Groundbreaking For Region’s First Tiny Homes To Take Place This Wednesday

After a year of work, Cincinnati’s first modern iterations of tiny living will soon become a reality when ground is broken on Wednesday, October 14.

The project was made possible through People’s Liberty, which awarded one of its first two Haile Fellowships to Brad Cooper last December. Since that time, Cooper, a professionally trained architect, has been working on the designs for the two homes.

Throughout the process, Cooper says that he has come across various challenges, but some of the most pressing have been related to the economics behind the homes. One of the driving goals of the project has been to create affordable living options for working class individuals. As a result, early on he partnered with the Over-the-Rhine Community Housing to secure the purchase of the two properties on Peete Street for just $1.

One of the homes is being made available to anyone interested in purchasing it, and will be listed at $200,000. This will include solar power generation on-site and a 15-year tax abatement valued at $98,000. The other home will be restricted to those that meet annual income qualifications set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Cincinnati region.

“Hindsight provides some extra knowledge,” Cooper told UrbanCincy. “I would have liked the pricing to be less than what they’re set at now, but I still think it’s a good deal.”

While Cooper believes strongly in the final product, he does wish that some things were done differently in order to help reduce costs even more. In particular, that would have included completing the geotechnical investigation earlier and selecting a general contractor earlier in the process.

One of the changes made to the design for the income restricted home was the removal of the parking space. When the initial designs were unveiled on UrbanCincy, the incorporation of parking spaces for both homes was a major sticking point for many readers.

“Most people that have been to the site want a parking space and the surrounding neighbors agree,” Cooper explained. “It could be something a homeowner says they don’t want and we’ll have that conversation.”

Another criticism of the project has been that the two tiny homes might not be appropriate for a neighborhood like Over-the-Rhine that is populated with larger, multi-family buildings. Cooper says that he is looking forward to doing another project that is multi-family somewhere else in the neighborhood.

“Over-the-Rhine is ideal for micro living because anything you need is a short walk away, but that’s not exclusive to OTR,” said Cooper. “Cincinnati has some great inner ring neighborhoods.”

While higher densities may be the future for micro-apartments in Cincinnati, the two tiny homes on Peete Street – the first of their kind in Cincinnati – are something Cooper and People’s Liberty say they are proud to have introduced to the region.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work on a development project totally different than what’s being built today in Cincinnati,” Cooper said. “People’s Liberty offers the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and dream big by diving deep into a challenge without requiring traditional performance metrics or revenue generation.”

The groundbreaking for the two tiny homes will take place at 5:30pm at 144 Peete Street this Wednesday. The free event is open to the public, and will include light food, cider and complimentary polaroid photos of guests digging on-site.

Based on early interest, Cooper says that he expects to close on the first home by the end of the month. Those that are interested in purchasing either of the homes can contact him at, or submit an inquiry on the project’s website.

Start Small, Live Large Event to Engage Homebuyers Interested in Tiny Living

In December we announced that one of our writers had won one of prestigious Haile fellowships at People’s Liberty. As part of that, Brad Cooper would receive $100,000 to quit his job and spend the next year developing a concept for affordable, tiny living in Over-the-Rhine.

Over the past five months Cooper has been developing his design, based on community and professional feedback; and he is now ready to present his initial designs at an event he’s hosting Wednesday evening at the Over-the-Rhine Recreation Center.

The event, called Start Small, Live Large, will showcase Cooper’s design concepts thus far, while also presenting additional information for those interested in purchasing one of the two 250-square-foot homes he plans to initially develop. In fact, this is actually the first of a series of events that interested homebuyers will be required to attend in order to eventually purchase one of the homes.

Cooper says that only those interested in eventually buying one of the homes should attend the event. He also notes that those potential homebuyers will need to attend only one of the events as part of this series.

To help these prospective investors better understand the process, Start Small, Live Large will feature a “Homebuyer 101” presentation from Working in Neighborhoods, with a question and answer period to follow.

The event will take place from 6pm to 7:30pm at the Over-the-Rhine Recreation Center at 1715 Republic Street. Light refreshments will be provided.

VIDEO: Smale Riverfront Park’s Carousel Taking Shape in Mansfield

Carol Ann’s Carousel is taking shape about three hours north of Cincinnati in Mansfield. It is there where master wood carvers are hand-crafting the $1 million showpiece for Smale Riverfront Park.

Carol Ann’s Carousel is being built by an Ohio company that claims to be world’s largest manufacturer of wooden carousels. Founded in 1986, Carousel Works has built dozens of the rides that are now in operation throughout North America. According to their employees, Cincinnati’s is one of the more unique and interesting projects they have worked on to-date.

“I’ve got to work on some really fun ones so far, but I have to say that the Cincinnati’s carousel is going to be really fantastic,” explained carver Tim Gorka. “I  really think it’s going to be a favorite of most of the people working here.”

The $4.5 million structure that will house the amusement ride is now largely in place, with the glass walls and roofing all in place just west of the Roebling Suspension Bridge along the central riverfront.

Project officials say that the progress is advancing according to plan, and that the 44-character carousel will open to the public on Saturday, May 16.

System Designs Unveiled, Operating Agreement Reached for Cincinnati Streetcar

Officials with the City of Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) made several major announcements last week pertaining to the rollout of the Cincinnati Streetcar system.

While the design of the rolling stock and the system’s color scheme were revealed more than a year ago, the official branding for the new mode of transit for the Cincinnati region had not. SORTA officials say that the branding will be utilized all throughout the system including its fare cards, ticketing machines, uniforms, wayfinding, brochures, website and social media, and, of course, the trains and their stations.

The branding scheme was put together by Kolar Design, whose offices are located in the Eighth Street Design District just two blocks from the nearest streetcar stop, after competing with more than 100 other firms interested in the opportunity to developing the design scheme.

Project officials say that the $25,000 cost for the branding effort was paid for through Federal funds.

Founders Club Card Sales
At the same time, SORTA and City officials announced the availability of 1,500 Founders Club Cards. The sale of the cards, officials said, would help raise some initial funds to be used to help offset initial operating expenses.

Project officials have informed UrbanCincy that approximately half of the 1,500 cards were sold within the first 24 hours of going on sale; and that more than 1,000 had been sold by Friday. A limited number of Founders Club Cards are still available for purchase at the Second Floor Cashier’s Office at City Hall, Metro’s sales office in the Mercantile Arcade across from Government Square, and online at Metro’s website.

There are three card options available. The first goes for $25 and allows for unlimited rides for the first 15 days of service, which is currently pegged for 2016. The second and third options go for $50 and $100, and allow for unlimited rides for the first 30 and 60 days, respectively.

The commemorative metal cards and matching metal cases were seen by some as one of the first ways for Cincinnati Streetcar supporters to show their support. Having experienced strong sales thus far, it seems as Metro’s strategy may prove to be a success.

“This is one of the first tangible opportunities streetcar enthusiasts can show their support,” said City Councilwoman Amy Murray (R), Transportation Committee Chair. “This is a great idea that Metro has developed to generate excitement. I think many will appreciate the privilege of being a Founding Club Member with this commemorative card.”

Operating Agreement Finalized
Perhaps lost amid the other news was the signing of an official operating agreement. Under the current structure, the City of Cincinnati is building the system, and is its owner, but will contract out its operations to SORTA.

The Cincinnati Streetcar Operating & Maintenance Agreement first came out of Murray’s Transportation Committee and was approved 7-2 by City Council in early November. It calls for expanded on-street parking enforcement in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine until 9pm, an increase in parking rates in those two neighborhoods, and a set streetcar fare of $1 for two hours.

The agreement also utilizes an innovative technique that would lower property tax abatements 7.5%. This is an important component of the agreement as it addresses a longstanding call from opponents for those benefiting from real estate valuation increases to cover more of the costs of modern streetcar system. It also eliminates the need to utilize the Haile Foundation’s $9 million pledge, and would instead only tap into those funds in a worst-case scenario.

Project officials estimate that the system will cost approximately $3.8 to $4.2 million annually to operate, and that those costs would be covered by $1.5 million in additional on-street parking revenue in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine, $1.3 million from fares and advertising, and an estimated $2 million annually from the tax abatement reductions.

“This is the most innovative plan I’ve seen in the United States,” stated John Schneider, noted transit advocate and real estate developer, at the time of City Council’s approval in November.

The SORTA Board approved the agreement last week and touted the benefits of having operations of the Cincinnati Streetcar be handled through Metro, which also runs the region’s largest bus service.

In addition to the critical financing elements of the agreement, it also delineates various responsibilities once service goes into effect. To that end, the City of Cincinnati will be in charge of maintaining traffic signals, clearing blockages from the streetcar path, cooperation on utility interfaces, safety and security; while SORTA will be responsible for operating the system, maintaining vehicles and facilities, fare collection provision and maintenance, marketing and advertising sales.

Construction on the $148 million first phase of the Cincinnati Streetcar continues to progress, with most track work in Over-the-Rhine now complete and track work now progressing through the Central Business District. Current time frames call for operations to begin in September 2016.

Start Small – An Individual Approach to Redevelopment

As one of the 2015 Haile Fellows at People’s Liberty, I will design and build two, 200 sq.ft. net-zero energy tiny homes in Over-the-Rhine. The goal is to address the issue of affordable housing at all socioeconomic levels. The main idea is that anyone at any income level should have the opportunity to invest in their community via home ownership.

During 2015 I will be periodically share project updates with UrbanCincy and author articles about topics related to Start Small. Below is an introduction to Start Small and survey results about tiny homes in Cincinnati.


Tiny homes offer an individual approach to address the rising cost of urban home ownership. While household median income in Greater Cincinnati has been relatively stagnant over the past 5 years, median sales prices have been slowly rising in Cincinnati, and more sharply in Over-the-Rhine. The tiny homes being built are intended to be affordable for an individual earning between $15,000 and $25,000 annually.


There are four possible sites in Over-the-Rhine, one parcel on Mulberry and East Clifton, and two parcels on Peete. This area differs greatly from land south of McMicken because of the hillside. Historically this area of the neighborhood had a number of 1 and 2-story buildings and has not been as densely populated as the rest of the neighborhood, likely because of the hillside.

brewery district NESanborn Fire insurance map from 1904. Courtesy of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

NE OTR_simpleModern day plan


Start Small will design and build two net-zero energy tiny homes on a permanent foundation. Three concept model plans have been drawn, but no design has been finalized.

Three concepts

Below are preliminary results from an online survey that is still accepting responses. The survey and input at a Community Visioning Session in February will inform a final design.


Data Visualization by Amy Kwong


Data Visualization by Amy Kwong

Your participation is needed. Click here to start describing your tiny home…if you want one!