Take a Look at These 20 Breathtaking Photos of Cincinnati’s Center City

Many of you who read UrbanCincy get to see and experience the center city on a regular basis, but others of you cannot. But for those of you that do, rarely do you get to take a bird’s eye view of the city.

Brian Spitzig, an occasional contributor to UrbanCincy, recently took a flight around the inner city to take what turned out to be some incredible aerial photography. He took hundreds of photos, but we went through them and selected some of the best to share with you.

This is the first part of what will be a two-part series. The following 20 photographs are all of Downtown and Over-the-Rhine, while the next part of this series will focus on neighborhoods outside of the greater downtown area.

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If you like what you see here, you can follow Brian Spitzig on Instagram.

Latest Excavation Work at Smale Riverfront Park Creates Beach Along Ohio River

Great weather seems to always bring great news for construction projects, and this is the case in the latest project update for Cincinnati’s $120 million Smale Riverfront Park.

In the video, project manager Dave Prather points out that the structure enclosing Carol Ann’s Carousel now has its roof decking and framing in place, with the glass wall panels being readied for installation soon. Prather further showed where the elevator shaft has been completed and the large skylight that will form the roof of the building, thus allowing for a flood of natural light inside.

“Keep an eye on this side, it’s really gonna have a transformation” Prather noted. “But right now you can get a sense of how open the structure is.”

Since the last project update, the cascade water features and light fixtures are now in place at the Vine Street Fountain & Steps, which mirror the setup at the already complete Main Street Fountain & Steps. The area is now just awaiting the installation of its granite surface.

One of the more interesting elements of this project update is the excavation work at the river’s edge to make way for the Great Lawn. Now virtually complete, the excavation work as created a beach of sorts going directly into the Ohio River. The completion of this work has also opened up a variety of new views of the Roebling Suspension Bridge that were not previously visible.

Prather then discussed a wall that is now in place along the river bank where the riverwalk will continue from already completed portions of the sprawling park.

“We are now able to connect with the river in a way never had before,” Prather noted proudly.

All components of the current phase of construction work are still anticipated to be completed in late spring or early summer ahead of the 2015 MLB All-Star Game to be held at Great American Ball Park.

Second Phase of Newport on the Levee to Come More Than 15 Years After First

Newport on the Levee was the talk of the town in the late 1990s. It was to be one of the most prominent development projects in the urban core for some time, and transform Newport’s riverfront into a place that would attract tourists year-round.

There were also lofty visions that the development of Newport on the Levee would spark a wholesale redevelopment of the Northern Kentucky river city, including virtually every neighboring property and the development of the 1,000-foot-tall Millennium Tower.

These ambitions, however, were never fully realized. Newport on the Levee experienced a number a setbacks and never fully embraced the mixed-use nature that would ensure its success, Millennium Tower was cancelled almost as quickly as it was proposed, and while surrounding development has taken place, it has come at a much slower pace than envisioned.

Earlier this month developers took the next step forward with a plan to build on the long vacant Lot B next to the Purple People Bridge that would aim to address those issues.

According to Capital Investment Group (CIG), the investment would total $80 million and add 238 residential units, 8,000 square feet of street-level retail space, a 150-room hotel and an 800-space parking garage.

Newport city officials and CIG representatives say they intend to start construction in July 2015 and wrap-up a year later.

While this is good news for Newport on the Levee, it is certainly not when or how developers and city officials had originally envisioned the riverfront development taking shape.

In 2000, the plan was for Newport on the Levee to include a mall with a movie theater complex, an aquarium, a state-of-the-art 3-D IMAX theater, and a second phase of development that would begin just two years later and be anchored by a 200-room hotel.

Problems arose almost immediately when the 3-D IMAX shut down just two years after it opened in 2001. The retail portions of the mall also never seemed to live up to expectations, perhaps following in Tower Place Mall’s footsteps and illustrating that enclosed shopping malls tend to not work in urban settings.

As a result, the mall portion of the development has seen a constant cycle of tenants in and out, and more recently the replacement of most retail inside the mall structure by office tenants. Several restaurant operations have even relocated across the river to The Banks development. The former 456-seat IMAX theater has since been filled by the successful Newport Aquarium.

Shortly after the opening of the first phase of work at Newport on the Levee, city officials also pursued the USS Cincinnati submarine in an effort to dock it along the shore of the Ohio River next to Newport on the Levee. Those plans never materialized and now only a portion of the submarine vessel will be returning to the region – at a location in a future phase of Smale Riverfront Park along Cincinnati’s riverfront.

During all of this Newport Aquarium has been a particularly bright spot for the development. It is consistently named one of the nation’s best aquariums and is a constant draw for tourists and locals alike – attracting more than 11 million visitors since it opened 15 years ago.

With the Great Recession now in the past and new competition from The Banks, Newport officials and developers are looking to jump start things once more. The second phase of Newport on the Levee may be more than a decade behind schedule, but it will add a critical component that was sorely missing from the original development.

Full-time residents and a hotel at the site will help drive more business to shops and restaurants operating outside of the typical weekend hours popular for tourists. The revived talk of extending the streetcar system across the river also shows a new sense of collaboration and possibility that did not exist in the lead up to the new millennium.

VIDEO: New Views of Ohio River Opened Up with Latest Excavation Work at Smale Riverfront Park

Lots of visual progress has been made on Cincinnati’s $120 million Smale Riverfront Park over the past few months.

Since the last construction update in June, project manager Dave Prather explains that the steel framing for Carol Ann’s Carousel is now taking shape, and that the Vine Street fountains and steps have now fully taken on their form. These steps and cascading fountains will be similar to the Walnut Street fountains and steps already completed to the east.

Prather also takes us inside the rentable event space beneath the carousel and fountain plaza.

While it is still quite messy with construction activity, Cincinnati Parks officials are actively promoting it and booking reservations now. Park officials tell UrbanCincy that the Anderson Pavilion will have two event spaces – Longworth Room and Mendenhall Room – that can accommodate up to 300 people. Special events can be booked through Premier Park Events at 513-221-2610.

During the nearly 12-minute video, you can also now see a new view of the Ohio River now that excavation has begun on the park’s great lawn. This area of the park will bring visitors as closer to the water than anywhere else.

Most all of the work profiled in this latest video update is anticipated to be complete in time for the 2015 MLB All-Star Game at Great American Ball Park. The week-long festivities leading up to the weekend of games is expected to being thousands of visitors and millions of eyeballs to the city’s central riverfront.

Just how valuable are America’s iconic urban parks?

We all value and love parks, especially iconic ones like New York’s Central Park or Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, but what are they really worth?

Using a rather straight-forward, but potentially overly simple calculation, data gatherers determined the real estate value of 10 of America’s most iconic urban parks. While not yet complete, one can imagine that Cincinnati’s Smale Riverfront Park would rival some of these parks in terms of real estate value once fully built out. More from Urbanful:

The existential value of public parks to city dwellers has fueled their expansion and sheltered these urban oases from encroaching neighborhoods. No developer will ever be able to purchase Central Park because it is priceless to New Yorkers; however that doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting hypothetical.

Suppose Central Park was developable. This would change the entire fabric of the city, making specific property values inaccurate because these values are predicated on the existence of the park in the first place. Working forward from this assumption, apply broad averages for the development pattern and a rough estimate for total value can be established.

Using this example, Central Park has an area of 843 acres, or 36,721,080 sq ft. According to Trulia, New York has an average property value of $1,396 per sq ft, assuming mixed use development. This means, as a single story development, Central Park would be worth over $51 billion. The calculation is not quite finished yet. Using an estimate of 10 stories for average building height, the park would really be worth a staggering $510 billion based on this estimate.