Film Center Renovation to be First Project in Northern Liberties for Urban Sites

Looking EastOver the seven year history of UrbanCincy, we have seen a tremendous amount of revitalization and new development in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Most has occurred in the southern half of the neighborhood, near the Central Business District. We’ve often wondered what it would take for development to jump across Liberty Street into the part of the neighborhood known as the Northern Liberties.

We may have recently hit that critical point. Findlay Market is thriving and growing, and will the addition of Eli’s BBQ, will soon offer a late-night dining option. The nearby tap room at Rhinegeist Brewery has quickly become a hot spot, bringing hundreds of visitors each weekend into a part of the neighborhood that was desolate just a short time ago. And Model Group has announced a $14 million office development along Race Street.

Most recently, the Business Courier reported that Urban Sites is moving forward with a plan to revitalize the 40,000 square foot Film Center building. It will be “the largest single site construction project that Urban Sites has performed to date,” according to Michael Chewning, Chief Operating Officer for Urban Sites. It is also the company’s first foray into the Northern Liberties.

The building was originally owned by Warner Bros. and contains dozens of large vaults that were used for storing films and protecting them against the elements. “The Film Center is unique in that it gives us a glimpse of the lesser known, but important role that Cincinnati played in the film industry,” said Seth Maney, Vice President of Development 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.

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EDITORIAL NOTE: All 13 photos were taken by Travis Estell for UrbanCincy on a recent exclusive building tour.

Eighth Annual BuyCincy Holiday Event to Take Place This Weekend

The Greater Cincinnati Independent Business Alliance (CiNBA) is hosting their second annual BuyCincy event this weekend between November 21 and November 23.

While in only its second year with CiNBA, the BuyCincy event has actually been running in some form for eight years now, following its initial launch through the now defunct BuyCincy blog.

CiNBA, which was established in in 2012, is the first independent business alliance, of 90 nationwide, to have successfully partnered with a university. In this case that institution is Xavier University’s William’s College of Business .

“CiNBA’s mission is to create a thriving community of local independent businesses and non-profits by supporting and representing the value of those in the Greater Cincinnati area and works to accomplish this mission through networking, marketing and events such as the BuyCincy Holiday Event,” said Madison Wallace, a Xavier University student in charge of the social media marketing for CiNBA and BuyCincy.

Initially launched as a blog in 2007, BuyCincy has since morphed into a brand used to promote local spending, and help area residents discover new local businesses. This year, organizers say, the event is expecting more than 150 businesses to participate from more than 15 different neighborhoods, including Bellevue, Over-the-Rhine, Hyde Park and College Hill.

Last year the event had 146 participating businesses from 20 different neighborhoods. Organizers estimate that the approximated spending during the four-day event totaled $25,000. Similar events to this one nationwide tend to boost sales in the participating neighborhood business districts. On average, independent business organizations estimate that those participating areas see 5.3% more business activity than other non-participating areas.

“We know small businesses get lost in frantic “big box” promotions during the holidays, so we created BuyCincy’s Holiday Event to bring our city’s local businesses together with a ‘buy local’ shopping message,” CiNBA explains.

The three-day BuyCincy Holiday Event will take place the weekend before Thanksgiving. The complete list of participating businesses can be found on the group’s website, and includes shops, restaurants, bars and other local establishments to round out your holiday shopping experience.

All Aboard Ohio Meeting to Provide Update on Cincinnati to Chicago Train Service

Amtrak TrainAll Aboard Ohio will be holding their quarterly Southwest Ohio meeting in Over-the-Rhine next week at the Moerlein Tap Room.

Organizers say that they will be updating members, and all in attendance, on the progress of recent activities to develop daily train service from Cincinnati to Chicago, by the way of Indianapolis. The effort is perhaps one of the nonprofit organization’s biggest efforts since the 3C Corridor was notoriously cancelled by Ohio Governor John Kasich (R).

What seems to be different about this effort, however, is the fact that there is bipartisan support from the onset, including a rare unanimous vote from Hamilton County Commissioners supporting the study of such daily service.

Another early advocate has been Cincinnati City Council Transportation Committee Chairwoman Amy Murray (R), who will also be the special guest at All Aboard Ohio’s meeting on Tuesday.

Derek Bauman, SW Ohio Director for All Aboard Ohio, also says that they will update everyone on the construction progress for the Cincinnati Streetcar.

It is all part of an effort, Bauman says, to get more people involved in the process, and engaged on these important issues.

“Since being elected to the board back in May, I’ve spent the summer and fall building advocacy for daily service from Cincinnati to Indianapolis and Chicago,” Bauman explained. “We have made some great progress, yet have a long way to go.”

Some of the other success, he says, can be seen in the 60 new All Aboard Ohio members from the Cincinnati area that have joined in recent months. It is a number he is pleased with, but hopes will grow even more. As a result, the meeting at Moerlein Tap Room will be open to anyone who wants to attend.

All Aboard Ohio’s SW Ohio quarterly meeting is free and open to the public, and will take place at 6pm on Tuesday, November 18 at the Moerlein Tap Room in Over-the-Rhine’s Northern Liberties district. The location is well-served by Metro bus service and has free bike parking readily available. There are also two Cincy Red Bike stations located within two blocks of the venue.

PHOTOS: Streetcar Maintenance Facility, OTR Track Work Nearing Completion

Construction of the Cincinnati Streetcar system has been moving quickly over the past several months. In the Central Business District, track work on Walnut Street has been completed between Central Parkway and Seventh Street, and two stations are under construction along this stretch.

Downtown drivers will soon get a break from track construction until next year, when crews will return to the CBD to finish the Walnut Street track after the holiday season.

In the mean time, crews have moved to the Northern Liberties to finish up the Over-the-Rhine portion of the system. The special track work in this area includes turnouts on Henry and Race streets, connecting to the Maintenance & Operations Facility, and turnouts to Findlay and Elder Streets, which will allow the Uptown Connector to be built in the future without disrupting service.

Crews recently finished resurfacing portions of Elm and Race streets along the route, which means that underground utility work has wrapped up. Many of the streetcar stops in Over-the-Rhine are also now complete and many of the new traffic signals have been activated.

While much has been accomplished, a significant amount of construction remains, including track work along Main and Second streets in the CBD. But anyone taking a walk down Race Street, in Over-the-Rhine, today should get a good impression of what the finished track and stations will look like.

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EDITORIAL NOTE: All 14 photos were taken by Travis Estell for UrbanCincy between October 21 and November 1, 2014.

City Officials to Present Alternatives for Two-Way Street Conversions in Walnut Hills

City officials are moving forward with potential changes to E. McMillan Street and William Howard Taft Road in East Walnut Hills. The proposed changes are a continuation of other improvements that have been made in the area in recent years, and will be presented to the public at an open house meeting on Tuesday, November 18.

Developed by planners and engineers at Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE), the improvements being considered include two-way street conversions of E. McMillan Street and William Howard Taft Road between Victory Parkway and Woodburn Avenue, and Woodburn Avenue between E. McMillan Street and Taft Road.

The proposal is an extension of two other two-way street conversions that were completed in 2012.

According to community leaders, the projects are seen as an opportunity to better connect the business districts of Walnut Hills and East Walnut Hills.

“The two-way conversion would make the two neighborhoods much more connected and make the distance between DeSales Corner and Peeble’s Corner more walkable,” explained Kevin Wright, Executive Director of Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation. “Our goal is to make the two districts more connected. Imagine grabbing a pizza at Fireside and then walking down to Myrtle’s Punch House, with a stop at Brewhouse along the way.”

The idea of converting one-way streets to two-way travel is one that has been gaining traction nationwide amongst residents and business owners looking to slow traffic and improve access within their communities.

While former Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls (D) had pushed for the conversion of the one-way streets in Walnut Hills to two-way travel, there have also been a number of other conversions throughout Over-the-Rhine in recent years, including the ongoing effort to transition Main Street back to two-way traffic.

City planners, however, say that the two-way street conversions are not the only improvements being proposed. Other components include the typical streetscape enhancements, as well as some gateway features for the neighborhood business districts. All of the proposed changes, they say, are the result of recent conversations and feedback from neighborhood residents and stakeholders.

“The stretch of McMillan between Park Avenue and Woodburn, currently, is very auto centric,” Wright conceded. “Our hope is that this is one of many changes that will be put in place over the next few years to make that area more walkable.”

Greg Koehler, Senior Economic Development Analyst at Cincinnati’s Department of Trade & Development, says that the open house will be held at the Keller Student Center at St. Ursula Academy. The event will run from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. Official presentations will be made at 5:45pm and 6:45pm, but City staff will be on-hand throughout the entire meeting to answer any questions regarding the plans.

City officials were unable to provide UrbanCincy with the drawings of the proposed changes ahead of the meeting. Those interested in reviewing the detailed plans are encouraged to attend the open house scheduled for Tuesday, November 18. The meeting location is highly accessible via Metro bus service, and free bike parking is located at the school.