St. James Pocket Park To Clean Up Eye Sore, Crime Hot Spot in Walnut Hills

The St. James cut through in Walnut Hills has been the focus of a significant amount of attention in recent months. It is a pedestrianized walkway between McMillan Street and Curtis Street that has been a crime hot spot.

As the City’s NEP program – a targeted 90-day sweep of code enforcement, law enforcement and beautification – moved into Walnut Hills, Curtis Street and the St. James cut through became focal points of the program.

The cut through is street-width with an adjacent parking lot to the west. It is a high traffic pedestrian path due to the presence of Kroger and a CVS across McMillan Street at the cut-through terminus. It currently contains post-modern design elements with existing, neglected raised cement beds for landscaping.

In order to improve the aesthetics and safety of the space, neighborhood leaders have begun raising funds to improve it. The rejuvenation of the space will not require an entire overhaul, but rather a reimagining, which has been led by MKSK Design, an architectural firm with offices in Covington.

“We hope to facilitate the activation of a vibrant, positive urban space through design,” said the lead designer of the project, Julianna Silveira of MKSK. “The design now is harsh, with a lot of concrete – the design will make it greener, with bright colors, and an ideal location for arts and cultural events.”

The parking lot portion of the park will be “depaved”, a process whereby parking lots are dismantled, and re-designed using naturalized elements and pervious surfaces. The kiosk in the middle of the park will be repurposed into a book-share station.

Over the past month, volunteers have been picking up garbage, painting, planting and have otherwise been active in the space’s incremental transformation. The St. James cut-through is affectionately being called the St. James Pocket Park within the neighborhood, as it is now looking more like a place one might stop and enjoy, rather than just, well, cut-through.

Although there is still work to be done, the park was chosen as the wrap-up location for the NEP on November 14. The event was attended by Mayor John Cranley (D), numerous city and neighborhood leaders, as well as the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and The Model Group, who unveiled renderings for the Trevarren Flats, a mixed-use apartment project that will utilize a historic structure a stone’s throw away from the park.

Later that night, a jazz concert was held in what is now the parking lot portion – event organizers were pleased to discover that the acoustics in the space were ideal for concerts, and provided encouragement for future events that could be held there.

So far the idea for the pocket park has been well-received, and the community’s ideas for how to improve it even earned it a spot in the finals of The Orbit Challenge, which could mean a $5,000 grant to help further the progress.

If any members of the public seek to be involved in any part of the park’s transformation, either through submitting ideas or volunteering, information can be found at the kiosk in the center of the park or on the St. James Pocket Park Facebook Page.

Check Out These 14 Amazing Images of Cincinnati’s Inner City Neighborhoods

The first part of this two-part series proved to be very popular. While last week’s edition focused on aerial photographs of the center city, this week’s collection looks at neighborhoods just outside the city center.

As previously noted, Brian Spitzig is studying urban planning at the University of Cincinnati and is an occasional contributor to UrbanCincy. He recently took a flight over the city to capture these photographs.

We went through hundreds of photographs that he took and selected some of the best for you. The following 14 photographs capture views of the West End, Queensgate, Corryville, Mt. Auburn, Mt. Adams, Clifton Heights, Walnut Hills and University Heights.

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

Green Man Park to Transform Formerly Vacant Lot in Peeble’s Corner

If all goes according to plan, and Mother Nature plays nice this winter, Walnut Hills may have a brand new park in spring of 2015.

An empty lot at the corner of Stanton and McMillan (almost across from the new Fireside Pizza) is in the process of being turned into Green Man Park. Fred Orth, Walnut Hills Area Council member and neighborhood supporter extraordinaire, is spearheading the effort to not only make the lot into a public green space, but also to install a seven-foot tall sculpted stone “green man” for which the park is named.

The enormous sculpture was carved by David Hummel in 1890 for a Walnut Hills building, and ultimately watched over the area until that building was demolished in 1991. Prior to the demolition, the sculpture was rescued by a concerned citizen and has been sitting in pieces in the East End ever since.

Then, last weekend, neighborhood volunteers helped lay pavers for the new paths in the park. They used materials donated by the City of Cincinnati and equipment provided by HGC Construction. With a bit more work the park will contain several more trees, areas for seating, possibly a small performance spot, and one very large Green Man.

An ancient symbol of rebirth and the rejuvenation of spring, the Green Man seems an appropriate symbol for Walnut Hills’ fast-improving business district. Hopefully the sculpture will be there to witness another 100 years in the life of this great neighborhood.

Those who wish the support the community’s efforts to build out the rest of the park, which was previously a vacant lot, can do so by donating through the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

City Officials to Present Alternatives for Two-Way Street Conversions in Walnut Hills

City officials are moving forward with potential changes to E. McMillan Street and William Howard Taft Road in East Walnut Hills. The proposed changes are a continuation of other improvements that have been made in the area in recent years, and will be presented to the public at an open house meeting on Tuesday, November 18.

Developed by planners and engineers at Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE), the improvements being considered include two-way street conversions of E. McMillan Street and William Howard Taft Road between Victory Parkway and Woodburn Avenue, and Woodburn Avenue between E. McMillan Street and Taft Road.

The proposal is an extension of two other two-way street conversions that were completed in 2012.

According to community leaders, the projects are seen as an opportunity to better connect the business districts of Walnut Hills and East Walnut Hills.

“The two-way conversion would make the two neighborhoods much more connected and make the distance between DeSales Corner and Peeble’s Corner more walkable,” explained Kevin Wright, Executive Director of Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation. “Our goal is to make the two districts more connected. Imagine grabbing a pizza at Fireside and then walking down to Myrtle’s Punch House, with a stop at Brewhouse along the way.”

The idea of converting one-way streets to two-way travel is one that has been gaining traction nationwide amongst residents and business owners looking to slow traffic and improve access within their communities.

While former Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls (D) had pushed for the conversion of the one-way streets in Walnut Hills to two-way travel, there have also been a number of other conversions throughout Over-the-Rhine in recent years, including the ongoing effort to transition Main Street back to two-way traffic.

City planners, however, say that the two-way street conversions are not the only improvements being proposed. Other components include the typical streetscape enhancements, as well as some gateway features for the neighborhood business districts. All of the proposed changes, they say, are the result of recent conversations and feedback from neighborhood residents and stakeholders.

“The stretch of McMillan between Park Avenue and Woodburn, currently, is very auto centric,” Wright conceded. “Our hope is that this is one of many changes that will be put in place over the next few years to make that area more walkable.”

Greg Koehler, Senior Economic Development Analyst at Cincinnati’s Department of Trade & Development, says that the open house will be held at the Keller Student Center at St. Ursula Academy. The event will run from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. Official presentations will be made at 5:45pm and 6:45pm, but City staff will be on-hand throughout the entire meeting to answer any questions regarding the plans.

City officials were unable to provide UrbanCincy with the drawings of the proposed changes ahead of the meeting. Those interested in reviewing the detailed plans are encouraged to attend the open house scheduled for Tuesday, November 18. The meeting location is highly accessible via Metro bus service, and free bike parking is located at the school.

Will a new UC Neuroscience Institute be first ‘Knowledge Cluster’ investment at MLK Interchange?

There has been a lot of hype about what will or will not happen with the land surrounding the new MLK Interchange. Just earlier this year city officials and Uptown leaders began discussing the early concepts of what they believe will become a hub of medical research and technology facilities that would transform the area. Will a major donation to build a new state-of-the-art neuroscience center be the initial spark? More from The Enquirer:

Mueller and institute Director Dr. Joseph Broderick said their hope is that the gift, the foundation’s largest ever, pushes the institute into the front ranks of neuroscience and makes Cincinnati a world center in the study of the brain and nervous system.

After much research and travel around the country to study other neurological care facilities, the institute – along with university and UC Health leaders – crafted a proposal for a new building to centralize institute functions, now scattered across the UC campus. The gift also will expand research, Broderick said, with patient care at the center.