ArtsWave Announces Recipients of $10.4 Million in Grants

ArtsWave finalized their list of grants to arts organizations throughout the region last Friday. This year’s distribution doles out $10.4 million to 35 different local arts organizations, ranging from $12,500 for the Contemporary Dance Theater to $3,020,000 for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to what ArtsWave calls their impact grants, they also distributed $435,000 for small project grants and strategic local partnerships.

The money comes from a fund that ArtsWave officials say is the largest of its kind in the United States, distributing more than $50 million to regional arts organizations over the past five years.

“ArtsWave’s grants are a differentiator for Greater Cincinnati,” Mary McCullough-Hudson, ArtsWave’s outgoing CEO, stated in a prepared release. “It is absolutely unique for a region this size to have an annual infusion of more than $10 million in its arts sector each year, creating both a stabilizing and a catalyzing effect for organizations and arts-related activity that have unexpected benefits for the community.”

The organizations and projects that were awarded money, officials say, were selected based on the input of grant making committees that evaluate submissions and determine the amount of money to be awarded to each applicant.

The average grant amount awarded this year was approximately $250,000. The Cincinnati Art Museum ($1,635,000), Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra ($3,020,000) and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park ($1,210,000) were the only organizations to receive grants in excess of $1 million. When removing those outliers from the equation, the average drops to about $110,000.

Other large recipients include the Cincinnati Opera ($935,000), Cincinnati Ballet ($850,000) and Contemporary Arts Center ($405,000).

The money for these grants comes from an annual fundraising effort, which yielded a record amount last year of more than $12 million. In addition to supporting the numerous organizations and projects, the money also goes to support shared service operations arts organizations throughout the region, like board training, volunteer programs and fundraising expenses.

“Our region’s residents support this campaign because they see every day how the arts bring people together,” said Karen Bowman, Chair, ArtsWave Board of Trustees and Principal, Deloitte Consulting.

In addition to these grants, ArtsWave officials also announced that they would be awarding $45,000 to designated community revitalization organizations in Price Hill, Madisonville, Covington, Avondale and Walnut Hills as part of LISC-Cincinnati’s Place Matters campaign. Those funds, they say, will be used to support community-building arts programs in those neighborhoods.

“Successful creative placemaking is about the impact of local arts on people in these neighborhoods,” explained Kathy Schwab, Executive Director, LISC of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky. “This exciting partnership with ArtsWave will help fuel community engagement and pride in the five Place Matters communities.”

‘Place from Space’ Launches Placemaking Design Competition

Placemaking is a word that is often tossed around by designers, planners, architects and others in the industry of building and construction. From monolithic towers in the park, to the traditional neighborhood business corridors, people react to the nature and condition of the buildings and other elements in their surroundings. But the question remains, what are great places and how are they made?

Elizabeth Schmidt and Brad Cooper saw opportunity in converting vacant and underutilized spaces throughout the Cincinnati region into places.

“There are places all over the city waiting to be activated and there are many successful ways to activate a space,” organizer Schmidt told UrbanCincy.

So they decided to work together and create Place from Space, a design competition that seeks to construct a winning design that converts an underutilized space into a great place next year. Place from Space is part of  this year’s ArchiNati Festival which runs from October 4th to 13th.

IMG_1104-1024x768The former Church of the Assumption will host the event. Image provided.

“The competition gives individuals the chance to propose and implement positive physical changes to their community that should be fun, imaginative, and vibrant.” Cooper told UrbanCincy. 

Seven neighborhoods are participating in the contest including East Walnut Hills, Walnut Hills; East, West and Lower Price Hill, Covington and Over-the-Rhine. The first round of submissions for applications to be accepted into the contest will end on November 4. From there applicants go on to a second round of judging where one project will be selected for construction.

The first opportunity to see the group’s efforts will be on display tomorrow where they will be showcasing the submissions they have received so far. The event will be held at the former Church of the Assumption along Gilbert Avenue in Walnut Hills. The church, built in 1884 has been vacant for years until artist Justin Poole began using the space as his art studio. His art will also be on display Friday evening. There will also be a special performance by the band the Kentucky Struts.

Admission to the event is free. Parking is on-street and the venue is easily accessible from the #4 and #11 Metro bus routes.

Report: Cincinnati’s five-year outlook for building demolitions may approach 8,000

Home demolition photograph provided by Price Hill Will.

In September, city officials stood in Price Hill alongside state officials to announce plans to demolish up to 700 vacant and blighted buildings in Cincinnati. The funding for the ongoing effort comes from a state-wide program called Move Ohio Forward, which gives demolition funding to cities from money the state won in a settlement with large banks last year over the home foreclosure process and lack of property upkeep by the banks.

City officials estimate that there are currently 1,300 vacant and blighted properties awaiting demolition. The $5.84 million grant, when matched with $5.34 million from the Hamilton County Land Reutilization Corporation and $3.49 million from the City, will provide enough funding to cover just over half of the total amount of demolitions mandated its own ordinances. The final amount of demolitions, officials say, will vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.

“The Moving Ohio Forward Grant Program provides unprecedented blight abatement opportunity for the City to clear dangerous, obsolete buildings from neighborhoods, make way for redevelopment, and eventually raise property values,” Edward Cunningham, Property Maintenance & Code Enforcement Division Manager, told UrbanCincy.

In an effort to further control what happens with the cleared sites, the City of Cincinnati will work with Hamilton County’s new Land Reutilization Program in order to acquire tax delinquent properties. Once the buildings are demolished, the City will determine if the land can be used as parks, community gardens or rehabilitated into new housing. So far, however, only enough funding for lot restoration on 200 parcels has been identified.

In cases where the lots are private properties, and are not able to be acquired, it will be up to the property owners of the vacant lots to decide the future of their property. According to Cunningham, property owners will be allowed to maintain the lots, create parks, parking or new infill construction.

More Comprehensive Plan for Demolitions Needed
Property demolition has been used by many cities including Cincinnati as a method of addressing problem vacant buildings that have been condemned because they are hazards to human health and unsafe to occupy. While the debate on the impacts of foreclosure and vacant property is far from over, some of these buildings are “too far gone” in the eyes of building inspectors that they legitimately need to come down. And according to Cunningham, the buildings being demolished under this program are buildings that are beyond repair.

Once the demolitions are completed, one-by-one, it will create more land between occupied houses thus negatively impacting the completeness of the neighborhood’s form. Without a strategic plan, vacant and unmaintained lots could end up degrading neighborhoods in the same manner as blighted homes; however, vacant lots tend to be easier to maintain and do not pose as much of a risk as a standing structure.

Furthermore, demolitions made through this program on private land will place the cost burden on the property. Should the property owner not pay the assessment for the work, then the property could be foreclosed by Hamilton County, which would then open the land up to redevelopment. This process, however, does take a considerable amount of time and offers no guarantee of redevelopment.

Projected Housing Units in Five Year Demolition Pool by City for Ohio’s “Big Eight” Cities. Source U.S. Census Bureau.

The challenge of increasing amounts of abandoned and blighted housing is not symptomatic of Cincinnati alone, as many older industrial cities are facing the similar problems. A recent report from the Brookings Institute found that Cincinnati might have close to 8,000 buildings eligible for demolition in the next five years. The report also stated that while the demolitions have the potential to stabilize neighborhoods, excessive regulations and costs prevent cities from demolishing the amount of housing that should be demolished on an annual basis.

To overcome these hurdles the report makes a series of recommendations for cities to devise their own strategic demolitions plan.

“Planners, urban designers, and residents must together evaluate how demolishing a particular building will affect the texture of its block or area,” the Brookings Institute stated in Laying the Groundwork for Change: Demolition, urban strategy, and policy reform (2012).

Cities such as Cincinnati need to have a level of transparency in place that allows for neighborhood input on the reuse of the newly created vacant lots. It is not merely enough to encourage neighborhoods to help identify future uses for vacant lots as the city is doing now, it should be required.

As previously profiled on UrbanCincy, Cincinnati’s population decline is systemic and although vacant building demolition is more a testament to the large supply of housing versus demand, absent a strategic demolitions plan, the city should be mindful that stabilizing neighborhoods relies heavily on preserving existing housing or building new housing capacity and offering incentives or neighborhood upgrades that would attract new residents.

Port Authority to focus new land banking powers on demolition

The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority is moving forward with its new land bank program. Instead of focusing on existing undeveloped land, however, the Port Authority has decided to partner with Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine (R) to launch a $11.1 million demolition and redevelopment program which will focus those efforts in 14 communities throughout Cincinnati. More from the Cincinnati Enquirer:

The Port Authority-managed land bank, officially known as the Hamilton County Land Reutilization Corp., is overseeing distribution and use of the funds. The Port Authority is finalizing its demolition contract this week, and had hoped to start demolition in July, but needed more time to work with city, county and neighborhood councils and development groups to develop a strategy.

The selected neighborhoods were based on the number foreclosures, abandoned and blighted properties – there are 2,394 vacated residential properties in the city alone – and whether an individual community pledged funds to be matched through the state’s demolition grant program.

City’s third Community Entertainment District designated in Price Hill

City and neighborhood leaders gathered in Price Hill yesterday to celebrate the designation of Cincinnati’s third Community Entertainment District (CED). The new CED will cover the Incline District and is expected to facilitate redevelopment efforts ongoing in the neighborhood.

Price Hill was required to go through an application process in order to receive the CED designation which requires that an area include entertainment, retail, sporting, cultural, and/or arts establishments.

Once the designation is in place it allows new restaurants to open with a liquor license thus reducing startup costs by an estimated $30,000. Nine additional liquor licenses will be up for grabs in the new Price Hill CED.


City and neighborhood leaders gather in Price Hill to celebrate the CED designation. Image provided.

“We decided to pursue the CED designation after seeing its potential to free up capital for smaller restaurateurs,” Diana Vakharia, director of operations at Price Hill Will, told UrbanCincy. “The costs of installing a commercial kitchen and other upgrades are burdensome enough.”

Vakharia said that the tools and resources provided with the designation will help Price Hill better compete in the initial years of economic revitalization taking place there.

In addition to the $50 million Incline Square development, a new residential development called The Flats reached 100 percent occupancy in 60 days, and the area is also soon house the region’s second Bayou Fish House location. Price Hill Will officials also say that property owners are in negotiations with another potential restaurant.

In total, the 48-acre Price Hill Community Entertainment District includes more than 70,000 square feet of commercial space available within existing and potential new structures.

In addition to Price Hill, Pleasant Ridge received the CED designation with the help of Cincinnati City Councilmember Laure Quinlivan (D) last December. Two other CED designations exist in downtown Cincinnati along the central riverfront for The Banks.

City officials say that neighborhood leaders in Over-the-Rhine, Northside and Madisonville are also working on applications to receive the coveted designation.

“Helping neighborhoods thrive and grow is my goal,” Councilmember Quinlivan said. “It’s going to be exciting to see what happens in the Incline District now.”