Community Input Sessions Showcase Plans for $5M Ziegler Park Overhaul

The public will have another opportunity to weigh in on the proposed renovation of Ziegler Park on July 23. This will be the third in a series of meetings focusing on the renovation and potential expansion of the park, which is located at the northwest corner of Thirteenth and Sycamore streets.

The community input session will be held at the Woodward Theater, located at 1404 Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, at 5pm on Thursday.

The 1.4-acre park currently contains a pool, playground area, and shelter with picnic tables. To its east sits Cutter Playground and the former School for the Creative and Performing Arts building, which is being converted into a 142-apartment development called Alumni Lofts. Then, to the north, is a large parking lot, with a basketball court located just across Thirteenth Street to the south.

The latest proposal for the park was presented in late June at the launch of the Citizens for Cincinnati Parks levy campaign. The plan, said to cost $5 million, depicted the current Ziegler Park site renovated into a large, open lawn space, with the removal of the existing pool; and the parking lot to the north being removed and converted to an aquatics and play area.

A parking garage would be built under Cutter Playground, serving both the residents of Alumni Lofts and visitors to the park and surrounding area. Several enhancements along Sycamore Street would make it easier for pedestrians to cross between Ziegler Park and Cutter Playground.

According to the project team, which consists of the Cincinnati Park Board, Cincinnati Recreation Commission, City of Cincinnati, and 3CDC, the latest site plan will “maintain and expand park amenities while meeting the parking demands of the neighborhood.”

After gathering feedback, organizers say they will prepare a preliminary master plan that will be presented at a fourth community input session. From that, the final master plan will then be developed.

Pendleton Offers Support For $24M Alumni Lofts, Pending Green Space Protection

On Monday evening, the Pendleton Neighborhood Council voted unanimously to support Core Redevelopment’s $24 million Alumni Lofts project, provided the green space north of the former Woodward School/School for Creative and Performing Arts building remain undeveloped and available for public use.

The council’s letter of support asks that any development agreement between the City and the Indianapolis-based developer, or any future owners or assigns, include provisions that the Cutter Playground property be donated to a nonprofit or governmental entity and that development restrictions, such as a conservation easement, be included in the contract.

The developer’s current plans call for a two-level parking structure on part of the nearly three-acre site, leaving between 80-85% of the original green space intact.

Developer Michael Cox with Core said that he’s unsure whether the green space will be managed by his company or donated, but said that his company is committed to the community’s goals.

“We don’t know which one yet, simply because we haven’t worked through all of the deal structure and the timing of all of that,” he said. “It’s a pretty complicated project that we’re doing, but we are committing to the City in our project agreement with the City that we will do one of those things with the green space and it will be a green space in perpetuity.”

Alumni Lofts will consist of 142 market-rate apartments, ranging from 480 to 2,000 square feet and leasing for between $699 and $1,400 a month.

Still undergoing demolition and prep work, construction on the new units has been bid and is ready for permitting pending Council approval. A leasing office is planned to open in January or February, and Core expects to welcome its first tenants by July 1, 2016, Cox said.

The development agreement will be presented to City Council’s Budget & Finance Committee on June 8.

Under terms of the agreement, the project would receive indirect City assistance through a 30-year tax increment financing (TIF) rebate program, which Senior Community Development Analyst Adam Sickmiller said is “completely unique” for the region.

“From the developer’s perspective, it’s effectively a net 67.5% tax rebate,” he said.  “So the developer will pay their taxes. Twenty-five percent will go to the schools, and 7.5% will go to the streetcar operating fund.”

The remainder would be returned to the developer, which will allow Core to receive a bigger bank loan to construct the parking structure, Sickmiller said.

“If the project performs better than expected, there will be a sharing of that revenue between the developer and the City,” he said. “Where specifically this money is going – and one of the reasons that we’re pretty excited about this – is that it’s going into an account that will specifically be used for public improvements, urban redevelopment, and public infrastructure, parks and the like.”

Opened in 1910 as the second Woodward High School, the 225,000-square-foot building has been vacant since 2010, when SCPA moved to its new $72 million building on Central Parkway.

Core bought the school for $1.3 million in late 2012 at an auction of vacant Cincinnati Public Schools properties.

Final Designs Coming Into Clarity for $23M SCPA Redevelopment

Core Redevelopment purchased the former School for Creative & Performing Arts (SCPA) in December 2012 for $1.3 million. The 107-year-old building was originally built as Woodward High School, and Core has been planning redevelop the property since their purchase.

Plans for the $23 million redevelopment have fluctuated since Core became involved. At first the concept was to develop apartments, but then the Indianapolis-based developer looked at transforming the building into a boutique hotel. The hotel concept moved so far along that Core was in final negotiations with AC Hotels in June 2013. At the time, it would have been one of the first in North America, but the deal later fell through and AC Hotels announced that they would enter the Cincinnati market at a lifestyle center in Liberty Township.

Located in Pendleton, SCPA has a rich history that dates back to the early 19th century when the original two-story Woodward High School was established there. At the time, it was heralded as the first public school west of the Alleghenies. SCPA started to take control of parts of the building in 1976, and eventually expanded into the entire structure in 1977.

“We will continue to honor William Woodward and Abigail Cutter by working with the William Woodward Museum to enhance the memorial located on the east side of the site,” stated Core.

The 4.6-acre site is bordered by Thirteenth Street to the south, Sycamore Street to the west, Fourteenth Street to the north and Broadway Street to the east. The historic school is situated on the south edge of the parcel and is currently surrounded by parking on three sides. The northern side of the block contains Cutter Playground, which in recent years has fallen into disuse and is viewed by many neighbors as an under-performing asset.

The park has served as the focal point of discussions regarding the redevelopment of the property. The developers have proposed a variety of concepts that would build varying amounts of parking on parts of the park. The most recent proposal, which is supported by many community members, includes a condensed parking footprint and a partially submerged two-level parking deck.

In addition to developing 148 new apartments and 196 parking spaces, Core plans to remove most all of the existing pavement currently in front of the building’s main entrance along Thirteenth Street. Small access lots would remain on the building’s east and west sides, and the two-level parking deck would be constructed on the rear of the existing five-story structure.

Rents for the apartments, which will run from 500 to 2,000 square feet, are expected to range from $700 to $1,500 per month.

“Maintaining as much of the open space as possible to the north of the building while enhancing the remaining open space through the use of landscaping is also one of our goals.”

The most recent revisions are currently making their way through the approval process at City Hall, but this rendition appears to have the best shot at getting approved. If all goes according to plan, Core intends to begin construction within the next two months and welcome the first residents in Spring 2016.

PHOTOS: Construction Progressing on Thousands of New Downtown Residences

Six months ago, we reported on 11 residential developments moving forward in the Central Business District, Over-the-Rhine, and Pendleton. At the time, these were expected to add about 1,500 new units of housing to the urban core. Although one of these projects has been downsized and another postponed, one new residential project was announced as well.

Most notably, the proposed tower at Fourth and Race was downsized from 300 to 200 units, and the grocery store that would have been located on the ground floor of the building has been dropped from the plan.

The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) is also shelving its plans for a new mixed-use project at 15th and Race, which would have added 57 residential units. However, 3CDC is also shelving its plan to build 53,000 square feet of office space as part of the third phase of Mercer Commons, and is considering building more residential at that location. The first two phases of Mercer Commons contain 126 apartments and 28 condos in addition to retail space.

Finally, the proposal to bring an AC Hotel to the former School for the Creative & Performing Arts (SCPA) in Pendleton has been scrapped. Developers are now moving forward with an alternate plan, which will convert the building into 155 market-rate apartments.

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The other projects still moving forward include:

  • Phase two of The Banks broke ground in April 2014. It will contain 305 new apartments and 21,000 square feet of retail space, in addition to a new office tower for General Electric.
  • 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.
  • The Seven at Broadway project will feature 110 high-end apartments, built above an existing parking garage. 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.
  • Broadway Square, a $26 million development, is now under construction in Pendleton. Its first phase will feature 39 apartments and 40,000 square feet of retail space, and developer Model Group will add at least another 39 apartments in the second phase of the project.
  • The Schwartz Building, formerly vacant office space, is being converted into 20 apartments. Developer Levine Properties cited the building’s location along the Cincinnati Streetcar route as a driving factor for the renovation.
  • The Ingalls Building will be redeveloped into 40 to 50 condos and ground-floor retail space by the Claremont Group.
  • Peak Property Group plans to purchase and renovate three buildings on Seventh Street into 75 apartments and 15,000 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.

EDITORIAL NOTE: All 12 photos were taken by Travis Estell for UrbanCincy between July 3 and July 8, 2014.

‘End Days’ a quirky ETC production featuring young talent

End Days, a play by Deborah Zoe Laufer, is an amusing and philosophical comedy now showing at the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati. The divinely inspired comedy by Deborah Zoe Laufer enjoys its regional premiere at the Ensemble from March 16-April 2, 2011. It is directed by guest director Michael Evan Haney, Associate Artistic Director at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

The show features two young local actors who both make a stunning debut at the Ensemble. Lily Hidalgo plays the lead, Rachel Stein, and is a freshman at St. Ursula Academy. Her character’s beau, nerdy Nelson, is played by Richard Lowenburg, a skilled magician and seasoned performer having worked with Playhouse in the Park, CCM Prep, SCPA, Xavier University, and Cincinnati Music Theater, attends the School for Creative and Performing Arts.

Other performers include Amy Warner and Barry Mulholland playing Rachel’s parents, and Michael G. Bath in an interesting double billed role as both Jesus and Stephen Hawking.

End Days tells the story of the dysfunctional Stein family, who left New York after 9/11. With a depressed father and a newly religious mother, youngster Rachel Stein has nowhere to turn but her teenage angst and her obnoxious, Elvis-impersonating neighbor, Nelson.

When Nelson persuades Rachel to read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, she becomes interested in physics. Eventually he ingratiates himself in the Stein family. With the help of a secret confidante, the family and friends join and realize that togetherness can make life worthwhile, even despite a coming apocalypse.

End Days was awarded the 2008 American Theatre Critics Association Steinberg Citation. It received its NYC premiere at Ensemble Studio Theatre through an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant. End Days is listed in the Burns Mantle Yearbook as one of the best regional plays of 2008, and is published in The Best Plays of 2008.

With great acting and fantastic lighting, the show had audience members laughing out loud. Get down to ETC and enjoy this regional premiere for a rollicking good time and look at life, love and faith.

End Days is on stage now through April 3 at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, located in historic Over-the-Rhine at 1127 Vine St. in the Gateway Quarter. Ticket Information
Single tickets are $34 to $42, depending on the day. Children’s tickets are $16 for all performances.

Rush Tickets: $15 rush tickets are available for all performances 15 minutes prior to curtain and are subject to availability. Senior/ student, Cincinnati Public Radio Perks Card, ArtsWave Fun Card, AAA, and Enjoy the Arts discounts available. ETC accepts all major credit cards, Over-the-Rhine Merchant gift cards, and Downtown Cincinnati gift cards. Group rates are available for 10 or more people.

Patrons may purchase tickets in person at the ETC box office, by calling (513) 421-3555, or online.

image provided by ETC.