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.

BuyCincy Holiday Event Aims to Give Local Shops $500,000 Bump

The final two months of the year are often the make-or-break month for retailers. In some cases this relatively short time period can account for more than a third of a retailer’s annual revenues.

There is always much hype surrounding what specials the big retailers are offering on Black Friday, but there are also opportunities to support small, locally owned businesses this holiday shopping season.

What was previously known as Cincinnati Unchained will return this year as an expanded four-day event meant to encourage area shoppers to support locally owned shops, restaurants and bars. The BuyCincy Holiday Event will take place the week before Black Friday from Thursday, November 21 to Sunday, November 24.

East Walnut Hills Retail
Woodburn Avenue in East Walnut Hills. Photograph provided by 5chw4r7z.

According to Kurt Myers, co-founder and business director of BuyCincy, this will mark the seventh season for the event and that in previous years some merchants have reported that it ends up being their busiest day of the year.

There are more than 300 businesses participating in this year’s event, and that those shops are located in over 25 neighborhoods throughout the region. Organizers say that their goal is to generate new spending from over 35,000 customers, which would create an estimated economic impact of more than $500,000 with each shopper spending approximately $15.

“Supporting locally owned businesses has a three-and-a-half-times greater impact on the economy than shopping at a store that is not owned locally,” Myers explained. “Plus you get to support your friends and neighbors businesses and keep Cincinnati unique.”

In order to help encourage local shoppers to participate in the event, the Greater Cincinnati Independent Business Alliance (CiNBA) is working with retailers to offer raffle prizes. When customers visit a participating business they will receive a ticket to use in the raffle of thousands of dollars of prizes. To help further promote the effort, organizers are also encouraging people to use the #BuyCincy tag on social media.

A full list of the participating businesses and neighborhood business districts can be found at BuyCincy.com. Those businesses that are still interested in participating can do so by registering online and submitting a $25 minimum raffle donation.

If you want to support local businesses but are not quite sure about what to buy for that special someone, then you can also purchase them a Downtown Gift Card, which is redeemable at 180 stores and restaurants in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine, including all Findlay Market merchants. Those gift cards can be purchased online, at the offices for Downtown Cincinnati Inc., or at Findlay Market.

Cincinnati’s New-Found Buzz Helping Attract Retailers to Region

There were many significant achievements and trouble spots for Mayor Mark Mallory (D) over his past eight years as the face for the 2.1 million person Cincinnati region. Perhaps one of his largest accomplishments, however, was changing Cincinnati’s image nation-wide from a city in decline to one that is on the rise and doing innovative things.

For the first time national publications began to look at Cincinnati for its accomplishments in public education, sustainable redevelopment, environmental policy and even transport.

Yard House Cincinnati
Thanks in part to the aggressive marketing of Cincinnati by Mayor Mallory, new national chains like Yard House and Ruth’s Chris have begun filling store fronts throughout the city. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

Each of these items involved a number of more detailed pursuits in order to make them happen. One of those pursuits was to attract new retail businesses to the region. In order to accomplish this, Mayor Mallory went on a full campaign touting the amenities and demographics Cincinnati has to offer.

After much work, the efforts started to yield fruit.

According to the mayor’s director of public affairs, Jason Barron, Mallory met personally with Potbelly (Downtown), Chipotle (Corryville, Downtown) and Panera Bread (Clifton Heights, Downtown) in an effort to get them to expand their presence inside city limits.

“We’ve been aggressive at national events for about six years now,” Barron explained. “We weren’t able to go this year in May, but Mayor Mallory has met with a number of these businesses over the years.”

The mayor also met directly with a number of other national chains in order to make the case that they open a location in Cincinnati. Those successes include Yard House (Downtown), Ruth’s Chris (Downtown), Orange Leaf (Clifton Heights, Downtown, Oakley, Westwood), Season’s 52 (Norwood), Capital Grill (Norwood), and Save-A-Lot (Roselawn).

For many of these businesses it was not only their first location in Cincinnati, but also their first in Ohio, Kentucky or Indiana. Barron says that it is thanks in part to the efforts made by Mallory on the road at events like the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) annual meeting.

The efforts do require a bit of patience, as Barron says that not only has the administration been courting new businesses for years, they also believe that some of the benefits have yet to be realized.

“One of the things we’re always trying to do is create a buzz about Cincinnati to other leaders, businesses and investors,” said Barron. “The mayor’s making connections now that will pay off down the road.”

While the buzz can often times be attributed to the spirited Mallory, the mayor’s office is quick to point out that much of the heavy lifting has been done by local experts like Mark Fallon at Jeffrey R. Anderson. Most recently Fallon has been responsible for leasing both U Square at The Loop and The Banks.

More national brands appear to be on their way to Cincinnati, but the mayor’s office refuses to speak about the deals before they are finalized. But in addition to new restaurants and bars, Cincinnatians might expect to see other businesses opening up shop in the Queen City over the next one to two years.

Certainly chain restaurants are not the only retailers Cincinnati has been lacking, but the outside investment is certainly welcome. The next step will be to attract more clothing retailers to the city, and to expand the base of independent shops around town.

But luckily, as people close with the mayor might say, the buzz is starting to take shape.

Cincinnati Region Seems Interested by Merger of Local Governments

The editorial we published on Monday has received a lot of attention. Not only has there been a huge and productive discussion in the story’s comment section, but it is generating conversation, all over town, about the idea of consolidating local governments.

The Business Courier looked at our editorial and provided their own perspective on the matter. Cincinnati Blog did the same. Then yesterday I was asked to join Scott Sloan on his morning talk show on 700WLW to further discuss the matter.

Proposed Hamilton County Municipal Mergers

While there has been a wide variety of feedback and opinions, one thing seems to be clear. The way our local governments are currently fragmented does not make sense. It does not make sense with regards to the provision of public services or for the value of taxpayer dollars.

We had already been planning to follow-up on this issue prior to the huge response, but now we feel that the topic really needs to be discussed and pursued even more aggressively.

In the meantime, feel free to listen to the 10 to 12 minute conversation I had with Scott Sloan yesterday. You can listen to it on 700WLW’ website, or you can stream it above.

EDITORIAL: It’s Time to Consolidate Local Governments in Hamilton County

For years local officials and civic boosters have been calling for the merging of local government operations. A core issue that has not been discussed, however, is that of merging local municipalities entirely.

In Hamilton County there are 49 different political jurisdictions ranging from a few hundred people to approximately 300,000 in the City of Cincinnati. That is approximately 16,334 people per political jurisdiction. Certainly we are not serving our residents in the most effective and prudent way when there is so much fragmentation.

Many of the smaller communities, with just a few hundred a couple thousand people, have recently fallen on more difficult financial times. Both Arlington Heights (population 745) and Elmwood Place (population 2,188) have been embroiled in scandals revolving around their use of speed traps and cameras to generate revenue.

Proposed Hamilton County Municipal Mergers
Smaller jurisdictions throughout Hamilton County should be merged with larger ones like Cincinnati and Cleves. Map by Nate Wessel for UrbanCincy.

In Arlington Heights the scandal revolved around the stealing of $260,000 of public money, and in Elmwood Place it involved an abusive use of traffic cameras to issue tickets.

“The Village Council needs to seriously consider dissolving the Village of Arlington Heights,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters proclaimed after the two theft indictments. “The Village seems to be nothing more than a speed trap with no checks and balances…Consolidating with another political subdivision is long overdue.”

In other cases, like Silverton (population 4,788), the jurisdictions have become so small that they can no longer be considered a city.

There are certainly some efficiencies to be gained by merging local police and fire departments in smaller communities throughout our region, but merging entire municipalities will reap much bigger savings.

In Hamilton County, some 15 communities could be easily folded into the City of Cincinnati. Many of these municipalities already are served by Cincinnati Public Schools and are either adjacent to, or completely surrounded by, Cincinnati’s city limits.

Most of these 15 municipalities have less than 5,000 people, and would surely benefit from the much broader public services offered by the City of Cincinnati. Larger cities like Norwood (population 19,207), Reading (population 10,385), and Cheviot (population 8,375) would also see improved public services and improved financial stability.

Furthermore, it would put an end to the many economic development incentive battles that are waged across these arbitrary political boundaries.

Each of the 15 communities could continue to maintain its identity by becoming a new official neighborhood within the City of Cincinnati, which would see its population grow by more than 77,000 people as a result, as they essentially function now in the region’s urban fabric. This would allow these places to stay true to their roots while also gaining more political clout, improved financial stability and public services, and expanded opportunities within a much larger political jurisdiction.

State budget cuts are continuing to cut into the core of local public operations, and at some point each of these communities will reach a point where “belt-tightening” will no longer achieve the savings needed to remain financially productive.

Plus, if you community’s sole purpose for maintaining its separate political jurisdiction is to maintain those positions, then it might be time to rethink your reason for being.

Rookwood Pavilion offering upscale outlets an urban destination

Believe it or not, Rookwood Commons and Kenwood Towne Centre once were in a heated battle over which shopping destination would become the region’s premier stop. Due to a number of factors, including a messy eminent domain case that prohibited Rookwood from expanding, Kenwood has taken firm control of that title. Rookwood hasn’t died, however, and it may be looking to become a destination for unique retailers entering urban markets. More from the Business Courier:

The Nike factory store now under development at Rookwood Pavilion is part of a larger plan to reposition the 20-year-old retail center as something you’ve probably never heard of: an urban infill outlet. The architect of that strategy, Mark Fallon, says outlet retailers pay higher rents, attract fashion-conscious shoppers and are looking to expand into urban areas.

“This opens us up to 200 quality tenants in the future,” said Fallon, vice president at Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate Inc., which handles leasing for the 257,000-square-foot Rookwood Pavilion in Norwood. “It offers (outlet tenants) an urban infill location, as opposed to being out in the hinterlands.”