Cincinnati Dronescape is a Soundtrack of the City and the Sounds That Define It

Cincinnati has a rich history in music production, and recently it has become more of a hotbed for live performances. In addition to that, there are a number of well-known local or locally started musicians out there making the national rounds these days.

A new mashup project, however, is a bit of a change of pace from all of that.

Cincinnati Dronescape is the brainchild of Isaac Hand, and is a bit of an experiment involving art, music, technology and the city.

Hand worked with his friend Nick Denlinger to record what they thought were quintessential sounds from around the city. This included recordings from more than a dozen locations including the sound of the Western Hills Viaduct, Queensgate Railyard, Christian Moerlein Brewerythe hum of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. From there, they then distributed the audio recordings to local musicians who them composed music to complement those sounds.

One of the interesting components of the project, aside from it recording background city sounds, is the fact that Hand and Denlinger recorded the sounds by using drones.

“The results are simultaneously a representation of the diversity of the Cincinnati music community, but also an aural portrait or sonic map of the city,” explained Hand.

Long-time readers of UrbanCincy may remember Hand from a project he helped champion in 2010 called Aural Grid, which was a “musical-spatial exploration” through Over-the-Rhine. Many of the artists involved with that project, Hand says, were also involved with Cincinnati Dronescape.

“Although I curated it, this really was a community endeavor,” Hand emphasized. “It took a whole bunch of people to make it possible.”

The community description is an apt one with roughly a dozen musicians contributing directly to the effort. In addition to that, Ian Gullett mixed everything into a cohesive recording, Arthur Brum produced the album artwork, and Micah Freeman composed the poem used for linear notes.

Nick Swartsell, who has grown increasingly fascinated by the history of the West End and its Kenyon Barr neighborhood, has even been working on a visual component to complement the track he contributed for the album.

It actuality, there are two albums available for streaming or purchase. The first, entitled Cincinnati Drones, is an album of the recorded sounds, while the second, entitled Cincinnati Dronescape, is the collection of artist remixes of those sounds.

Both albums can either be downloaded online for $7, or purchased in CD form for $10 on the project’s bandcamp webpage, Shake It Records, Everybody’s Records, Rock Paper Scissors and Torn Light.

Ohio River Trail Project Moving Westward from Center City

For those coming from the west side along the Ohio River, Cincinnati’s western riverfront serves as a bit of a welcome mat. However, after losing residents and jobs since mid-20th century, many in the area believe now is the time to rethink this historic area.

While oft-viewed as an industrial stretch, it is a little known fact that Cincinnati’s western riverfront is actually one of the region’s largest green corridors with riverfront parks and wooded hillsides. And just a few feet down from the busy streets and railways, there is a different Cincinnati – one community leaders believe has the potential to serve as a national example of environmental stewardship and urban recreation.

Perhaps the biggest asset this area boasts is the Ohio River with its views and access to unique amenities. The existing amenities offered by the river and surrounding hillsides, combined with potential amenities from a string of riverfront parks, have the ability to create a powerful attraction for new residents and jobs. It is because of this potential that community leaders see so much value in Ohio River Trail West, which is part of the city’s larger Western Riverfront Plan.

The proposed three-segment first phase of Ohio River Trail West. formerly known as the Western Riverwalk, ties together the reconstruction of the Waldvogel Viaduct, ongoing redevelopment in Lower Price Hill, and repurposing of the former Hilltop Concrete property into a park.

URS estimates that the first two segments within the first phase of work will cost approximately $1.3 million and build upon the much larger Ohio River Trail. This particular phase of trail would extend roughly 3.7 miles downriver to the Gilday Recreation Center.

The biggest of these three pieces of the puzzle is the $55 million reconstruction of the Waldvogel Viaduct. As part of the planning and engineering of the new viaduct, there will be improved views and access to the river from Lower Price Hill. Once the viaduct’s construction is complete, more than 16 acres of riverfront property will become accessible at the former Hilltop Concrete site, which had once been planned for a new rail-to-barge shipping facility, and will now become Price’s Landing.

The combination of all these ongoing efforts creates the possibility for a dramatically different future for the long-troubled Lower Price Hill neighborhood.

Olyer School – an architectural treasure and a foundation of the Lower Price Hill community– recently underwent a $21 million dollar renovation; and the reconstruction of the Waldvogel Viaduct will reconnect the neighborhood to the river for the first time in over 60 years.

Meanwhile, the western end of the first phase of Ohio River Trail West is the Gilday Recreation Center, which will support the trail through its current configuration and planned upgrades.

It is estimated that the stretch of properties between the former Hilltop Concrete site and Southside Avenue are controlled by no more than five entities, and project planners have already secured roughly 70% of the right-of-way needed for this first phase of work.

So while ownership and access are typically major hurdles for projects of this variety, proponents are particularly excited that all of the needed right-of-way required for the first phase of work is either controlled already, or is vacant and potentially available for the new trail. Furthermore, each endpoint is owned by the City and will be able to provide both access and parking for future users.

The efforts to make this plan a reality were given a boost by former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory (D) when he delivered his final State of the City Address and made the western riverfront a key component of that speech.

“If you think about the proposed investment here…this could serve as a landmark development for the west side of Cincinnati,” Mallory stated.

The efforts were then given another jolt in April 2014 when current Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley (D) allocated $250,000 to the project for ongoing engineering work, and pledged to support the project going forward.

There is currently no timetable for phase one construction activities, but project proponents hope to finalize engineering work and secure construction funding for phase one over the next year or so.

Award-Winning Filmmaker’s Latest Project Highlights Lower Price Hill’s Oyler School

Lower Price Hill is a neighborhood that has seen better days, but recent and ongoing efforts to turn things around in the largely Appalachian and Hispanic community have begun to prove successful.

Some of those efforts include the more recent co-op approach being employed by the Lower Price Hill Community School to help deliver services and offerings that are not currently available to residents of the historic neighborhood. But it is the $21 million renovation of Oyler School that is seen as the spark for the recent improvements.

“Roughly half of the children in U.S. public schools today come from low-income families, and a debate is raging over how to help more of them succeed,” write filmmakers for the new documentary entitled Oyler. “Oyler School’s approach—combining academic, health, and social services under one roof—is catching on around the country.”

Amy Scott, an independent documentary filmmaker and correspondent for public radio’s Marketplace show, says that she has spent a year reporting from Oyler, and believes the documentary tells a story that has become commonplace throughout America.

Oyler tells a gripping story of individuals fighting for change in a unique American community, but it also takes on one of our country’s most pressing challenges – the persistent achievement gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers,” wrote Scott on the project’s Kickstarter page.

The major underlying theme is about how Lower Price Hill is using its public school to transform itself and the lives of those who call it home. In a more direct message, the film also speaks to the nationally acclaimed community learning centers being employed by Cincinnati Public Schools.

While Scott’s team has already been successful at raising just over their initial goal of $25,000 for the film through Kickstarter, the campaign will remain open for one more week. The team says that the funds will be used to cover the costs associated with producing an original music score, sound mix and color correction, rights for commercial music and archival footage, and a professional website.

After the campaign closes next week, the team will get to work on finishing up the documentary and doing the requisite post-production work for a film of this nature. They say that there will be film screenings in Cincinnati and Baltimore next fall, at a minimum, and at other locations depending on those who provided more than $5,000 to the campaign.

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.”

UVA Demographer’s Map Illustrates Cincinnati’s Racial Segregation

Dustin Cable, a demographic researcher at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, recently published a map of the United States that shows an individual dot for each of the nation’s 308,745,538 people.

On their map each dot was assigned one of five colors based on the racial and ethnic affiliation. Whites are blue; African-Americans, green; Asians, red; Hispanics, orange; and all other racial categories are coded as brown. Cable used publicly available 2010 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

When viewed in its entirety from afar, the map makes cities look like integrated places with a merging of all the colors to create a purple shade. This, however, is not the most accurate portrait of the racial segregation found throughout American cities.

When viewing Cincinnati at a more detailed level, for example, one can see the clear separation of White, Black, Hispanic and Asian populations.

The dots are evenly distributed throughout their assigned Census Block, so some dots (or people) appear to be living in areas where they cannot (i.e. parks, water, streets).

The specific areas of interest inside Cincinnati city limits are several Uptown neighborhoods where a dense cluster of Asian individuals live, and the Lower Price Hill and East Price Hill area where a small concentration of Hispanic individuals call home.

When looking elsewhere around the region it is also interesting to observe the Hispanic population cluster in Butler County near in and around the City of Hamilton.