Finding Inspiration From Seoul For Cincinnati’s Public Staircases

ArtWorks has become well-known for its mural program. Over the past eight years, the program has created 90 murals that have added to the vibrancy of 36 city neighborhoods.

This year, however, ArtWorks started to branch out a bit more. In addition to 10 mural projects, they also installed more than 50 public art pieces throughout the city. Some were poetic, while others charming. Regardless of the project, they have always worked to actively engage young people in the city with the artist community.

The program’s impact on the visual appearance of the city cannot be overlooked. Public spaces have been dressed up and walls have been decorated in truly Cincinnati fashion. When considering one of Cincinnati’s most defining features – its hillsides – another opportunity seems to be sitting in waiting for future ArtWorks programs.

Over the years The Hillside Trust has worked to promote and preserve the city’s hillsides and the view sheds that they offer. At the same time, many of the city’s public staircases, which long served as a critical component of the sidewalk network, have fallen into disrepair. In many cases, due to either lack of maintenance or neighborhood distrust, public staircases have been closed off altogether.

This should not be the case.

One potential way to address this would be to focus an ArtWorks program on the city’s public staircases. Artists could be engaged to come up with creative mural designs for the stairs themselves, or perhaps suggest other installations. These could then be complimented by lighting installations that would not on

ly add an artistic touch after dusk, but also make the corridors safer for their users and the neighborhoods around them.

Seoul’s Ihwa neighborhood has done exactly this.

Set on the side of a steep hill leading to Seoul’s historic fortification wall, the neighborhood has seen many of its staircases painted, along with surrounding building walls, to create a truly unique environment. A variety of art installations were also undertaken in order to create an even more dynamic experience.

Today visitors flock to the area to view the murals and experience the other installations some 60 artists created in 2006 as part of Naksan Project. Due to this influx of people, small cafes, galleries and restaurants are now prevalent throughout the neighborhood.

While Cincinnati’s hillsides and surrounding neighborhoods present a different challenge than what exists in Ihwa, there are equal, yet different, opportunities that also exist.

Right now Cincinnati’s hillsides and their public staircases are mostly viewed as barriers and have been constrained to afterthoughts in the city’s public psyche. ArtWorks has changed the way we viewed vacant walls and barren streetscapes. Here’s hoping they can work similar magic on the city’s long-forgotten staircases.

53T Hoping to Breathe New Life Into Cincinnati’s Bike Courier Industry

After years of few options for those seeking food or product delivery in Cincinnati, several companies have started to spring up over the past year. One of those includes 53T, which is not only offering delivery services, but doing so in an effort to bring back the city’s once vibrant bike courier industry.

Although limited to Over-the-Rhine, Downtown and the West End, 53T offers delivery from seven different restaurants, and parcel delivery that utilizes their cargo bikes and trailers.

Local eateries served by 53T include Happy Belly on Vine, Pho Lang Thang, Cheapside Café, Quan Hapa, Park+Vine and Brezel. Pi Pizzeria was most recently added in February.

Dave Adams and Ian Bulling partnered to start 53T early last year. The two started working on the concept independently, but were introduced to each other in January 2014, and decided to team up.

Each has their own reason for wanting to start the business. Bulling was working as a bicycle messenger and wanted to keep making a living at it, while also bringing back the bike messenger community that existed in the city a decade ago.

“Like the advertising industry, legal work involved a continual flow of documents circulating throughout the city,” Jeffrey Kidder wrote in his 2011 book entitled Urban Flow: Bike Messengers and the City. “While the advertising industry is an example of why bike couriers are still useful, it should be apparent that much of what messengers were delivering in the early 1980s can now be digitized…In fact, messengers today are delivering little more than the table scraps remaining from the grand conversion to virtual data.”

In understanding that changing landscape, Adams says it was the lack of restaurant delivery options prompted him to enter the business. After identifying that need, he worked with Bulling to develop a business plan, and then go through the CO.STARTERS business planning course for creative entrepreneurs.

“It really helped in synthesizing getting our ideas together, realizing what we had to do on a daily basis, on a yearly basis, as far as stuff as basic as tax filings,” said Bulling. “There were a lot of things we overlooked initially, and it helped to get some dialogue started between us that may not have otherwise happened.”

Bulling explained that their business is named for a 53 tooth, which is typically the largest chain ring on a road bike, and equates to the quickest gear on a bike.

Adams and Bulling are 53T’s principal couriers, but they say that they employ other riders as contractors and demand dictates. That demand, Bulling says, has been picking up since their launch last June.

“We have gotten an explosion in volume since the new year” Bulling explained. “We got a spike in October when it started getting cold and then in January we got hit hard.”

In mid-February they extended evening delivery hours to 9pm, with service from Pi Pizzeria, Quan Hapa and Brezel during those expanded times. Currently 53T only offers service on weekdays, but Bulling noted that they have contemplated the idea of adding weekend service as well. The problem, he says, is that their clients are so busy on weekends that they are concerned about adding to their kitchen volume with deliveries.

In the future, the pair also is looking to add service to areas outside of the center city.

“Since our model is so simple, when we get to that point it’s just as easy as transplanting to Northside or Mt. Adams or Walnut Hills,” Adams explained.

From there he says that they would most likely create different zones throughout the city that would operate separately from one another, but under the same organizational structure.

In many cities, including Cincinnati, courier services like this have taken a hit due to the increasing use and reliability of electronic communications. Since the courier industry had typically focused on the delivery of documents, Adams and Bulling said they needed to find a new niche delivering food and parcels.

“I think the model in the industry has been expanding to be as flexible as possible, diversifying the kind of work you’re doing,” stated Bulling. “I think there’s a lot of potential for same-day retail delivery.”

Same-day delivery is something a number of businesses in the center city are already doing on their own, but the potential seems even greater to Adams and Bulling. They have added delivery options for Park+Vine, for example, but so far just focus on their lunch counter.

“We wanted them [Park+Vine] as a client so when we do expand into doing grocery delivery or ancillary items, we will already have them as a client and it will be easy to get started.”

They are not alone in their positive outlook on the industry, as Cincybite launched similar offerings at the end of 2013. One key difference between the two, however, is that Cincybite utilizes cars for their operations instead of bikes.

“I think the thing that distinguishes us from those companies is that we love what we do and we take what we do very seriously,” Bullings responded. “We believe that what we do takes a certain unique set of skills and physical ability, and I think that dedication and passion comes through in our work. Plus, we’re faster than cars.”

Month in Review – November 2014

Wasson Corridor Walk

In November, UrbanCincy readers enjoyed a collection of beautiful aerial photos of Cincinnati taken by Brian Spitzig. Two articles about the redevelopment of the Northern Liberties area of Over-the-Rhine were also quite popular. Our top five most popular posts, in descending order, were:

  1. Take a Look at These 20 Breathtaking Photos of Cincinnati’s Center City
    Brian Spitzig, an occasional contributor to UrbanCincy, recently took a flight around the inner city to take what turned out to be some incredible aerial photography. In part one of a two-part series, we share 20 of his photographs of Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.
  2. Check Out These 14 Amazing Images of Cincinnati’s Inner City Neighborhoods
    These 14 photographs capture views of the West End, Queensgate, Corryville, Mt. Auburn, Mt. Adams, Clifton Heights, Walnut Hills and University Heights.
  3. Findlay Market Ready to Work With Developers Poised to Transform Area Around It
    “The Corporation for Findlay Market expects to be heavily involved in all the new retail, working with property owners on product mix,” said Joe Hansbauer, President and CEO of Findlay Market. “We will be careful to make sure that competition exists, without diluting.”
  4. Film Center Renovation to be First Project in Northern Liberties for Urban Sites
    Over the next 18 months, Urban Sites will put together a development plan for the property. The company is considering office space or residential as potential uses for the building.
  5. An Indie Guide to Cincinnati During the Holidays
    Black Friday is over, but shoppers still have plenty of opportunities to support local businesses and find unique gifts.


Check Out These 14 Amazing Images of Cincinnati’s Inner City Neighborhoods

The first part of this two-part series proved to be very popular. While last week’s edition focused on aerial photographs of the center city, this week’s collection looks at neighborhoods just outside the city center.

As previously noted, Brian Spitzig is studying urban planning at the University of Cincinnati and is an occasional contributor to UrbanCincy. He recently took a flight over the city to capture these photographs.

We went through hundreds of photographs that he took and selected some of the best for you. The following 14 photographs capture views of the West End, Queensgate, Corryville, Mt. Auburn, Mt. Adams, Clifton Heights, Walnut Hills and University Heights.

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If you like what you see here, you can follow Brian Spitzig on Instagram.

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.