CNU22: Cincinnati Wins National Planning Award for Form-Based Code

The City of Cincinnati’s Department of Planning & Buildings has been on a roll lately. This past weekend in Buffalo, at the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) national conference, the city won its third national award of the year for its new form-based code.

CNU’s grand prize for the Best Planning Tool or Process was actually a tie and thus jointly awarded to Cincinnati for its form-based code (FBC) and Station Center, a transit-oriented development in Union City, California.

As first reported by UrbanCincy, the Department of Planning & Buildings was honored with the Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan at the American Planning Association’s (APA) national conference in Atlanta.  Additionally, in late 2013, the Department won the Ohio APA’s award for Comprehensive Planning for a Large Jurisdiction.

In 2012, city leaders were also awarded with the Frank F. Ferris II Community Planning Award from the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission.

In addition to city staff and thousands of Cincinnatians, those involved in developing Cincinnati’s award-winning FBC included Opticos Design, Hall Planning & Engineering, Urban Design Associates, glaserworks, Wise Economy Workshop, and Urban Fast Forward.

“It is an honor for us to have our code recognized by an organization that is on the cutting edge of best practices with regard to planning tools and good urbanism,” said Alex Peppers, senior city planner for Cincinnati. “We put a lot of work into developing a code that would fit our context and assets.”

What makes Cincinnati’s FBC unique is that it is a voluntary tool for neighborhoods who seek to preserve the character of their centers of activity and historic business districts. Thus far, it has been adopted in College Hill, Madisonville, Walnut Hills and Westwood.

Jurors noted that they were particularly impressed by the code’s extensive photo documentation and mapping analysis that calibrated the code’s application, and reinforced the unique characteristics of Cincinnati’s urban neighborhoods.

“The Cincinnati code is an excellent example of that advancement in the deployment of SmartCode, with particular attention paid to public process, neighborhood structure and graphic presentation,” explained Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, one of CNU’s award jurors. “It reinforces Cincinnati’s historic urban patterns with guidance for appropriate infill and predictable redevelopment building.”

The final draft of Cincinnati’s form-based code is available online and can be accessed here.

On the twelfth official episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, we were joined by Roxanne Qualls to discuss Cincinnati’s development and implementation of form-based codes. You can subscribe to The UrbanCincy Podcast on iTunes for free.

Month in Review – May 2014

Three of UrbanCincy‘s top stories in May revolved around a few dramatic transformations taking place in the urban core. We took you on a Street View tour of some of the biggest transformations in the city, showed you photos of the Cincinnati Streetcar’s construction, and shared news about changes to the city’s oldest historic district. In case you missed them, enjoy UrbanCincy‘s most popular stories from May 2014:

    1. PHOTOS: Cincinnati’s Dramatic, Decade-Long Transformation Visualized
      While many of us can feel that a transformation has taken place in Cincinnati over the past decade, it can be difficult to visualize it. Thanks to new Google Street View capabilities we have done just that.
    2. EDITORIAL: What Cranley’s Clever Budget Means for Urbanists
      The rookie Mayor John Cranley has proposed his first budget. At first glance, it doesn’t look so bad. But after further review what most feared is in fact the sad reality.
    3. The Littlefield to Bring Craft Bourbon Bar to Northside This June
      A craft bourbon bar called The Littlefield will open in Northside next month. The approximately 400SF establishment, which will also include a large outdoor terrace, has been years in the making.
    4. Western & Southern Aiming to Alter Lytle Park Historic District Boundaries
      Western & Southern has long been rumored to be eyeing a location for a new high-rise office tower to consolidate their headquarters; and proposed changes to the Lytle Park Historic District may be setting up for exactly that.
    5. PHOTOS: Construction Activities for $133M Streetcar Project Move Southward
      Significant visual progress continues to be made on the $133M first phase of the Cincinnati Streetcar. Take a look at the progress and learn about a string of good news that may push forward the opening date.

 

PHOTOS: Cincinnati’s Dramatic, Decade-Long Transformation Visualized

The changes that have been taking place in Cincinnati over the past decade have been felt and noticed by many. There is a palpable buzz surrounding the Queen City these days.

The city’s central riverfront has almost entirely been transformed following billions of dollars worth of public and private investment, Over-the-Rhine’s renaissance continues to be touted nation-wide as one to be admired, and thousands of more residential units are being developed in the center city as we speak.

For those who live outside the city and may not have been back recently, or for those out-of-towners who have not yet been able to make a visit, it could be difficult to even recognize some places now.

Thanks to a new feature from Google Street View, we can now go back in time and compare Google’s most current Street View images with those they have taken since 2007 when they started the service.

Here’s a look at some of Cincinnati’s more visually impressive transformations, but it is certainly not all encompassing. Simply drag the arrow bar back-and-forth to compare the old and new images.

Clifton Heights at W. McMillan Avenue and Ohio Avenue:

Clifton Heights in September 2007
Clifton Heights in September 2012

 

Evanston at Dana Avenue and St. Francis Way (formerly Woodburn Avenue):

Xavier University September 2007
Xavier University August 2012

 

Over-the-Rhine looking south on Vine Street near Fifteenth Street:

Vine Street September 2007
Vine Street June 2012

 

Over-the-Rhine looking north on Vine Street near Fourteenth Street:

Vine St September 2007
Vine St June 2012

 

The Banks at Freedom Way and Walnut Street:

The Banks July 2007
The Banks September 2012

 

Smale Riverfront Park along Mehring Way at Main Street:

Smale Riverfront Park July 2007
Smale Riverfront Park August 2012

 

Avondale on Burnet Avenue near Northern Avenue:

Mt. Auburn September 2007
Mt. Auburn June 2012

 

Columbia Tusculum at Delta Avenue and Columbia Parkway:

Columbia Tusculum August 2007
Columbia Tusculum June 2012

 

College Hill on Hamilton Avenue near Elkton Place:

College Hill August 2007
College Hill September 2013

If you are having difficultly viewing both the before and after images, try to just drag the arrow bar back-and-forth instead of clicking on the images in an attempt to reveal the after.

And for what it’s worth, we totally stole the idea for this post from The Washington Post. What other areas did we miss? Let us know in the comment section.

Metro Has Begun Installing New 24-Hour Ticketing Kiosks Throughout City

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) has made a new push to expand ticket and stored-value cards by adding new locations and options for riders to make their purchases.

The first announcement was that Metro would begin selling passes at Cincinnati City Hall, starting April 1, inside the city’s Treasury Department in Room 202. The sales office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, and will offer Zone 1 and 2 Metro 30-day rolling passes, $20 stored-value cards and Metro/TANK passes.

The new location marks the twelfth sales office for Metro including three others Downtown and locations in Walnut Hills, Tri-County, Western Hills, North College Hill, Over-the-Rhine, Roselawn, College Hill and Avondale.

The region’s largest transit agency also installed its first ticket vending machine. The new kiosk is located at Government Square and is available for use 24 hours a day. The machine only accepts cash and credit cards, and offers Metro 30-day rolling passes including Metro/TANK passes, and $10, $20 and $30 stored-value cards.

According to Metro officials, this is the first of more ticketing machines to come with the stations in the Uptown Transit District to be the next locations to get them. Future additions, officials say, will be chosen based on the amount of ridership at given transit hubs throughout the system.

The new sales options come after Metro introduced a new electronic fare payment system in 2011. The new modern options of payment and ticketing proved so popular that after just one year, Metro officials cited the updated technology as one of the primary drivers for its ridership growth.

While the new initiatives show progress for the 41-year-old transit agency, they also show just how far behind the times it is.

The best fare payment systems in the world are tap and go systems that allow riders to charge their cards with whatever value they would like, thus eliminating any confusion of needing specific cards for certain time periods or values. Such cards also allow for perfect interoperability between various modes of transport including bus, rail, ferry, bikeshare and taxi.

In other instances, like Seoul’s T-Money Card and London’s Oyster Card, the systems even allow for the tap and go payment systems to accept credit cards and bank cards enabled with the technology – totally eliminating any barrier for potential riders wary of signing up for a new card they may not use all that often.

Similar to the fare payment cards, the new ticketing machines are outdated on arrival. Transit agencies throughout the United States that have had ticketing machines for years, like Chicago and New York, are currently in the process of transitioning to touch screen kiosks that are more user-friendly.

Cincinnati Leaders Approve City’s Third Form-Based Code in Walnut Hills

Last week Cincinnati City Council approved the form-based code for Walnut Hills. The unanimous vote marks the third neighborhood to adopt this new regulatory tool for neighborhood redevelopment. Yet even after several years of development, many do not understand the basics about the new land use planning tool.

First of all, a form-based code is type of regulation that is developed by community stakeholders to guide future development or redevelopment of a community. Under a form-based code, new developments are typically configured to mesh with the character of the community’s vision.

Form-based codes get their name because it creates a type of regulation that typically focuses more on the form of the building and its relation to the public realm (i.e. the street) rather than the usage of the building. Development under the code occurs “by-right” and means if a new development complies with all the code’s provisions it can be built without having to go through the extensive and sometimes drawn-out process of traditional development.

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Over 700 American cities have adopted some type of a form-based code, with Miami being the largest city to completely adopt this type of code. Near by they have been used in Nashville and Columbus to spark development in revitalizing areas of their inner cities.

Former Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls (D) championed this movement locally and actually led groups of local officials and business leaders to Nashville to study the results of their form-based codes in 2008 and 2012.

While some cities have used these tools to encourage pedestrian friendly, mixed-use developments where none exist, older more established cities such as Cincinnati have opted to implement them in order to ensure that new development integrates seamlessly into the historic charm and character of the city.

Bellevue, KY became the first municipality in the Cincinnati region to adopt this type of regulation in 2011.

Cincinnati first began pursuing the idea of developing a form-based code in 2009. After receiving funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, city staff selected Opticos to lead in developing the new code. Dan Parolek, principal of Opticos, wrote the book on form-based codes, quite literally.

After conducting a city-wide charrette in May 2012, the City of Cincinnati worked with Opticos to refine the code and prepare it for adoption. The form-based code was adopted in early 2013. From there staff from the city’s planning department worked closely with neighborhoods to craft the regulating plan map.

Four neighborhoods were included in the initial implementation schedule: Madisonville, College Hill, Westwood and Walnut Hills. Both Madisonville and College Hill have fully adopted the code with Walnut Hills being the latest. Westwood appears to be the next neighborhood poised to adopt the code after winning unanimous support from the city’s Planning Commission in December 2013.