Month in Review – November 2013

There was a bounty of news in Cincinnati last month as elections ushered in a new mayor and city council, major projects were either scuttled or advanced, and new political movements fighting those new politicians took root. In case you missed it, here’s a look back at our five most popular stories in November.

    1. Get Over It, Then Get Ready
      In this guest editorial, longtime political activist Don Mooney weighs in with his thoughts and advice for dejected liberals in Cincinnati following the recent election.
    2. Those “streetcar” rails going down on Elm Street are actually light rail tracks
      We’ve all heard complaints that the streetcar doesn’t go far enough, and that light rail should be pursued instead. In this guest editorial, John Schneider explains how those rails on Elm Street will serve as the backbone for a regional light rail system.
    3. Project Executive Estimates Cost to Cancel Streetcar Would Far Exceed $100M
      John Deatrick gave a presentation to Cincinnati City Council’s Budget & Finance Committee to outline the anticipated costs, time frame risks associated with canceling or temporarily stopping work on the $133M project.
    4. University of Cincinnati Moves Forward With Two Demolition Projects
      The storied Wilson Auditorium on UC’s main campus along Clifton Avenue came down, and another iconic structure in Uptown may also soon meet the wrecking ball.
    5. Cincinnati’s New-Found Buzz Helping Attract Retailers to Region
      Since taking office eight years ago, Mark Mallory had been on an aggressive campaign to change Cincinnati’s national image. Part of the intent was to attract new commercial investment, which seems to have payed off.

 

Crafty Supermarket Kicks Off Shop Local Season at Music Hall

Over 4,000 people went shopping at Music Hall last weekend during the fourth annual Crafty Supermarket Holiday Show.

Kicking off the Shop Local season, independent retailers traveled from as far as Minnesota and North Carolina to sell their wares in Cincinnati. More than 90 vendors were hand selected from a competitive application process, making this the largest Crafty Supermarket to date.

Crafty Supermarket Cincinnati
Visitors browse the offerings at Cincinnati’s Crafty Supermarket Holiday Show at Music Hall. Photographs by Paige Malott for UrbanCincy.

The assortment of products offered something for everyone on your gift list: hand-crafted fragrances, recycled crayons, wallets made from old transit maps, knitted gloves and scarves, jewelry, home décor, small-batch chocolates, and more.

Furthermore, there were plenty of Cincinnati-themed items showed off hometown pride, including: stationary, neighborhood holiday ornaments and pennant flags, ink and stamp sets of Cincinnati landmarks, coasters, necklaces, wallets, iPhone covers, throw pillows, beer glasses, dish towels, Ohio-shaped bars of soap, and many styles of locally inspired t-shirts.

If you missed Crafty Supermarket, fret not. All of the vendors have online shops, which is also perfect for those wishing they had bought just one more thing.

If shopping in storefronts is more your style, Fabricate in Northside, MiCA 12/V in Over-the-Rhine and Broadhope Art Collective in Westwood carry products from a majority of the sellers.

Christkindlmarkt Returns for Three Full Weekends This Holiday Season

Organizers are bringing the Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt back for its second holiday season this year, starting Thanksgiving weekend and operating each weekend until December 15.

Last year’s Christkindlmarkt took place every weekend on Fountain Square. This year the festive seasonal marketplace will spend its first weekend on Fountain Square and then move for its final two weekends to Essen Strasse on the south side of Findlay Market in historic Over-the-Rhine.

“It was decided to move the Christkindlmarkt to Findlay Market for the following two weekends because it is the most iconic market place in the city, and is representative of Cincinnati’s German culture,” explained Lisa Bambach, marketing and creative director for Cincideutsch. “It is a link not only to Cincinnati’s German past, but also to the vibrant German-American culture which continues to permeate the city today.”

Cincinnati Christkindlmarkt
Visitors at Cincinnati’s inaugural Christkindlmarkt on Fountain Square in 2012. Photograph by Paige Malott.

Christkindlmarkt have been a holiday tradition in town centers throughout Germany and Austria for hundreds of years.

“It is a place for people to get together with family and friends to enjoy the seasonal weather and celebrate the holidays,” explained Olaf Scheil, a native of Lübeck, Germany and president and co-founder of Cincideutsch. “We are thrilled to be able to bring this tradition to the people of Cincinnati for the second year in a row.”

After more than 15,000 people visited last year, Scheil expects a similar number of visitors to come and enjoy the Christkindlmarkt this season. To help keep things interesting and active, organizers have coordinated live music, glass blowing, holiday sweets and baked goods, drink, decorations and crafts for sale within half-timbered houses.

In addition to the European baked goods, a hot spiced wine called Glühwein is also considered to be a holiday favorite amongst visitors. And in Cincinnati and German fashion, there will also be plenty of beer to go around.

“Glühwein is something I look forward to making each year since I first tried it in Switzerland,” Bambach confessed. “The aroma of the spices reminds me of Christmas just like the smell of pumpkin makes me think of Thanksgiving. It is a consistent feature at Christkindlmarkt in Europe, no matter which city you visit.”

Cincinnati’s Christkindlmarkt is sponsored by Christian Moerlein Brewing Company and will kick off in coordination with Macy’s Light Up The Square and DCI’s Downtown Dazzle on November 29 through December 1. The seasonal market will then move to Findlay Market December 6-8 and December 13-15. Both locations will have heaters to help keep visitors warm on cold days.

“We received both positive and negative feedback from 2012, and we have worked diligently to improve visitors’ experiences based on those comments,” Bambach noted. “The market is completely organized and run by volunteers, and in our second year we wanted to expand while also ensuring the growth was manageable.”

The Christkindlmarkt will be open from 11am to 9pm on Friday and Saturday, and 11am to 5pm on Sunday at Fountain Square. The market will then be open in coordination with normal Findlay Market hours when it moves there for its final two weekends.

BuyCincy Holiday Event Aims to Give Local Shops $500,000 Bump

The final two months of the year are often the make-or-break month for retailers. In some cases this relatively short time period can account for more than a third of a retailer’s annual revenues.

There is always much hype surrounding what specials the big retailers are offering on Black Friday, but there are also opportunities to support small, locally owned businesses this holiday shopping season.

What was previously known as Cincinnati Unchained will return this year as an expanded four-day event meant to encourage area shoppers to support locally owned shops, restaurants and bars. The BuyCincy Holiday Event will take place the week before Black Friday from Thursday, November 21 to Sunday, November 24.

East Walnut Hills Retail
Woodburn Avenue in East Walnut Hills. Photograph provided by 5chw4r7z.

According to Kurt Myers, co-founder and business director of BuyCincy, this will mark the seventh season for the event and that in previous years some merchants have reported that it ends up being their busiest day of the year.

There are more than 300 businesses participating in this year’s event, and that those shops are located in over 25 neighborhoods throughout the region. Organizers say that their goal is to generate new spending from over 35,000 customers, which would create an estimated economic impact of more than $500,000 with each shopper spending approximately $15.

“Supporting locally owned businesses has a three-and-a-half-times greater impact on the economy than shopping at a store that is not owned locally,” Myers explained. “Plus you get to support your friends and neighbors businesses and keep Cincinnati unique.”

In order to help encourage local shoppers to participate in the event, the Greater Cincinnati Independent Business Alliance (CiNBA) is working with retailers to offer raffle prizes. When customers visit a participating business they will receive a ticket to use in the raffle of thousands of dollars of prizes. To help further promote the effort, organizers are also encouraging people to use the #BuyCincy tag on social media.

A full list of the participating businesses and neighborhood business districts can be found at BuyCincy.com. Those businesses that are still interested in participating can do so by registering online and submitting a $25 minimum raffle donation.

If you want to support local businesses but are not quite sure about what to buy for that special someone, then you can also purchase them a Downtown Gift Card, which is redeemable at 180 stores and restaurants in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine, including all Findlay Market merchants. Those gift cards can be purchased online, at the offices for Downtown Cincinnati Inc., or at Findlay Market.

Cincinnati’s New-Found Buzz Helping Attract Retailers to Region

There were many significant achievements and trouble spots for Mayor Mark Mallory (D) over his past eight years as the face for the 2.1 million person Cincinnati region. Perhaps one of his largest accomplishments, however, was changing Cincinnati’s image nation-wide from a city in decline to one that is on the rise and doing innovative things.

For the first time national publications began to look at Cincinnati for its accomplishments in public education, sustainable redevelopment, environmental policy and even transport.

Yard House Cincinnati
Thanks in part to the aggressive marketing of Cincinnati by Mayor Mallory, new national chains like Yard House and Ruth’s Chris have begun filling store fronts throughout the city. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

Each of these items involved a number of more detailed pursuits in order to make them happen. One of those pursuits was to attract new retail businesses to the region. In order to accomplish this, Mayor Mallory went on a full campaign touting the amenities and demographics Cincinnati has to offer.

After much work, the efforts started to yield fruit.

According to the mayor’s director of public affairs, Jason Barron, Mallory met personally with Potbelly (Downtown), Chipotle (Corryville, Downtown) and Panera Bread (Clifton Heights, Downtown) in an effort to get them to expand their presence inside city limits.

“We’ve been aggressive at national events for about six years now,” Barron explained. “We weren’t able to go this year in May, but Mayor Mallory has met with a number of these businesses over the years.”

The mayor also met directly with a number of other national chains in order to make the case that they open a location in Cincinnati. Those successes include Yard House (Downtown), Ruth’s Chris (Downtown), Orange Leaf (Clifton Heights, Downtown, Oakley, Westwood), Season’s 52 (Norwood), Capital Grill (Norwood), and Save-A-Lot (Roselawn).

For many of these businesses it was not only their first location in Cincinnati, but also their first in Ohio, Kentucky or Indiana. Barron says that it is thanks in part to the efforts made by Mallory on the road at events like the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) annual meeting.

The efforts do require a bit of patience, as Barron says that not only has the administration been courting new businesses for years, they also believe that some of the benefits have yet to be realized.

“One of the things we’re always trying to do is create a buzz about Cincinnati to other leaders, businesses and investors,” said Barron. “The mayor’s making connections now that will pay off down the road.”

While the buzz can often times be attributed to the spirited Mallory, the mayor’s office is quick to point out that much of the heavy lifting has been done by local experts like Mark Fallon at Jeffrey R. Anderson. Most recently Fallon has been responsible for leasing both U Square at The Loop and The Banks.

More national brands appear to be on their way to Cincinnati, but the mayor’s office refuses to speak about the deals before they are finalized. But in addition to new restaurants and bars, Cincinnatians might expect to see other businesses opening up shop in the Queen City over the next one to two years.

Certainly chain restaurants are not the only retailers Cincinnati has been lacking, but the outside investment is certainly welcome. The next step will be to attract more clothing retailers to the city, and to expand the base of independent shops around town.

But luckily, as people close with the mayor might say, the buzz is starting to take shape.

When will Cincinnati enter the ‘Anti-Mall’ Age?

With the news today that Forest Fair Mall/Cincinnati Mills Mall/Cincinnati Mall or more recently Forest Fair Village is back on the selling block, we have to wonder if the Cincinnati region will begin to accept the idea of suburban mall retrofit. In metro Washington DC several malls have already been converted into walkable town centers with significantly beneficial results. Read more at the Atlantic Cities:

Bethesda, a once-sleepy if upscale inner suburb in nearby Maryland, was almost totally automobile-dependent in 1994 when the mixed-use, multi-block development was conceived for a decaying commercial/industrial strip; now, in no small part because of developments like Bethesda Row, Bethesda feels both urban and urbane, yet still human-scaled. It’s a great place to be.