Brink Brewing Aiming to Settle Into Cincinnati’s Resurgent College Hill Neighborhood

The groundbreaking for the $11.1 million Marlowe Court development in College Hill shined new light on west side neighborhood, but the influx of new investment in the neighborhood’s walkable neighborhood business district has been growing for some time.

One of the next large investments will come in the form of a new brewery called Brink Brewing. While Brink is part of a larger craft beer movement that has been surging for years, it is part of a younger craft beer culture on the city’s west side; and the owners are hoping to tap into that otherwise untapped market.

“First and foremost we are aiming to serve beer lovers in and around the College Hill neighborhood,” John McGarry, marketing and design manager for Brink Brewing, told UrbanCincy. “Our sights are squarely focused on being a neighborhood-oriented tap room.”

While the Brink Brewing ownership, which includes four young couples, does not have any previous ties to College Hill, McGarry says that they were drawn to the neighborhood after discovering the passion of its residents and business owners. The walkable character of the neighborhood business district also made it an ideal choice for the Brink Brewing team.

“College Hill wasn’t part of our initial search, but as soon as we discovered it we fell in love,” said McGarry. “The stretch of Hamilton Avenue where we’ll be located is a walkable strip of small businesses with a proud past and a bright future. We met some of the other business owners there like Marty at Marty’s Hops & Vines and Megan at Fern and knew right away we should be paying attention.”

When asked about whether or not the local beer market is becoming over-saturated, he said that Brink Brewing is going after a different segment than what many other brewers are aiming for. Rather than trying to grow production and fight for tap and shelf space throughout the region, they are planning to settle into the neighborhood and serve it with high quality beer.

“From my perspective, I think brewery/taprooms are still a fairly new concept in Cincinnati. Places like Denver, Portland, and San Diego have shown that small, neighborhood focused breweries can really thrive and be a great addition to the community,” McGarry explained. “I think of brewery tap rooms much like local coffee shops, and you never hear anyone say that there are too many of those.”

Construction work is underway on transforming the 3,200-square-foot space, which will be complimented by a large outdoor patio space behind the building. After accounting for the space that will be needed for production, there should be enough room left over to accommodate 100 guests at any given time.

The amount of construction work taking place inside the 90-year-old structure is extensive. In addition to the resurfacing the front of the building through a façade improvement grant from the College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, the interior has been completely rehabbed.

As part of the façade improvements, Brink Brewing will add a large commercial garage doors onto the front and back of the building to allow for the wall to open up on nice weather days – hopefully inviting more people from the neighborhood inside.

When it comes to the beer, McGarry says that the brewery will produce a range including pale ale, IPA, brown and stout beers. They will also serve some higher gravity and experimental beers, but will maintain a focus on core products.

“We will incorporate infusions and experimentations into some of our offerings, but we also recognize that the pendulum has swung a little too far into the exotic recently,” explained Kelly Montgomery, head brewer at Brink Brewing. “By frequently rotating our menu we feel there will always be something new to try along with the staples that have elevated craft beer.”

Since each of the young couples has young children, they say that they also hope the establishment will be family friendly. In order to help create this atmosphere, Brink Brewing will have a community table area and will even offer juice boxes, free wi-fi and board games.

The ownership group has signed a five-year lease on the space, which can be extended an additional 10 years. If all goes well, the team hopes that they can stay in the space for the long-haul.

“We want to be a part of revival of the Cincinnati beer tradition and become a part of the fabric of the neighborhood,” McGarry concluded. “We think our model of a modest-sized brewery and comfortable tap room to hang out in will allow us to do just that.”

Brink Brewing should open to the public sometime in November, and employ some 15 to 20 people within the next year or so.

Neighborhood Development Strategies Focus of Niehoff Urban Studio Event

Cincinnati is a city known for its unique and dynamic neighborhoods; and over the past few years many of these neighborhoods have transitioned through the work and dedication of community development groups, active and engaged stakeholders and residents, and the assistance of leading experts in the field.

Successes like new developments, restoration of historic buildings, and implementation of placemaking strategies, however, have not come without challenges and lessons learned. Building healthy and resilient places, such as in some of the neighborhoods of Cincinnati, is the focus of this semester’s Neihoff Studio open house.

The Niehoff Urban Studio and UrbanCincy have invited several community development experts to gather for an in-depth discussion on creating success in several of Cincinnati’s great neighborhoods on Thursday, April 21.

Building on the second year of the Building Healthy and Resilient Places theme, the open house is the culmination of a semester-long effort by DAAP students working with six neighborhoods in Cincinnati and Covington to identify potential redevelopment opportunities in neighborhoods such as Roselawn, College Hill, Walnut Hills, East Walnut Hills, North Avondale, Price Hill, and downtown Covington.

Kathy Schwab, of LISC, will present awards to the winning student group.

“Our theme is Building Healthy and Resilient Places, and students are encouraged to make places that promote health in a number of categories,” Frank Russell, Director of the UC Niehoff Studio told UrbanCincy. “Above all students were challenged with how to make form and program that would make these NBDs ‘centers of activity’ in accordance with Plan Cincinnati.”

The event will culminate with a panel of experts moderated by UrbanCincy. Panelists include Phil Denning from the City of Cincinnati Department of Economic Development; Kathleen Norris, who is the Principal and founder of Urban Fast Forward, a real-estate consulting firm; and Seth Walsh with the Community Development Corporation Association of the Greater Cincinnati.

The event will kick off at the Niehoff Urban Studio Community Design Center on Short Vine at 5pm this Thursday, with the panel discussion starting at 6pm. The event is easily accessible by Red Bike with a station conveniently located across the street. It is also accessible via Metro Bus Routes #24, #19 and Metro Plus.

City Selects Preferred Developer to Execute College Hill’s Form-Based Code

Last week the College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation announced that an agreement had finally been reached between the City of Cincinnati and the Saint Francis Group to develop a collection of properties at the intersection of Hamilton Avenue and North Bend Road.

The 7.5-acre site is actually a collection of three properties that the City of Cincinnati acquired over recent years. Perhaps most prominent is the 5.2 acres of land at the northwest corner of the intersection where a Kroger and Eastern Star once operated. While the Eastern Star site was cleared in 2012, it was not until 2014 when the Kroger site was cleared and readied for new development.

The third piece of land that makes of the rest of this site is actually across the street at the northeast corner of the intersection. This 2.3-acre site has also been cleared and is largely ready for development.

The announcement of the preferred developer agreement comes more than a year-and-a-half after City Hall approved the community’s form-based code, which the Saint Francis Group has committed to work with as part of their planned development.

“CHCURC has worked with the City of Cincinnati for a decade in the acquisition of these parcels, which are key in the continued revitalization of College Hill,” said the president of non-profit development corporation, Michael Cappel.

While the original designs for the redevelopment of these sites were conceptual in nature, it is the hope of many in the community that Saint Francis Group continues down that path.

“The vision for the redevelopment of the former Kroger’s, Shuller’s Wigwam, and the Eastern Star Retirement Community includes a mixed-used development, with retail, residential, and offices uses, that will bring increased density and vitality to this walkable, urban village,” Cappel explained.

Should such a vision be realized at this location, it would serve as a major boost for the northern end of the neighborhood business district, and would inject notable amount of residents into the area.

While Saint Francis Group has a fairly extensive track record of real estate consultancy and development, its ability to execute a project of this nature will be tested. Fortunately, they have hired Jeff Raser from Glaserworks, and a key architect of Cincinnati’s form-based codes, as their lead architect for the project.

Project officials say that architectural drawings are being put together now, in conjunction with neighborhood leaders, and they hope to announce a project name, cost estimates and a project schedule within the next four to eight months.

EDITORIAL: Don’t Cancel Homearama, Relocate It

The past ten days have been interesting. A week ago I spoke with Keith Schneider from the New York Times about the booming residential property values in Cincinnati’s center city. Then, just one day later, the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati announced that they would be cancelling this year’s Homearama event in Clermont County.

The annual suburban home show has been going since 1962, and was cancelled this year due to, “increased activity in other segments of the housing market.” One of the builders that has traditionally participated in those over-the-top suburban home shows is Great Traditions, which recently expressed a growing interest in developing urban properties.

Great Traditions is not the only one. Greiwe Development has also said that they would like to start building homes along the Cincinnati Streetcar starter line, John Hueber Homes made the same transition to Over-the-Rhine, and Ashley Builders appears to just be getting started on their work in the center city.

So while homebuilders are struggling in the region’s outlying suburbs, they seem to be thriving in a manner that is pulsating outward from Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

It seems more than likely that Homearama will return in the not-so-distant future, but should it? With all the demographic and economic trends pointing in the opposite direction, perhaps the energy and money put into the 53-year-old suburban home show should be shifted elsewhere. I could think of some very nice places to do urban home shows in Pleasant Ridge, Walnut Hills, Avondale, West End, Price Hill, East End, and College Hill. And that is not even considering the possibilities in Northern Kentucky’s river cities.

Yes, there is CiTiRAMA, but that annual home show is often limited in its scale and tends to leave much to be desired.

The writing appears to be on the wall, which makes the outlandish Fischer Homes Expressway proposal look all the more desperate. Why keep up the fight? There are plenty of opportunities in our region’s first-ring suburbs, and the city governments overseeing those sites will assuredly be more than happy to cooperate.

Don’t believe me? Just ask those developers that had been defined by their suburban subdivisions for decades how they are liking life in neighborhoods like East Walnut Hills, O’Bryonville, Northside, Clifton and Over-the-Rhine where condos are virtually sold-out.

I hope the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati decides to not cancel this year’s Homearama after all. I just hope they relocate it to the inner-city where the residential housing market is hot.

Eighth Annual BuyCincy Holiday Event to Take Place This Weekend

The Greater Cincinnati Independent Business Alliance (CiNBA) is hosting their second annual BuyCincy event this weekend between November 21 and November 23.

While in only its second year with CiNBA, the BuyCincy event has actually been running in some form for eight years now, following its initial launch through the now defunct BuyCincy blog.

CiNBA, which was established in in 2012, is the first independent business alliance, of 90 nationwide, to have successfully partnered with a university. In this case that institution is Xavier University’s William’s College of Business .

“CiNBA’s mission is to create a thriving community of local independent businesses and non-profits by supporting and representing the value of those in the Greater Cincinnati area and works to accomplish this mission through networking, marketing and events such as the BuyCincy Holiday Event,” said Madison Wallace, a Xavier University student in charge of the social media marketing for CiNBA and BuyCincy.

Initially launched as a blog in 2007, BuyCincy has since morphed into a brand used to promote local spending, and help area residents discover new local businesses. This year, organizers say, the event is expecting more than 150 businesses to participate from more than 15 different neighborhoods, including Bellevue, Over-the-Rhine, Hyde Park and College Hill.

Last year the event had 146 participating businesses from 20 different neighborhoods. Organizers estimate that the approximated spending during the four-day event totaled $25,000. Similar events to this one nationwide tend to boost sales in the participating neighborhood business districts. On average, independent business organizations estimate that those participating areas see 5.3% more business activity than other non-participating areas.

“We know small businesses get lost in frantic “big box” promotions during the holidays, so we created BuyCincy’s Holiday Event to bring our city’s local businesses together with a ‘buy local’ shopping message,” CiNBA explains.

The three-day BuyCincy Holiday Event will take place the weekend before Thanksgiving. The complete list of participating businesses can be found on the group’s website, and includes shops, restaurants, bars and other local establishments to round out your holiday shopping experience.