Construction Work Progressing on Hamilton’s $11.8M Artspace Lofts Project

From the construction of the Fitton Center for Creative Arts, to aggressively marketing Pyramid Hill, to proclaiming itself The City of Sculpture, Hamilton has been actively reinventing itself as an arts-friendly and arts-centered community since the early 1990s. One of the most recent efforts, however, has been the development of the Artspace Hamilton Lofts, a partnership between Neighborhood Housing Services of Hamilton and Minneapolis-based Artspace Projects.

When finished next summer, the $11.8 million mixed-use development will include 42 market-rate rental units including studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom options. It will also include commercial and studio space on the first floor for burgeoning local artists.

Since its inception in the late 1970s, Artspace has transformed itself from simply being an advocate for the needs of artists into one of the premier non-profit developers of art-centric residential and commercial space in the United States. From artist cooperatives, to family lots, to non-residential projects, the Artspace Hamilton Lofts will continue their mission of creating unique, historic spaces for artists and arts organizations.

The Artspace project is also indicative of Hamilton’s efforts to reinvigorate its downtown by embracing its architectural past. Beginning in the 1960s and 70s, in an effort to appear more modern and match the neighboring structures that were being constructed, many of Hamilton’s downtown buildings had superficial metal facades installed on them that masked the original architectural details.

Fortunately, two of these surviving buildings, the Mehrum Building and Lindley Block, are in the process of having those metal facades removed as part of the Artspace project. The two properties were selected for the project after an extensive search, for the best location in Hamilton, over the past several years.

According to the Hamilton Lofts project lead, Sarah White, these facades have, in an ironic twist, protected the buildings from the elements over the years. While the structurally important aspects of the two century-old buildings will be left intact, the soft interiors are being completely gutted and rebuilt so that they will function as one.

The project was funded through a combination of public and private sources, including state historic tax credits and the National Endowment for the Arts and the Hamilton Community Foundation.

Project officials say that leasing will begin in the spring, and that those who are interested in applying for one of the residential or commercial art spaces can do so by attending their next informational session on Tuesday, November 18 at the Oxford Community Arts Center.

EDITORIAL NOTE: As part of our efforts to continue to keep you connected with what is happening in the urban areas of our region, we have added a new writer dedicated to covering Butler County’s historic urban cities of Hamilton and Middletown.

David A. Emery, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s School of Planning and former Hamilton resident, will be covering these cities in an effort to provide coverage of two other urban centers in our metropolitan region that boast significant populations and were 19th century boomtowns along the Great Miami River and Miami-Erie Canal.

Over many generations, both cities have been pulled into Cincinnati’s cultural and economic influence, and now essentially serve as satellite cities to the Queen City. The both, however, also are interesting places that are dealing with issues of urban redevelopment, diverse populations and changing economies.

Join Us for a Special URBANexchange with Ed Glaeser Thursday at 5:30pm

Triumph of the CityThis month our URBANexchange event will highlight an influential urban thinker and writer who is in town to speak at the University of Cincinnati.

Noted author, urbanist and economics guru Dr. Edward Glaeser will be at the Lindner College of Business this Thursday to speak on behalf of the TAFT Research Center. In 2010, Glaeser, an economics professor at Harvard University, wrote the book Triumph of the City which received a great deal of praise from the urban planning community.

Glaeser’s ideas on cities, skyscrapers and the future economy are much debated yet very carefully considered. As a result, his discussion at this event is expected to be very interesting and thought provoking.

The event will be held in Room 112 in the Lindner College of Business. The event is free and will begin at 5:30pm. The event is a short walk from the #19, #24, #78 and Metro*Plus bus routes, and is located near the Jefferson and University Avenue Cincy Red Bike station.

After the lecture, UrbanCincy will trek over to Taste of Belgium on Short Vine for an informal gathering to further discuss the lecture and current events. Dr. Glaeser, if you’re reading this, you are more than welcome to attend.

Tiny Living Space Concept Intrigues Capacity Crowd at Niehoff Studio

Last month UrbanCincy worked with the Niehoff Urban Studio to host our annual fall event. This year the partnership focused on the idea of tiny living, or living in a space that is less than 400 square feet.

According to the information presented at the event, the average tiny home is, on average, about 243 square feet. They can be either completely mobile, as in mounted on a truck, or somewhat permanent such as constructed out of shipping containers. They can also, but rarely are not in the United States, constructed as normal practice with standard materials.

The event saw a larger than expected turnout with well over 100 attendees. Food truck Bistro de Mohr was on hand to serve hungry patrons. The main room hosted a display of different tiny living arrangements.

Presentations were given by a local design firm named Department 7, and Dan Elkin who is developing a tiny home project in Detroit. Following the formal presentations, a panel discussion was held that was moderated by UrbanCincy.

The panel included Vince Sansalone with SAID-DAAP, tiny home owner Natalie Hendricks, artist and designer Joe Hedges, architect and UrbanCincy contributor Bradley Cooper, and University of Cincinnati professor Leah Hollstein. The panel’s discussion was very engaging and ranged from the reasons for developing tiny houses, which includes demographic shifts in the way Millennials view housing, to how tiny houses can fit into the urban fabric of cities. The group also discussed the various challenges for developing ways to make tiny houses legal in cities.

Overall the event was informative and engaging. Participants came away asking for more information about tiny homes and the audience generated good discussions with the panel conversation.

Cooper also distributed a survey about living preferences on tiny houses to those in attendance. Cooper is assembling the information as part of his application to develop a tiny living project through the Haile Foundation’s People’s Liberty Fellowship grant. If you were not able to complete that survey in person, you can do so now online.

UrbanCincy, as a public outreach partner for Cooper’s project, will provide regular updates on his efforts.

Dive Into the Topic of Tiny Living Spaces This Friday at the Niehoff Urban Studio

Tiny Houses Event FlyerTo most people, tiny homes often are viewed as a novelty. The idea of building a small house or living in an apartment with less than 500 square feet sounds like living in a closet.

However; with the rising cost of housing and the growing desire for people to do more outside their homes, the idea of tiny living is stirring a new conversation. Tiny homes, for example, could be used to address urban revitalization, homelessness or retrofitting existing structures, such as this garage project in Atlanta.

This is why UrbanCincy has partnered with the Niehoff Urban Studio to host Tiny Living as part of Digressions in Art, Architecture and Urban Design. The event, which will take place this Friday, will feature presentations on the subject of tiny homes and an expert discussion panel.

Writing about the event, organizer Ana Gisele Ozaki postulated that tiny homes are “an antithesis of suburbanization and the ‘American Dream’ as we know it, tiny spaces/living fundamentally question consumption of our current system by proposing repurpose of materials, as a clear response to the 2009 housing crisis and many other flaws of our current economic/financial system.”

This event is part of the continuing partnership between the Niehoff Urban Studio and UrbanCincy to examine complex urban issues. Earlier this year UrbanCincy moderated the panel discussion for the Metropolis & Mobility workshop focused on Cincinnati’s Wasson Way Corridor.

The Tiny Living event is free and open to the public, and will run from 5pm to 8pm. The evening will begin with interactive pieces produced by the DPMT7 and ParProjects, and will be followed by a series of short presentations at 6pm to get the discussion started. The panel discussion will begin around 7:30pm.

The Niehoff Urban Studio can be reached via Metro*Plus and the #24, #78 Metro bus lines. The collaborative, public studio is also within one block of a Cincy Red Bike station.

EDITORIAL NOTE: UrbanCincy‘s local area manager, John Yung, will be one of the panelists at this event. John is also a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s Master of Community Planning program.

PHOTOS: Take a Look at Metro’s New Uptown Transit District Stations

City officials and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) unveiled the new $7 million Uptown Transit District earlier this year. The hope is that the enhanced stations and improved design will improve the experience for existing and future bus riders.

But if the Glenway Crossing Transit Center is to serve as any evidence, then this might in fact pay off for Metro in the form of higher ridership.

The Uptown Transit District, however, is a bit different from the west side park and ride station, and the long-time Government Square hub. Instead, it is four distinct areas – Children’s Hospital, Vine & Calhoun, University, Clifton Heights – within the sprawling Uptown area that are seen as major nodes for riders. Transportation planners at Metro say this approach was taken due to the layout of Uptown and the lack of a single location that could serve as a major hub like Government Square is for Downtown.

In addition to serving a dozen or so existing bus lines, different stations in the Uptown Transit District also serve the University of Cincinnati’s Bearcat Transportation System (BTS) and the regional bus authority’s new Metro*Plus route.

All of the stations include covered seating areas similar to those being constructed for the Cincinnati Streetcar system. They also include real-time arrival screens, area wayfinding, ADA accessibility and include information about nearby landmarks.

The stations were designed by Cincinnati-based MSA Architects.

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EDITORIAL NOTE: All 22 photos were taken by Eric Anspach for UrbanCincy on August 22, 2014.