Dueling Bartender Event to Raise Money for St. Lawrence Square Improvements

City officials gathered in Olden View Park on Tuesday to kick-off the Price Hill Neighborhood Enhancement Program. Over the next several weeks city departments will provide a targeted clean-up effort in the neighborhood aimed at reducing blight and improving public safety.

Neighborhood leaders at Price Hill Will are also hoping to leverage the extra attention and investment for some other neighborhood priorities of theirs.

The first project they are hoping to advance is a collection of improvements to St. Lawrence Square that will include a stage, fountain, walkway, benches and other aesthetic upgrades. The second project, officials say, will look to improve the aesthetics surrounding a Duke Energy substation and neighboring lot.

In order to do this, Price Hill Will is looking to raise money for both projects through an event they will host on Tuesday, March 11 at The Crow’s Nest. The event will feature dueling guest bartenders competing for tips that will support the two projects.

“Dueling Bartenders is a series of fun fundraisers we started last fall with a showdown between Father Umberg and Sister Sally Duffy,” explained Pamela Taylor, Community Outreach Coordinator with Price Hill Will. “In this second round we are having two local authors – Dan Andriacco who writes Sherlockian mysteries and Greg Hoard who is a sportswriter and has authored several biographies.”

The fundraiser will take place from 5:30pm to 8pm on March 11, and all money raised will go toward making the improvements to St. Lawrence Square a reality. The Crow’s Nest (map) is easily accessible via Metro’s #32 and #33 bus routes from both Government Square and the Glenway Crossing Transit Center.

Snow Accumulation Highlights Cincinnati’s Over-Engineered Streets through ‘Sneckdowns’

Our streets sometimes seem to be over-engineered. Their capacities are designed for peak usage, turning radii for the largest trucks, and speeds for the fastest movement. For the easy movement of cars and trucks this may be good, but for everyone else it is dangerous and less livable.

To combat such situations, many communities across the United States have begun building curb extension to help slow down traffic and make the public right-of-way more hospitable for everyone who is not in either a car or truck. Some people call these curb extensions, and similar improvements, neckdowns.

While most of our streets have not been improved in such a way, it becomes easy to see how and where neckdowns could be placed when it snows. This is because only the areas of the road that are used become cleared. The rest stay covered in snow and are a very obvious display of the aforementioned over-engineering.

During the city’s last snow event, the UrbanCincy team took to social media and asked Cincinnatians to submit photos of area sneckdowns – snowmade neckdowns. If you see any around your neighborhood make sure you take a shot of it and send it to editors@urbancincy.com, tweet us @UrbanCincy, or upload your photos in the comment section of this story.

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Cincinnati Breaks Ground on $16M Net Zero Energy, LEED Platinum Police HQ

City officials and neighborhood leaders celebrated the ground breaking for Cincinnati’s new $16 million Police District 3 Headquarters on Monday.

Located in Westwood, the 39,000 square-foot facility will replace what city and police officials consider an antiquated 105-year-old facility in East Price Hill.

While the City of Cincinnati has built or begun construction on several new fire stations, including one nearby in Westwood, this is the first new police station built in the city since in more than four decades.

“It used to be that when cities built civic buildings like this, they were places the community could come together,” Mayor Mark Mallory (D) said. “With District 3, we’re doing that again. We want people to come here and feel comfortable coming here with their neighbors.”

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According to city officials, the new police headquarters will serve 14 neighborhoods from a central location on the west side. A site that was specifically chosen due to the input provided during Plan Cincinnati.

To help further strengthen the concept of the police headquarters also serving as a community gathering place, city officials have ensured that the new facility will include community gathering space and public art. It is an approach to community building similar to what was done, with rave reviews, by Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) when rebuilding its entire building portfolio.

The location is just a block away from Dater High School and Western Hills High School and sits in what was a vacant outlot of a suburban-style strip mall. Site plans show that the new facility will be built at the street and oriented toward the sidewalk.

While Cincinnati has been seen as a leader in green building when it comes to the rebuilding of CPS, its tax abatements for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rehabilitation and new construction, and public building in general, this will be one of the Queen City’s greenest buildings.

The development team of Messer Construction, Triversity Construction and Emersion Design are aiming to achieve a LEED Platinum certification – the highest possible rating under the LEED system.

The development team also says that it has designed the structure to achieve Net Zero Energy Consumption through its geothermal mechanical systems, high performance building envelope and solar panels. The new Police District 3 Headquarters will also reduce potable water consumption by 30% thanks to on-site bio-retention cells and strategic use of site design materials.

City leadership also expects the project will reach 36.2% Small Business Enterprise (SBE) inclusion. If such a number is achieved, it would make it the highest percentage of SBE participation on any city project to-date.

According to project officials, construction is expected to take about a year-and-a-half and could start welcoming members of the community as early as July 2015.

Metro Seeking Public Feedback on Proposed City-Wide Bus Enhancements

Following a year of ridership growth, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) will roll out a series of improvements to its Metro bus service this year. Agency officials say that the improvements will be rolled out in two phases.

The first round will go into effect this August and will include significant service enhancements at the new Glenway Crossing Transit Center on the west side.

A new Route 32 will provide all-day service between Price Hill and Downtown, a modified Route 64 will connect Westwood with retail on Ferguson Road and the transit center, and new connections will be offered to Route 38X to Uptown and Route 77X to Delhi. Additional service will also be added to Route 19 along Colerain Avenue and Route 33 along Glenway Avenue.

Metro Plus Bus
New Metro*Plus buses were revealed to the public this week, and will be in operation by August. Image provided.

New direct crosstown services, from the Glenway Crossing Transit Center, will take riders to Oakley via the new Mercy Health West Hospital on Route 41, and to the new Uptown Transit District and onto Hyde Park via Route 51.

The transit agency will also begin operating the new pre-bus rapid transit (BRT) service, called Metro*Plus, between Kenwood and the Uptown Transit District this August.

Officials envision Metro*Plus as offering faster service through fewer stops and enhanced visibility through uniquely designed buses and more robust bus stops. The service will initially connect Uptown with the Kenwood area via Montgomery Road, but will be judged for consideration along another six corridors throughout the region.

Attend our free event this Friday from 5pm to 7:30pm at the Niehoff Studio in Corryville on bus rapid transit and bikeway planning that will include an expert panel discussion and open house.

The improvements are a result of SORTA’s 2012 planning efforts, and will be reviewed to determine whether or not the changes should stay in effect.

“Last year, we listened to the community’s suggestions and, as a result, are proposing a number of service changes to better meet our customers’ needs and attract new riders,” Terry Garcia Crews, Metro CEO, stated in a prepared release. “We’re ready to go forward with improvements that will make Metro more efficient, more convenient, and easier to ride.”

Potential Cincinnati BRT Corridors

Officials say that the second round of enhancements will be rolled out this December and will include added service to Route 20 along Winton Road, Route 78 along Vine Street, Route 31 crosstown service, Route 43 along Reading Road, and faster service on Route 1 between the Museum Center and Eden Park.

It is also expected that the four transit boarding areas, that form the $6.9 million Uptown Transit District, will also be complete by the end of the year, and taking on the additional service to the region’s second largest employment center, and one of the city’s fastest growing population centers.

SORTA officials emphasize that the changes are all short-term in nature, and that they would like public feedback on the adjustments. Officials also state that the improvements are being made within Metro’s 2013 operating budget, and will not require fare increases.

Metro will host a public meeting on Wednesday, May 1 from 8am to 5:30pm at the Duke Energy Convention Center (South Meeting Room 232). Officials say that visitors can come anytime during those hours, and that presentations will be offered every hour on the hour.

Comments can also be submitted online, by email at routecomments@go-metro.com, fax at (513) 632-9202, or mail to 602 Main Street, Suite 1100, Cincinnati, OH 45202. The deadline for public comments is May 1, 2013.

Inner-City Neighborhoods Center of Population, Economic Power in Cincinnati Region

The Cincinnati region has been one of the nation’s best economic performers over the past several years, and that has resulted in a 6.4% unemployment rate that is more than a point better the national average.

According to the U.S. Census, more than 968,000 jobs are scattered all over the region, but it is the City of Cincinnati that stands out as the dominant force for the 2.1 million person region.

As the numbers in the City of Cincinnati’s 2013/2014 Biennial Budget Report show, the financial standing of the central business district is critically important to the overall financial health of the entire city and county. According to the report, income taxes brought in $234 million last year – nearly 71% of the City’s total revenue in 2012.

Cincinnati Employment Density Cincinnati Employment/Population Share
While outlying suburban communities have seen an influx of jobs over the past 30 years, Downtown and Uptown remain the region’s preeminent job centers. Employment Density Map and Employment/Population Share Map by Nate Wessel for UrbanCincy.

In the Cincinnati Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), center city neighborhoods account for the highest concentration of jobs, with more than 22,000 jobs per square mile in Downtown’s 45202 zip code, and anywhere from 3,000 to 9,000 jobs per square mile in Uptown neighborhoods.

“Downtown and Uptown are the City’s largest employment centers and therefore they are very important to the City’s financial health,” said Lea Ericksen, Cincinnati’s Budget Director. “We want all our neighborhoods to improve tax earnings by increasing residents, jobs and overall economic vitality, but we are focused on the six GO Cincinnati strategy areas for redevelopment.”

Cincinnati’s 2.1% income tax largely goes to support the General Fund which pays for operating expenses like police officers and fire fighters. Smaller percentages also go to pay for public transit operated by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) and capital investments in City buildings and infrastructure.

Ericksen projects that while income taxes will remain the same, they will grow in value by approximately 2.6% annually over the next six years.

Income & Property Tax Earnings (2004-2016)
The City of Cincinnati has experienced steady growth in income tax revenues since 2004, but it has struggled to recover from the previous decade’s housing crash. Chart produced by UrbanCincy.

Property taxes are the next largest revenue generator for City Hall – accounting for $23.9 million in 2012. City officials expect this number remain stable over the next four years following an initial $7.8 million annual bump should the current property tax rollback be eliminated and set at 6.1 mils.

Like the clustering of jobs in the city’s urban core, the most heavily populated neighborhoods are also located within the center of the region.

“People are very interested in center cities, and we have an exceptionally attractive center city,” David Ginsburg, President/CEO of Downtown Cincinnati Inc. told UrbanCincy. “The architecture here and the geography that we have being in the valley. We just have a compact, spectacular downtown, and I think we have barely touched the surface of what the market can bear.”

Some of the most valuable residences are located along the central riverfront and eastside neighborhoods, with recent growth in northern communities in Butler and Warren Counties.

Cincinnati Population Density
Several neighborhoods boast densities of 7,000 or more people per square mile, and those neighborhoods are all centrally located. Population Density Map by Nate Wessel for UrbanCincy.

Uptown neighborhoods surrounding the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University, Downtown/Over-the-Rhine, and close-in neighborhoods on the westside and along the Northern Kentucky riverfront are the most densely populated in the region.

“We’ve seen quite a bit of where we rehab a home, the neighbor decides to rehab their home,” Ken Smith, Executive Director of Price Hill Will, said about the development corporation’s Buy-Improve-Sell program which has rehabilitated 52 thus far in 30,000-person neighborhood, on episode 14 of The UrbanCincy Podcast. “People are very impressed with the housing stock in the neighborhood, and they are often quite impressed.”

Not all is well, though, for city leaders as they attempt to recover from the housing crash that took place between 2006 and 2010. Neighborhoods like East and West Price Hill are aggressively working to improve their residential housing stock by getting rid of vacant units even by taking advantage of hundreds of demolitions planned throughout the city.

“We are working with the Hamilton County Land Bank to get these empty lots into hands of those next door, but there are going to be a few houses that I wish we could save, and in better times maybe we would have the money to save it, but in better times they may not have gotten to that point,” explained Price Hill Will’s Matt Strauss, Director of Marketing & Neighborhood Promotion at Price Hill Will. “The goal is not only to bolster owner occupancy, but to increase property values in the neighborhood.”

Listen to episode 14 of The UrbanCincy Podcast with the leaders at Price Hill Will to hear more about the work being done on the westside to recover from the housing crash, and episode 15 with David Ginsburg to get the latest insight on the region’s economic engine. You can stream our podcasts online or subscribe to our bi-weekly podcast on iTunes for free.

Episode #14: Price Hill Will

380093280924On the fourteenth episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, we’re joined by Ken Smith and Matt Strauss of Price Hill Will.

We discuss Price Hill Will’s approach of using the neighborhood’s existing assets as the foundation for improvement. The organization’s efforts range from community action teams–which focus on the arts, the environment, and other community issues–to economic development and housing redevelopment initiatives.

We also discuss how the built environment of Cincinnati’s west side has changed over the years, and why former Price Hill residents often remain involved in the neighborhood.

Photo: View from Price Hill’s Mt. Echo Park, by Travis Estell for UrbanCincy.