecting the community to other preservation projects.

This Thursday CPC will host a “Pitch Party” that will put 10 presenters on a stage to pitch their preservation-related project in five minutes or less. The best idea will be chosen by audience vote and the winner will receive $500 donated by the Cincinnati Preservation Association.

“Part of what CPC is doing is trying to build community and show that preservation and community go hand-in-hand,” Tisue explained. While $500 in seed funding can certainly get a project off the ground, they say that the primary goal of the Pitch Party is to share projects with an audience that is interested in getting involved with preservation.

“Pretty much any preservation project needs the manual labor and the volunteer hours from the community, but they also need support from the community,” Tisue said. “[Pitch Party] is a night of sharing projects with people and people with projects, connecting and building a bridge between community organizations and community.”

The Cincinnati Preservation Collective Pitch Party will take place on Thursday, March 13 at Venue 222. Doors open at 6pm and the event will begin at 7:30pm. Tickets are free but organizers do request those attending to RSVP through EventBrite.

Building illustrations by Derek Scacchetti.

Silicon Valley would look much different if employees lived there

In the latest UrbanCincy podcast we talked about tech companies such as Google and Microsoft investing in private buses to transport their employees from the center city to their suburban office campuses. But what if local zoning allowed these tech companies to build housing for their employees on-site? A recent post via the Atlantic Cities takes a look into an alternative future:

In a series of new 3D visualizations, Berkeley designer Alfred Twu imagined what Silicon Valley would look like if tech giants replaced the parking around their headquarters with on-site housing. In order to accommodate all of the workers, Twu filled the campuses of Apple, Google, and Facebook with 20 to 50-floor towers, all filled with 800-square foot apartments.

PHOTOS: Riding the Rails in Europe

Last summer I visited several cities in Europe and photographed a few of the scenes going on across the pond. My travels took me to Brussels and Oostende in Belgium; Cologne, Germany; and to London, Cardiff and Brighton Beach in the United Kingdom. The photo set below is premised on several observations:

Quality of  city transportation: Brussels has the cleanest trams of the whole trip. These trams are Bombardier 4000 series trams delivered to the city in 2010. The seating is very comfortable, the trams feature LCD screens and wood panel finishes. Trams running underground featured the traditional turnstile system found in many other underground systems.

Cologne’s trams are older and feature on-board payment systems both above and below ground. Their system consists of two joined rail cars. In some instances such as around Neumarkt Square also use the same transit right-of-ways reserved for trains.

London’s Tube system is the largest subway system in the world. However the city also features an aerial tram known as the United Emirates Line. The tram runs continuously, unlike a similar system in Portland, Oregon, and connects London’s former Olympic Village to the O2 Centre.

Cardiff also featured rail transit, however the system was antiquated and utilize heavy diesel trains that were sometimes as small as a single rail car.

Bicycle Infrastructure: Bicycle share was available in many of the cities I visited including Brussels and London. In Cologne bicycle lanes were placed on the road side of sidewalks and were delineated with either special paint or pavers in some areas. There were similar observations in Cardiff.

Placemaking: From the Dom in Cologne to Grote Markt in Brussels, Europe is filled with beautiful community gathering spots.

Enjoy the photos!

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