Nine Giant Brewing to Open in Heart of Pleasant Ridge Business District

Nine Giant Brewing has signed a lease at the corner of Montgomery Road and Ridge Avenue in the heart of the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood business district. The announcement comes years after community leaders celebrated the formal establishment of a Community Entertainment District for the area.

According to Urban Fast Forward, the agency in charge of leasing at the site, the signing is part of a larger redevelopment effort called Sixty99, which is being spearheaded by Gene Levental, and will eventually include more than $350,000 worth of upgrades to the 87-year-old building.

According to Blake Bartley, Urban Fast Forward’s leasing agent for the project, Sixty99 includes several yet-to-be-leased commercial spaces. In addition to Nine Giant Brewing, however, A Salon Named Desire is currently located on the building’s second floor.

The Nine Giant Brewing micro-brewpub, Bartley says, will take up 3,413 square feet of space along Montgomery Road and is being spearheaded by Brandon Hughes and Michael Albarella.

Perhaps surprisingly, the announcement comes years after the CED was announced for Pleasant Ridge; but with increasing investment throughout a variety of Cincinnati’s neighborhood business districts, this deal appears to be capitalizing on growing momentum in the city. As a result, community leaders in Pleasant Ridge believe this might spark more business openings in the future – something that would be buoyed by the fact that several liquor licenses remain as part of the Pleasant Ridge CED.

“Nine Giant is a great addition to Pleasant Ridge and the Sixty99 development and provides the neighborhood with a true entertainment destination,” Bartley told UrbanCincy. “This is a huge first step for what is going to be a thriving entertainment district at Sixty99.”

New Center City On-Street Parking Rates, Hours of Enforcement Now In Effect

New parking rates and hours of operation went into effect for the Central Business District and Over-the-Rhine on Friday. The changes come after Cincinnati City Council approved the matter in November 2014.

Under the arrangement, 500 new electronic parking meters have been installed throughout Over-the-Rhine to complement the existing set already in place in the Central Business District. Over the coming weeks, the City of Cincinnati will also be installing 1,000 additional electronic meters throughout the Clifton, Hyde Park, Mt. Lookout, Northside, O’Bryonville, Oakley, and Pleasant Ridge neighborhood business districts, as well as key locations throughout Uptown.

The electronic meters, officials say, are meant to replace the old ones with newer models that accept credit card payments and are compatible with future plans for pay-by-phone technology and dynamic pricing structures. Pay-by-phone capabilities are expected to be operational by the middle of 2015.

While nearly a dozen neighborhoods will benefit from the new technology, only Over-the-Rhine will see its on-street parking policies change across the board. As part of the new policy, parking rates in Over-the-Rhine will double to $1/hour; while rates will remain set at $.50/hour and $2/hour in the other neighborhoods and in the Central Business District, respectively.

As of today, parking meters in the Central Business District and Over-the-Rhine will now also be in effect from 9am to 9pm Monday through Saturday, and 2pm to 9pm on Sundays. Parking hours of enforcement in the remaining 50 neighborhoods, meanwhile, will remain unchanged.

The sweeping changes are meant to help improve the performance of the City’s broken parking system. While many small business owners in Over-the-Rhine have expressed their support for the changes, especially in light of ongoing vandalism of meters in Over-the-Rhine, some believe they have been singled out following the cancellation of a previous agreement that would have raised rates and increased enforcement city-wide.

“I’m not opposed to longer meter hours and higher rates, but what upsets me, as an OTR resident and business owner, is the fact that our neighborhood has been singled out,” Jean-Francois Flechet, owner of Taste of Belgium, wrote in a Facebook post. “The same hours and rates should apply to other neighborhoods.”

The original Parking Lease & Modernization Plan approved in early 2013 was, of course, cancelled by Mayor John Cranley (D) almost immediately upon his arrival at City Hall at the end of 2013. While the mayor and many members of City Council bemoaned the previous plan, a similar plan appears to be taking shape, but in a piece-by-piece approach.

As like the original plan, new electronic meters are being installed that accept credit card payments and utilize dynamic pricing models, meters are being upgraded city-wide, and a contract has been signed with Xerox.

The Cranley Administration has not yet commented on plans for new hours or rates in the city’s remaining neighborhood business districts, where on-street parking meters exist, but they do say that they intend to systematically create multi-space parking that will “produce more aesthetically clean public right-of-way areas in Over-the-Rhine.”

This means that the newly retrofitted parking meters in the historic neighborhood will eventually be removed to make way for multi-space equipment, similar to what has been used in the Central Business District in the past. The upgraded parking meters from Over-the-Rhine will then be shifted to other neighborhoods throughout the city. This process, officials say, could begin as soon as this spring.

In addition to the specific focus on center city neighborhoods, the new parking policy differs from the previously approved plan by creating Sunday hours of enforcement. While the new Sunday hours of enforcement are only in effect for the Central Business District and Over-the-Rhine, it crosses what was considered a red line in the previous public debate over proposed parking changes.

All of the changes are expected to bring confusion to those parking in the affected areas, including a large group of people who drove to Christ Church Cathedral for the Boar’s Head & Yule Log Festival on Sunday. According to Michelle Dillingham, Director of Education at the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, parking enforcement officers ticketed many cars parked on the street during the event.

“I walked out of the Boar’s Head event that was barely an hour long and almost every car had a parking ticket on their windshield…on a Sunday and in front of a church celebrating 75 years of a Cincinnati tradition,” Dillingham wrote. “I don’t know, but it just rubbed me wrong.”

The former Cincinnati City Council candidate went on to say that she had two separate conversations with people, who lived outside of the center city, that were very upset by the situation and would reconsider visiting downtown again due to the aggressive parking enforcement.

City officials acknowledge that there will be a bit of a learning curve, and say they are working to improve awareness of the new rates and hours of enforcement by distributing flyers and working with groups like Downtown Cincinnati Inc. and the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce to inform drivers of the changes.

Gentrification Occurring in More Than Cincinnati’s Center City Neighborhoods

Like many cities across the United States, the City of Cincinnati is gentrifying, but it is doing so at a faster rate than most of its Midwestern peers – ranking fourth only behind Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Louis. When compared with the primary city in each of the nation’s 55 most populated metropolitan areas, Cincinnati is in the middle of the pack. Those cities that are gentrifying most quickly are located in the Northeast and along the West Coast.

The information comes from a new report published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, which also dove into the financial implications of what is often generally considered a bad thing.

Gentrification is generally understood as the rise of home prices or rents in a particular neighborhood. In Cincinnati this has most vigorously been discussed as it relates to the transformation in Over-the-Rhine from what was one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, to now being one of its trendiest.

Clifton Heights
The Clifton Heights neighborhood, which continues to see a surge of private real estate investment, was found to be one of several Cincinnati neighborhoods that gentrified between 2000 and 2007. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

“Gentrification is sometimes viewed as a bad thing. People claim that it is detrimental to the original residents of the gentrifying neighborhood,” stated Daniel Hartley, a research economist focusing on urban and regional economics and labor economics for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. “However, a look at the data suggests that gentrification is actually beneficial to the financial health of the original residents.”

What Hartley’s research found is that credit scores for those living in a neighborhood that gentrified between 2000 and 2007 were about eight points higher than those people living in a low-price neighborhood that did not gentrify. He also discovered that delinquency rates, as represented by a share of people with an account 90 or more days past due, fell by two points in gentrifying neighborhoods relative to other low-price neighborhoods during the same period.

Some, however, caution against drawing conclusions about the data presented in Hartley’s report.

“I don’t see any reason why gentrification would affect the credit scores of existing residents – those who lived in the neighborhood prior to gentrification occurring,” commented Dr. David Varady, a professor specializing in housing policy at the University of Cincinnati’s School of Planning. “It was my impression that banks and other financial institutions were not supposed to take the neighborhood into account but rely on the family’s financial characteristics.”

The practice Dr. Varady describes of banks and financial institutions taking neighborhoods into account is called redlining. It is a practice that was rebuffed by the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, but some believe the practice persists in more abstract forms today.

One of the biggest concerns shared by those worried about the gentrification of neighborhoods is that it is particularly those that rent, rather than own, who are affected most. This too, however, is challenged by Hartley’s research.

“Mortgage-holding residents are associated with about the same increase in credit scores in gentrifying neighborhoods as non-mortgage-holding residents,” Hartley explained. “This result suggests that renters in gentrifying neighborhoods benefit by about the same degree as homeowners.”

Cincinnati Gentrification (2000-2007)
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland noted gentrification in a wide variety of Cincinnati neighborhoods between 2000 and 2007. Map produced by Nate Wessel for UrbanCincy.

What is even more intriguing about the report’s findings is that original residents who moved from the gentrifying neighborhood, who many would consider displaced residents, experienced a 1.5 point higher credit score improvement than those who did not move.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland provided UrbanCincy with the data broken out by Census tract for Cincinnati. Approximately 72% of the city’s 104 Census tracts are defined as low-price, and of those 75 Census tracts with home valuation data, nine were found to have gentrified between 2000 and 2007.

When examined more closely it becomes clear that the neighborhoods experiencing the biggest gains in home value and income in Cincinnati are those that are in the center city. Specifically, and perhaps not surprisingly, five of the nine are located in the neighborhoods of Clifton Heights, East Walnut Hills, Fairview, University Heights and the East End. Outside of the center city, Pleasant Ridge, Oakley, Columbia Tusculum and Mt. Airy also experienced gentrification over the past decade.

Community council leaders for these neighborhoods did not respond to multiple requests for comments from UrbanCincy.

Unfortunately, the two neighborhoods where many expect gentrification has occurred most – Downtown and Over-the-Rhine – did not have median home value data available for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland to study.

While the report has generally positive findings about the impacts of gentrification, Cincinnati is at a disadvantage when it comes to improving the financial health of its neighborhoods.

According to the report, the percentage of low-price Census tracts in Cincinnati beneath the median home value of the metropolitan area is 14 percentage points higher than the national average, and the rate at which Census tracts are gentrifying in the Great Lakes region is approximately 4.5 points lower than the national average.

“I don’t have a clue what Hartley meant by the phrase ‘neighborhoods with a potential for gentrification’ but the assertion that 95% do in Baltimore is rather ludicrous given the high rate of abandonment,” Dr. Varady scoffed. “Baltimore certainly can use more gentrification but how the city can promote this is an open question.”

With the nine identified neighborhoods in Cincinnati spread throughout a mix of expected and unexpected locations, it is probably safe to say that the Census tracts in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine also gentrified during this period, or have since 2007.

Change in cities is inevitable, but whether these changes sweeping Cincinnati are good, bad or indifferent is probably still open for spirited discussion among those most interested.

“In general I think that gentrification presents benefits and costs,” Dr. Varady concluded. “Anyone who says it is all bad or all good is not contributing to the debate.”

This story originally appeared in the December 20, 2013 print edition of the Cincinnati Business Courier. You can view that story online for additional comments and discussion. UrbanCincy readers can take advantage of an exclusive premium digital Business Courier subscription that includes access via the web, smart phone or tablet applications for just $49 per year.

Metro Seeking Public Feedback on Proposed City-Wide Bus Enhancements

Following a year of ridership growth, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) will roll out a series of improvements to its Metro bus service this year. Agency officials say that the improvements will be rolled out in two phases.

The first round will go into effect this August and will include significant service enhancements at the new Glenway Crossing Transit Center on the west side.

A new Route 32 will provide all-day service between Price Hill and Downtown, a modified Route 64 will connect Westwood with retail on Ferguson Road and the transit center, and new connections will be offered to Route 38X to Uptown and Route 77X to Delhi. Additional service will also be added to Route 19 along Colerain Avenue and Route 33 along Glenway Avenue.

Metro Plus Bus
New Metro*Plus buses were revealed to the public this week, and will be in operation by August. Image provided.

New direct crosstown services, from the Glenway Crossing Transit Center, will take riders to Oakley via the new Mercy Health West Hospital on Route 41, and to the new Uptown Transit District and onto Hyde Park via Route 51.

The transit agency will also begin operating the new pre-bus rapid transit (BRT) service, called Metro*Plus, between Kenwood and the Uptown Transit District this August.

Officials envision Metro*Plus as offering faster service through fewer stops and enhanced visibility through uniquely designed buses and more robust bus stops. The service will initially connect Uptown with the Kenwood area via Montgomery Road, but will be judged for consideration along another six corridors throughout the region.

Attend our free event this Friday from 5pm to 7:30pm at the Niehoff Studio in Corryville on bus rapid transit and bikeway planning that will include an expert panel discussion and open house.

The improvements are a result of SORTA’s 2012 planning efforts, and will be reviewed to determine whether or not the changes should stay in effect.

“Last year, we listened to the community’s suggestions and, as a result, are proposing a number of service changes to better meet our customers’ needs and attract new riders,” Terry Garcia Crews, Metro CEO, stated in a prepared release. “We’re ready to go forward with improvements that will make Metro more efficient, more convenient, and easier to ride.”

Potential Cincinnati BRT Corridors

Officials say that the second round of enhancements will be rolled out this December and will include added service to Route 20 along Winton Road, Route 78 along Vine Street, Route 31 crosstown service, Route 43 along Reading Road, and faster service on Route 1 between the Museum Center and Eden Park.

It is also expected that the four transit boarding areas, that form the $6.9 million Uptown Transit District, will also be complete by the end of the year, and taking on the additional service to the region’s second largest employment center, and one of the city’s fastest growing population centers.

SORTA officials emphasize that the changes are all short-term in nature, and that they would like public feedback on the adjustments. Officials also state that the improvements are being made within Metro’s 2013 operating budget, and will not require fare increases.

Metro will host a public meeting on Wednesday, May 1 from 8am to 5:30pm at the Duke Energy Convention Center (South Meeting Room 232). Officials say that visitors can come anytime during those hours, and that presentations will be offered every hour on the hour.

Comments can also be submitted online, by email at routecomments@go-metro.com, fax at (513) 632-9202, or mail to 602 Main Street, Suite 1100, Cincinnati, OH 45202. The deadline for public comments is May 1, 2013.

Talib Kweli to celebrate Record Store Day in Cincinnati this Saturday

Saturday, April 16 is the 2011 version of the national celebration known as Record Store Day. This is the fifth annual day to celebrate all things great about locally owned and independent record stores around the country as there are specific qualifications for a store to participate.

Organizers say that for a shop to be included they must have a primary focus on a physical store location, whose product line consists of at least 50 percent music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70 percent located in the state of operation.

In Cincinnati, that means we have three participating shops including Mole’s Record Exchange uptown, Everybody’s Records in Pleasant Ridge and Shake It Records in Northside. On Saturday, each store will be celebrating music and trying to attract customers to their shops mainly through in-store performances and special limited edition vinyl releases that can only be found at certain stores throughout the country. Therefore record collectors and the curious shopper can find different releases at each store.

The in-store performance fun gets started at Everybody’s Records at noon and runs until 6pm with performances by Cletis T & the Poontingers, Quick Turns, and finally State Song. Uptown meanwhile, Mole’s Record Exchange will be focused primarily on special releases this year.

The biggest party will be at Shake It Records. National hip-hop recording artist Talib Kweli will be on hand at 1pm for an in-store performance and a signing of his newest release. Additionally local rockers Wussy will be playing at 7pm and another Cincy band heading for the big time, Foxy Shazam will play at 9pm.

Ben Harper says, “Independent record stores are much more than the name suggests. They are an international community and platform where music has an outlet and an opportunity to grow over the long term, in a way that sincerely connects with community and culture.”

This is totally true so take the time to get out and support three of Cincinnati’s contributions to this community. And here, we’ll leave you with a cut from Talib Kweli’s new album.