PHOTOS: Thousands of New Residential Units to Transform Downtown

Downtown Cincinnati is experiencing a new wave of development, with new office space at the Dunnhumby Centre, two new hotels in the historic Enquirer Building, the new Mabley Place in the former Tower Place Mall, and several other projects. But at UrbanCincy, we are most excited about the large number of new residences.

With more residents, the urban core will be able to support more essential neighborhood businesses—such as grocery stores, dry cleaners, and affordable restaurants—that are necessary for the long-term stability of the Central Business District and Over-the-Rhine neighborhoods.

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If all of the announced projects go according to plan, around 1,500 new units of housing will be added over the next two to three years, and each individual project will offer something unique. There will be a mix of apartments and condos; one-bedroom and two-bedroom units; affordable and luxury price points; historic renovations and new construction.

Most recently, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) announced a new development at 15th and Race that will include 57 new residential units and retail space; the exact mix of condos and apartments has not yet been announced. 3CDC is also proceeding with the three-phase Mercer Commons development, which will include a grand total of 126 apartments and 28 condos.

Other projects moving forward include:

  • The new tower at Fourth and Race will contain 300 luxury apartments and a 15,000 square foot grocery store. Developer Flaherty & Collins will begin demolition of the site’s existing parking garage, often called Pogue’s Garage, in the first half of 2014.
  • Phase two of The Banks is expected to finally break ground in 2013 2014, adding 305 new apartments and 21,000 square feet of retail space.
  • Developers of the Fountain Place retail building want to add 180 to 225 residential units above the existing Macy’s department store.
  • AT580, formerly known as the 580 Building, is being converted from office space into 179 apartments. The existing retail spaces on the first and second floors will remain.
  • A new tower above the Seventh and Broadway Garage will feature 110 high-end apartments. The target demographic for these units will be empty-nesters and older professionals looking for downtown living, according to Rick Kimbler, partner at the NorthPointe Group.
  • Three buildings on Seventh Street, which have been purchased by Peak Property Group, will be converted into 75 apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space.
  • Broadway Square, a $26 million development in Pendleton, will feature 39 apartments and 40,000 square feet of retail space in first phase. Developer Model Group will add at least another 39 apartments in the second phase of the project.
  • The Ingalls Building will be redeveloped into 40 to 50 condos and ground-floor retail space by the Claremont Group.
  • The Schwartz Building, formerly vacant office space, will be converted into 20 apartments. Developer Levine Properties cited the building’s location along the Cincinnati Streetcar route as a driving factor for the renovation.

All photographs by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy.

PHOTOS: Holidays in the City [Cincinnati]

It has been quite a year in Cincinnati and it’s easy to sometimes get caught up in all the drama and miss out on the everyday beauty around you. This has been particularly true in Cincinnati this holiday season, but we asked one of our favorite local photographers, Brian Spitzig, to go around and gather some photographs these past two months.

If his name sounds familiar, that might be because you are remembering when we featured two of Brian’s tilt-shift videos on UrbanCincy in February 2012 and March 2012.

After reaching out to Brian again he put together the following collection of 48 photographs from all over the city that capture it in its holiday splendor. If you like Brian’s photos as much as we do, then please follow him on Twitter @b_spitz and on Instagram @bspitz.

This will be our last post this year, but we hope you all had a very wonderful 2013 and wish you the best in the year to come. Enjoy!

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Cincinnati’s Streetcar Victory a Decade in the Making

The final, final, final vote for the first phase of the Cincinnati Streetcar took place today. Perhaps by now you all know the outcome. A six-person veto-proof super-majority voted to continue construction. Cincinnati, as Mayor John Cranley (D) said today, will have a streetcar.

What is important in this moment is to realize that everyone involved lived up to their campaign promises. Wendell Young (D), Chris Seelbach (D) and Yvette Simpson (D) stood strong in their support of the project – even in the face of uncertain outcomes.

At the same time, Christopher Smitherman (I), Amy Murray (R) and Charlie Winburn (R) held true to their promises to oppose the streetcar no matter what. They were the three lone votes against restarting construction.

Construction work will soon resume on Cincinnati’s $133M streetcar project. Photographs by Travis Estell for UrbanCincy.

Then there are the three council members who campaigned on taking a serious look at the numbers and making a prompt decision about whether to cancel the project or proceed. P.G. Sittenfeld (D), David Mann (D) and Kevin Flynn (C) all did that once they saw the numbers in detail. Cancelling a project this far along would have been fiscally irresponsible, and they voted true to their campaign promises to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s dollars.

UrbanCincy has been covering this project since we started the website back in 2007. Our original coverage focused on redevelopment efforts in Downtown and then Over-the-Rhine, but the streetcar quickly became a big part of that redevelopment narrative. It is no secret that we are strong supporters of the project and believe it will improve mobility in the center city and set the city on a path toward building the regional rail system everyone seems to now desire.

There are many people responsible for getting Cincinnati to this stage, but the biggest credit must absolutely be given to John Schneider. If it were not for his unrelenting leadership on this issue over the past decade, we would not be anywhere close to where we are now.

The emergence of Mayor Mark Mallory (D) then gave the city a prominent leader to push the project forward, and Mallory leaned on the expertise and leadership of former City Manager Milton Dohoney and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls (D) to get it all done.

It is important to keep in mind that the person who first pushed for the Uptown extension to be included in phase one was in fact Roxanne Qualls. The Uptown Connector was never part of the original phase one plan, but was added in later as “Phase 1b” at the urging of Qualls, who then worked with Mallory and then Governor Ted Strickland (D) to secure state funding to make that happen.

Hard fought victories in 2009 and 2011 helped keep the project alive, but also delayed it and ran up the project’s costs. Those delays also allowed enough time for Governor John Kasich (R) to assume office and pull the $52 million in state funding Ohio had originally pledged.

So while Qualls’ leadership and vision to have the first phase include the Uptown Connector is not being realized at this exact moment, our attention must now turn to extending the streetcar line to neighborhoods in Uptown as quickly as possible.

Cincinnati Regional Rail Plan
The first phase of the Cincinnati Streetcar system is a small part of a much larger regional rail plan envisioned by leaders. Map provided by OKI Regional Council of Governments.

A new wave of leaders and organizers has emerged in Cincinnati as a result of this most recent battle over the streetcar project. This includes the heroic efforts of Eric Avner and the Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation for drumming up private support to contribute $9 million toward the project’s ongoing operations.

Their hard work and courage should certainly be commended, but let’s also not forget the people who have been pounding the pavement on behalf of the streetcar since the beginning. Most Cincinnatians in 2007 did not know what a streetcar was, much less a modern one and the benefits it would bring. The hard work put in by those people early on was necessary.

This movement was not built overnight and these supporters are not fair-weather fans of the city. The movement has grown in size and grown more sophisticated over the past decade and is now stronger than ever.

You too can join this urbanist movement in Cincinnati.

We gather at the Moerlein Lager House around the first Thursday of every month to host URBANexchange – an urbanist networking and social event. We also partner with the Niehoff Urban Studio at the University of Cincinnati to study complex issues facing our city and engage the public in that dialog. Please join us at our next URBANexchange and pay us a visit in Corryville for our next event with the Niehoff Urban Studio.

Now is a time to celebrate and reflect. But it is not the time to get complacent. There are more issues to address and this energy that saved the streetcar needs to be redirected there. Congratulations, Cincinnati! Let’s get to work.

Should Cincinnati revisit the idea of an aerial tram between Downtown and Mt. Adams?

One of Cincinnati’s most unique and beautiful geographic features is its hills. They provide wooded hillsides, scenic overlooks and breathtaking cityscapes, but they also provide a headache for transportation engineers looking to connect the city’s neighborhoods with one another. While not a new idea, would it be worthwhile for Cincinnati to explore running an aerial tram from Downtown/OTR (near the casino) to the difficult to reach Mt. Adams? More from EarthTechling:

The aerial tram concept may just offer a workable solution for cities the size of Austin, which tend to face some real hurdles in developing any sort of mass transit system beyond that trusty urban stand by, the bus. That’s because any type of light rail or street car proposal often comes up against the major costs (and legalities) of acquiring land rights, which can be a maddenly slow process, and an expensive one. If a city tries to circumvent some of that red tape by building a subway system underground, construction workers may rejoice at the years of guaranteed work, but taxpayers often balk at the costs

An aerial tram, in contrast, has far less of a physical footprint, requiring only space for riders to hop on and hop off. Take a ride on Portland’s aerial tram on a weekend, and it will become clear that they also tend to become tourist attractions — not only because of their relative novelty in American cities, but because of the great views they offer.

Promise of Streetcar Driving Occupancy Rates at Hanke Exchange

The owners of The Hanke Exchange – a collection of five buildings in Over-the-Rhine between Reading Road and Michael Bany Way – have announced that Teach for America will open their Cincinnati office at the Jupiter Building at 1110 Main Street.

Teach for America, a non-profit focusing on urban education, will reportedly occupy 4,019 square feet of street-level space.

The property now has an 84% occupancy rate, which stood at a paltry 28% just three years ago, and the Stough Group, which owns the properties; believe they can reach 100% occupancy by the end of the year.

Hanke Building
The Hanke Building’s street level space was more recently used as a headquarters for the Barack Obama campaign. Photograph by Travis Estell for UrbanCincy.

“With regards to our tenants, we like to have a wide range of users, from creative or restaurant contacts to corporate and institutional users due to our access to parking,” explained Scott Stough, Director of Marketing, Stough Group.

The Hanke Exchange not only has direct access to the Parkhaus Garage, but also to a 32-space parking lot behind the 137-year-old Hanke Building on Sycamore Street.

Scott went on to say that the final tenant they are pursuing for the first floor space at the Hanke Building is a “progressive institutional tenant” that is extremely interested in the area and excited about being in such close proximity to the new streetcar.

If that lease works out, it would mark the sixth corporate or institutional tenant to lease space including US Bank, Grifol’s PlasmaCare, Human Capital Institute, and the Stough Development Corporation.

Later this month, the owners say they plan to update the wall painting on the side of 1116 Main Street to reflect the new Hanke Exchange branding. It is a move that the Stough Group hopes will boost visibility as the first phase of the Cincinnati Streetcar is built with a stop right across the street.

“I cannot speculate on property values, but I believe the streetcar is an important first step in developing public transportation for our city’s urban core,” Scott concluded.

IMAGE: Cincinnati To Grow Taller in the Coming Years

In just a few years time the Cincinnati’s center city could reach new heights with thousands of new residential units, several new hotel and office towers.

Last year, UrbanCincy analyzed the rate of tower construction in Cincinnati by decade and found that the 1960s through the 1980s saw the most tower construction of any decades in the history of the city. At that time, UrbanCincy counted six proposed towers into the tally for this decade, but our new list includes six more that we had not considered at that time.

Center City Cincinnati in 2015

In an effort to track the visual transformation of downtown Cincinnati,  we at UrbanCincy have used GoogleEarth to help track the dramatic new additions to the city’s downtown. Below is a compiled listing and description of these redevelopment projects:

  • dunnhumby Centre: A nine story office building located at Fifth Street and Race Street that will serve as the North American headquarters for dunnhumbyUSA.
  • Fountain Place Apartments: Late last year the Business Courier reported that Towne Properties was looking to construct an apartment tower over the building currently housing Macy’s department store. The tower could contain up to 225 apartment units.
  • Fourth and Race: Indianapolis developer Flaherty & Collins recently won approval from the city to move forward in constructing a 30-story residential tower with a grocery retailer on the first floor. The existing garage and attached skywalks will be demolished.
  • The Banks Phases 1B and 1C: Developers of The Banks are actively looking for an anchor office tenant to begin construction of a 13-story office tower at the corner of Second Street and Walnut Street. They are also looking for a hotel chain to construct a mid-rise along Joe Nuxhall Way and Freedom Way.
  • The Banks Phase 2: Development should begin by the end of the year on a 10-story apartment building housing 300 apartment units. This development will also include a future office building on the Vine Street side. The Carter-Dawson development team revealed their phase two designs to UrbanCincy last October.
  • Apartments at Seventh Street and Broadway Street: Announced in March, this apartment development will be constructed above an existing parking garage that was recently expanded by the city a couple of years ago. The development will have 110 apartment units.
  • Holiday Inn and Sycamore Street Garage: Part of the city’s Parking Modernization & Lease agreement includes the demolition of an aging city parking deck that will clear part of the site for construction of a 11-story Holiday Inn hotel. A 7-story garage with street-level retail will replace part of the old garage and the former American Red Cross building.
  • One River Place: The former condo project at the foot of the Purple People Bridge has extended its development approval with the city late last year and expressed an interest in developing as an apartment project. No number of units has been identified at this time.
  • Western & Southern Tower: With the resolution of litigation regarding the Ann Louise Inn, Western & Southern Financial Group will be able to move forward with plans to build a long planned tower at the site of the parking garage with the spinning clock. There are no renderings available as of this date so the model in the picture is a placeholder designed by the UrbanCincy team.

Of the nine towers on this list, six are recent additions to the tower listing compiled last year. Cincinnati is now poised to add 15 towers to its collection this decade, putting it dead even with how many the city added in the 1970s. Since many of these will be completed within the first half of this decade, it may be safe to assume that the city will add even more by decade’s end and approach the 1980s rate of tower construction.

While these new buildings may soon be added to downtown Cincinnati’s cityscape, other buildings are undergoing transformations including these following projects:

  • AT580: The renovation of an existing office building on Sixth Street, between Walnut and Main Street, into 176 apartment units, office and ground level retail. A steakhouse has already committed to the crucial corner spot of Sixth Street and Walnut Street.
  • Bartlett Building: This historic building, constructed and designed by Daniel Burnham has sat vacant as the bank foreclosed on the property owner during the recent financial crisis. The building’s new owners have recently received historic tax credits and city assistance in converting the building into a Renaissance Hotel.
  • Old Enquirer Building: Once slated to become condo’s prior to the recession, developers have recently begun construction of a dual brand hotel concept.
  • Terrace Plaza Hotel: The historic modernist building, which closed its doors in 2010, was recently sold. No word yet on whether their are plans for redevelopment of the building.

Half of the projects listed here are slated to start construction this year, adding an infusion of new residents and visitors to the Central Business District. The addition of these towers will not only accelerate the projected rate of tower construction in Cincinnati this decade, but it will also add fuel to the fire of the city’s ongoing renaissance.

And of course, none of this includes any of the any of the investment that is adding thousands of more residences, office and retail space, and hotel rooms throughout the city’s other neighborhoods. They just happen to not be taller than 100 feet in height.