Uptown Leaders Hoping $2.4M Northern Townhomes Project Accelerates Avondale’s Rebirth

Earlier this month community leaders and City officials gathered in Avondale to celebrate the groundbreaking for eight new market-rate townhomes in the long beleaguered Uptown neighborhood.

The Northern Townhomes project, named after the street on which it is located, is just the latest evidence of a startling transformation that has taken place along the Burnet Avenue corridor over recent years, which has included the construction new office mid-rises, street-level retail and renovation of historic buildings to accommodate new residences.

Much of this transformation has been spurred by the continued growth of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, which has added thousands of jobs since 2000. But that jobs growth, however, has not yet translated into an improved housing market in the impoverished neighborhood. Community leaders are hoping that Northern Townhomes will be the first of many more projects that will work toward improving just that.

“Any community developer knows that the key to smart growth is home ownership,” stated Ozie Davis, Executive Director at Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation, in a prepared release.

Avondale currently has one of the lowest home ownership rates in the city at just 33%. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the City of Cincinnati and State of Ohio, respectively, have home ownership rates of 40.5% and 68%.

The realization of this development has taken years, following a community-developed master plan for the area years ago. Correspondingly, the funding for the $2.4 million project also came from a diverse coalition of neighborhood stakeholders including the University of Cincinnati, UC Health, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and TriHealth.

“The potential for the strong neighborhood revitalization like ours comes from good visioning, smart planning and patience, and this Northern Townhomes project proves that Avondale, Uptown Consortium and the Uptown institutional members have all three,” Davis emphasized.

Project officials say that each of the eight townhomes is approximately 1,400 square feet. Six are two-bedroom residences, while the remaining two have three bedrooms. Additionally, each home has a one-car garage and what the developers are calling tandem on-street parking.

As of now, the expected price point for each townhome is starting at $175,000, and may qualify for a 15-year LEED tax abatement should the developers successfully achieve LEED for Homes Silver certification.

If all goes according to plan, project construction is expected to be completed by fall 2015. After that project officials say that there is room for a second phase of another eight townhomes. The corner of Northern Avenue and Burnet Avenue, meanwhile, is being reserves for another commercial development.

“Avondale is key to the spirit of Uptown Cincinnati, and Avondale community leaders have been a great collaborator and convener as we have work together to revitalize the Burnet Avenue corridor,” concluded Beth Robinson, President and CEO of the Uptown Consortium. “Market rate housing is a fundamental anchor to a diverse residential neighborhood, and we are delighted to have this project be a significant milestone in the Burnet Avenue revitalization.”

Additional residential and mixed-use components remain to be realized as part of the Burnet Avenue corridor master plan, and no timeline has been identified for those elements as of yet.

Will a new UC Neuroscience Institute be first ‘Knowledge Cluster’ investment at MLK Interchange?

There has been a lot of hype about what will or will not happen with the land surrounding the new MLK Interchange. Just earlier this year city officials and Uptown leaders began discussing the early concepts of what they believe will become a hub of medical research and technology facilities that would transform the area. Will a major donation to build a new state-of-the-art neuroscience center be the initial spark? More from The Enquirer:

Mueller and institute Director Dr. Joseph Broderick said their hope is that the gift, the foundation’s largest ever, pushes the institute into the front ranks of neuroscience and makes Cincinnati a world center in the study of the brain and nervous system.

After much research and travel around the country to study other neurological care facilities, the institute – along with university and UC Health leaders – crafted a proposal for a new building to centralize institute functions, now scattered across the UC campus. The gift also will expand research, Broderick said, with patient care at the center.

Cincinnati Dronescape is a Soundtrack of the City and the Sounds That Define It

Cincinnati has a rich history in music production, and recently it has become more of a hotbed for live performances. In addition to that, there are a number of well-known local or locally started musicians out there making the national rounds these days.

A new mashup project, however, is a bit of a change of pace from all of that.

Cincinnati Dronescape is the brainchild of Isaac Hand, and is a bit of an experiment involving art, music, technology and the city.

Hand worked with his friend Nick Denlinger to record what they thought were quintessential sounds from around the city. This included recordings from more than a dozen locations including the sound of the Western Hills Viaduct, Queensgate Railyard, Christian Moerlein Brewerythe hum of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. From there, they then distributed the audio recordings to local musicians who them composed music to complement those sounds.

One of the interesting components of the project, aside from it recording background city sounds, is the fact that Hand and Denlinger recorded the sounds by using drones.

“The results are simultaneously a representation of the diversity of the Cincinnati music community, but also an aural portrait or sonic map of the city,” explained Hand.

Long-time readers of UrbanCincy may remember Hand from a project he helped champion in 2010 called Aural Grid, which was a “musical-spatial exploration” through Over-the-Rhine. Many of the artists involved with that project, Hand says, were also involved with Cincinnati Dronescape.

“Although I curated it, this really was a community endeavor,” Hand emphasized. “It took a whole bunch of people to make it possible.”

The community description is an apt one with roughly a dozen musicians contributing directly to the effort. In addition to that, Ian Gullett mixed everything into a cohesive recording, Arthur Brum produced the album artwork, and Micah Freeman composed the poem used for linear notes.

Nick Swartsell, who has grown increasingly fascinated by the history of the West End and its Kenyon Barr neighborhood, has even been working on a visual component to complement the track he contributed for the album.

It actuality, there are two albums available for streaming or purchase. The first, entitled Cincinnati Drones, is an album of the recorded sounds, while the second, entitled Cincinnati Dronescape, is the collection of artist remixes of those sounds.

Both albums can either be downloaded online for $7, or purchased in CD form for $10 on the project’s bandcamp webpage, Shake It Records, Everybody’s Records, Rock Paper Scissors and Torn Light.

Denver taking the corner store approach to solve their food desert problem

During his first State of the City address, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley (D) made a point to discuss the city’s food desert’s and how he intends to address one of them with a new full-service grocery store in Avondale. Meanwhile in Denver, city officials there are taking a slightly different approach. More from The Denver Post:

This colorful corner store, painted orange and lime green, sits at the intersection of East 30th Avenue and Downing Street in the Whittier neighborhood, which is considered a food desert, far from a full-service grocer. It’s one of five corner stores in a pilot program called the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, started in August by the city and county of Denver’s Department of Environmental Health, and funded by a grant of more than $327,000 from the Colorado Health Foundation.

The plan is to implement the economic-development model in 50 corner stores throughout these neighborhoods over the next three years, helping the small-business owners by providing technical assistance to help carry more healthy products while promoting positive messages about nutritious foods in their stores. Other organizations in the neighborhood also offer classes in nutrition and healthy cooking.

Economists: Cincinnati’s Regional Economy Outperforming Both Pittsburgh and Cleveland

Analysis of data recently released by the Cincinnati Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland shows the area’s economy in a relatively healthy position compared to nearby metro areas, and to the nation as a whole.

LaVaughn Henry, Vice President and Senior Regional Officer at the Cincinnati Branch, says that he believes the region’s economy is poised for continued economic growth, and he points to several factors that contribute to his optimism – a highly educated workforce, an economy healthily spread amongst different sectors, and numerous Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the city.

When diving into the numbers, Henry points to 30% of the regional workforce holding a bachelor’s degree as an item that makes the city an attractive place to do business.

He also touts the city’s relatively low unemployment rate which stands at 5.2% – about even with Pittsburgh and a full percentage point better than the rates nationally and for the state of Ohio. Making the area’s economy even stronger is the fact that its top industry sectors – professional and business services, health and education, and skilled manufacturing – all continue to experience healthy growth.

The Federal Reserve also pointed to continued capital spending as a bright spot that is boosting employment and earnings. Specifically, two hospital expansions and the opening of General Electric’s Global Operations Center at The Banks are expected to support thousands of jobs through 2016.

While the data found that Cincinnati is out-performing many of its peers, it also found that it has room for improvement in terms of wage and GDP growth.

Wages, the Federal Reserve says, have yet to reach pre-recession levels locally, and, while growing, are growing modestly at best. Researchers say that Cincinnati is suffering from a national problem of too many workers in the labor market, and high growth in low-paying service sector jobs that depress wage data. And while the region’s gross domestic product is growing faster than the national average, economists note that, like wages, it has yet to reach pre-recession levels.

When compared to Pittsburgh and Cleveland, the only other two metropolitan regions with more than 2 million people in the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland district, Cincinnati is, by far, the healthiest performer.

In Cleveland economists note that its economy is recovering from the Great Recession much better than the recession of 2001, yet it continues to trail national averages. While unemployment is falling throughout the region, it remains stubbornly high at 6.8% – above both the national and state averages. A bright spot, however, is Cleveland’s 28.5% bachelor’s degree rate within the workforce is at least on-par with the national average.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, recovered the quickest of the three from the Great Recession, but has since seen its economic indicators stall. While unemployment has consistently stayed below the national average, growth in almost all industries in the city was lower than the national average. And while GDP grew from 2009 to 2012, economists at the Federal Reserve expect the data to be somewhat more somber once data is released for 2013 and 2014.