Take a Look at CVG’s Abandoned Concourse C Through Ronny Salerno’s Lens

Ronny Salerno has established himself as one of the region’s best photo journalists. He covers the stories not often given light in the typical news cycle. The stories he publishes on his website, Queen City Discovery, aren’t often current events, but they are always topical.

One of his more recent features that garnered national attention uncovered the history of a ghost ship left stranded downstream from Cincinnati in a small tributary to the Ohio River. Salerno has become well-known for his thoughtful coverage of abandoned buildings and their stories they hold.

The most recent feature of his looks at the now abandoned Concourse C at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). While Concourse C was once a symbol of CVG’s prominence and significance, it is now a visual reminder of how far the airline industry in general, and the airport in specific, have fallen over the past decade.

Regional air travel, which is what Concourse C catered to through its Comair service, is becoming more and more a thing of the past. Throughout Europe, China, Japan and Korea, where inter-city high speed rail is prevalent, regional air travel has already fallen by the wayside. In North America, inter-city bus travel has grown in popularity while Amtrak sets ridership records each year.

But still, no sign of comprehensive inter-city high speed rail seems to be anywhere in the near future for Canada and the United States. What will that mean for metropolitan regions with millions of people, like Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, now being left off the map? Smaller regions, like Birmingham, already lack expansive air service and must rely on larger metropolitan regions nearby for service.

Many cities and regions are being left off the map and have fewer and fewer transportation options to get from one city to the next. Who knows what that will mean for these people and regions in the future, but for now please take a look back at the history and stories of CVG’s Concourse C.

The Concourse: Part 1 – Island in a Stream of Runways
The Concourse: Part 2 – Unaccompanied Minor
The Concourse: Part 3 – The Film (embedded above)

The fall of 1994 was a good time for regional airliner Comair, the company had just opened a second hub in its hometown at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Regional Airport (CVG). Dubbed “Concourse C,” the building was an island in a stream of runways, accessible to passengers only via shuttle busses and the flights they arrived on. The concourse was always a center of human activity amongst the tarmac – featuring shops, eateries and over 50 gates to destinations across the continental United States.

It was a place where people reunited, strangers shared drinks between travels and employees fought the daily grind.

Comair was purchased by Delta Airlines in 2000 and both airlines plunged into bankruptcy protection by 2005. After emerging from bankruptcy in 2007, Delta began to scale back Comair flights and eventually relocated all operations to another section of the airport in 2008. Concourse C was left abandoned. In 2012, Delta completely folded Comair.

Today, Concourse C still remains out in the middle of the runways: no passengers, few visitors and closed off to the general public. It’s eerily quiet state is a stark contrast to the sea of humanity that once flowed through it. On a recent exclusive tour of the facility, I was able to make this short film in addition to several photographs.

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.

PHOTOS: Record Crowds Pack Over-the-Rhine for 22nd Bockfest Celebration

It is estimated that well over 30,000 people attended this year’s Bockfest celebrations in historic Over-the-Rhine – shattering previous attendance records.

Cincinnati’s Bockfest is the largest and longest running such festival in the world. Its history, however, is rooted in Bavaria. It is traditionally understood that Bavarian monks would brew bock beer and consume it and it only during times of fasting – typically around Easter or Lent.

As is custom, this year’s festivities were kicked off with The Bockfest Parade and the ceremonious delivery of the first keg of bock beer to be tapped at Bockfest Hall. The following 21 photos are a sampling of the opening parade that took place late Friday afternoon.

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Check out 5chw4r7z’s photos for even more views from around Bockfest this weekend.

INFOGRAPHIC: The Abandonment of Cincinnati’s 1914 Subway and Rapid Transit Loop

Cincinnati’s abandoned rapid transit project is a subject of continual interest. Although many are familiar with the unused two-mile tunnel beneath Central Parkway, little remains of the ten miles of surface-running right-of-way built in the mid-1920s between Camp Washington and Norwood.

This graphic by Andy Woodruff, from the UW-Madison Department of Geography, illustrates which sections of the so-called Rapid Transit Loop were built, which parts were replaced by expressways, and which parts were planned but not funded and built.

Cincinnati Subway System

So why was the Rapid Transit Loop started but not completed?

The project had several forces working against it, especially wealthy Downtown landowners who stood to lose money and influence if the city’s most valuable property shifted from Fountain Square north to Central Parkway. The likelihood of that happening was heightened by the Rapid Transit Commission’s decision to forego construction of the Walnut Street Subway as part of the project’s first phase.

Those who owned property lining Central Parkway knew that construction of a tunnel under Mt. Adams, linking the Loop’s never-built eastern half, would likely cost less than construction of the Walnut Street Subway and cause the loop’s traffic to bypass the city’s established epicenter entirely.

The second interest acting to scuttle the subway project was the consortium of seven steam railroads that commenced construction of Cincinnati’s spectacular Union Terminal in 1929.

An ancillary feature of the Rapid Transit Loop was its intention to serve the area’s electric interurban railroads at a multi-track terminal centered beneath the intersection of Race Street and Central Parkway. The interurban terminal’s more convenient location promised to erode the redundant services of the steam railroads.

Editorial Note: In addition to focusing on UrbanCincy’s transportation coverage, Jake authored a book about Cincinnati’s infamously abandoned subway and rapid transit project. First published in 2010, Cincinnati’s Incomplete Subway: The Complete History is considered to be the most comprehensive analysis of the events leading up to and after one of the city’s most notorious missteps.

New Artist Live/Work Homes Coming to Covington’s Lee-Holman Historic District

The Center for Great Neighborhoods (CGN) will celebrate the completion of Covington’s first of five affordable artist live/work spaces later this month. The artist residence project Shot Gun Row is named for the project’s five shotgun-style houses being rehabbed and developed by the Covington-based nonprofit organization.

Shot Gun Row is made up of five row houses on Orchard Street in Covington’s Lee-Holman Historic District. The houses were originally part of seven homes built in the late 1800s. After World War II, shotgun homes were seen as functionally obsolete and abandoned in favor of the modern ranch home, but Kentucky historic guidelines prohibit Orchard Street’s five remaining houses from being torn down.

The Center for Great Neighborhoods, which has completed over 25 historic renovations in the city nestled along the Ohio and Licking Rivers, said they looked at the houses as a unique opportunity to re-purpose the existing houses and help revitalize Covington’s west side.

In 2012 CGN was awarded a $168,000 grant for the project from the Kresge Foundation. Construction on the first house began last summer; the other four homes will be completed by summer 2014. The total project cost is around $600,000 for all five houses. According to Sarah Allan with CGN, most of the live/work spaces available to artists are only available for rent.

“We wanted to provide something [artists] could build equity in that was either the same as or cheaper than their rent,” Allan said. “Part of it is we want to lower people’s overall overhead. If they can live and work in the same space for cheaper, then it might help them to further their art.”

Shot Gun Row’s artist selection policy broadly defines an artist as “an individual who has seriously committed themselves to professional production of their respective art form (i.e. exhibitions, performances, screenings, grants, publications, reviews, commissions, peer recognition),” and earn at least 20% of their income from art.

This flexible definition allows applicants to include tattoo artists, graphic and interior designers, chefs, musicians and set designers in addition to traditional fine artists like sculptors, painters and photographers. It also helps that Shot Gun Row’s developers are able to customize the home’s layout depending on the artist’s needs.

“We recognize that artists want to have some creative say in their living space so we want to provide that flexibility,” Allan explained.

Shot Gun Row’s model home at 323 Orchard Street is laid out so that the studio is located in the front of the house so that it is accessible to the street for art openings and meetings, and also receives northern light which is attractive to many artists. In other homes, an artist could work with the contractor to develop the floor plan as an open studio or place the kitchen in the front of the house, depending on the homeowner’s needs.

While the development will offer affordable, flexible housing for artists, CGN also wants the project to encourage artists to get involved with their community. As part of Shot Gun Row’s artist selection policy, artists are required to contribute something back to the community within a year of purchasing the home, and will work with CGN staff to determine a specific project, whether it be a public sculpture, theater camp, or something else. A sculptor, for instance, might create a piece for Shot Gun Row’s public sculpture garden.

In addition, artists are expected to participate in SpringBoard, ArtWorks’ business development program for creative entrepreneurs, unless they have run a profitable arts-related business for more than three years.

“We’re looking at this not just as a housing projection but an economic development project,” Allan told UrbanCincy.

The market price for a home on Shot Gun Row is $90,000, though Allan said that some homeowners may receive a subsidy depending on income. The City of Covington also offers down payment assistance for anyone purchasing a home in Covington.

In addition to the Kresge Foundation grant, the project received funding through a combination of  U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development HOME Investment Partnerships Program and Community Development Block Grants, and private contributions.

All photographs by Chris Kromer for UrbanCincy.

$7.8M Renovation of Historic Pabst Bedding Warehouse to Start This March

The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) plans to begin a $7.8 million renovation project at the northwest corner of Twelfth and Walnut Streets this March.

The project received a critical boost in late December when the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA) awarded a $778,000 Historic Preservation Tax Credit to 3CDC.

Officials with ODSA say that the project received the tax credits because it was financed, showed a good return on investment, represents a building of significance to the neighborhood, and is ready to move forward immediately.

“The project was funded because it scored well within our criteria,” explained Stephanie Gostomski, Public Information Officer with ODSA. “Also, this is one of the newer structures that contributes to the significance of the Over-the-Rhine Historic District and will retain its warehouse and industrial character upon conclusion of the project.”

Due to the building’s relatively good condition, 3CDC officials say that they expect construction work to take several months and hope to move into what will become the development corporation’s new headquarters this summer. Once complete, 3CDC will occupy 12,000 square feet of the building’s office space, while another tenant will use the remaining 6,000 square feet of office space.

As 3CDC’s success in Over-the-Rhine has mounted, its staff has grown along with it – now with 50 full-time employees and 43 seasonal workers. But 3CDC officials say they are not the only ones placing a premium on office space in the city’s largest historic district.

“There is a lot of demand for larger floor plates with more square footage, and there are plenty of smaller office users,” explained Anastasia Mileham, Vice President of Communications at 3CDC. To that end, Mileham says that the final product will include open floor plans and will reopen the large windows on the building’s north façade.

As part of the move 3CDC will be vacating their existing office space on Race Street near Washington Park. Due to the strong demand for office space, Mileham did not express concern over filling that space and informed UrbanCincy that they are currently finalizing a lease for a new tenant.

In addition to the 18,000 square feet of office space, the prominent warehouse building will also include 9,000 square feet of street-level retail space

The building is one of the largest single structures in Over-the-Rhine south of Liberty Street and was originally a warehouse for Pabst Bedding. The structure then had been used by Society National Bank and later Fifth Third Bank before it was abandoned in the early 2000s.

According to Hamilton County property records, the Art Academy of Cincinnati then purchased the building in 2007 for $450,000 when it relocated its school to Over-the-Rhine, but never utilized the space. The 84-year-old structure was finally sold to 3CDC in September 2013 for $550,000.

The renovation of the Pabst Bedding Warehouse building joins an increasing amount of historic building renovation work along Walnut Street including a frenzy of work for Mercer Commons just to the north, and the renovation of a storefront diagonally across the street to make way for a new beer café called HalfCut.

“The Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit strengthens local communities by restoring a piece of its history,” David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency, stated in a prepared release. “These projects help enrich cities across Ohio, preserving the character and charm of buildings that may have otherwise been demolished.”

Photographs by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.