Pendleton Offers Support For $24M Alumni Lofts, Pending Green Space Protection

On Monday evening, the Pendleton Neighborhood Council voted unanimously to support Core Redevelopment’s $24 million Alumni Lofts project, provided the green space north of the former Woodward School/School for Creative and Performing Arts building remain undeveloped and available for public use.

The council’s letter of support asks that any development agreement between the City and the Indianapolis-based developer, or any future owners or assigns, include provisions that the Cutter Playground property be donated to a nonprofit or governmental entity and that development restrictions, such as a conservation easement, be included in the contract.

The developer’s current plans call for a two-level parking structure on part of the nearly three-acre site, leaving between 80-85% of the original green space intact.

Developer Michael Cox with Core said that he’s unsure whether the green space will be managed by his company or donated, but said that his company is committed to the community’s goals.

“We don’t know which one yet, simply because we haven’t worked through all of the deal structure and the timing of all of that,” he said. “It’s a pretty complicated project that we’re doing, but we are committing to the City in our project agreement with the City that we will do one of those things with the green space and it will be a green space in perpetuity.”

Alumni Lofts will consist of 142 market-rate apartments, ranging from 480 to 2,000 square feet and leasing for between $699 and $1,400 a month.

Still undergoing demolition and prep work, construction on the new units has been bid and is ready for permitting pending Council approval. A leasing office is planned to open in January or February, and Core expects to welcome its first tenants by July 1, 2016, Cox said.

The development agreement will be presented to City Council’s Budget & Finance Committee on June 8.

Under terms of the agreement, the project would receive indirect City assistance through a 30-year tax increment financing (TIF) rebate program, which Senior Community Development Analyst Adam Sickmiller said is “completely unique” for the region.

“From the developer’s perspective, it’s effectively a net 67.5% tax rebate,” he said.  “So the developer will pay their taxes. Twenty-five percent will go to the schools, and 7.5% will go to the streetcar operating fund.”

The remainder would be returned to the developer, which will allow Core to receive a bigger bank loan to construct the parking structure, Sickmiller said.

“If the project performs better than expected, there will be a sharing of that revenue between the developer and the City,” he said. “Where specifically this money is going – and one of the reasons that we’re pretty excited about this – is that it’s going into an account that will specifically be used for public improvements, urban redevelopment, and public infrastructure, parks and the like.”

Opened in 1910 as the second Woodward High School, the 225,000-square-foot building has been vacant since 2010, when SCPA moved to its new $72 million building on Central Parkway.

Core bought the school for $1.3 million in late 2012 at an auction of vacant Cincinnati Public Schools properties.

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.

Four Recent Ideas Cincinnati Has Exported Around the Country

New ideas can come from anywhere and Cincinnati is no exception. People have taken notice of what is going on in Cincinnati. In the spirit of the latest episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, I thought it would be nice to highlight some ideas that worked so well in Cincinnati that other cities have adopted them.

However, it is important not to forget that great ideas often come from great turmoil. Innovative ideas often only receive the light of day because the situation they are created in is so dire. Keeping that in mind when reading this story can remind us of how far Cincinnati has come in some areas, and how that journey can inform efforts in other cities.

Here are four key ideas that have come from Cincinnati. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so please let us know in the comment section if you have other additions.

Idea 1 – Collective Impact
The concept of collective impact stems from the idea that numerous individual efforts are being undertaken in places to reach similar social goals. Thus, collective impact’s main role is to take those individual efforts and bring stakeholders together to increase the efficacy of each individual’s work around the organizing principal.

The Strive Partnership in Cincinnati was the first group to take this approach and develop a unique model that is now being applied around the country. With a focus on building what they call “cradle to career partnerships”, which seek to improve agreed upon outcomes for children throughout their growth to adults, collective impact is a truly national phenomenon.

Idea 2 – The Collaborative Agreement
In the wake of the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson and the resulting protests and social unrest, many Cincinnatians could not help but think of the parallels to the killing of Timothy Thomas by Cincinnati police officer Stephen Roach.

Following the 2001 race riots in Cincinnati, a group of concerned community members and representatives from law enforcement came together around shared principles to improve community policing and engage with the stakeholder more in how they felt the department should function to simultaneously improve outcomes and relations with the communities where they work. This became the document known as the Collaborative Agreement, and is now considered a blueprint for conversations in Ferguson and beyond on how to begin creating a more inclusive environment for local residents regardless of their background.

Idea 3 – Community Learning Centers
The philosophy behind Community Learning Centers is straightforward: schools are neighborhood assets and should be utilized as such. Combine that philosophy with in-school wrap-around services that are funded in part through community relationships and you have a reproducible model for school improvement and neighborhood revitalization.

Community Learning Centers have latched on in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) has approved the creation of new community learning centers as a part of his educational platform, and within the Department of Education where a 21st Century Community Learning Centers program supports the creation of such setups around the country.

Idea 4 – 3CDC
Whether you agree with their tactics or not, it is hard to argue that the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation is not influential in the ongoing real estate redevelopment bonanza that is going on in and around Cincinnati’s center city. Perhaps not surprisingly, other cities have taken notice.

3CDC’s combination of non-profit status gives it independence, and its relationship with large local companies provides it with formidable financial resources. The potent combination has been labeled as a “model for urban transformation” by the Urban Land Institute, and other cities are considering adopting the 3CDC model that has accomplished a great amount in redeveloping socioeconomically depressed urban areas.

$11.2M Redevelopment of Historic Heberle School to Breathe New Life Into West End

A team of New York-based developers have purchased a number of properties in the West End, and a recent tax credit from the State of Ohio may spark the first major redevelopment investment in the historic district in decades.

In 2012, Zada Development purchased two historic school buildings from Cincinnati Public Schools for $60,000 each at auction. The two schools sit within a block of one another in the Dayton Street Historic District, and have sat vacant for the better part of the last decade.

The development team told UrbanCincy that they intend to begin construction on the 86-year-old Heberle School in February, thanks to a $1.8 million Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit – the biggest award in the recent round of funding in Southwest Ohio aside from Music Hall’s $25 million catalytic project award. It is due to the neighborhood’s proud history that the developers decided to enter the Cincinnati market and take on their first project here.

“This area has been abandoned for some time, which prompted us to collaborate with the Dayton Street Neighborhood Association in order to revive a community rich in history and architecture,” explained Golan Marom from Zada Development Group.

The group’s previous experience is largely comprised of high-rise residential rehabilitations in the New York area.

The $11.2 million Heberle Lofts project, meanwhile, is seen as phase one of the team’s efforts. The second phase will focus on the 100-year-old Lafayette Bloom Middle School on Baymiller Street. There, developers anticipate a project similar in scope to what will be done at Heberle, which is planned to include 59 market-rate apartments and 5,000 to 6,000 square feet of street-level commercial space.

A striking similarity at both school properties is the large open space in front of their main entrances. In both cases, Marom says that the plan is to maintain some of it as parking for the development, while also creating new public and green space for the community.

While redevelopment has been moving northward from Over-the-Rhine’s Gateway Quarter, all the way up to the Brewery District surrounding Findlay Market, it has yet to spread west into the West End or its Brighton District. An injection of activity like this, however, could improve the neighborhood’s ability to support service retail and restaurants, which so far have proved difficult to attract within the Brighton District or along Linn Street at the nearby City West development.

The development team says they are still working to secure some additional financing, but are optimistic they will be able to get started in the coming months. Should everything go according to plan, the Heberle Lofts project is expected to be completed approximately two years after construction work begins.

Revised Agreement for Redevelopment of Pogue’s Garage Poised to Advance This Week

More than a year after an initial deal was proposed to redevelop the aging Pogue’s Garage site into a sleek residential tower, a new deal may actually move forward that will allow for construction to finally move forward.

In November 2013, the City of Cincinnati had entered into a Development Agreement with Flaherty & Collins to build a 15,000-square-foot grocery store, 950-space parking garage and a soaring 30-story residential tower with 300 units costing $94 million. As part of this deal, the City had committed to providing a $12 million forgivable loan to the project. This came after an initial deal to fund the project through the proceeds generated by the then proposed Parking Modernization & Lease program.

The Parking Modernization & Lease program, however, was almost immediately cancelled upon the arrival of Mayor John Cranley (D); who then subsequently stated that the $12 million forgivable loan for the project was “too rich”, and that the entire project should be rethought.

This led to the engagement of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), and the new deal that will go before City Council’s Neighborhoods Committee, chaired by Vice Mayor David Mann (D), at 2pm today.

According to a leaked memo from City Manager Harry Black’s office, the new deal is substantially different from the previous Development Agreement. Instead it calls for a $5.5 million grant to Flaherty & Collins to construct an eight-floor residential tower including 208 units, and a $4 million loan to 3CDC to construct a 925-space parking garage and 25,000 square feet of street-level retail space.

The Cranley Administration is touting the deal as a savings for taxpayers, while also not sacrificing too much.

“We inherited an overly rich deal,” Jay Kincaid, Mayor Cranley’s Chief of Staff, told UrbanCincy. “This new deal saves taxpayers $6.5 million, and gives the City control over the garage.”

Much of the savings is realized through the changes to the parking agreement. The previous deal provided the developer a grant to build and operate the parking structure, while the new deal utilizes a $4 million performing loan to be repaid later by 3CDC. Once the loan is paid off, the revenue stream from the parking structure would be shared by the three parties.

The emergency ordinance that will be put before the Neighborhoods Committee today, and then most likely be voted on by the full City Council on Wednesday, also includes a 30-year property tax abatement for the apartment component.

As of now, property tax abatements in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine filter 25% to Cincinnati Public Schools, with the remaining 75% being the actual realized abatement. Starting on January 1, 2015, however, that latter number would be reduced to 67.5% with the 7.5% difference being put into a fund to help cover the costs of operating and maintaining the Cincinnati Streetcar.

With the development losing approximately two-thirds of its height, but only one-third of its number of residential units, it signals that the new development will look quite different than the initial renderings released to the public. The final result may mean smaller residential unit sizes or a wider tower that utilizes more of the site’s footprint.

Yet unanswered is what will happen with Paragon Salon, which has remained in operation at the site despite being served eviction notices from the City. Since the original Development Agreement was signed more than a year ago, the owners of Paragon have claimed the City is violating their lease agreement, and has requested assistance in finding a new location. The City, meanwhile, has rebuffed Paragon and said they will not submit to paying for the costs of its relocation.

One item previously holding up construction on this still unnamed project was the redevelopment of Tower Place Mall into Mabley Place. Now that the parking garage is complete and open for business, City leaders say they feel more confident in closing down Pogue’s Garage to allow for construction to commence.