Over the past decade Cincinnati has actively been working to dismantle the once extensive elevated skywalk system in its downtown. Other cities throughout the country such as Baltimore have followed Cincinnati’s lead however a recent report coming out of Cleveland spotlights the recent debate over two projects that would add more skywalks in their downtown. Read more at the Atlantic Cities:
For the most part, it didn’t work, and now cities such as Baltimore and Cincinnati are tearing down the skywalks they once built with such fanfare, in an effort to return pedestrian life and vitality to the street. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, the owners of the year-old Horseshoe Casino downtown are planning to build a brand-new skywalk, and the county government is looking to refurbish another one just a few blocks away. For many of the young people moving to Cleveland in search of a 21st-century urban experience – pedestrian-friendly, with lots of people out and about – it seems like a step backward in time.
3cDC’s latest phase includes tackling one of its largest redevelopment projects in the neighborhood, Mercer Commons, which includes almost two blocks worth of buildings between Vine Street and Walnut Street.
The $60 million project is divided into three phases. Phase one, which is currently underway, includes the construction of a new four-story condo building along Vine Street, five town houses, the redevelopment of a couple historic buildings and a 340-space parking garage that opened to the public last week.
According to 3CDC spokesperson Anastasia Mileham, preparations for phase two are already underway and construction is officially slated to kick off at the end of the month.
“The groundbreaking event for Mercer Phase 2 is scheduled for 1pm on May 31, but we haven’t closed on Phase 2 yet ,” Mileham explained, “We are starting construction already to try to keep up with demand and stay on schedule.”
The second phase of the project will include rehabilitation of 15 historic buildings into mixed income apartments. The development team says that 30 out of the 67 apartments will for people who make 50-60% of the average median income.
To help provide the affordable housing units, 3CDC relied on a $4.6 million Low Income Housing Tax Credit from the federal government, and marks the non-profits first foray into mixed income housing.
Mileham told UrbanCincy that receiving the tax credit was the most rewarding aspect of the project to date, ” There is a need for this type of mixed income development.”
Since the newly opened Mercer Commons Garage is large enough to serve the entire development, and then some, the developers were able to preserve space in the development plan behind newly built structures in phases two and three. This space, 3CDC says, will be preserved for interior courtyards similar to the one found at Parvis Lofts across the street.
Once fully built out, Mercer Commons will add 156 residential units, in both apartments and condos, and 17,600 square feet of street-level commercial space.
While no tenants have been signed, Mileham says that there has been “substantial” interest in the 3,900 square feet of retail space in phase one.
Last month the American Planning Association (APA) held its annual conference for planning professionals. The 2013 conference was held in Chicago and organizers made efforts to showcase planning efforts of The Second City.
The educational sessions at the conference are made up of presentations by planning officials across the country. A few of the sessions were hosted by Cincinnati Planning officials who highlighted some of Cincinnati’s recent planning successes.
Cincinnati and Hamilton County received a national award from the APA for the implementation of the Central Riverfront Master Plan and The Banks. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.
The plan was approved by the city in October 2012 and is the first long-term comprehensive planning vision of the city since 1980. The seminar also highlighted Cincinnati’s rich planning heritage as the city carries the noteworthy distinction of drafting the first ever city-wide comprehensive plan in the 1925 Master Plan. That plan, along with the 1907 Kessler Parks Plan, envisioned a walkable cityscape with an extensive parks system.
However, after World War II, the city drafted the 1948 Comprehensive Plan which proposed several highways and urban renewal projects. The 1948 plan was successfully implemented but instead of the promised revitalization of the city, the highway system and slum clearance policies supported by the plan drove the city’s population to the suburbs.
“The highway was unfortunately a successful implementation,” explained Gregory Dale from McBride Dale Clarion Associates, “Sixty years later we’re still trying to repair the damage.”
Presenters also highlighted how the Cincinnati’s Planning Department overcame the problems of being dissolved in 2002 and reconstituted in 2007.
“In some ways I think maybe if we had not been eliminated as a departments, maybe there would not be that strength today, maybe it wouldn’t have woken people up to see the importance of planning,” recalled Cincinnati Senior Planner Katherine Keough-Jurs.
She went on to say that she noticed the involvement and passion of participants in the new comprehensive plan was a positive sign that citizens were concerned about the future direction of the city. The citizen participation in the new plan highlighted residents desire for creating and reinvigorating walkable neighborhoods and commercial centers.
“The plan is unapologetically urban,” Keough-Jurs told session attendees,”In many ways our new comprehensive plan returns to the vision of the 1925 plan.”
At the conference the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County received an Excellence in Planning award from the APA for the implementation of the Central Riverfront Master Plan. That plan, which was first developed in the late 1990′s when the stadiums and Fort Washington Way were proposed for reconstruction envisioned a new mixed-use riverfront neighborhood called The Banks.
In 2011 the first phase of the mixed-use neighborhood opened to the public and the second phase is slated to begin construction this year.
The planning department’s most recent project, the adoption of the final draft of the form-based code is on City Council’s Livable Communities Committee Agenda today for their 1pm meeting.
The code was approved by the city’s Planning Commission on March 7. Once the code wins approval from the committee it will go on to the full council for a vote. The city’s planning department is looking to meet with the four demonstration neighborhoods – Walnut Hills, Westwood, Madisonville, College Hill – in the coming months to move forward with changes in the zoning map to implement the form-based code.
New York City officials are looking to pass new regulations that will allow for taller and more modern buildings throughout east Midtown. The demand for office space in the area is extremely high and city leaders would love to capitalize on it, but others worry that the efforts may be short-sighted given the city’s strained infrastructure. More from the New York Times:
With district improvement bonuses, the City Planning study proposes to double the developable floor area on some sites around Grand Central, allowing enough additional square footage to give us a neighborhood of towering office buildings, some as tall as 1,300 feet or more. (For reference, the Chrysler Building is 1,046 feet to the top of its spire.)
But how will the added workers quartered in these new buildings get from their trains to their desks? The plan says that special assessments and payments in lieu of taxes will guarantee “pedestrian network improvements as development occurs.” There is nothing wrong with privately financed infrastructure improvements. But the study, if I read it correctly, gets it backward: first you put in the infrastructure, then you build the buildings. Look at the example of Grand Central, the private enterprise that spurred all this development in the first place.
Since 2000, the University of Cincinnati’s surroundings have changed dramatically – many homes and a few landmark buildings were demolished for construction of Stetson Square, McMillan Manor, University Park Apartments, and 65 West. U Square at the Loop, a 161-unit, $80 million midrise situated between McMillan and Calhoun Streets, has been under construction for more than a year and is scheduled for occupancy on August 1.
The development includes over a dozen street-level commercial spaces, an office building that has been rented by the University of Cincinnati, and a site fronting McMillan Street where a hotel is planned. Apartment prices range between $695 for studios to $2,350 for penthouses with balconies.
Reserved parking spaces in the development’s two garages will cost $95/month. Unlike other new apartment complexes in the area, units at U Square at the Loop can be rented by non-students.
In the early 2000s the site where U Square at the Loop is being built was partially cleared for a very different development – a 360-unit condo midrise dubbed McMillan Park that had been in planning since 1999. The two phases of the development were planned above two underground parking garages totaling 900 spaces, and planned units ranged from $160,000 for a one bedroom to $800,000 for a penthouse.
That project was to be financed by the University of Cincinnati, the site assembled by the City of Cincinnati through eminent domain, and the project managed by the Clifton Heights Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (CHCURC). Demolition of properties began in 2003, but litigation involving the owners of Acropolis Chili, Inn the Wood, and two fast food restaurants was not resolved until 2007, a year after the university withdrew its funding.
In 2008 Towne Properties became the project’s developer, and the long-vacant Hardee’s and Arby’s that had been the subject of eminent domain litigation were demolished that summer.
Renderings depicting a development similar to what is nearing completion in 2013 were published that fall, and the project was dubbed Uptown Commons in 2009. The project’s name changed again to U Square at the Loop in 2010 and construction began in 2012.
Minimum parking requirements result in more space being dedicated to parking than is really needed; in a world of height limits, floor-area ratios, and endless other development regulations this necessarily leaves less space for actual housing. What really struck me, though, was the straightforward assertion that housing marketed toward non-drivers sells for less than housing with parking spaces. It’s powerful, but it’s also obvious: parking costs money to build, so of course buildings with less parking are cheaper. But to have research-driven data behind it adds force to the conclusion.
The City of Cincinnati will hold a public conference this evening about proposed amendment to the zoning code that would deregulate parking requirements throughout the center city.
According to city officials, the amendment would create new ‘Urban Parking Districts’ and remove the current regulations that mandate how many parking spaces must be provided for any new development or for any project that is modifying the use of an existing structure.
The efforts to get rid of the parking requirements throughout the center city have been ongoing for years.
Over-the-Rhine’s existing historic fabric is at risk of further demolitions, due to current parking requirements, as investment continues to pour into the neighborhood. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.
Last March, UrbanCincy examined just how these off-street parking mandates are stifling growth and investment in the center city, which was largely built before the advent of the automobile. The requirements have led to not only increased costs for small businesses, but they have also led to an excess of parking in these neighborhoods.
The parking regulations also make it particularly difficult to redevelop smaller historic buildings like the ones found throughout Over-the-Rhine.
“Requiring parking for historic structures that have never had parking is incentivizing their demolition. This puts the property owner in a really difficult position; he must either find parking for the building, demolish it or let it languish in perpetuity.” Nashville city planner, Joni Priest, told UrbanCincy last March. “If a property owner wants to rehab an historic building – a building that marks the character of a neighborhood and contributes to the fabric of the city – all incentives, including the elimination of parking requirements, should be considered.”
Parking requirements have also contributed to the increased costs of redevelopment in these historic neighborhoods.
Last April, Chad Munitz, Executive Vice President of Development and Operations of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), estimated that existing parking mandates cost developers, on average, $5,000 for one surface parking space and $25,000 for a structured parking space. The increased cost associated with that parking, Munitz says, is then passed on to the consumer and raises the price of a residential unit by as much as $25,000.
The City of Cincinnati’s Planning & Buildings Department will host the public conference this evening at 5:30pm at Two Centennial Plaza, which is located at 805 Central Avenue downtown, and is well-served by a number of Metro bus routes (plan your trip). City officials say that the meeting will take place on the 7th floor, Suite 720 in the Martin Griesel Room A.