Walnut Hills will host the fourth annual Cincinnati Street Food Festival this Saturday, September 26. Event organizers say there will be music, art, drinks and, of course, food trucks.
There will be 15 food trucks, five live music acts, artists and drinks provided by Rhinegeist and Hopwater at this year’s festival. While none of the food trucks specifically focus on vegan or vegetarian dishes, several of the operators do offer those options.
The event has been organized each year by the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, which started the festival with the help of many sponsors and volunteers in back in 2012. The idea has been to celebrate the city’s diverse street food scene, while also bringing people to what was once Cincinnati’s second largest business district.
While the neighborhood has been struggling with a shrinking population and limited job opportunities, recent investments in the neighborhood have been encouraging. Over the past few years, several new businesses have opened up shop, and dozens of new residences have been developed.
As a result, festival organizers see one of the main purposes of the event as showcasing these improvements and opportunities.
Organizers also say that they are proud to use proceeds from the Flying Pies booth to support UpSpring, a non-profit agency serving the education needs of homeless children and youth, and the Cincinnati Preschool Promise.
EDITORIAL NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that proceeds from the festival would go to support UpSpring and the Cincinnati Preschool Promise. Proceeds from the festival will actually go to support the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, while money collected from the Flying Pies booth will go to support UpSpring and the Cincinnati Preschool Promise.
A coalition of community organizations organized a public event on July 11 that encouraged people to explore Pleasant Street and showcase it as a model pedestrian pathway connecting two of Over-the-Rhine’s biggest anchors.
Neighborhood leaders have long wanted to better connect Washington Park with Findlay Market via Pleasant Street. The effort really gained traction when the first phase of City Home was developed at the southern terminus of the street in 2012. Prior to that, however, the street was one of the worst in the neighborhood in terms of the status of its buildings and the street itself. That has changed.
The recently held event closed off the narrow street to vehicular traffic so that people could better visualize how a pedestrian-friendly Pleasant Street might look and feel.
In coordination with that event, an ongoing public art project, entitled Alternate Steps, has overseen the installation of several pop-up pocket parks along the corridor between Washington Park and Findlay Market. The first example of this is a wiffle ball field that doubles as a working garden that supports Findlay Market’s other production gardens.
Built adjacent to the former AVP Volleyball court, Field of Greens is a partnership between People’s Liberty, Findlay Market, 3CDC, OTR Community Council, and a bundle of classes at the University of Cincinnati.
Organizers say the overarching goal is to foster a better connection between the areas both north and south of Liberty Street in OTR.
“The idea is to encourage pedestrian traffic,” said Erica Bolenbaugh. “Actually thousands of people walked by today and we are in hope to have them provide feedback on which options are most appealing.”
The most recent part of this effort is a seating option made with tires that was designed by a graduate-level architecture program at UC. The participants in the MetroLAB program say that they have been working with residents through various community engagement activities to determine how residents and the community would like to use the street.
“It was very important for us to engage the Pleasant Street community in this process,” explained Findlay Market’s executive director, Joe Hansbauer. “We wanted this project to be as community-led as possible.”
While the redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine has come with some criticisms that it has not been inclusive enough, considering the diverse range of incomes in the neighborhood, the university team is working to show that even good design and ideas can be implemented and used by everyone.
As a result the MetroLAB team designed an outdoor kitchen, that they hope to install soon, that was made of used plastic baskets. The idea is that it is something that is scalable and can be done by just about anyone, regardless of their economic standing.
“We used low price materials to let people know that this is something that they could build in their own backyard,” Michael Zaretsky, Director of MetroLAB, told UrbanCincy. “We are working on a permit for one of those parklets; hopefully we can make this great idea come true in the early August.”
Designed for NAAAP chapter leaders from more than 20 cities in the United States and Canada, this marked the first time the non-profit organization hosted their annual leadership development training in Cincinnati.
With innovative breakout sessions and expert panels that helped individuals develop their personal and organizational leadership skills, attendees said they felt motivated after having the opportunity to meet and build connections with leaders from across the nation with a variety of professional and ethnic backgrounds.
“Our vision is to build a strong, influential community of Asian American professionals in Southwest Ohio through professional development, community service and networking opportunities.” Tessa Xuan, Academy Director of NAAAP Cincinnati, told UrbanCincy. “We will become stronger and more efficient being together.”
NAAAP invited corporate employees and leaders to participate in a leadership symposium on Friday that focused on how to effectively run Asian American employee resource groups, which Xuan says attracted more than 70 group leaders from dozens of companies around the country.
The two-day conference was opened by Dennis Hirotsu, Vice President of Corporate Research & Development at P&G, and University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono. Hirotsu gave brief opening remarks about the role companies have played in improving the diversity of Cincinnati, while President Ono gave a riveting speech about the progress and importance of embracing diversity and different leadership styles.
Both speakers discussed the issues from a distinctively Cincinnati perspective. At approximately 2% of the total population, Asians make up less of Cincinnati’s regional makeup than the 5.6% national average. With Asians now making up 36% of all new immigrants to America, the largest of any group, NAAAP Cincinnati leadership sees a bright future, especially when considering their growing membership and increasingly active and visible local community.
Xuan says she is also hopeful that the opportunities made available through NAAAP Cincinnati will help make the community even stronger.
“NAAAP offers a diverse range of professional development programs on the local and national level, engages its membership in community service, and organizes professional networking events,” she explained. “While we have a lot of contacts in big companies, we certainly do not want to miss anyone in our community.”
EDITORIAL NOTE: NAAAP Cincinnati hosted an open forum, called The Urban Asia, this past December. The event was moderated by UrbanCincy‘s John Yung, and focused how the Asian community can play a greater role in the many physical changes happening throughout the city.
Those interested in getting involved with NAAAP Cincinnati can do so by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Core Redevelopment purchased the former School for Creative & Performing Arts (SCPA) in December 2012 for $1.3 million. The 107-year-old building was originally built as Woodward High School, and Core has been planning redevelop the property since their purchase.
Plans for the $23 million redevelopment have fluctuated since Core became involved. At first the concept was to develop apartments, but then the Indianapolis-based developer looked at transforming the building into a boutique hotel. The hotel concept moved so far along that Core was in final negotiations with AC Hotels in June 2013. At the time, it would have been one of the first in North America, but the deal later fell through and AC Hotels announced that they would enter the Cincinnati market at a lifestyle center in Liberty Township.
Located in Pendleton, SCPA has a rich history that dates back to the early 19th century when the original two-story Woodward High School was established there. At the time, it was heralded as the first public school west of the Alleghenies. SCPA started to take control of parts of the building in 1976, and eventually expanded into the entire structure in 1977.
“We will continue to honor William Woodward and Abigail Cutter by working with the William Woodward Museum to enhance the memorial located on the east side of the site,” stated Core.
The 4.6-acre site is bordered by Thirteenth Street to the south, Sycamore Street to the west, Fourteenth Street to the north and Broadway Street to the east. The historic school is situated on the south edge of the parcel and is currently surrounded by parking on three sides. The northern side of the block contains Cutter Playground, which in recent years has fallen into disuse and is viewed by many neighbors as an under-performing asset.
The park has served as the focal point of discussions regarding the redevelopment of the property. The developers have proposed a variety of concepts that would build varying amounts of parking on parts of the park. The most recent proposal, which is supported by many community members, includes a condensed parking footprint and a partially submerged two-level parking deck.
In addition to developing 148 new apartments and 196 parking spaces, Core plans to remove most all of the existing pavement currently in front of the building’s main entrance along Thirteenth Street. Small access lots would remain on the building’s east and west sides, and the two-level parking deck would be constructed on the rear of the existing five-story structure.
Rents for the apartments, which will run from 500 to 2,000 square feet, are expected to range from $700 to $1,500 per month.
“Maintaining as much of the open space as possible to the north of the building while enhancing the remaining open space through the use of landscaping is also one of our goals.”
The most recent revisions are currently making their way through the approval process at City Hall, but this rendition appears to have the best shot at getting approved. If all goes according to plan, Core intends to begin construction within the next two months and welcome the first residents in Spring 2016.
The City Series is an interesting and somewhat new approach for urban housing development in Cincinnati. Instead of pursuing big developments with a large amount of land, or the redevelopment of existing structures, it instead is focused on challenging infill sites.
Leadership at Great Traditions and D-HAS, which is overseeing The City Series, say they chose the sites due to their walkable environments. They believe that the city’s neighborhoods represent the most important aspect of real estate today – walkability.
In addition, the development team says that they were attracted to each particular site cluster, of which they currently have three, because of its distinctive character. As of now their sites are located in Northside, O’Bryonville and East Walnut Hills.
So far, it seems as though the team’s assessment is correct. Two of the five currently available homes located on Gold Street in O’Bryonville and Cleinview Avenue in East Walnut Hills have already sold. With six more homes coming soon, the team expects that number to quickly rise.
What is also unique is that in each case the homes are being built in line with traditional design characteristics of their neighborhood surroundings. But starting at $595,000, the homes in East Walnut Hills and O’Bryonville are also being priced higher than most nearby properties. In Northside, the townhomes will range from $250,000 to $350,000.
The four homes on Cleinview Avenue are being built around an 1860s servant’s house from the original Klein Estate – the developer of the neighborhood in the late 19th century. In this case D-HAS came up with a design solution that uses three variations on an open floor plan, with car access coming through a rear yard with detached garages. This, the design firm says, allows the new homes to contribute to the streetscape at a pedestrian scale – no curb cuts to accommodate cars – and match the historic nature of the neighborhood.
About a mile east on Madison Road is the three-home Gold Street development, which actually sits on a road named Paul Street. Sitting at the end of a narrow side street, the site is within easy walking distance of both the Hyde Park and O’Bryonville business districts. For this development, D-HAS says that they looked to maximize the use private outdoor space in spite of the site’s difficult location and terrain.
“We worked with the community groups – Cincinnati Northside Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (CNCURC) and the Northside Community Council to design a series of homes that would be a catalyst for the surrounding neighborhood”, explained Doug Hinger, owner of D-HAS and President of Great Traditions. “There are a lot of very cool and committed people in Northside that have been active for decades and I really enjoy our partnership.”
Driven by his passion for urban design, Hinger said he established D-HAS to provide a vehicle for his architectural pursuits. And from a business standpoint, he said they saw an opportunity to start these three smaller projects as a way to bridge the gap to bigger sites and see how designs in walkable neighborhoods like this will be accepted.
“We have found value in several facets,” Hinger told UrbanCincy. “Probably the biggest value is that we’re growing the business and developing a body of work that we can take into other Cincinnati neighborhoods.”
Great Traditions and D-HAS believe they are off to a good start, and hope to use these developments as a foundation for more projects like on a somewhat larger scale.
“We’re always looking for the next project and there are several neighborhoods where we think The City Series can work,” Hinter stated. Having a viable commercial aspect in place will certainly help bolster the prospects for scalable projects of this nature, especially since they are intending to push the boundaries of the current marketplace focus.
For many urbanists, the idea of scaling up the size of such an approach is an appealing one, and one that many thought would be the defining feature of Cincinnati’s annual CiTiRAMA home show. CiTiRAMA, however, has not yet been able to consistently produce successful urban infill in the way that Great Traditions and D-HAS are attempting to do.
Hinger’s hope is to make The City Series a citywide endeavor. If successful, Cincinnati’s urbanists may finally get the annual urban home show they have long desired.