WHRF Announces Plans To Redevelop Historic Paramount Building

Last week the Paramount Building at Peebles Corner in Walnut Hills was open to the public for the first time in decades, and UrbanCincy was invited to participate.

The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, which recently purchased the structure for $750,000 from the Morris Investment Group, allowed several dozen local residents and historic preservation enthusiasts to tour the second and third floor office spaces before the monthly meeting of the Cincinnati Preservation Collective’s monthly meeting.

The WHRF plans to renovate the office floors, as well as the street-level commercial spaces, so the building may return to use as an anchor for the business district.

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However, the tour revealed that the foundation has a significant task ahead in order to make the plan a reality. While it appears that the interior of the building has been secure and not subject to vandalism, there is significant deterioration due to water leaks and open windows. Some rooms were even off limits to the tour due to concerns about structural integrity of floors and ceilings.

Not all was bad though. In fact, a number of attractive original elements remain in place. This includes wooden partitions and glass doors, some of which still retain the stenciled names of the former office occupants.

The Paramount Building, which was built in 1931, originally had a theater attached at the east end along E. McMillan Street, where the CVS Pharmacy now stands. The drug store is part of the property, and provides some cash flow to the WHRF as they undertake renovations.

At the CPC event, WHRF Executive Director Kevin Wright stated that an application was made on the day of the purchase for state historic preservation tax credits. Such tax credits would be instrumental in advancing the project and bringing the prominent structure back to life.

Originally, the building featured a tall spire atop the tower at the corner of Gilbert Avenue and McMillan Street. During World War II, the spire was removed so that the structural metal could be donated to the war effort. Wright announced that he hopes to have the spire rebuilt as part of the renovations.

Red Bike Firmly Establishes Itself As Tri-State’s Largest Bike-Share Program

Red Bike recorded its 100,000th ride early last week when Keith Piercy checked out a bike at the Port Bellevue Station in Northern Kentucky.

According to Jason Barron, Executive Director of Red Bike, Piercy rode the bike across the river and docked it at the Freedom Center Station at The Banks. Piercy explained that he was out running some errands and was even on his way to go buy a new bike helmet.

“This is awesome. It [Red Bike] has been working out great for me,” Piercy said. “It is really helping out our one-car family.”

The moment comes as data from the American Community Survey found that Cincinnati has one of the fastest growing bicycling communities in the nation, and the biggest in Ohio. It also comes just after the one-year anniversary of Red Bike’s launch, which also took place in front of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

According to Barron, ridership has far exceeded initial expectations, with more than 17,000 people using Red Bike in its first year. This growth also fueled the quicker than anticipated expansion of the system. With 50 stations located on both sides of the Ohio River, Red Bike is the largest bike share system in Ohio, and the first public bike share system in Kentucky.

While it is expected that ridership and system growth will level off over the second year of operations, Red Bike leadership is looking to iron out finances and expand upon programs, like the one recently launched with CityLink, to make the system more accessible to people at all income levels.

Annual memberships can be purchased for $80, while day passes can be purchased for $8. Semester passes, which are good for 120 days and are marketed toward university students, can be purchased for $30.

Angst Coffeehouse & Pub To Have Grand Opening in Walnut Hills on October 21

After some unexpected delays, Angst Coffeehouse & Pub is set to have a grand opening in Walnut Hills on Wednesday, October 21.

The owners started welcoming some initial customers a few weeks back as part of a soft opening, but now they are prepared to welcome the public with a grand opening celebration.

“We wanted to open ASAP after being delayed by contractor and inspection issues for about a year,” said owner Ron Ordoñez Reblando. Angst 2.0, as he refers to it, is the next generation for the establishment which first opened back in the 1990’s.

The opening comes after Angst became the first recipient of the THRIVE Grant, which was established to help spur new business investments in the Peeble’s Corner business district.

A board member of the Greater Cincinnati Independent Business Alliance, Ordoñez Reblando also says that the shop is representative of a larger movement to develop more locally owned, independent businesses. And he says that he is thrilled to open in the Walnut Hills neighborhood where he has been active as a volunteer for neighborhood clean-ups.

While the original Angst was located nearby in Mt. Auburn, Ordoñez Reblando says that he was impressed with everything that was happening in Walnut Hills; and, with the support of his friend Paul Meise, decided to move the operations to the historic neighborhood.

The location of Angst Coffeehouse & Pub is located within the Walnut Hills Community Entertainment District nearby Fireside Pizza, thus enabling them easier access to a liquor license. But first and foremost, he says, the goal is to create a welcoming third place – somewhere people can be comfortable that is neither their home nor workplace – in the neighborhood.

Ordoñez Reblando is originally from Los Angeles after he and his parents immigrated to the United States from the Philippines when he was only nine years old. He has been in Cincinnati since 1993 after being hired by P&G from Yale University’s business school; and is hoping to bring his travels and experience to Angst’s menu.

“Our specialties are delicious carnitas tacos,” Ordoñez Reblando said in reference to LA’s popular street taco stands. “The type that I serve at Angst represents that style. We also created a version with melted cheese that adds to the umami flavor of the pork.”

Alongside the tacos Angst has a selection of local beers to pair with them. By choosing locally brewed beer, they hope to keep the money flow within the community. In addition to that, he highly recommends their house lime pineapple punch to go with the tacos.

Prices are set at a range that is meant to be affordable for a wide range of customers, and they offer a “Beer It Forward” system where neighbors can pay for each other. The way it works is that if you forgot your wallet or are short on cash, you can claim one of the tabs that has already been prepaid.

Angst Coffeehouse & Pub is located 2437 Gilbert Avenue and will host its grand opening party on Wednesday, October 21 from 6pm to 9pm, but will remain open until midnight.

CDCAGC To Host Bike+Bus Tour of Walnut Hills Area This Friday

Urban revitalization can often be a long, challenging process that is done building-by-building and block-by-block. As Cincinnati urban neighborhoods continue to revitalize, the Community Development Corporations Association of Greater Cincinnati (CDCAGC) has worked to showcase some of these successes with an annual bus tour.

This year the CDCAGC plans to showcase the work being done in the Walnut Hills area.

With an increasing amount of attention and investment going toward the Walnut Hills area these days, it has become a showcase neighborhood for community development progress in Cincinnati.

Largely led by the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, the neighborhood has hosted numerous events and activities to help rebuild and inject new life into the neighborhood by engaging its residents. Such activities have helped attract investment and revitalization.

Unlike previous years, this year’s bus tour will also include a biking component that will be led by UrbanCincy staff and representatives from the WHRF. Those on the tour will bike from east to west throughout the historic neighborhood.

Queen City Bike will also be on-hand to provide bicycle valet parking at various tour locations.

The tour will start at the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation’s office on McMillian Street this Friday at noon, and will include a stop at Kitchen 452 for lunch. Tickets can still be purchased on the CDCAGC website. Bring your bike, we hope to see you there!

Above: Video of last year’s tour of Northside and College Hill (provided)

MORTAR Looking To Empower Walnut Hills Residents, Entrepreneurs

Cincinnati’s redevelopment has been gaining momentum over the years, and Walnut Hills is seen by many as the next big thing. While it is not quite the next Over-the-Rhine, the largely black neighborhood has seen significant investment over the past several years, and is adding new businesses on what seems like a weekly basis. While community leaders are welcoming the attention, they are also hoping to maintain the essence of the neighborhood.

Just before the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation announced their comprehensive re-branding to focus on an inclusive and equitable approach to breathing new life into the neighborhood, the non-profit community development organization came together with a start-up organization that has been working in Over-the-Rhine to train and empower non-traditional entrepreneurs, often of minority background, to help power the redevelopment of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods.

“Our emphasis has always been on working with residents who have been in the neighborhood even before it becomes the latest trendy place to be, because they’ve been there through it all,” said MORTAR co-founder and Brand Strategy & Director of Operations, Allen Woods.

By doing so, MORTAR hosts classes for students who are willing to learn and pitch their ideas to a room full of a diverse amount of people including friends, family, and possibly investors. They then guide entrepreneurs in how to start their own businesses.

Woods says that in Over-the-Rhine, where MORTAR has already graduated 15 members and enrolled another 17, the idea was to create a brand new dynamic for the area which has already experienced a huge amount of reinvestment. This is not necessarily what they have in mind for the Walnut Hills area.

“We want to have a different feeling than what you get when you go into Over-the-Rhine,” said Thea Munchel, Director of Development at Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation. “We want vibrant, successful businesses, but we want them to represent Walnut Hills.”

One of the ways MORTAR intends to assist in that effort is by engaging with the community and listening to their innovative pitches at events where residents of the Walnut Hills area can present ideas of their own.

“We believe that is an essential part of community redevelopment,” Woods said. “How can you do that without engaging the community?”

They will also open up a 10,000-square-foot pop-up shop space called Brick 939, which will be similar to the one they have in Over-the-Rhine called Brick OTR. This, they say, helps local entrepreneurs activate a vacant storefront in the neighborhood, while also offering them space to test out their business model until they are able to develop their own space.

As of now, the plan is for the pop-up shop to open after Thanksgiving and run through the end of the year.

“There are lots of amazing entrepreneurs around Cincinnati, and who never really feel like they get the opportunity to shine,” said Woods. “So essentially what we want to build is an enormous spotlight for them to have a chance to showcase their skills and businesses.”

The money for the development is going to be coming from the community, a grant from the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, and the Local Initiative Support Corporation.

Project leaders say the development will be completed by November 20, 2015 with a grand opening on Black Friday.