Cincinnati’s $109M Capital Acceleration Plan Ignores Adopted Bike Policy

On Thursday, the City of Cincinnati celebrated the start of its bold, new road rehabilitation effort. The six-year program will include the resurfacing and rehabilitation of aging streets, replacement of city vehicles outside of their life cycle, and establish a new focus on preventive road maintenance that city officials will save money in the long-run.

The $109 million Capital Acceleration Plan is a strategic policy shift at City Hall, and represents a large infusion of money into road repair. The new focus on preventive maintenance is particularly noticeable as it represents an eight-fold increase in spending on that front.

“This is much bigger than just spending money to improve the condition of local streets. CAP is about making an investment in the city and people who live here,” City Manager Harry Black said in a prepared release. “This strategic investment in our roadways and infrastructure will serve as the foundation of Cincinnati’s sustained long-term growth.”

City officials say that the investments will improve the condition of 940 center-line miles of streets over the next six years. In its first year, its $10.6 million for street rehabilitation and $4 million for preventive maintenance, officials say, will impact 16 different neighborhoods and improve 120 center-line miles of roads.

With so many streets poised to be improved over the coming years, many people advocating for safer bicycling and walking conditions on the city’s roadways were optimistic that across-the-board improvements could be made. In fact, their cause for optimism is not without cause. The City of Cincinnati’s Bicycle Transportation Plan, which was adopted by City Council in June 2010, calls for incremental improvements to the city’s bike network as road resurfacing projects take place.

“Many of the facilities recommended in this plan can be implemented in conjunction with already scheduled street rehabilitation projects,” the Bicycle Transportation Plan notes. “When this coordination occurs, costs for implementing the bicycle facilities may be reduced by over 75%.”

According to officials at the Department of Transportation & Engineering, such savings can be achieved since the capital costs can be shared for both sets of improvements, and labor costs can be maximized.

The Bicycle Transportation Plan goes on to state that City Hall will be opportunistic and take advantage of every occasion where bicycle facilities can be included with street rehabilitation projects or other capital projects. Taking such an approach, the adopted policy says, “will reduce costs to the lowest levels possible.”

City Hall, however, has fallen woefully behind on the implementation of the recommendations made in the Bicycle Transportation Plan; and the current administration has even made a point of noting that they do not generally support the idea of on-street bike facilities. Rather, Mayor John Cranley (D) and his administration have focused on investing in off-street recreational bike trails.

Such an approach has left many people who use bikes as a means of transportation frustrated; and with $69 million of CAP going toward road improvement projects, it would seem like a great opportunity to maximize the improvements by performing these projects in a manner that also improves safety conditions for the city’s rapidly growing number of people commuting by bike.

Based on statements from City Hall, however, it seems that it will prove more so to be an opportunity lost; and put the city in an impossible position to meet its adopted policy objectives within their target time frames.

Metro Brings Late Night Bus Back This Saturday

Metro and CincyYP are once again teaming up to encourage young people in Cincinnati to try out the city’s bus service beyond typical commuting uses. This is the third year of this successful  program.

Last year’s entertainment bus event saw more than 400 passenger trips taken. Participants will once again have the opportunity to learn tips to plan their trip including how to read a schedule, catch a bus and use Metro’s real-time apps. There will be special promotions at popular establishments along the event route in downtown, OTR, Oakley, Hyde Park, O’Bryonville, Clifton and East Walnut Hills.

“Cincinnati’s YP leaders truly get how important public transit is to our community, and their commitment to encouraging their peers to use Metro is inspiring,”Metro’s Outreach and Sustainability Manager Kim Lahman stated in a prepared release, “The ‘Late Night Test Ride’ provides us with a safe, fun and adventurous way of introducing young professionals to Metro’s service, while allowing them to get to know our community and one another better.”

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Metro Late Night Test Ride Route Map [Provided]

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Metro Late Night Test Ride Schedule [Provided]

The mobile event will take place this Saturday, April 23 between 8Pm-2AM. Three buses will operate on 30 minute intervals on a route that will take riders around to some 18 bars in seven different neighborhoods.

Many people view transit as a means to get to and from work, but the reality is that nearly three-fourths of all trips made each day have nothing to do with work commutes. As Metro works to grow ridership and expand its customer base, choice riders – those who choose to take transit instead of other alternatives – are becoming an increasingly targeted demographic. Additionally, as the Late Night Test rides are proving, there is a solid demand for late night routes that could be instituted on a more permanent basis.

Unlimited trip passes for the late night shuttle can be purchased online for $8 per person, or $25 for groups of four. The public can also simply purchase single trips at Metro’s normal $1.75 fare anywhere along the route. Those who may not have the cash, or just want to get a bit more involved, are being encouraged to volunteer for two hours and receive a complimentary pass in return.

As Lahman suggests, the hope is to get young people more familiar with using the city’s bus service, and will learn tips about how to plan their trip, read a schedule, catch a bus and use Metro’s real-time arrival services.

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.

VIDEO: Mary Beth McGrew Overseeing UC’s Continued Bold Campus Plans, Designs

The University of Cincinnati has almost completely transformed itself, both academically and physically, over the past 20 years; and one of the people most responsible for that transformation is Mary Beth McGrew.

Over the past decade, McGrew, as University Architect, has overseen the master planning, design, construction, renovation and beautification of 117 buildings with 13.5 million square feet of space, across seven UC locations. She and her team have also managed the sustainability efforts.

What was once a largely commuter school now has become more of an on-campus university – sparking the construction of thousands of residential units in Uptown‘s neighborhoods. What’s more, UC’s main campus has seen virtually every surface parking lot replaced by new development or green space; and continues to see above-ground structures replaced by other more productive uses.

Through her work, and others that preceded her, the University of Cincinnati now boasts one of the world’s most distinctive and award-winning campuses. Such accolades only continue to grow as the university continues its transformation through major projects such as the $86 million renovation of Nippert Stadium, $87 million renovation of Fifth Third Arena, or the construction of the planned new Colleges of Business and Law.

Learn more about the woman behind the designs and plans in the following three-minute video.

Mt. Auburn CDC Hosting Public Meeting to Kick-Off Auburn Avenue Development Plan

The Mt. Auburn Community Development Corporation is one of Cincinnati’s newest CDC, and they are actively working on a number of efforts to position the neighborhood for success as investment continues to spread outward from both downtown and uptown.

In order to get to that point, community leaders say that they need a better understanding of where the community stands, what it wants, and how to get there.

“The future of Mt. Auburn is to have successful development that responds to the needs of the neighborhood,” Carol Gibbs, director of the MACDC, explained to UrbanCincy. “It needs to be inclusive.”

Understanding these needs, Gossman Group, DDA and MKSK submitted a strategic development plan proposal to the MACDC in early March. The proposal includes a multi-phase approach to assessing current conditions, identifying potential improvements, conducting a market study, and determining future land uses, massings and the type of development and redevelopment that would be appropriate for the Auburn Avenue Corridor.

“This plan lays out a process that helps it be inclusive,” Gibbs continued. “It has a history to lay out the foundation and it will include all of the stakeholders – those who live, work and play in Mt. Auburn, developers who are here or have plans to be here, and the City departments that have stepped forward to help make it a smooth process.”

News of Uptown Properties bold plans to move their investments into Mt. Auburn, particularly along the Auburn Avenue corridor, sent shock waves through the uptown community last year when the plans became public. The real estate development company, which got its start by redeveloping properties and marketing them to students at the University of Cincinnati, has, in recent years, transformed swaths of Corryville with new apartment complexes that have often replaced smaller and more historic structures.

Dan Schimberg, President and CEO of Uptown Properties, told UrbanCincy that their plans are to, at first, focus on rehabs along Auburn Avenue, along with a new medical office building at the southwest corner of Auburn and McMillan. From there, he says they intend to look elsewhere throughout the neighborhood at redevelopment opportunities.

It is not yet certain how these plans will factor into the strategic development plan that will get started soon, but so far there has been little talk about retail along Auburn Avenue. That may change, however, through this planning process as some neighborhood leaders are interested in establishing a neighborhood business district in Mt. Auburn.

“The CDC hopes that this plan will help us approach businesses and other investors to point out the potential profitable successes in our neighborhood,” said Gibbs. “Our hope is that this will lead to a neighborhood business district in Mt. Auburn.”

Neighborhood leaders will be kicking off the process of thinking about the future of the neighborhood, and the Auburn Avenue corridor in particular, at a public kick-off meeting tonight at 7pm at Taft Elementary School at 270 Southern Avenue. Organizers say the meeting will be structured as an informational session, and will be followed-up by future public meetings for more people looking to get engaged.