Madisonville To Celebrate Completion of Historic Bank Building Renovation

Madisonville neighborhood leaders believe that strategic investments over the past few years are finally starting to bear fruit, as is evidenced by the restoration of the historic Fifth Third Bank Building at the corner of Madison Road and Whetsel Avenue.

The $644,000 project was led by the Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (MCURC), and includes a street-level restaurant space with two, two-bedroom apartments on the building’s second floor. The hope is that the project will help stimulate other private reinvestment in the neighborhood.

Built in 1927, the building used to be a bank and still has the vault inside to prove it. Today the 2,800-square-foot street-level “white box” restaurant space is now being marketed to potential tenants. Those interested in the space are asked to contact Matt Strauss, Real Estate and Marketing Manager at MCURC, at 513-271-2495.

Community leaders will gather for a ribbon cutting ceremony next week to celebrate bringing the historic structure back to life.

“MCURC was asked by the community to save this signature building in the heart of the business district,” said Sara Sheets, Executive Director of MCURC. “Our hope is to attract a unique restaurant tenant bringing newcomers to the neighborhood, while offering residents a chance to have a date night in their own neighborhood.”

The Bank Building’s future restaurant tenant will join a growing roster of new dining options nearby.

Lala’s Blissful Bites, a bakery, opened down the street in January; plans for two coffee shops, Mad Llama Coffee by Lookout Joe and CooKoo’s Coffee Shoppe, are in the works; and a commissary retail store from the owner of Mazunte Taqueria is coming soon.

Due to what community leaders attribute to decades of disinvestment and targeted demolition, the Bank Building is one of the few historic buildings still standing in the business district. Many of the surrounding properties are vacant lots, but that too may soon be changing.

Since 2008, the City of Cincinnati has been buying vacant parcels in the area in order to assemble a large site suitable for development. In 2014, the City issued an RFQ to developers on the 7.5 acres of property it had acquired to date, which comprises most of the four blocks that form the intersection of Madison and Whetsel.

City leaders say that the team selected to redevelop these properties will be formally announced in the coming weeks, but early indications point to the Ackermann Group as the leading candidate.

This is all coming at the same time as the $200 million development at Medpace’s campus at Madison Road and Red Bank Expressway, a half-mile west of the neighborhood business district, which includes 250 apartments, 100,000 square feet of commercial space, 250,000 square feet of office space, and a 239-room Dolce Hotel, which is expected to be completed in 2018.

The ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at the Bank Building at 5900 Madison Road at 11am on Thursday, April 28. The Ohio Community Development Finance Fund, Fifth Third Bank, the James A. Schroth Family Charitable Trust, PNC Bank, LISC of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky, Duke Energy Urban Revitalization Initiative, and the City of Cincinnati provided funding for the project.

MORTAR Looking To Empower Walnut Hills Residents, Entrepreneurs

Cincinnati’s redevelopment has been gaining momentum over the years, and Walnut Hills is seen by many as the next big thing. While it is not quite the next Over-the-Rhine, the largely black neighborhood has seen significant investment over the past several years, and is adding new businesses on what seems like a weekly basis. While community leaders are welcoming the attention, they are also hoping to maintain the essence of the neighborhood.

Just before the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation announced their comprehensive re-branding to focus on an inclusive and equitable approach to breathing new life into the neighborhood, the non-profit community development organization came together with a start-up organization that has been working in Over-the-Rhine to train and empower non-traditional entrepreneurs, often of minority background, to help power the redevelopment of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods.

“Our emphasis has always been on working with residents who have been in the neighborhood even before it becomes the latest trendy place to be, because they’ve been there through it all,” said MORTAR co-founder and Brand Strategy & Director of Operations, Allen Woods.

By doing so, MORTAR hosts classes for students who are willing to learn and pitch their ideas to a room full of a diverse amount of people including friends, family, and possibly investors. They then guide entrepreneurs in how to start their own businesses.

Woods says that in Over-the-Rhine, where MORTAR has already graduated 15 members and enrolled another 17, the idea was to create a brand new dynamic for the area which has already experienced a huge amount of reinvestment. This is not necessarily what they have in mind for the Walnut Hills area.

“We want to have a different feeling than what you get when you go into Over-the-Rhine,” said Thea Munchel, Director of Development at Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation. “We want vibrant, successful businesses, but we want them to represent Walnut Hills.”

One of the ways MORTAR intends to assist in that effort is by engaging with the community and listening to their innovative pitches at events where residents of the Walnut Hills area can present ideas of their own.

“We believe that is an essential part of community redevelopment,” Woods said. “How can you do that without engaging the community?”

They will also open up a 10,000-square-foot pop-up shop space called Brick 939, which will be similar to the one they have in Over-the-Rhine called Brick OTR. This, they say, helps local entrepreneurs activate a vacant storefront in the neighborhood, while also offering them space to test out their business model until they are able to develop their own space.

As of now, the plan is for the pop-up shop to open after Thanksgiving and run through the end of the year.

“There are lots of amazing entrepreneurs around Cincinnati, and who never really feel like they get the opportunity to shine,” said Woods. “So essentially what we want to build is an enormous spotlight for them to have a chance to showcase their skills and businesses.”

The money for the development is going to be coming from the community, a grant from the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, and the Local Initiative Support Corporation.

Project leaders say the development will be completed by November 20, 2015 with a grand opening on Black Friday.

ArtsWave Announces Recipients of $10.4 Million in Grants

ArtsWave finalized their list of grants to arts organizations throughout the region last Friday. This year’s distribution doles out $10.4 million to 35 different local arts organizations, ranging from $12,500 for the Contemporary Dance Theater to $3,020,000 for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to what ArtsWave calls their impact grants, they also distributed $435,000 for small project grants and strategic local partnerships.

The money comes from a fund that ArtsWave officials say is the largest of its kind in the United States, distributing more than $50 million to regional arts organizations over the past five years.

“ArtsWave’s grants are a differentiator for Greater Cincinnati,” Mary McCullough-Hudson, ArtsWave’s outgoing CEO, stated in a prepared release. “It is absolutely unique for a region this size to have an annual infusion of more than $10 million in its arts sector each year, creating both a stabilizing and a catalyzing effect for organizations and arts-related activity that have unexpected benefits for the community.”

The organizations and projects that were awarded money, officials say, were selected based on the input of grant making committees that evaluate submissions and determine the amount of money to be awarded to each applicant.

The average grant amount awarded this year was approximately $250,000. The Cincinnati Art Museum ($1,635,000), Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra ($3,020,000) and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park ($1,210,000) were the only organizations to receive grants in excess of $1 million. When removing those outliers from the equation, the average drops to about $110,000.

Other large recipients include the Cincinnati Opera ($935,000), Cincinnati Ballet ($850,000) and Contemporary Arts Center ($405,000).

The money for these grants comes from an annual fundraising effort, which yielded a record amount last year of more than $12 million. In addition to supporting the numerous organizations and projects, the money also goes to support shared service operations arts organizations throughout the region, like board training, volunteer programs and fundraising expenses.

“Our region’s residents support this campaign because they see every day how the arts bring people together,” said Karen Bowman, Chair, ArtsWave Board of Trustees and Principal, Deloitte Consulting.

In addition to these grants, ArtsWave officials also announced that they would be awarding $45,000 to designated community revitalization organizations in Price Hill, Madisonville, Covington, Avondale and Walnut Hills as part of LISC-Cincinnati’s Place Matters campaign. Those funds, they say, will be used to support community-building arts programs in those neighborhoods.

“Successful creative placemaking is about the impact of local arts on people in these neighborhoods,” explained Kathy Schwab, Executive Director, LISC of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky. “This exciting partnership with ArtsWave will help fuel community engagement and pride in the five Place Matters communities.”