Neighborhood Group Attempting To Establish Museum Focused on Over-the-Rhine

For those of us who worry that Over-the-Rhine is in the process of losing its history to a swarm of new development and residents who know little about the previous lives of the neighborhood, there is a new group, of which I am part, which is working to address that very issue.

The impetus behind the Over-the-Rhine Museum, which is still in its formation stage, is to create a space where people can come to “discover and interpret the history of Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood from its earliest inception through to the present.”

The goal is to accomplish this by using the stories of real people who have lived in specific buildings in OTR to show how the neighborhood has changed over time.

The museum plans to share not only stories of the neighborhood’s celebrated German heritage, but also stories of the Appalachian and African American residents that have helped to define the neighborhood more recently – creating a comprehensive history of the neighborhood over the past century and a half.

The Over-the-Rhine Museum group is in the early stages of forming and is basing itself on the model used by the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City, which is located in another neighborhood with a strong immigrant influence that has changed dramatically over time.

While the Over-the-Rhine Museum does not yet have a physical location, the plan is to establish a pop-up museum in the near future, with the exhibits based on the specific space where the pop-up will be held. Any historic building in OTR can fit the bill for the pop-up space or the permanent museum because, as founding member Anne Steinert says, “all of these buildings have stories to tell.”

Those interested in getting involved with the effort, or simply learning more, can participate in a walking tour of historic tenement buildings around Findlay Market on Sunday, October 4. Tickets for the OTR Tenement Walking Tour cost $10 and can be purchased online.

Group organizers say that they are also planning to host a storytelling event over the winter. Additional questions regarding how to get involved can be directed at

Model Group Moving Forward With $30M Second Phase of Broadway Square

Despite missing out on millions of dollars in state historic tax credits, Model Group is moving on undeterred with the next phase of work at Broadway Square.

Project officials say that the $30 million Broadway 3, which is actually phase two, should get started within the next week and will include 30 residential apartments and 1,200 square feet of commercial space.

“It’s a pretty sterile scoring system, so it’s pretty fair and to the point,” Bobby Maly, Chief Operating Officer at Model Group, told me when asked about missing out on the tax credits.

Undeterred, Maly then quickly changed to a more positive note and spoke about how Model Group is excited about the changes on tap for nearby Ziegler Park.

“Anytime you can create high quality green space that is safe and programmed is terrific,” Maly said. “Even the planned parking can be helpful for a high density neighborhood like Pendleton.”

One of the big differences about Broadway Square from the other developments taking place in Over-the-Rhine is that it has a different and unique setting. As many longtime residents know, Pendleton is less a district, and more of a pocket neighborhood.

To that end, he says that Model Group’s Broadway Square project is trying to not recreate what is happening on Vine or Main, but rather create a nexus that has a high concentration of professionals and niche businesses in a “high energy” environment.

So far the first phase of Broadway Square has lived up to that motto by attracting a collection of small, creative businesses, along with Urbana Cafe’s first brick-and-mortar location and the recently opened Nation Kitchen & Bar. While this next phase of work will have considerably less commercial space, Maly says that they have their eyes set on a small brewery for the corner of Thirteenth and Broadway Streets.

With apartments in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine at nearly 100% occupancy, and the first phase of Broadway Square fully leased within months with new marketing, the climate seems even better for the 30 new units this investment will bring online.

“There’s so much demand for Downtown and Over-the-Rhine right now that Cincinnati is still catching up with demand in that regard,” said Maly. “This is still more the beginning, than the middle or end.”

With work expected to get started soon on phase two, project officials say that the third and final phase could break ground as soon as January.

Garfield Suites Hotel To Be Converted Into 153-Unit Apartment Tower

Garfield Suites HotelLate on Friday afternoon the owner of Garfield Suites Hotel announced that the 34-year-old building would be converted back into apartments over the next year.

The news is tremendously positive for the center city’s residential and hospitality markets, both of which are experiencing their own transformations.

The 153-room hotel is one of the more dated in the marketplace, and it is facing increasing competition from new hotel operators at all price points. Such movements are forcing the hands of existing hotel owners to either make big investments to upgrade their facilities, close down or change uses. Removing these rooms from the inventory will make the market stronger for those other operators.

At the same time, there is virtually no apartment availability in the 45202 zip code, which covers Downtown, Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton. The location of this 16-floor tower is ideally situated for new residents looking to be in the heart of both thriving districts, and will almost certainly lease up in a matter of months.

Aside from the purely business aspects, this is also good for the vibrancy of the central business district. While there have been many new residential developments in Over-the-Rhine and at The Banks, it has been more difficult to inject large numbers of new apartments or condos into areas like this due to its existing buildout.

This particular location is one that is rich with jobs, but still struggling to reach a critical mass of residents that will support full-time service retail functions. Adding a couple hundred residents to the mix will go a long way to supporting that goal.

The interesting item about this project is that it is the building’s location that motivated its owners to convert it from apartments into a hotel 25 years ago.

At that time, the proximity to Over-the-Rhine was seen as a detriment and Downtown was not the place we know today. Those dramatic changes that have taken place in both neighborhoods over the past decade are now what is motivating the current owner to switch operations again.

This is a great example of urban resiliency.

The total cost of the renovation has not yet been determined, but owners intend to begin work in early 2016. They say that the plan will be to gradually make renovations so that the hotel can continue to operate as the units are gradually converted.

The owners also told Tom Demeropolis, who broke the story for the Business Courier, that they are also hoping to lease the 10,000 square feet of existing street-level retail space that sit vacant along Vine Street.

John Yung to Become Lead Project Executive at Urban Fast Forward

John Yung, UrbanCincy’s Associate Editor of Public Policy, will take on a new role with Urban Fast Forward as the firm’s Lead Project Executive.

John will maintain his position at UrbanCincy, where he has contributed for nearly five years. Over this time he also worked for the Bellevue, KY, and led the effort there to implement one of the region’s first form-based codes. He then obtained his American Institute of Certified Planners certification in 2014, and took on a leading planning role at the Village of Yellow Springs this past winter.

John says that he is excited to be back in Cincinnati full-time and is looking forward to the possibility of living car-free with his new office within walking distance of his Over-the-Rhine apartment. Kathleen Norris, Managing Principal at Urban Fast Forward, is also excited about the addition to her team.

“John is an urban rock star. His insight into the ebb and flow of cities and their neighborhoods is going to add real value for our clients,” Norris said.

In the new role, Norris says that John will be taking the place of Matt Shad, who is moving on to become Cincinnati’s Deputy Director of Zoning Administration. While at Urban Fast Forward, Shad assisted Norris with strategic planning consulting that complimented the firm’s retail leasing and development consultancy.

“The City of Cincinnati is lucky to be getting Matt,” said Norris. “He knows the intricacies of planning and zoning, in both theory and practical application, and I think he is going to make the whole development process lighter, quicker and faster.”

Since its founding in 2012, Urban Fast Forward has established itself as a firm that specializes in urban real estate and development, with a particular focus on retail district revitalization.

Urban Fast Forward has been particularly involved with the retail strategy in Over-the-Rhine, Pendleton and along Short Vine in Corryville. More recently the firm has been taking on bigger roles in Walnut Hills and Northside, and is also overseeing the strategic development of a Race Street retail corridor downtown.

Community Input Sessions Showcase Plans for $5M Ziegler Park Overhaul

The public will have another opportunity to weigh in on the proposed renovation of Ziegler Park on July 23. This will be the third in a series of meetings focusing on the renovation and potential expansion of the park, which is located at the northwest corner of Thirteenth and Sycamore streets.

The community input session will be held at the Woodward Theater, located at 1404 Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, at 5pm on Thursday.

The 1.4-acre park currently contains a pool, playground area, and shelter with picnic tables. To its east sits Cutter Playground and the former School for the Creative and Performing Arts building, which is being converted into a 142-apartment development called Alumni Lofts. Then, to the north, is a large parking lot, with a basketball court located just across Thirteenth Street to the south.

The latest proposal for the park was presented in late June at the launch of the Citizens for Cincinnati Parks levy campaign. The plan, said to cost $5 million, depicted the current Ziegler Park site renovated into a large, open lawn space, with the removal of the existing pool; and the parking lot to the north being removed and converted to an aquatics and play area.

A parking garage would be built under Cutter Playground, serving both the residents of Alumni Lofts and visitors to the park and surrounding area. Several enhancements along Sycamore Street would make it easier for pedestrians to cross between Ziegler Park and Cutter Playground.

According to the project team, which consists of the Cincinnati Park Board, Cincinnati Recreation Commission, City of Cincinnati, and 3CDC, the latest site plan will “maintain and expand park amenities while meeting the parking demands of the neighborhood.”

After gathering feedback, organizers say they will prepare a preliminary master plan that will be presented at a fourth community input session. From that, the final master plan will then be developed.