Celebrating a Great 2013 While Looking Ahead to Our Eighth Year

Another year has come and gone, and I wanted to take this opportunity to recap some of the highlights from 2013 while also looking to the future.

Our readership remained constant in 2013, with accelerated growth in Q4. We expect readership levels to hold at those increased Q4 rates throughout 2014, while recording some additional modest growth. Perhaps not surprisingly, our biggest month was December when the streetcar battle culminated.

More people listened to The UrbanCincy Podcast – now entering its second year – than ever before. The most popular episode last year was our yearly recap at the start of 2013 followed by our interviews with David Ginsburg from DCI and Kevin Wright from the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation. Overall we had more than 109,000 downloads of The UrbanCincy Podcast in 2013 and averaged nearly 7,000 downloads per episode.

UrbanCincy Readership Trends

Staff Changes
Our staff also grew and changed a bit last year. As many of you know, I am temporarily on assignment in Seoul and John Yung has become our local area manager. Travis Estell continues to serve as our technologist and podcast manager, while Jake Mecklenborg continues to perform in-depth reporting on transportation issues and produce much of our photography.

We added two new staff writers in 2013 as well – Caitlin Behle and Paige Mallot. They will be covering a variety of topics, but will help expand UrbanCincy’s coverage of arts and entertainment. A third new staff writer – Jacob Fessler – has contributed some already, but will begin his work covering the region’s urban economics and industry in 2014. We also began working with the talented Nate Wessel and Andrew Stahlke to produce custom maps and videos that complement our stories.

We have an incredible team and none of this would be possible without their dedication and hard work. If you see them out and about, you should treat them to a cup coffee or a glass of beer.

Partnerships
In February we entered into an agreement with the Niehoff Urban Studio to produce events that highlight the interdisciplinary work and research performed by students at the University of Cincinnati. That led to our Metropolis & Mobility event in April and our Urbanist Candidates Forum just prior to November’s election.

We have continued to bolster our exclusive partnership with the Business Courier as well. In addition to our readers getting discounted access to a digital premium subscription, we are also sharing more of our content with them so that our reporting on the city reaches an even larger audience in both print and on the web.

In 2014 we hope to enter into additional partnerships that will help get our content to even more people throughout the region and engage more people with the city.

Events
After starting URBANexchange in 2012, we have continued to host the monthly social event at the Moerlein Lager House. Now typically on the first Thursdays of each month, the events consistently draw a diverse collection of 20 to 40 people interested in urbanism. Many of these people are either new to Cincinnati or are looking to get more involved, and I am happy to say that these events are helping grow Cincinnati’s urbanist community.

In 2014 we will continue hosting the events and continue to engage you with area policy makers and influencers, and work to gather your thoughts and ideas about important policy issues. Plus, we hope to keep giving away unique prizes. Hopefully you can join us at our first URBANexchange of the New Year on Thursday, January 9 from 5:30pm to 8:30pm in the Moerlein Lager House’s biergarten.

Urbanist Candidates Forum

Content
One of the things UrbanCincy has always tried to do is connect area residents and visitors with the things happening in the city. This is still true today, but we are now fortunate to have a national audience. So while our focus is still on providing local coverage of public policy, urban design, transportation, arts and culture, we are now also connecting people from around the country with what is taking place here.

In 2013 we published 145 original stories, published 10 perspectives from readers in guest editorials, shared 103 of our insights about what we thought was interesting news from elsewhere in our Up To Speed posts, and produced 16 podcasts. Our ten most read stories in 2013 were:

  1. December 2, 2013: The Day Chaos Ruled City Hall: http://urbn.cc/p3ri
  2. Proposed 210-Unit Apartment Development Would Demolish Historic Christy’s & Lenhardt’s: http://urbn.cc/p2xy
  3. Final Designs Revealed for $125M Dunnhumby Centre Tower: http://urbn.cc/p3i3
  4. Pogue’s Garage to Make Way for 30-Story Residential Tower, Grocery Store: http://urbn.cc/p2yx
  5. EDITORIAL: Localizing Operating Costs for Streetcar Sets Dangerous Precedent: http://urbn.cc/p3sl
  6. GUEST EDITORIAL: Get Over It, Then Get Ready: http://urbn.cc/p3pk
  7. GUEST EDITORIAL: Horseshoe Casino Fails to Deliver on Urban Design: http://urbn.cc/p2zb
  8. IMAGE: Cincinnati to Grow Taller in the Coming Years: http://urbn.cc/p37p
  9. PHOTOS: Historic Glencoe-Auburn Place Row Houses Are Being Demolished: http://urbn.cc/p31l
  10. The Plot Continues to Thicken for Cincinnati’s $133M Streetcar Project: http://urbn.cc/p3s7

We also had two other stories that garnered a significant amount of interest by the way of comments, but didn’t crack the top ten for readership. The story readers commented on the most in 2013 was Paige’s opinion piece about Diner En Blanc held at Washington Park (104), and the second most comments (89) were left on our editorial calling for the consolidation of local governments in Hamilton County.

Our team also traveled to help bring additional perspective from other cities throughout the country and abroad. In 2013 John brought you stories from Europe and Portland; Jake traveled to Nashville; and I filed reports from Kansas City, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Seoul and Chicago. We will continue to use our travel to bring even more perspective into the issues we cover in Cincinnati. In 2014 we have already planned reports from Denver, Houston, Dallas, Minneapolis, Bangkok, Seattle, Hong Kong, Seoul, Nashville and Atlanta.

In 2014 you will also see us advocate more for specific projects and policy recommendations, based on our research and collaborations. In the past we have advocated for changing the city’s parking requirements, overhauling the city’s zoning code, and how to use the Riverfront Transit Center. In the coming weeks you will hear even more specific solutions from our team about how to address various problems and opportunities in our city today.

It has been nearly seven years since UrbanCincy started, and we are thrilled it is has become one of the largest independent sources for news in the region, and one of the most well-read websites focused on urbanism in the country.

We have some big plans for the year ahead and we hope that you will stick along for the ride. And while you’re at it, why don’t you bring a few friends. Thanks for all of your support.

Where UrbanCincy Stands and Where We’re Going

When I first moved to Seoul at the end of 2010 I was quickly overwhelmed. The city is huge and the region boasts some 24.5 million people. That’s endlessly big…something to which only one or two other places on Earth can compare. But after being there for nearly three months that year, and then returning to Seoul for another nine months in 2011, I easily fell in love with the place.

Seoul is interesting not just because it is big, but because it is unique.

It is a special time in Korean culture. The younger generations are the first to have grown up in a completely modern, free and democratic society. Korea’s rapid industrialization, the fastest the world has ever seen, is now in its rear-view mirror and the people are now looking to improve their standards of living as opposed to simply throwing up housing as quickly as possible.

Seoul
Looking south over Seoul’s Jongno district. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

The obvious result has been a public policy response centered in the nation’s political and economic capital. Seoul’s mayors, if well-performing, often go on to run for president. One of the more notable cases is Lee, Myoung Bak, or otherwise known casually as MB.

MB made the very controversial decision to tear down a 5.2-mile stretch of elevated highway through the heart of Seoul and replace it with a linear park following a day-lighted stream. Many were skeptical of the unproven idea, and had it not worked it would have spelled the end of MB’s political career. As we know, the Cheonggyecheon has been a massive success by almost all measurable accounts and MB went on to serve as the president of the Republic of Korea from 2008 to 2013

While in office, MB pursued sustainability. Korea’s 2009 stimulus, following the global recession, was the world’s most sustainable, investing more than 80% of its funds on sustainable energies, transportation or technology. Songdo, one of the world’s early pilot LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot projects also began construction in 2008.

On top of all this, the younger generations have shifted their focus squarely on design. You can see it reflected in food preparation and café design. You can see it in the creative street art and gallery culture. And you most certainly see it in the new public spaces and buildings being built in Seoul and elsewhere throughout the 50.2-million person country.

It is from this cultural shift that earned Seoul the title of World Design Capital in 2010, and why formerly drab spaces all throughout Seoul are being transformed into works of inspired design.

I suspect these trends will only continue, and will continue to fuel Seoul’s international rise. And this is why I am so excited to return.

On September 10 I flew back to Seoul to work on new sustainable planning and design projects with my company Parsons Brinckerhoff.

The move comes with some trepidation, but much excitement and I will be sure to share my journey with those of you who are interested in following me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Perhaps more importantly for you, the reader, is that UrbanCincy will continue in its current form. I will still contribute to the site from time-to-time, but John Yung will take on a greater leadership role for the site.

John will be joined by long-time contributors such as technologist Travis Estell and writer/photographer Jake Mecklenborg, as well as three new contributors that you may have seen publishing content over the past few months: Eric Fazzini, Paige Malott and Jacob Fessler. Get to know them at one of our monthly URBANexchange events.

This is a more than capable group and they have largely been running the site for the past several months.

UrbanCincy never has and never will be about one person, one project or one idea. It is about supporting urbanism in Cincinnati and pushing for things that will improve this great city we all love. We hope you will continue to read our stories and listen to our podcasts as we shift into the next exciting chapter for UrbanCincy.

UrbanCincy makes key structural changes as it enters its fifth year

As time progresses change is inevitable; and UrbanCincy is no different. We have just celebrated our four-year anniversary, and are making some changes for continued success and growth in year five and beyond.

Jenny Kessler has now moved into the role of Operations Manager to oversee the website’s team of 12 writers and two photographers. We have recently added several additional writers to help keep production levels high and of the utmost quality. Travis Estell will continue to serve as Web Developer, and I will continue to operate as the website’s Owner & Managing Editor while I spend the next half-year overseas in Korea.


Cincinnati’s eastern skyline photograph by Aaron Davidson.

As I step aside into a lesser role, a team of talented and passionate Cincinnatians will be there to keep you connected with the city’s urban core. I will be decreasing my role in terms of content production, but I will continue to pen editorials on various local topics and produce stories on topics from other urban centers around the world and how they might relate to Cincinnati.

Moving forward UrbanCincy will continue to keep you connected with Cincinnati’s urban core, but we hope to become your source for not only news, but your source for living a vibrant urban lifestyle. To make that happen, we will be organizing more events like our popular Bikes+Brews ride and the OTR Urban Kickball League.

We will also be interested in hearing more from you, our readers. So please feel free to write us at UrbanCincy@gmail.com with any thoughts or ideas on activities you might want us to pursue. We would also love to hear about what you think is important, and would be more than happy to publish your thoughts in a guest editorial piece.

It is never easy pouring time and energy into something that is a labor of love, but we are striving to do our best to keep you plugged in to Cincinnati’s urban core. So please be sure to thank Jenny Kessler and the rest of the UrbanCincy team for their dedication and hard work.

Writers: Adam Sievering, Andrew Oehlerking, Dan Rozier, Dave Rolfes, Emily Schneider, Hanna Jones, Luca Acito, Mildred Fallen, Nathan Shryock, Nathaniel Hammitt, Shawn Buckenmeyer. (Departing: Bryon Martin, David Ben, David Heyburn, Kevin Wright)
Photographers: Jake Mecklenborg, Thadd Fiala
Web Developer: Travis Estell
Operations Manager: Jenny Kessler
Owner & Managing Editor: Randy Simes

Restructuring positions UrbanCincy for further, long-term growth

Since UrbanCincy’s founding in May 2007 much has changed with the website, the city and its people. What began as a humble outlet to share my personal thoughts about the city with whomever chose to read it has become so much more. UrbanCincy now features exclusive and original content, publishes eight to ten times each week, runs a seasonal kickball league, organizes events throughout the year like Bikes + Brews, and has become the place for people to get their news on Cincinnati’s urban core.

For the third time in four years, UrbanCincy has been honored to be voted as one of the best blogs in Cincinnati. This year UrbanCincy was chosen along with Wine Me, Dine Me and 365 Things to do in Cincinnati. Each year I have been honored to even have UrbanCincy considered worthy of such recognition, but it was even more satisfying this year following a great deal of transition internally at UrbanCincy.

Over the past six months UrbanCincy has successfully begun a transition that is shifting more responsibility to Jenny Kessler, who is now Operations Manager for the site. We have also restructured the contributing team to best reflect time commitments and professional capabilities. Additionally, in fall 2010 UrbanCincy entered into an innovative content sharing agreement with the Cincinnati Business Courier which will further stregthen both entities. These moves allow me to take on a greater leadership role, while also maintaining leadership continuity at UrbanCincy when I am traveling domestically or overseas with work.

This transition was not easy. At the end of 2010 the website saw a significant drop in readership when compared to previous growth trends. This was, in large part, due to less content being published on the site. We have, I believe, solved those issues and have reaffirmed UrbanCincy’s long-term position within the Cincinnati community.

The bottom line is that UrbanCincy, while still a labor of love, is better positioned today and healthier than ever. And the team of writers (Andrew Oehlerking, Dave Rolfes, Emily Schneider, Jake Mecklenborg, Jenny Kessler, Nathaniel Hammitt), photographers (Jake Mecklenborg, Thadd Fiala) and general contributors (Bryon Martin, David Ben, Kevin Wright, Travis Estell) at UrbanCincy has you, the readers, to thank for this.

I hope that UrbanCincy can continue to grow and become an even more integral part of the conversation in Cincinnati in years to come. Please let us know how we might be able to do that by contacting us at UrbanCincy@gmail.com. Thank you, and please continue to support Cincinnati’s urban core.

UrbanCincy programming note for rest of 2010

For nearly three-and-a-half years I have worked to grow UrbanCincy while also growing myself both professionally and personally. Early rants have turned into breaking news and what I hope is unique insight about Cincinnati’s urban core. Over that time there have been other changes including the site’s contributing members, the amount and quality of content, and the location in which I have run things.

Since June 2009 I have been living full-time in Atlanta where my full-time job is also located. This lesser known fact was not meant to be secretive, nor was it meant to be advertised. It simply was what it was.

Now, however, another change will be taking place. Over the next two months I will be living and working in Seoul, South Korea full-time. This new job assignment will keep me extraordinarily busy between now and mid-December, and will also keep me away from UrbanCincy to a certain degree. Fear not, as UrbanCincy’s contributing members have been rallied and intend on keeping the site active and interesting during this time.

During this time I hope to occasionally poke my head in and share some profound wisdom, or simply share something interesting from my urban experience in Seoul and elsewhere.

This news does not mean I will be completely absent from the site and its material, but it will mean the amount of content may decrease over the next two months. The whole point of writing this piece is to let you know that there is nothing to be concerned about as UrbanCincy will be back to its normal, and hopefully better, operations by the start of 2011. In the mean time enjoy the contributions from UrbanCincy’s highly capable team of writers and photographers.

Those needing to reach me should contact me by email at rsimes@gmail.com. For immediate needs please contact either contributing editor Travis Estell [travis.estell@urbancincy.com] or staff writer Jennifer Kessler [jenlkessler@gmail.com]. Thanks again for reading UrbanCincy and supporting Cincinnati. Cheers.