New Event to Highlight Urban Parks and Streetcar

IGers Cincinnati Meetup PromoAutumn heralds apple cider, crisp cool air and the colorful reveal of fall foliage. The best way to experience this in Cincinnati is by visiting one of the city’s many parks. This city is blessed with having some of its best parks within or overlooking its urban core. The Smale Riverfront Park, Washington Park and others dot the landscape and are all easily connected by the brand new Cincinnati Bell Connector. Yet the leaves won’t stay on the trees forever, which is why this weekend is the best time to snap a few photos!

UrbanCincy has partnered with IGers Cincinnati, a group dedicated to highlighting the best Cincinnati area Instagramers to do a photo walk this Saturday, October 22 at noon. The photo walk, called “Park + Ride,” will highlight the new Cincinnati Bell Connector and the city’s great urban parks along the streetcar route.

Participation is free and open to anyone. This is a great opportunity to meet new people, fellow Instagram photographers and more. We will be meeting at the “Sing the Queen City” sign at Smale Riverfront Park at noon. From there the group will tour the Riverfront Park before boarding the streetcar to travel to our next destinations. Stops include Smale Riverfront Park, Piatt Park, Washington Park and the Rhinegeist rooftop deck. There will also be an optional climb to Bellevue Hill Park.

Some photos taken at the event and tagged with #cinstameet_streetcar will be highlighted by UrbanCincy.

The event starts at noon on Saturday October 22 in front of the “Sing the Queen City” sign located at the foot of the Roebling Suspension Bridge. It is easily accessible from the Banks Streetcar stop and is located within a block of three Cincy RedBike stations. Bring your smartphone or camera. We hope to see you there!

Taste of OTR Returns This Weekend As Expanded, Two-Day Event

The Taste of OTR returns this weekend as an expanded two-day event for craft beer, local eats, and live music in Washington Park.

The announced lineup includes more than 25 of the neighborhood’s best restaurants, food trucks, and retailers selected as vendors for this year’s event. Returning favorites from past years include Taste of Belgium, Alabama Fish Bar, and Dojo Gelato; as well as newcomers Eli’s Barbeque, Ché, and Nation Kitchen & Bar.

Conceived four years ago as a creative way to raise awareness for local nonprofit Tender Mercies and celebrate Over-the-Rhine’s renaissance, Taste of OTR has quickly grown into a signature community event. Attendance has grown exponentially from 2,500 in the first year to 15,000 in 2015. This year, organizers anticipate 20,000 people will attend.

The larger, two-day event will also include several new features, including a Craft Beer Village showcasing locally brewed beer from Samuel Adams and Rhinegeist. A new kid’s zone is intended to make sure the event has plenty to offer for families interested in attending.

All of the proceeds from Taste of OTR go to Tender Mercies – the Over-the-Rhine nonprofit that plans and produces the event, and provides permanent supportive housing for homeless adults with mental illness. It assists nearly 200 residents each year with affordable housing and a suite of support programs such as employment and life skills training and benefits assistance.

Since the event’s inception, Taste of OTR has raised $100,000 for the organization. This year, Tender Mercies hopes to net another $60,000 for their cause.

Taste of OTR will take place Friday, August 26 from 5pm to 10pm, and Saturday, August 27th from 11am to 10pm. General admission is free. For more information about Taste of OTR or to purchase VIP tickets, go to www.tasteofotr.com.

VIDEO: Use Red Bike to Experience Best of Downtown Cincinnati

It’s no secret that the center city boasts a seemingly endless number of things to see and do, for both visitors and locals alike. Moving about from one destination to the next will soon get easier when the Cincinnati Streetcar opens for service, but, for those able to do so, Red Bike serves as a perfect tool to check out as many places as possible.

By taking transit, walking or riding a bike, you can avoid the hassles of fighting traffic, looking and paying for parking, and can check your concerns about parking tickets or other hassles. Plus, it’s also a great way to get some exercise in the process.

Downtown Cincinnati Inc. knows this well.

To help promote such information, they partnered with US Digital Partners on a video to showcase just how convenient and enjoyable it can be to explore the center city by bike. And thanks to the continued expansion of Red Bike, you can now take it to go beyond Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

If the embedded video does not function properly, you can watch it on Vimeo here.

1940s Era OTR Auto Repair Shop Being Transformed Into Bar and Beer Garden

A former automotive repair shop called Queen City Radio is being re-purposed as a bar with a large outdoor beer garden in Over-the-Rhine.

Chris and Louisa Reckman, along with her brother, Gabriel Deutsch, recently bought the 7,665-square-foot property at 222 W. Twelfth Street due to its terrific location that is within close proximity to the Cincinnati Streetcar, Washington Park, Music Hall, and the Central Parkway protected bike lane.

First constructed in the 1940s as an auto repair shop that focused on car radio installation, the new owners say that they wanted to keep the historic name in order to create a warm new atmosphere for the community.

“We had the idea because every time we drove past it, we saw this ugly parking lot and we need more green space in Over the Rhine,” said Louisa.

To that end, Louisa says that QCR will be dog friendly in order to welcome the many dog owners in the neighborhood – including those visiting the dog park at Washington Park. Additionally, for the dog’s owners, there will be 14 beers on tap, including both local and national brews.

“We just want it to be easy-going – a place where anyone can come,” Louisa told UrbanCincy. “We just want it to be a place where everyone feels comfortable.”

Louisa and her brother have background in the restaurant and bar industry, while her husband works for Urban Expansion – a development organization that has helped renovate spaces that include establishments like Happy Belly and Goodfellas.

Local places like those, and others, are what they say motivated them to pursue such an endeavor.

“We love Neon’s and places like that, but there aren’t that many of them down here,” Louisa explained. “So we said, ‘let’s bring some more greenery…let’s beautify the place.’”

As of now, the team says that they are aiming for a July 4 opening.

Such timing would place them amongst the first of several other planned developments nearby, including an 88,000-square-foot office renovation, the new Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and a new 20-room boutique hotel.

Cincinnati’s Mandatory Minimum Parking Requirements Stall $15M Development

An Over-the-Rhine development has hit a potential challenge after a 3-3 vote at last month’s Historic Conservation Board meeting.

Grandin Properties had been planning to convert the historic Strietmann Biscuit Company building, located at 221 W. Twelfth Street, to an 88,000-square-foot office building, but must now request a zone change since it does not meeting the city’s mandatory minimum parking requirements.

In a strange twist, the vote from the Historic Conservation Board actually threatens the historic nature of the building and the surrounding neighborhood, as providing the parking being requested would necessitate that a portion of the building be converted to parking, or a nearby historic structure be demolished to make room for a parking structure.

As such, the developer is requesting to rezone the property from CC-A (Community Commercial – Automotive) to DD-C (Downtown Development – Support), which would give Grandin Properties more flexibility when it comes to the provision of parking.

In a letter submitted to City Council, the developer indicated that despite entering into agreements with 3CDC to secure 175 parking spaces for the development, which is a five-minute walk from the Washington Park Garage and City Center Garage, a split vote for a parking variance may imperil the project if the zone change is not secured.

Further supporting the developer’s case is the fact that the 126-year-old structure is located within a short walk to numerous Red Bike and Cincinnati Streetcar stations; and the location’s Walk Score is 94 out of 100 points.

“We were aware of the long history of not enforcing strict compliance with the zoning code’s parking requirements in Over-the-Rhine for both rehabilitated and new buildings,” Peg Wyant, President and CEO of Grandin Properties, wrote. “This is why we were surprised when City staff took a very hard position and required that we have guaranteed control over parking spaces ‘for the life of the project.’”

The development was slated to move forward, despite losing out on almost $2 million in historic tax credits from the state last year.

Following UrbanCincy‘s 2012 report on mandatory minimum parking requirements, City Council moved to study removing parking requirements in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine; and, in 2013, the City amended the zoning regulations to allow for both neighborhoods to remove required parking minimums with the passage of a special parking district zone. However, there has been no establishment of any special parking district zone to-date.

Further complicating the matter of parking in Over-the-Rhine is the fact that a workable Parking Permit Plan has yet to move through City Hall. While neighborhood residents and business owners have spent months developing a variety of alternatives, each has met its demise with the threat of Mayor John Cranley‘s (D) veto, which he says is due to permit prices being set too low.

As a result, parking remains a hot topic in one of the nation’s fastest developing neighborhoods. Many local developers still believe there is a market demand for one to two spaces per residential unit, while transportation options and the walkability of the neighborhood continue to improve. The increased number of visitors, including both workers and those coming to shop and dine in the neighborhood, is adding increased pressure since many residents in historic buildings utilize on-street parking to store their cars.

The next step for the project is that it will go before City Council’s Neighborhoods Committee for its potential rezoning application.