Could Narrowing Liberty Street Unlock New Development Potential in OTR?

Streets can set the mood and feel of a place. Narrow streets with low traffic are quiet, easy to walk across and casual. Wide streets can be chaotic, full of traffic and hard to bridge on foot. There is a wide street in Over-the-Rhine that cuts through the northern part of the neighborhood and the southern revitalizing part of it. It’s Liberty Street.

Liberty Street was not always so wide. Before 1955 the street, which now dead ends at Reading Road and the I-471 ramps, extended from Highland Avenue on the hill in Mt. Auburn to the U.S. Post Office facility in Queensgate. The width of the street was a modest 25 feet.

In 1955, however, the city decided to widen and connect it to Reading Road as a east-west cross town access point for the interstate highway system. Buildings on the south side of the street were demolished and the street was widened from a two lane road to one with five lanes.

The street is currently 70 feet wide and is both dangerous and difficult to cross for people walking. Development has not taken place on the south side of the street since most of remaining lots are too small and oddly shaped for development.

Beyond its physical barriers, Liberty Street also serves as a psychological barrier between the nascent Brewery District and vibrant Gateway Quarter.

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In 2012, the City’s Department of Transportation & Engineering began studying ways to calm traffic on the street in order to make it safer. After spending two years evaluating traffic conditions, City Hall is beginning to engage the public for comment on the proposal. The first will be tomorrow night at the Woodward Theater.

The session will build upon the idea proposed in the OTR Brewery District Master Plan, which called for the removal of a lane of traffic to add protected bicycle lanes in both directions. The UrbanCincy team recently discussed the proposal and found that while this is a good starting point, there is a larger opportunity for the street to spur more redevelopment along the corridor.

Our proposal eliminates one lane of traffic in each direction, but preserves the middle turn lane. A two-way contraflow protected bicycle lane would then be installed on the south side of the street. This leaves approximately 15 feet of unused street right-of-way.

This unused right-of-way could be returned to property owners on the south side of the street, thus narrowing the overall street by 15 feet. It would also increase the size of the southern properties which would increase their development potential and improve safety for pedestrians crossing the street. This would serve as particularly beneficial for small parcels such as those at the corner of Vine and Liberty or between Main and Sycamore.

This idea builds on the ideas put forward by Jeff Speck, who recently released a video on traffic calming and embraces modern street design standards that are found in the National Association of City Transportation Officials Street Design Manual.

The Liberty Street Safety Improvement Open House will take place at the Woodward Theater located at 1404 Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. The session starts at 6pm and will last until 8pm. It is served by the #16, 17, 19 and 24 Metro bus routes, and is less than a block away from a Cincy Red Bike station.

PHOTOS: Center City Construction Updates From October

Downtown Cincinnati and the adjacent areas continue to see both new development and redevelopment of existing structures. In an effort to bring broader awareness to the exciting projects occurring in the city, I snapped pictures throughout October showing the work taking place.

  1. Aqua on the Levee, which includes 239 apartments, an Aloft Hotel, and retail space
  2. Early work on a 15-story, 130 unit apartment building at the intersection of 7th Street and Sycamore Street
  3. Progress on the six-story, 117-room Holiday Inn at 7th Street and Broadway Street
  4. $24 million Alumi Lofts redevelopment of the former school in Pendleton into 142 apartments
  5. Prep work on Phase IIIA of The Banks project
  6. Continued progress on the 10-story General Electric Global Operations Center at The Banks
  7. Redevelopment of a former church into an event space adjacent to Washington Park called The Transept
  8. $27 million redevelopment of the YMCA at Elm Street and Central Parkway
  9. The Radius, bringing 292 apartments to The Banks

While these photos focus on projects in the center city, there are certainly many more exciting projects taking place throughout the city as its boom spreads outward. We’ll get to some of those projects in future updates.

EDITORIAL NOTE: This is the first of what we intend to be a regular monthly feature on UrbanCincy that will take a selected look at construction progress throughout the city. If you have any projects that you would like to have us visit and photograph, please let us know by emailing us at

Red Bike Firmly Establishes Itself As Tri-State’s Largest Bike-Share Program

Red Bike recorded its 100,000th ride early last week when Keith Piercy checked out a bike at the Port Bellevue Station in Northern Kentucky.

According to Jason Barron, Executive Director of Red Bike, Piercy rode the bike across the river and docked it at the Freedom Center Station at The Banks. Piercy explained that he was out running some errands and was even on his way to go buy a new bike helmet.

“This is awesome. It [Red Bike] has been working out great for me,” Piercy said. “It is really helping out our one-car family.”

The moment comes as data from the American Community Survey found that Cincinnati has one of the fastest growing bicycling communities in the nation, and the biggest in Ohio. It also comes just after the one-year anniversary of Red Bike’s launch, which also took place in front of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

According to Barron, ridership has far exceeded initial expectations, with more than 17,000 people using Red Bike in its first year. This growth also fueled the quicker than anticipated expansion of the system. With 50 stations located on both sides of the Ohio River, Red Bike is the largest bike share system in Ohio, and the first public bike share system in Kentucky.

While it is expected that ridership and system growth will level off over the second year of operations, Red Bike leadership is looking to iron out finances and expand upon programs, like the one recently launched with CityLink, to make the system more accessible to people at all income levels.

Annual memberships can be purchased for $80, while day passes can be purchased for $8. Semester passes, which are good for 120 days and are marketed toward university students, can be purchased for $30.

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.