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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Christkindlmarkt Returns for Three Full Weekends This Holiday Season

Organizers are bringing the Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt back for its second holiday season this year, starting Thanksgiving weekend and operating each weekend until December 15.

Last year’s Christkindlmarkt took place every weekend on Fountain Square. This year the festive seasonal marketplace will spend its first weekend on Fountain Square and then move for its final two weekends to Essen Strasse on the south side of Findlay Market in historic Over-the-Rhine.

“It was decided to move the Christkindlmarkt to Findlay Market for the following two weekends because it is the most iconic market place in the city, and is representative of Cincinnati’s German culture,” explained Lisa Bambach, marketing and creative director for Cincideutsch. “It is a link not only to Cincinnati’s German past, but also to the vibrant German-American culture which continues to permeate the city today.”

Cincinnati Christkindlmarkt
Visitors at Cincinnati’s inaugural Christkindlmarkt on Fountain Square in 2012. Photograph by Paige Malott.

Christkindlmarkt have been a holiday tradition in town centers throughout Germany and Austria for hundreds of years.

“It is a place for people to get together with family and friends to enjoy the seasonal weather and celebrate the holidays,” explained Olaf Scheil, a native of Lübeck, Germany and president and co-founder of Cincideutsch. “We are thrilled to be able to bring this tradition to the people of Cincinnati for the second year in a row.”

After more than 15,000 people visited last year, Scheil expects a similar number of visitors to come and enjoy the Christkindlmarkt this season. To help keep things interesting and active, organizers have coordinated live music, glass blowing, holiday sweets and baked goods, drink, decorations and crafts for sale within half-timbered houses.

In addition to the European baked goods, a hot spiced wine called Glühwein is also considered to be a holiday favorite amongst visitors. And in Cincinnati and German fashion, there will also be plenty of beer to go around.

“Glühwein is something I look forward to making each year since I first tried it in Switzerland,” Bambach confessed. “The aroma of the spices reminds me of Christmas just like the smell of pumpkin makes me think of Thanksgiving. It is a consistent feature at Christkindlmarkt in Europe, no matter which city you visit.”

Cincinnati’s Christkindlmarkt is sponsored by Christian Moerlein Brewing Company and will kick off in coordination with Macy’s Light Up The Square and DCI’s Downtown Dazzle on November 29 through December 1. The seasonal market will then move to Findlay Market December 6-8 and December 13-15. Both locations will have heaters to help keep visitors warm on cold days.

“We received both positive and negative feedback from 2012, and we have worked diligently to improve visitors’ experiences based on those comments,” Bambach noted. “The market is completely organized and run by volunteers, and in our second year we wanted to expand while also ensuring the growth was manageable.”

The Christkindlmarkt will be open from 11am to 9pm on Friday and Saturday, and 11am to 5pm on Sunday at Fountain Square. The market will then be open in coordination with normal Findlay Market hours when it moves there for its final two weekends.

Metro Celebrates 40 Years of Transit Service in Cincinnati

Mass transit in Cincinnati has been around for 124 years, but the service provided by Metro is still 40 years young. The first buses in the Queen City arrived in 1926 and had grown in popularity by the 1960s.

During this time, it was managed by a private company named Cincinnati Street Railway. In 1973, the City of Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) partnered to establish Metro in order to improve ridership and the quality of the buses. It was then Metro became the city’s first publicly owned and operated transportation system.

Metro 40th Anniversary Vow Renewal
After meeting on Metro’s first day of service 40 years ago, Captain Rex and Anita Settlemoir renewed their wedding vows on Thursday. Photograph by Paige Malott for UrbanCincy.

To celebrate their 40th anniversary, Metro hosted an afternoon of festivities on Fountain Square. Four buses were displayed along Fifth Street, including a vintage Cincinnati Street Railway bus which had been preserved by the Cincinnati Transit Historical Society.

Local vendors Queen City Bike, Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library, Cincinnati Parks, and the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) handed out freebies while Binny and Buddy, mascots for Rumpke and Hoxworth Blood Center, entertained the crowd. Metro’s booth even featured a spin-the-wheel game were participants could win an assortment of products from Metro including hand sanitizer, tote bags, or miniature model Metro buses.

“We’re celebrating 40 years of connecting people and places, supporting economic development and improving the quality of life in Greater Cincinnati,” announced Terry Garcia Crews, CEO of Metro.

In addition to celebrating the organization’s anniversary, a local couple celebrated their 40th anniversary as well. Captain Rex and Anita Settlemoir met while riding Metro in during its first year of service. The Settlemoirs took part in a wedding vow renewal and were escorted to Fountain Square by a Metro*Plus bus; the newest vehicle introduced to the fleet.

“You could just hear the love and see it in their eyes,” smiled Jill Dunne, Public Affairs Manager for Metro.

With 40 being the new 20, the city wonders what’s next for Metro.

“Metro has so many exciting things ahead,” explained Dunne. “Next week, we launch our Metro*Plus rapid bus service in the Montgomery corridor, and we are adding new connections on the west side, as well as more east-west routes.”

“And that is just the start!” Dunne laughed. “I can’t even imagine what our service will look like in 2053. I’m hoping for flying buses.”

PHOTOS: A Look Back at Spring in the Queen City

We have had an eventful spring at UrbanCincy. We’ve had our monthly URBANexchange events at Moerlein Lager House, we hosted the 2013 edition of Bikes+Brews, produced original videography and photography, and dozens of original stories.

Our annual Bikes+Brews ride on May 4 attracted our largest crowd yet and we traveled from Findlay Market through Over-the-Rhine, to Nicholson’s Pub in the Central Business District, across the Ohio River to Keystone Bar & Grill in Covington and The Elusive Cow Cafe in Bellevue, and then back across the river to Via Vite at Fountain Square.

Our URBANexchange events, meanwhile, continue to attract people who are new to Cincinnati and those that are interested in getting more involved with the growing urbanist movement in the Queen City. These events are smaller than the Bikes+Brews ride, but they tend to attract one to two dozen people to the biergarten at Moerlein Lager House. Hopefully we’ll see you at the next one on Wednesday, July 10 from 5:30pm to 8:30pm (come and go as you please).

With summer officially beginning this Friday, June 21, I thought it would be a good time to share 28 of my favorite photos from this spring. Enjoy!

Via Vite to Open New Rooftop Piazza Today

Via Vite PiazzaVia Vite will host a grand opening party for their new rooftop bar and dining space overlooking Fountain Square. The new space, referred to as a piazza, features an outdoor bar and unobstructed views of Fountain Square and video board.

The piazza will naturally expand the outdoor dining options Via Vite has been adding in between its main entrance and the Fountain Square Garage headhouse, and follows the same general design concepts used on the existing Via Vite structure.

Managers say that the new space can handle approximately 40 to 50 people, and guests will be able to get both drinks and light food served there. Management also says that the piazza can be reserved for special events.

Via Vite opened in 2007 following the $49 million renovation of Fountain Square and its underground garage.

The restaurant sits directly above the parking garage entrance along Vine Street, and was opened by the son of Nicola Pietoso who continues to run the acclaimed Nicola’s Ristorante Italiano in Over-the-Rhine.

John Schneider on the ‘Cincinnati Process’

When millions of fresh eyes recently trained on our city, Great American Ball Park (GABP) bore no scars from its labored birth which required a divisive election, moving an interstate highway, and seven years from the evening it was sketched-out on a restaurant placemat until the first pitch was thrown.

Nested comfortably in Cincinnati’s new riverfront, GABP’s unlikely location in the former eastbound lanes of Fort Washington Way (I-71) entailed narrowing the highway by half and extending downtown’s street grid to the Ohio River shore. Consolidating the garage and roadway budgets for the Reds and the Bengals in one place gave us a flood-proof waterfront for the first time in our 225-year history and provided the foundation for The Banks.


The construction of Great American Ball Park on the riverfront allowed for the rest of the land to be lifted out of the Ohio River floodplain, thus leading to the development of The Banks and Smale Riverfront Park. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

Proponents of an alternative ball park site at Broadway Commons park gathered signatures to place the stadium location question on the November, 1998 Hamilton County ballot. Shown how the Reds could be the keystone of a new neighborhood on the Ohio, the site at Second and Main won by a 2-1 margin.

Great American Ball Park wasn’t the first time Cincinnatians resisted progress. In the mid-Nineties, we actually voted not to build the Aronoff Center for the Arts. Influential arts patrons feared its construction would cause the abandonment of Music Hall. So they put a proposal to scuttle the project on the city ballot, and it passed. But the Aronoff was a project of the state of Ohio, which built it anyway.

Remember the ridiculous debate about moving the Tyler Davidson Fountain? Many influential Cincinnatians opposed 3CDC’s total renovation of Fountain Square a few years ago, which was the decisive building block for a 24/7 downtown. Getting property owners to underwrite Downtown Cincinnati Inc. also took some doing, but the central business district is now clean and safe with energized stakeholders.


Not building Great American Ball Park at Broadway Commons has allowed for that site’s development into the new Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati in Pendleton. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

We argued about expanding our convention center, but that eventually got done too. More meetings came to Cincinnati, a spiffy new hotel opened, another will open soon, and money flowed into our economy.

So tell me, had the naysayers prevailed, which of these civic assets would we happily do without?

Such is The Cincinnati Process. We reflexively enforce the status quo, yet we often succeed spectacularly in spite of ourselves. Detractors can easily challenge any public proposal if they set their minds to it. They can exploit uncertainty. They can delay and drive up the costs. And they have the referendum as a ready tool. Successful sponsors learn to right-size their projects for local appetites, adapt in response to new information, and gain supporters as complex issues are resolved. The ironic result is that the most criticized ideas—the ridiculed ones, the ones they said would never happen—those are often the ones able to run the gantlet and exceed expectations.

The circumstances that shaped our 21st century waterfront were so rare and of such scale they won’t be repeated in any of our lifetimes. Fortunately, agile planning and execution has given us momentum and confidence for seizing other opportunities for improving our city. Going forward, Cincinnati can have progress or The Process but probably not both.

This guest editorial was authored by John Schneider, who led citizens’ efforts to build Great American Ball Park and the Cincinnati Streetcar, and was originally published in the November 15, 2012 print edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The editorial, however, was never published on the Internet until now with permission from the Cincinnati Enquirer. If you would like to have your thoughts published on UrbanCincy you can do so by submitting your guest editorial to urbancincy@gmail.com.