Month in Review – March 2014

The top news story in March 2014 was the arrival of Uber and Lyft in Cincinnati, as two of UrbanCincy’s top articles were focused on their services and what it means for the taxicab industry. Road and bike infrastructure were also in the news, along with a new historic preservation movement bringing people together to save several key buildings.

In case you missed any of them, here’s a look back at our five most popular stories from last month:

    1. Uber and Lyft to Soon Enter Cincinnati Market
      Two ‘ridesharing’ companies are moving into the Cincinnati market.
    2. VIDEO: Are ‘Protected Intersections’ the Next Bicycle Infrastructure Innovation?
      As Cincinnati works to expand its bicycling infrastructure with bike lanes and cycle tracks, we may need to include this one additional consideration.
    3. Uber Officials Credit Cincinnati’s Urban Revival, Tech Scene for their Arrival
      Uber used geolocation information to learn that there was “pent up demand” for their service in the Cincinnati area.
    4. Snow Accumulation Highlights Cincinnati’s Over-Engineered Streets through ‘Sneckdowns’
      Thanks to the large accumulation of snow on city streets this winter, it was easy to tell where roads are over-engineered.
    5. Cincinnati Preservation Collective Draws from Different Backgrounds to Save Buildings
      A new group is channeling their effort into saving five buildings of historic significance in Cincinnati.

 

New Workshops Hope to Assist Homebuyers Looking to Rehab in Over-the-Rhine

Aside from buying the latest condominiums available through 3CDC, owning a home in historic Over-the-Rhine can be a challenge. Many buildings that are not already occupied are typically abandoned and some are in dire condition of falling apart.

There have been plenty of people who have taken on the task to rehab abandoned buildings only to find that they may have taken on too much. The Over-the-Rhine Foundation is hoping that a new workshop will help those interested in rehabbing historic buildings make the connections, get the information and understand the potential challenges involved with such a process.

Beginning in April, the Over-the-Rhine Foundation is launching a series of three workshops geared towards addressing these challenges. Organizers say that boosting home ownership rates is one of the major goals of the foundation.

“We as a foundation are committed to revitalizing the diverse OTR neighborhood, and a key objective is building community by encouraging and promoting owner-occupied development,” Kevin Pape, President of the Over-the-Rhine Foundation, said in a prepared statement.

Pape says that the three-part series will begin with an overview of the scope of rehabbing property in the 19th century neighborhood. That first session will end with an optional walking tour of rehabbed properties, while the second and third sessions will provide a more in-depth look at the process of rehab and financing.

“These workshops will help individuals gain access to the resources, expertise, and development tools needed to ensure the success of their community investments,” Pape continued.

Registration for all three workshops is $35 until April 4, when the registration fee will then increase to $50. The sessions will take place at the Art Academy of Cincinnati (map) and will occur on Saturday, April 12, May 10 and June 14. Those interested can currently register on the Over-the-Rhine Foundation’s website.

All photographs by Travis Estell for UrbanCincy.

Will Detroit actually demolish 117,000 buildings over the next five years?

At the end of 2012 we sounded the alarm about a new grant from the State of Ohio that would allow for Hamilton County leaders to demolish approximately 700 buildings in the name of blight removal. Well try this on for size: the City of Detroit has proposed increasing its blight removal budget so that it can demolish 400 to 450 buildings a week over the next five years. For those keeping score, that would be anywhere from 104,000 to 117,000 total demolitions. More from The Detroit News:

Orr filed his debt-cutting plan of adjustment last month in U.S. Bankruptcy Court and continues to meet opposition from retirees and other city creditors, but says his main focus is getting Detroit on track for its 700,000 residents.

Orr’s plan calls for the infusion of $1.5 billion into capital improvements over the next decade. Among them is an ambitious plan to target Detroit’s blight that Orr insists is “doable.” Orr dedicated about $520 million to blight removal over the next five years. The funding would ramp up demolitions from 114 a week to between 400 and 450.

Lower Price Hill Community School Aiming to Rebuild Neighborhood, Lives through Cooperative Approach

The efforts to revitalize inner-city neighborhoods across the country have been well-documented, but it is not often that these efforts revolve around a truly cooperative approach. But this is exactly what Lower Price Hill Community School’s (LPHCS) Community Matters non-profit organization is trying to do.

Lower Price Hill is a relatively small neighborhood in terms of size, but its central location, historic building stock, and close proximity to both the Ohio River and Downtown make it extremely important.

The neighborhood was originally built in the 19th century in order to provide housing for workers in the Mill Creek Valley. Today the neighborhood is largely made up of Appalachians and a more recent influx of Hispanic immigrants from Guatemala.

Knowing the community inside and out, LPHCS, which is also is made up of a second non-profit called Education Matters, has developed a unique model of community redevelopment that places the neighborhood’s residents at the center of decision making and management. To this end, Community Matters will soon embark on a number of cooperative initiatives that will aim to both empower neighborhood residents and also provide them with something their neighborhood needs.

The Sanctuary - Lower Price Hill
Interior rendering of The Sanctuary upon completion. Image provided.

“While we’re doing all of these projects, we want to help provide jobs to these groups and folks in the city, but also help employ folks in the community and even give them some ownership,” Mike Moroski, Director of Outreach Services at LPHCS, explained in a phone interview.

The first project is an $8.2 million renovation of the St. Michael the Archangel Parish buildings.

In order to move this project forward, the neighborhood took it upon itself to raise the first $2 million and using that as a commitment in order to leverage an additional $6.2 million in state and federal tax credits. Once complete, the renovated buildings will serve as a community focal point and special events venue, called The Sanctuary.

The next project will be a laundromat called Washing Well, which will feature eight washers and eight dryers. Due to the age of the neighborhood and low average household incomes, most residents need to use laundromats, but none currently exist in Lower Price Hill.

Moroski says that Washing Well will be an earned-income venture at first for Community Matters, but will be owned and managed by the Lower Price Hill community, with its revenues eventually going back into the neighborhood to support additional investment while also covering the costs of operating the laundromat.

During this process, LPHCS will also develop a co-op service learning center, along Warsaw Avenue, to support its existing GED program and a new Cincinnati State satellite operation, both of which will be managed by Education Matters.

After that Community Matters will move forward with renovating Urban Appalachian Council’s former building at Eighth and State Streets, which will then become the home of Jack’s Diner – the neighborhood’s only restaurant.

Moroski says that they decided to name it Jack’s Diner after one of LPHCS’ most engaged workers who developed a passion for the food industry after going through the Freestore Foodbank’s Cincinnati Cooks program.

Jack will manage the restaurant and has even come up with the idea of doing bike delivery service from the restaurant to businesses in Queensgate. Like the new Laundromat, the restaurant will start as an earned-income venture, but then be turned over to the community as a co-op.

In addition to all of this, Moroski says that Community Matters will open a thrift store, choice food pantry, and launch a business incubator in conjunction with Xavier University.

The cooperative visions for Lower Price Hill do not end, or even begin, with this wave of initiatives. When talking with Moroski, it is easy to see that Waterfields serves as a major inspiration for Community Matters.

Waterfields began operating in 2013 as an urban warehouse that provides restaurants with fresh micro-greens, and makes a point of employing Lower Price Hill residents at their rapidly growing aquaponics company. One of the company’s two founders also lives in the neighborhood.

Oyler School is another bright spot for the community. Since its $21 million renovation in 2012, it has been viewed as a national model for community involvement and engagement, attracting visits from prominent leaders from around the country to learn from its successes.

“What Dan started at Waterfields, what we’re doing, and with what Oyler is doing; all of these forces combining at one time is very cool,” exclaimed Moroski. “It’s all right here.”

Lower Price Hill is, perhaps, one of Cincinnati’s more overlooked neighborhoods, but with a strong neighborhood school, engaged community group, rapidly growing local food production business, laundromat, community and events center, restaurant and more all owned and managed by the community, the future only seems strong.

Those who want to help facilitate the process are encouraged to contribute to the LPHCS IndieGoGo campaign to help provide funding for these new initiatives. And Moroski says to be on the lookout for unique events that will be held throughout the year, culminating in the fall with what he is billing a “big blowout” event to close out the campaign in early October.

“With one donation you can support green energy, co-op business models, creation of pathways to careers, re-imagining historic buildings for new use, and the breathing of renewed life into a beautiful neighborhood.”

Cincinnati Preservation Collective Draws from Different Backgrounds to Save Buildings

Cincinnati Preservation Collective (CPC) is a new group of preservationists who are passionate about taking action to save historic buildings.

Founded in late 2013, CPC acts as an open forum for conversation around historic preservation. The group is made up of organizations and individuals bonded by a common passion: their love of historic structures and the belief that the benefits of saving these buildings often outweigh the costs.

“I think the word collective is important in the name because it indicates that we are a diverse group of people open to anybody which can hope to influence preservation in the city,” said co-founder John Blatchford in an email interview with UrbanCincy.

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Led by Blatchford and co-founder Diana Tisue, meetings are held about once a month, and at any given meeting you will find a mix of graduate students, architects, urban planners and former city employees, not to mention members of other preservation groups like Cincinnati Preservation Association and UC’s Preservation Action Network.

Though the group is relatively young, CPC has a lofty mission: to proactively save buildings. This year CPC says they are channeling their efforts around five “impact buildings” that have been chosen by the group and are either in danger of demolition, or are considered in need of awareness, stabilization or mediation.

CPC’s 2014 Impact Buildings
900 E. McMillan (The Paramount Building), Walnut Hills
2012-2014 Vine Street, Over-the-Rhine
1606-1608 Walnut Street, Over-the-Rhine
1706 Lang Street, Over-the-Rhine
1119-1123 Main Street (Davis Furniture Building), Over-the-Rhine

The group hopes to positively impact these buildings in 2014, whether it is simply by drawing attention to a neglected building or ultimately connecting the property with a buyer or a renovator.

“We understand that saving a building or respecting its history is not easy for a building owner, but we, as a group, have the knowledge and resources to help out,” Blatchford said. “The dream is that everybody would look for all alternatives to demolition first and that we could be a key resource to make that viable. We want demolition to be reserved for select and very extreme cases.”

While the group’s primary focus is centered around these five impact buildings, CPC says that they are looking to also build awareness for the organization and attract new members through regular meetings, educational events and fundraising.

So far the group has organized a handful of community outreach events. In February, for example, CPC deployed a guerilla-style “heart bombing” where they covered the impact buildings with valentines.

“We did that to bring up advocacy for the building and show that somebody loved it,” Tisue said. The group also had a float in Friday’s Bockfest Parade, complete with a Chinese Dragon-style goat and a New Orleans jazz band.

While the heart bombing and the Bockfest Parade aimed to get the word out about CPC, their next event will focus on connecting the community to other preservation projects.

This Thursday CPC will host a “Pitch Party” that will put 10 presenters on a stage to pitch their preservation-related project in five minutes or less. The best idea will be chosen by audience vote and the winner will receive $500 donated by the Cincinnati Preservation Association.

“Part of what CPC is doing is trying to build community and show that preservation and community go hand-in-hand,” Tisue explained. While $500 in seed funding can certainly get a project off the ground, they say that the primary goal of the Pitch Party is to share projects with an audience that is interested in getting involved with preservation.

“Pretty much any preservation project needs the manual labor and the volunteer hours from the community, but they also need support from the community,” Tisue said. “[Pitch Party] is a night of sharing projects with people and people with projects, connecting and building a bridge between community organizations and community.”

The Cincinnati Preservation Collective Pitch Party will take place on Thursday, March 13 at Venue 222. Doors open at 6pm and the event will begin at 7:30pm. Tickets are free but organizers do request those attending to RSVP through EventBrite.

Building illustrations by Derek Scacchetti.

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.”