Should SORTA redraw its entire system? And if so, how?

On the latest episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast we discussed some ideas that Cincinnati would be smart to copy from other cities. One of the items discussed was a complete overhaul of the region’s bus network. Metropolitan Seoul did it in the early aughts, and Houston is in the process of doing it now. While there are numerous ways in which to go about doing this, one approach could be to crowd-source ideas from people using this bus routing tool. More from CityLab:

Not only does the tool give agencies a visually appealing way to present potential routes, but it enables them to respond to ideas—or, let’s face it, complaints—in real-time. If someone wants to move a bus route one street over, for instance, planners can just drag a line a few blocks and show that for an extra $250,000 the bus will now pick up just 10 more people a day.

“Transit for a lot of riders seems like just lines on the map,” he says. “This tool can really communicate to folks—much, much quicker than we’ve ever been able to— what changes to the system mean.”

On-Bike Advertising, System Expansion On-Deck for Cincy Red Bike

Cincy Red Bike Phase 1 MapCincy Red Bike has been in operation for nearly six months. So far, city leaders and system operators are encouraged by the more than 600 members and roughly 18,000 trips that have been made during that time. As a result, many are now calling for the system’s expansion as it heads into the best six weather months of the year.

As of now, Cincy Red Bike’s system includes 30 stations throughout Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, Clifton Heights, Clifton, Corryville, University Heights and Avondale. While 263 bikes were originally purchased, the bike share system’s executive director, Jason Barron, says that there are normally around 220 bikes deployed, and that the number has dropped to as low as 140 during recent heavy snow events.

Barron told UrbanCincy that the goal was to reach 52,000 rides in the first year of operations. While Cincy Red Bike has so far provided approximately one-third of that, they say they are undeterred.

“We are obviously under that projection so far, but that assumes linear ride rates,” he explained. “Because of the weather, we do not expect to be above the pace so far. What we do know is that we had huge numbers in our first month, which was decent weather, and we have seen a great spike on decent weather days in the winter.”

When comparing Cincinnati’s performance to other cold weather peers, Barron’s optimism appears to be justified. In January, for example, Cincy Red Bike logged around 1,800 rides, while the system in Indianapolis had just 1,200.

While opening up to cold weather months may seem like a rough way to start a system, Barron says that it was, in part, intentional to have a slow start period in order to have time to learn how to make modifications to the system and its operations.

One of those lessons learned is that stations like the one at Main/Orchard are far more popular than what was originally anticipated. This falls in line with national research that shows stations located in densely populated residential clusters are more heavily used than those located by landmarks. As a result, the next round of expansion will most likely include stations situated in those types of locations.

“The three busiest stations, by a factor of a third, are Fountain Square, 12th/Vine and Main/Orchard,” noted Barron. “We will start to look at areas in the West End like Linn Street, Bank Street, City West and maybe Brighton. We have to look and see where there are opportunities to connect people and make a difference in their lives.”

Beyond the West End, most additional stations, which cost approximately $50,000 each, will most likely be placed near the existing service area, but much has recently been made about an expansion across the river into Northern Kentucky. Since political discussions, permitting and fundraising are still underway, Barron was naturally hesitant to discuss specific details about the number or location of new stations.

“Public space is at a premium. The trick is finding a place where people want to be, but that is also available.”

A recent partnership between Cincy Red Bike and The Enquirer yielded over 1,000 location suggestions for new stations. In addition to Northern Kentucky, Barron says that Northside and Walnut Hills were also top choices.

Rumors have it that there will be 10 to 12 stations to open initially in Covington, Newport and Bellevue; while, in Cincinnati, Northside may be the next neighborhood to be graced with a station near Hoffner Park.

What is confirmed is that four new stations will be installed in Cincinnati in March, and Barron says the goal is to roll out the initial expansion into Northern Kentucky later this summer. Like Uptown and Downtown, bike share operators clearly see Kentucky’s densely populated river cities as a major opportunity.

“It’s not enough to just launch in Northern Kentucky. We need to launch successfully,” Barron said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to raise all the funds we need to roll this out right.”

Fundraising continues to be a significant matter for Cincy Red Bike, which was launched, with much acclaim, under the auspice that it would primarily be funded with private contributions. While financial data has not yet been released, Barron says that they have been hitting their targets and plan to unveil on-bike sponsorship opportunities in the coming months.

“We going to be building out a bit here or there, but we really want to go where we think we can activate new ridership bases,” said Barron. “Really, though, I can’t wait for spring.”

Final Designs Coming Into Clarity for $23M SCPA Redevelopment

Core Redevelopment purchased the former School for Creative & Performing Arts (SCPA) in December 2012 for $1.3 million. The 107-year-old building was originally built as Woodward High School, and Core has been planning redevelop the property since their purchase.

Plans for the $23 million redevelopment have fluctuated since Core became involved. At first the concept was to develop apartments, but then the Indianapolis-based developer looked at transforming the building into a boutique hotel. The hotel concept moved so far along that Core was in final negotiations with AC Hotels in June 2013. At the time, it would have been one of the first in North America, but the deal later fell through and AC Hotels announced that they would enter the Cincinnati market at a lifestyle center in Liberty Township.

Located in Pendleton, SCPA has a rich history that dates back to the early 19th century when the original two-story Woodward High School was established there. At the time, it was heralded as the first public school west of the Alleghenies. SCPA started to take control of parts of the building in 1976, and eventually expanded into the entire structure in 1977.

“We will continue to honor William Woodward and Abigail Cutter by working with the William Woodward Museum to enhance the memorial located on the east side of the site,” stated Core.

The 4.6-acre site is bordered by Thirteenth Street to the south, Sycamore Street to the west, Fourteenth Street to the north and Broadway Street to the east. The historic school is situated on the south edge of the parcel and is currently surrounded by parking on three sides. The northern side of the block contains Cutter Playground, which in recent years has fallen into disuse and is viewed by many neighbors as an under-performing asset.

The park has served as the focal point of discussions regarding the redevelopment of the property. The developers have proposed a variety of concepts that would build varying amounts of parking on parts of the park. The most recent proposal, which is supported by many community members, includes a condensed parking footprint and a partially submerged two-level parking deck.

In addition to developing 148 new apartments and 196 parking spaces, Core plans to remove most all of the existing pavement currently in front of the building’s main entrance along Thirteenth Street. Small access lots would remain on the building’s east and west sides, and the two-level parking deck would be constructed on the rear of the existing five-story structure.

Rents for the apartments, which will run from 500 to 2,000 square feet, are expected to range from $700 to $1,500 per month.

“Maintaining as much of the open space as possible to the north of the building while enhancing the remaining open space through the use of landscaping is also one of our goals.”

The most recent revisions are currently making their way through the approval process at City Hall, but this rendition appears to have the best shot at getting approved. If all goes according to plan, Core intends to begin construction within the next two months and welcome the first residents in Spring 2016.

VIDEO: Smale Riverfront Park’s Carousel Taking Shape in Mansfield

Carol Ann’s Carousel is taking shape about three hours north of Cincinnati in Mansfield. It is there where master wood carvers are hand-crafting the $1 million showpiece for Smale Riverfront Park.

Carol Ann’s Carousel is being built by an Ohio company that claims to be world’s largest manufacturer of wooden carousels. Founded in 1986, Carousel Works has built dozens of the rides that are now in operation throughout North America. According to their employees, Cincinnati’s is one of the more unique and interesting projects they have worked on to-date.

“I’ve got to work on some really fun ones so far, but I have to say that the Cincinnati’s carousel is going to be really fantastic,” explained carver Tim Gorka. “I  really think it’s going to be a favorite of most of the people working here.”

The $4.5 million structure that will house the amusement ride is now largely in place, with the glass walls and roofing all in place just west of the Roebling Suspension Bridge along the central riverfront.

Project officials say that the progress is advancing according to plan, and that the 44-character carousel will open to the public on Saturday, May 16.

The City Series Aims To Create Scalable Development Model In Established Walkable Neighborhoods

The City Series is an interesting and somewhat new approach for urban housing development in Cincinnati. Instead of pursuing big developments with a large amount of land, or the redevelopment of existing structures, it instead is focused on challenging infill sites.

Leadership at Great Traditions and D-HAS, which is overseeing The City Series, say they chose the sites due to their walkable environments. They believe that the city’s neighborhoods represent the most important aspect of real estate today – walkability.

In addition, the development team says that they were attracted to each particular site cluster, of which they currently have three, because of its distinctive character. As of now their sites are located in Northside, O’Bryonville and East Walnut Hills.

So far, it seems as though the team’s assessment is correct. Two of the five currently available homes located on Gold Street in O’Bryonville and Cleinview Avenue in East Walnut Hills have already sold. With six more homes coming soon, the team expects that number to quickly rise.

What is also unique is that in each case the homes are being built in line with traditional design characteristics of their neighborhood surroundings. But starting at $595,000, the homes in East Walnut Hills and O’Bryonville are also being priced higher than most nearby properties. In Northside, the townhomes will range from $250,000 to $350,000.

The four homes on Cleinview Avenue are being built around an 1860s servant’s house from the original Klein Estate – the developer of the neighborhood in the late 19th century. In this case D-HAS came up with a design solution that uses three variations on an open floor plan, with car access coming through a rear yard with detached garages. This, the design firm says, allows the new homes to contribute to the streetscape at a pedestrian scale – no curb cuts to accommodate cars – and match the historic nature of the neighborhood.

About a mile east on Madison Road is the three-home Gold Street development, which actually sits on a road named Paul Street. Sitting at the end of a narrow side street, the site is within easy walking distance of both the Hyde Park and O’Bryonville business districts. For this development, D-HAS says that they looked to maximize the use private outdoor space in spite of the site’s difficult location and terrain.

Across town sits the team’s newest announced project on Fergus Street. Like the other projects, the five homes in this development are located in the heart of a historic neighborhood and feature a design reflective of its roots. Due to the differences of Northside compared to the other two neighborhoods, these homes are slightly smaller, but have the added benefit of being next to a neighborhood playground.

“We worked with the community groups – Cincinnati Northside Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (CNCURC) and the Northside Community Council to design a series of homes that would be a catalyst for the surrounding neighborhood”, explained Doug Hinger, owner of D-HAS and President of Great Traditions. “There are a lot of very cool and committed people in Northside that have been active for decades and I really enjoy our partnership.”

Driven by his passion for urban design, Hinger said he established D-HAS to provide a vehicle for his architectural pursuits. And from a business standpoint, he said they saw an opportunity to start these three smaller projects as a way to bridge the gap to bigger sites and see how designs in walkable neighborhoods like this will be accepted.

“We have found value in several facets,” Hinger told UrbanCincy. “Probably the biggest value is that we’re growing the business and developing a body of work that we can take into other Cincinnati neighborhoods.”

Great Traditions and D-HAS believe they are off to a good start, and hope to use these developments as a foundation for more projects like on a somewhat larger scale.

“We’re always looking for the next project and there are several neighborhoods where we think The City Series can work,” Hinter stated. Having a viable commercial aspect in place will certainly help bolster the prospects for scalable projects of this nature, especially since they are intending to push the boundaries of the current marketplace focus.

For many urbanists, the idea of scaling up the size of such an approach is an appealing one, and one that many thought would be the defining feature of Cincinnati’s annual CiTiRAMA home show. CiTiRAMA, however, has not yet been able to consistently produce successful urban infill in the way that Great Traditions and D-HAS are attempting to do.

Hinger’s hope is to make The City Series a citywide endeavor. If successful, Cincinnati’s urbanists may finally get the annual urban home show they have long desired.