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.

VIDEO: Are ‘Protected Intersections’ the Next Bicycle Infrastructure Innovation?

The City of Cincinnati and other area municipalities have been working to improve the region’s bicycle infrastructure in order to both make cycling more attractive and safer. Those improvements have included new bike lanes, sharrows, cycle tracks, trails and dedicated parking for bikes.

City officials say that protected bike lanes, like the cycle tracks to be installed along Central Parkway, offer the larger population an incentive to get out on their bicycles. Those officials point to results from public polling that show large percentages of people that would be open to riding bikes if they felt safer on the roads, and that protected bike lanes would do wonders to accomplishing that.

But Nick Falbo, an urban planner and designer at Alta Planning+Design, thinks protected bike lanes aren’t enough.

“Protected bike lanes lose their benefits when they reach intersections,” Falbo states in his six-minute-long video proposal. “The buffer falls away and you’re faced with an ambiguous collection of green paint, dashed lines and bicycle markings.”

In his submission to the George Mason University 2014 Cameron Rian Hays Outside the Box Competition, Falbo proposes what he calls the Protected Intersection - a design overhaul for intersections that he says will not only improve the value and safety of protected bike lanes, but also make the intersection more usable for all modes of traffic.

“It doesn’t matter how safe and protected your bike lane is, if intersections are risky, stressful experiences. We need to make intersections just as safe and secure as the lanes that lead into them. What the protected bike lane needs is a protected intersection.”

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.

Decision from Board of Trustees More Than a Decade Ago Doomed Wilson Auditorium

In early 2000s the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees voted to build a new academic building for the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences along Clifton Avenue. That plan, of course, never came to reality due to fiscal constraints, but the unintended victim of that decision now be found in the rubble left behind by the now demolished Wilson Auditorium.

University officials revealed to UrbanCincy that while the Board of Trustees approved the new buildings, they did nothing to accommodate the ongoing maintenance costs of the aging Wilson Auditorium in the meantime. As a result, the building significantly deteriorated over the past five or so years.

In December part of the vision the Board of Trustees approved years ago came to reality when the 83-year-old structure was leveled. There are no plans, however, for any new academic facility to take its spot at this time.

Wilson Auditorium Site
Wilson Auditorium is now gone, but what will ultimately happen with the prominent site is anyone’s guess. Photograph by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy.

According to the director of project management with the University of Cincinnati Office of Planning + Design + Construction, Dale Beeler, the site will be used as temporary classroom space during the $18.5 million renovation of the Teachers College over the next two years. That temporary space will amount to 25,000 square feet of modular buildings that the University of Cincinnati purchased from Cincinnati Public Schools following the district’s renovation of Walnut Hills High School.

What will happen with the prominent site on the university’s main campus is not yet clear.

“It is a too valuable piece of ground to leave unbuilt for an extended period of time,” explained Beeler. “Whatever is built there, however, would probably not be as imposing or close to Clifton Avenue as Wilson Auditorium.”

While the possibilities are wide open, the site is not. The small piece of land is surrounded by complicated slopes and other structures. The challenging site forced the previous design for the Arts & Sciences building to include a “tremendous amount of underground space” so that it was less imposing above ground.

While some rumors have included the possibility of a parking garage on the site, Beeler says that it will most likely be for some sort of academic use – indicating that either the Arts & Sciences building could come back into play, or the site could be used as the home for the new $70 million College of Law building.

Beeler was quick to deny that there were any plans in place to build new classroom space for the School of Design’s industrial design program, as was posted on the construction fence surrounding Wilson Auditorium’s demolition. It is assumed that this was prank by a student at the adjacent College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning (DAAP).

Until any solidified plans are put on the table and funded, students and area residents and workers, Beeler says, will at least be able to enjoy a better view of McMicken Hall.

“It’s amazing what it’s done for the view of McMicken Hall from that side of campus! It looks twice as big and twice as imposing.”

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.

PHOTOS: Holidays in the City [Cincinnati]

It has been quite a year in Cincinnati and it’s easy to sometimes get caught up in all the drama and miss out on the everyday beauty around you. This has been particularly true in Cincinnati this holiday season, but we asked one of our favorite local photographers, Brian Spitzig, to go around and gather some photographs these past two months.

If his name sounds familiar, that might be because you are remembering when we featured two of Brian’s tilt-shift videos on UrbanCincy in February 2012 and March 2012.

After reaching out to Brian again he put together the following collection of 48 photographs from all over the city that capture it in its holiday splendor. If you like Brian’s photos as much as we do, then please follow him on Twitter @b_spitz and on Instagram @bspitz.

This will be our last post this year, but we hope you all had a very wonderful 2013 and wish you the best in the year to come. Enjoy!

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