Cincinnati One of 30 Cities Worldwide to Participate in AngelHack Hackathon

Cincinnati will be one of 30 cities worldwide to participate in AngelHack’s spring Hackathon. The event will take place May 3-4 at UpTech’s campus in Covington.

Event organizers credit Cincinnati’s history of innovation and burgeoning tech culture as the reason for hosting the world’s largest hackathon competition, which first took place in December 2011 in San Francisco, and is expected to attract more than 6,000 developers and work on more than 1,500 projects.

“AngelHack’s new hackathon competition, The Whole Developer, will take place in 30 cities around the world and focuses on soft skills for developers, designers and entrepreneurs, guiding them towards better overall business acumen and an improved lifestyle,” Ian Chong, from AngelHack’s Global Outreach Team, told UrbanCincy.

The Cincinnati event, Chong says, will have developers participating in a two-day event that will include coaching from emotional intelligence and well-being experts, and even allow participants to work with yoga instructors.

The hope, organizers say, is that this spring’s event will develop participants in a way that makes them more well-rounded.

“The Whole Developer is a hacker that masters their technical and emotional intelligence, focuses on establishing a well-rounded lifestyle and strives for growth,” Sabeen Ali, AngelHack’s CEO, stated in a prepared release. “As innovators, we have the ability and responsibility to teach the industry, our employers and our predecessors better, healthier working habits and more well-rounded lifestyles.”

In addition to the technical and personal training, participants will also be competing for cash prizes and an opportunity to join AngelHack’s HACKcelerator program and a trip to San Francisco.

The event itself will kick-off on Saturday, May 3 at 9am and end the next at 1pm. Winners will then been decided and announced on Sunday at 3pm. Due to the marathon nature of the event where developers are anticipated to work for 24 hours straight, AngelHack will be providing food and pillows for those who need a brief moment to relax.

Chong says that AngelHack is looking for developers to work on projects that can “wow the crowd” and have the potential to improve peoples’ lives. Ideally, the projects should also be scalable in case the idea hits the big time. Product demos, he says, are also mandatory and participants are banned from using slide decks.

Overall, organizers are encouraging junior developers looking to improve their skills, senior developers looking to work more effectively with new members of the industry, designers of all skill sets and “serious” entrepreneurs that can add value to the teams.

Those interested in participating can register online. Additional information, a detailed schedule and tickets can be purchased through the event’s webpage as well.

CORRECTION: Event organizers have relocated the venue from the University of Cincinnati to UpTech’s campus in Covington. The event is now also free for everyone.

UrbanCincy, Niehoff Studio to Host Regional Discussion on Wasson Corridor

In May 2013, UrbanCincy partnered with the Niehoff Urban Studio to produce an event that highlighted the final work of engineering and urban planning students studying bus rapid transit and bikeways throughout the region. We then showcased their work and engaged the capacity crowd with a panel discussion between some of the region’s foremost experts on the subjects.

One of the hot topics at that event was the Wasson Corridor, which runs through the heart of Cincinnati’s eastern neighborhoods.

The Future of the Wasson Way Bike Trail and Light Rail Corridor

The corridor has long been in regional transit plans as the location for a light rail line, but recent advocacy efforts have been working to convert the abandoned freight rail right-of-way into a recreational trail for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Following UrbanCincy’s controversial editorial opposing the corridor’s conversion into a bike/ped trail, the conversation has shifted to one focused on creating a multi-modal corridor that accommodates the long-planned light rail and the newly envisioned recreational trail.

The next stage of that dialogue will occur this Thursday back at the Niehoff’s Community Design Center in Corryville.

Over the past semester, interdisciplinary students from the University of Cincinnati have been studying the Wasson Corridor and will be presenting their work at this event.

Following the open house where guests can view the final projects, UrbanCincy will then host a panel discussion with Michael Moore, Director of Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE); Eric Oberg, Manager of the Midwest Rails to Trails Conservancy; Mel McVay, Senior Planner at Cincinnati DOTE; Nern Ostendorf, Executive Director of Queen City Bike. The discussion will be moderated by UrbanCincy’s Jake Mecklenborg.

The event is free and open to the public. The open house portion of the evening will take place from 5pm to 6pm, and the panel discussion will follow immediately at 6pm and go until about 7:30pm.

Light food and refreshments will be provided and a cash bar will be available during the open house. The Niehoff’s Community Design Center can be accessed directly off of Short Vine at the southeast corner of Daniels and Vine Street.

Episode #32: Spring Update

Uber appOn the 32nd episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, Randy, John, and Travis cover a few local issues recently in the news.

We cover the launch of Lyft and Uber in Cincinnati and what it could mean for local cab companies. We also talk about the proposed renovation of Burnet Woods and several other Uptown developments. Finally, we talk about the opposition to tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge and whether the bridge can be built without that funding source.

Uptown Leaders Aiming to Help Small Businesses with $500,000 Development Fund

Leaders in Uptown are looking for a way to further help and encourage small businesses to set up shop in region’s second largest employment center. The hope is that a new revolving loan fund will help make the business climate better for those small businesses who often have trouble with upfront capital.

Uptown Consortium President and CEO, Beth Robinson says that the decision to start such a fund came as a result of feedback received during its business retention and small business visits in 2012. Those involved expressed a frustration with being able to secure necessary upfront capital. So to help solve that, the Uptown Consortium funded a new Development Opportunity Fund with $500,000 of its own money last year.

“The whole purpose of these things is to create a supportive business environment,” Robinson explained. “We have coaching services, means of communicating and now this fund. We really want to support job creation. That’s what this is about.”

McMillan Street in Clifton Heights
Uptown neighborhoods have seen a surge of private investment in recent years, but some small businesses are struggling to get involved. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

Robinson says that the fund is intended to support capital costs of new or expanding small and mid-sized businesses in the Uptown area, but that since it is funded with their own money there is a great deal of flexibility with how the money can be used.

“We’re open to whatever grows jobs in Uptown, and whatever stabilizes and moves the business districts forward,” noted Robinson.

These types of funds are typically administered by government agencies, not development corporations like the Uptown Consortium. This, in and of itself, gives the fund the much greater flexibility leaders are touting and on loan requirements.

The first and only business to take advantage of the fund so far is Stag’s Barbershop, which used $10,000 to complete a 1,400-square-foot expansion in Avondale. As a result, the neighborhood institution now offers, for the first time since its opening in the 1950s, a full beauty salon with hair, nail and feet treatments.

What that means is that applicants can apply for loans of the $490,000 in remaining funds. Should the program demonstrate viability and demand, Robinson says that it could be extended and potentially expanded.

“Since we are looking at it as a revolving loan fund, if the demand is there and it is having our desired intention, then there might be the possibility of expanding it,” Robinson told UrbanCincy.

Officials say that there are several businesses in the pipeline for loans right now, but that they are taking things on a first-come, first-serve basis. Ideally, they say, the new or expanding businesses will be located within one of the five neighborhood business districts in the area: Clifton’s Ludlow Avenue, Avondale’s Burnett Avenue, Corryville’s Short Vine, Calhoun/McMillan Streets in CUF, and Auburn Avenue in Mt. Auburn.

Those interested in learning more about the Uptown Consortium’s small business outreach programs, including this Development Opportunity Fund, are encouraged to contact Janelle Lee at jlee@uptownconsortium.org.

Cincinnati Aims to Open Initial Phase of Bike Share System This Summer

Cincinnati Bike Share Station MapCincinnati is set to join the ranks of American cities with bike sharing with the launch of Cincy B-Cycle next summer. The program is being organized by Cincy Bike Share, Inc. and is expected to begin operations in June.

Jason Barron, who previously worked in the office of former mayor Mark Mallory, was hired as the non-profit organization’s executive director in early December.

Over the last several years bicycle sharing programs have begun operating in several dozen cities across North America, and many more are planned. In July, CoGo Bike Share started operating in downtown Columbus and surrounding neighborhoods – marking the first bike share system to open in Ohio.

The planning for Cincinnati’s bike share system has been underway since 2011, when the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Leadership Cincinnati program started looking at getting a program running here. Then, in 2012, a feasibility study was commissioned by Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE).

It was not until the summer of 2013, however, that Cincy Bike Share, Inc. was established, and quietly selected B-Cycle to manage the installation and operations of the program.

B-Cycle operates bike share programs in over 25 cities in the United States, including Kansas City and Denver, and has started expanding overseas.

While traditional bike rentals are oriented to leisure rides, with the bike being rented for a few hours and returned to the same location, bike sharing, on the other hand, is geared for more utilitarian use.

According to Barron, usage of shared bikes is intended for one-way rentals over shorter time periods. Bikes are picked up and dropped off at unattended racks, where they are locked with a sophisticated system that is designed to allow users to quickly make trips that are just beyond walking range – often times about a half-mile to two miles in length.

The way the systems usually work is that users can either purchase a monthly or yearly membership that entitles them to a certain number of rides per month. Non-members, meanwhile, are typically able to purchase passes by the hour or day and are able to pay by cash or credit card at the informational kiosk present at each station.

Proponents view bike share programs as attractive components in the development of vibrant cities. With the continued revitalization of Cincinnati’s center city, Barron feels that bike share will fit well into the mix.

“With all systems of transportation, the more the merrier” Barron explained. He went on to say that he hopes that bike sharing, cars, buses and the streetcar “will work together to give people some great mobility options.”

One of the remaining tasks for Barron and the newly established Cincy Bike Share organization will be securing the necessary funding to build the approximately $1.2 million first phase of stations and the $400,000 to operate it annually. Barron believes that it can be accomplished through a number of ways including through a large number of small sponsors, as was done in Denver, or signing one large sponsor like New York City’s CitiBike system.

In addition to added exposure, bike share advocates point to research that shows improved public perceptions for companies sponsoring bike share systems. In New York, it was found that Citicorp’s sponsorship of CitiBike led to greatly increased favorability of the bank shortly after that bike share program launched.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for a corporation to tap into the young professional market,” Barron told UrbanCincy.

Cincy Bike Share is planning to start operations with about 200 bikes based at about 20 stations in downtown and Over-the-Rhine in the first phase, and would include a total of 35 stations with 350 bikes once phase two is built. Cincinnati’s initial system is modest in size when compared to other initial bike share system roll outs in the United States.

New York City CitiBike: 6,000 Bikes at 330 Stations
Chicago Divvy Bike: 750 Bikes at 75 Stations
Boston Hubway: 600 Bikes at 61 Stations
Atlanta CycleHop: 500 Bikes at 50 Stations
Miami DecoBike: 500 Bikes at 50 Stations
Washington D.C. Capital Bikeshare: 400 Bikes at 49 Stations
Denver B-Cycle: 450 Bikes at 45 Stations
Columbus CoGo: 300 Bikes at 30 Stations
Cincinnati B-Cycle: 200 Bikes at 20 Stations
Salt Lake City GREENbike: 100 Bikes at 10 Stations
Kansas City B-Cycle: 90 Bikes at 12 Stations

Cincinnati’s bikes are expected to be available for use 24 hours a day, and Barron says they will also most likely be available for use year-round. Cincy Bike Share will be responsible for setting the rate structure. While not final yet, it is estimated that annual memberships will cost $75 to $85 and daily passes will run around $6 to $8.

The 2012 feasibility study also looked at future phases opening in Uptown and Northern Kentucky. While it may be complicated to work through operating a bi-state bike share system, Barron says that Cincy Bike Share has already discussed the program with communities in Kentucky and says that they have expressed interest in joining.

While there is no state line or a river separating the systems initial service area downtown from the Uptown neighborhoods, steep hills at grades ranging from 7% to 9% do. These hills have long created a barrier for bicyclists uptown and downtown from reaching the other area with ease.

Barron views the hills as an obvious challenge, but part of Cincinnati’s character and what make Cincinnati great. When the Uptown phase gets under way, he says that it will be operated as one integrated system with the first phase, but that it is not known yet how many users will ride between the two parts of the city.

Over the past few years, the DOTE’s Bike Program has greatly increased the city’s cycling infrastructure, and it is believed that continued improvements will help make using this new system, and the increasing number of cyclists, safer on the road.

Cincinnati’s new bike share system also appears to have majority support on council and with Mayor John Cranley (D), who has publicly stated that he is in favor of the program. “We plan on working with the City as a full partner,” Barron noted. “We think everything’s in place.”

If everything goes according to plan, the initial system could be operational as early as this summer.

Salt Lake City GREENbike photographs by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

University of Cincinnati to Demolish Former Sears Department Store Building This Summer

The University of Cincinnati (UC) has informed UrbanCincy that it will demolish its Campus Services Building at Reading Road and Lincoln Avenue. If finances are available, officials say that demolition will begin this summer.

Readers first brought the potential demolition of the 84-year-old structure to UrbanCincy’s attention in December. According to UC’s director of project management, Dale Beeler, the building has deteriorated significantly due to a lack of upkeep, and says that it is currently “crumbing around us.”

The conditions are so bad, in fact, that water has gotten into the wall system and fractured brick can occasionally be seen falling off the structure.

Campus Services Building
The former Sears Department Store in Avondale will soon meet the wrecking ball as the site is prepped for new development. Photograph by Jacob Fessler for UrbanCincy.

Originally a Sears Department store, the university had been using the structure for some information technology services, storage of excess furniture, some administrative functions and some other various non-student-related activities.

The path, to close and demolition of the facility, was cleared approximately three years ago when the University of Cincinnati purchased and renovated the Fishwick Warehouse, visible off I-75, in order to consolidate these kinds of services.

Located in Bond Hill, the newer, two-story warehouse is located on 10 total acres of property and allows the university to consolidate a variety of non-student functions and store other items outside.

Meanwhile, officials within the University of Cincinnati Office of Planning+Design+Construction estimate that the demolition of the Campus Services Building will cost around $1.5 million and will be put out to bid in the coming months.

With the decision already made to tear down the historic structure, the question then becomes what will happen with the soon-to-be prominent site adjacent to the $108 million MLK Interchange project.

“There is no real direction as to whether the university will try to sell it or hold it as a land bank,” Beeler explained. “But there are probably some hospitals on the hill here that are more interested in that property than we are. We think it will be a more appealing site once that building is gone.”

Officials believe that the improved access to the site, offered through the MLK Interchange project, will only improve the value of the land, thus making it even more appealing to another user.

Rumors in the local real estate community suggest that there is interest in the site becoming a medical research campus.