Streetcar Supporters to Announce Expanded Coalition Urging for System’s Expansion Uptown

AcDowntown to Uptown Cincinnati Streetcar Routecording to officials at the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which governs Metro, more than 1,000 of the 1,500 Founders’ Club cards were sold within the first three days of going on sale.

The rate of sales is exceeding expectations, and many believe the remaining allotment will be sold within the next few days. In fact, $25 cards have already been taken off of Metro’s website, with a very limited number remaining at City Hall and Metro’s sales office.

The remaining $50 and $100 cards can still be purchased online, but it is not clear for how much longer due to their dwindling supply.

Streetcar supporters are pointing to this as clear evidence of the excitement surrounding the project, especially given that those buying the cards will not be able to use them until the system goes into operation in September 2016.

“Selling $72,000 worth of fare cards for a starter line that’s nearly two years from being operational shows the level of support and enthusiasm for the Cincinnati Streetcar to finally be up and running,” Derek Bauman, SW Ohio Director for All Aboard Ohio, told UrbanCincy. “This is the definition of pent up demand.”

Of course, there is also the financial benefit. Selling all 1,500 of the cards will net Metro $72,000 in fare revenue nearly two years before the Cincinnati Streetcar goes into operation.

The news comes as Believe in Cincinnati, the grassroots coalition that formed a year ago to save the project from cancellation, has organized a press conference to announce a broad new coalition of organizations and community leaders urging for the expansion of the streetcar system to Uptown.

“While we must celebrate the success we have had over the past year with construction of tracks in the OTR loop nearing completion and the downtown loop well underway, we must also be looking forward,” explained Ryan Messer, Founder of Believe in Cincinnati.

The path forward, evidently, goes uptown, and not to Northern Kentucky even as leaders there are calling for an expansion of the system south across the Ohio River.

“As of today, we still do not have an official plan in place for our uptown expansion that will link downtown and OTR to the University of Cincinnati and the uptown neighborhoods,” Messer wrote in an email. “We are ready to ignite these conversations and be prepared to implement these plans into action.”

The growing support for an uptown expansion comes at a time of large investment occurring along the initial starter line – investment that many streetcar supporters are crediting for the $18 million budget surplus at City Hall in 2014, and the rosy tax receipt estimates for 2015.

“Imagine what the impact will be when we connect Cincinnati’s core, with its 40,000 jobs and growing residential population, to the 30,000 jobs and 40,000 students in the uptown neighborhoods,” Bauman exclaimed. “This vision is as exciting as it will be transformative for the City of Cincinnati.”

The Believe in Cincinnati press conference will be held at the corner of Race and Elder Streets, near Findlay Market, and where track stub has been constructed for the accommodation of a future uptown extension. Organizers say the event will take place at 10am and will show off the new, expanded coalition of streetcar supporters urging for its expansion.

 

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.