Well hello there! It’s been a year, what did we miss?
All kidding aside much has happened over the past year. While our team was alive and well, doing what we do, the site crashed. We can discuss how much effort we had to put into restoring the site from the archive but the long and short of it is that the back end server and hosting needed to be rebuilt almost entirely.
Thank you, Travis, for all your hard work!
In lieu of a broader update, we have decided to focus on catching up on some of the major developments in Cincinnati over the past year. Here’s a brief review of news from 2019 and early 2020:
Of course, we would be remiss to not mention the current COVID-19 crisis. We will continue to track its impacts on urbanism in Cincinnati and beyond. This Friday, the city will close 15 street sections in downtown and Over-the-Rhine to allow for expanded outdoor dining. Other areas may follow.
With the site back, we hope to become a public platform for urban thought in Cincinnati. With most of us now working full-time, we have less time to devote to the site. With that in mind, if you, our reader have an article you would like to submit or an opinion piece, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since its inception, the revitalization of city-owned Ziegler Park has helped to foster not only a stronger sense of community but also an increase in investment and development in the Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton neighborhoods. The park straddles Sycamore Street between Thirteenth and Fourteenth streets and for many years was a poorly maintained, crime-ridden hub for drug activity.
However, in 2012 Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) approached the City of Cincinnati with the idea of redeveloping the park in an effort to combat the disinvestment the area had been experiencing. Soon after, a team was put together through the Cincinnati Park Board and the Cincinnati Recreation Commission (CRC) to gather community input on a new vision for the public space.
The project broke ground in January 2016 and was completed during the summer of 2017. The massive $32 million transformation allowed Ziegler Park to expand from 1.5 acres to 4.5 acres and also included a game grove, pool, sprayground, basketball courts, children’s playground and a 400-space underground parking garage.
One of the most significant additions to the park–and to the neighborhoods of Pendleton and Over-the-Rhine in general–has been the brand new 400-space parking garage. The garage helps to alleviate some of the parking challenges experienced by residents, business owners, and visitors and even displays the amount of open spaces left in real time at the entrance to the garage as well as on the Ziegler Park website.
Since November 2015, when the Cincinnati City Planning Commission recommended approval of the park revitalization, the properties surrounding the park have experienced a wave of momentum. Over 30 building permits that have been issued to date for repairs or alterations within a quarter mile radius of the park.
Some of the more notable projects completed include the addition of new businesses adjacent to or near to the park. The Takeaway Deli & Grocery, Pendleton Parlor Ice Cream & Cookie Dough, Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey, The Pony, Allez Bakery, Brown Bear Bakery have opened or are slated to open later this year. Rosedale, Revel, The Hub, Treehouse Bar, Longfellow, 3 Points Urban Brewery round out the list.
The additional parking capacity has also allowed office projects like the new Empower MediaMarketing’s new office location on 14th street to be constructed.
The enhancements alone have provided the community with a space to gather, play, relax, and enjoy the outdoors. In addition to these improvements, the Everybody In program helps maintain Ziegler’s commitment to inclusivity by making pool memberships affordable regardless of income.
The program also provides free programming for youth including swim lessons, summer camp, and basketball games. The Everybody In program receives its funding from Procter & Gamble (P&G) and the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing (OCCH).
The revitalization of the park coupled with its accessibility has increased the amount of foot traffic in the area, which in turn, has bolstered the economic development of the community overall. Now considered a neighborhood asset as opposed to a challenge, Ziegler has become a destination for families and individuals coming from a variety of backgrounds and incomes.
For example, the creation of the Rhino’s Swim Team is one of the many opportunities that arose from the revitalization of the park. The team, focused on community youth, has no registration feel and is supported through donations.
Although Ziegler Park’s dramatic transformation is probably not exclusively responsible for the boost in economic development in Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton, it is fairly safe to assume that this revitalization has been catalytic. What was once a hub for crime and drug trafficking is now a safe community space that is accessible to all incomes and provides the neighborhood with assets that are essential for a higher quality of life. The redevelopment of this public space has proven that its value extends beyond the boundary of the park itself.
Recently, the Cincinnati City Planning Department sent out a notice to property owners in downtown and Over-the-Rhine regarding the implementation of an Urban Parking Overlay District. The city will hold several meetings with the next one being at the City Planning Commission meeting this Friday, July 27th at 9 a.m. If approved, the district would remove the requirement for uses in downtown to provide off-street dedicated parking.
Since 2012 when I first wrote about parking in downtown and Over-the-Rhine the number of off-street parking supplied has increased well over 3,000 parking spaces (38,760 in downtown alone according to DCI). The Banks parking garage alone with over 6,000 spaces is the third largest parking garage in the United States.
We have an abundance of parking in the urban core.
At its core function, the removal of required parking minimums has proven to allow for more creative parking solutions to blossom. As Donald Shoup, parking guru and professor at UCLA found in his book The High Cost of Free Parking, most parking minimums were established as arbitrary standards by planners in the middle of the last century. Many of these requirements are intended to account for the busiest times of the day or year. UrbanCincyinterviewed Dr. Shoup in 2014 regarding a variety of local parking issues.
In Nashville for example, the removal of parking minimums helped remove barriers for small-scale developers who could not afford to acquire additional land for a few parking spaces. Instead, agreements with nearby garages helped facilitate automobile storage demands.
Back in 2012 Nashville Planner, Joni Priest told UrbanCincy, “Removing the parking requirements from downtown zoning allows flexibility for site-specific and program-specific solutions. Flexibility is key in urban environments,” said Priest. “As downtown becomes more comfortable for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users, new development will have the flexibility to build less parking.”
Even when parking requirements are reduced or eliminated most banks and investors still require parking to be provided or identified for developments to move forward. Removing zoning requirements for parking often allows the developer to build the parking that is really needed and not what is arbitrarily demanded by local zoning controls. This reduces the cost of development and in turn, allows more affordable housing to be provided.
Removing parking minimums also preserves historic structures from being demolished for parking lots and garages. Over-the-Rhine is the largest collection of German Italianate buildings in the country yet it currently has lost over half of its historic structures. If parking minimums are retained, the demolition of our communities historic assets will continue to be encouraged to meet the city’s parking requirements.
There is an abundance of alternative options to traverse to, from and around the urban core. These modes include walking, biking, CincyRedBike, buses, streetcar, uber, lyft, Gest, and Zipcar. In the near future, we’ll likely see Bird scooters and Lime bikes introduced. In the long-term, improved transit and autonomous vehicles will reduce the need to own and store a vehicle. Every one of these trips is one less parking space needed per resident, worker or visitor.
It would be wise for the City to anticipate criticisms from residents of the urban core. Some of whom recently voiced concerns regarding the increasing struggle to find on-street parking spaces. This is a struggle that is common in many dense, historic urban neighborhoods across the country where the expectation is that it is very rare to snag a parking space directly in front of a persons residence or business. However, it is important to consider this in light of a broader parking strategy, one that would balance resident, business and development demands.
There are a few additional strategies for city policymakers can consider in conjunction with approving the Parking Overlay District to remove parking requirements. Most of these are adapted from Dr. Shoup’s recommendations:
1.) Continue to pursue the implementation of the on-street residential parking permit program.
2.) Add on-street 10-30 minute convenience parking at some spaces around Findlay Market.
3.) Consider opportunities for future public underground parking facilities to serve Findlay Market and the rest of Over-the-Rhine north of Liberty Street.
4.) Enable the demand-responsive capabilities for on-street parking meters. This strategy will encourage more meter usage and could be a potential revenue add for the city’s parking meter program.
As part of a broader plan, it makes sense to remove the parking space requirements in the urban core. To quote Shoup, “If Cincinnati uses fair market prices to manage on-street parking – the lowest prices that will leave one or two open spaces on every block at every time of the day – it won’t have to require off-street parking spaces for every land use. If the government regulated any other aspect of our lives as precisely as it regulates the number of off-street parking spaces everywhere, everyone would join the Tea Party.”
Removing parking minimums is a productive first step in the city’s comprehensive strategy to balance the demands of residents, workers, visitors who help make our urban core a vibrant and attractive place. Supporting this policy is a step in support of enhancing housing affordability, historic preservation, environmental sustainability and livability in our urban core.
“The CSO vote has been unanimously taken care of, in case that’s all you were here for,” were city councilman P.G. Sittenfeld’s words of dismissal on Wednesday, June 20th at the city council meeting in regards to the concert venue that is in action to be developed at the Banks. Several people got up to leave after his swift comment, but the questions for city and county leaders were far from being answered.
Music and Event Management Inc., a subsidiary of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, won the vote over the Columbus based PromoWest for who would develop the venue. But we still don’t know which lot the venue will be built in, or if the City will agree to pay for the parking garage pad that will elevate the venue out of the floodplain.
The lots in question are lot 27, a space adjacent to the Paul Brown Stadium which has been a popular location for Bengals fans to tailgate prior to the games, or lot 24, a much larger space across the street just south of Radius at the Banks and General Electric’s Global Operations Center.
The Bengals, which claim to have veto rights over development over three stories in height adjacent to the stadium, are partial to the venue being located at lot 24 claiming the usage of the lot for tailgating before Bengals home games. On average the Bengals play eight games at home per season.
Lot 24, however, has already received a submission from a joint venture formed by Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate Inc., Pennrose Development and Greiwe Development Group for an $85 million mixed-use project.
A mixed-use development would be in better compliance with the Banks Master Plan, which has been the guiding planning document for the entire development since 2000. The plan identified that lot for mixed-use residential development. Additionally, county leaders have valued property at The Banks at $4 million an acre, so building on a more compact location would leave room available for future developers.
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune has commented on the matter, emphasizing that the Bengals do not have veto rights, but the possibility is open for the development to go somewhere besides lot 27.
Counter to that statement, City Councilman David Mann said that the Bengals do have veto rights over the property. Mayor John Cranley’s response to Mann was that direct negotiations should be made with the Bengals in order to come to an agreement on the location. Cranley said that he, too, is open to lot 24 being used as a music venue. The site already has the parking garage podium built.
Tom Gabelman, the attorney advising the county on The Banks has mentioned that the symphony’s proposal incorporates developing in Lot 27 adjacent to Paul Brown Stadium and keeping Lot 23 as park space for more than 90 percent of the time when it is not being used for outdoor concert space. Portune has said that the city and the county need to come to a decision about the music venue by the end of June.
Yet to be addressed is the status of the parking garage. Presently, Hamilton County commissioners expect the city to contribute up to $10 million for the garage, with all revenue going towards the county. The theory behind having the city contribute is that they would receive financial benefits from the income taxes of the people who lived and worked there.
Cranley has said that the council needs to re-evaluate the city’s relationship with the county when it comes to the dispersion of the revenue. “With GE, we gave 85 percent of income tax back, so it has not worked out how the city believed,” Cranley stated at a joint City Council and Hamilton County Commission meeting in early June. “I’m not aware we have $10 million sitting around somewhere.”
Will the plans for lot 24 to be primarily residential be ignored in order to comply with the disputed veto power of the Bengals? And if so, what does that mean for the rest of the Banks development?
An 18-acre venue where there otherwise would have been residential housing could steer the Banks away from its original vision as a new downtown neighborhood teaming with residents, office workers and visitors to yet another entertainment district. While already bookended by two stadiums, the challenges are great but not insurmountable. Realizing the original vision adds more vibrancy to downtown and further helps grow the city and county tax base.
Ideally, even if the venue is built where MEMI proposed there will be enough land left at the riverfront to develop a complete neighborhood with a retail scene and community gathering spaces the way it was planned.
If public libraries never existed in the United States their concept would baffle most people if proposed today: a 100% free and public space where tax dollars purchase and provide books, magazines, music, videos, technology, and other community services at zero cost to the individual. The public library has been a grand achievement in providing access to knowledge and services in this country, and the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County is no exception.
Our local library system is the 3rd largest publicly run library in the country, and the 15th largest when including university library systems. It is also the largest public library run at the county level with Boston and New York running city level systems. For perspective, Hamilton County’s library holdings are 52% larger than Chicago’s and more than double that of Cleveland, Seattle, Miami, and the state of Hawaii’s systems.
Like most public libraries, Hamilton County’s has undergone dramatic changes in services offered in the past decades due to the explosion in digital media and internet resources. While libraries still contain substantial physical holdings, most new resources are digital and require less space.
The Main Library branch in downtown Cincinnati was expanded in the 1990’s with the construction of the North Building, as the South Building was too full to hold new books and physical materials. According to the Public Library Board, the changes experienced by libraries over the past decades have rendered the North Building’s space unnecessary for current usage. Their reports suggest that the South Building could accommodate what the North Building houses today.
In 2016 and early 2017, the Board considered selling the building and underlying land to reduce its footprint and provide funds for branch renovations countywide. The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, better known as 3CDC, had been involved in advising potential futures for the building and the site. Protests followed this news, and the outcry pushed the Board to retain the property while finding new uses for the building.
This keeps the land public, alleviating concerns of those fearing a privatization of public assets in an era of dwindling public resources. To fund branch renovations the Board instead placed a 1-mill tax levy on the May 2018 ballot, which passed 63%-37%.
So what to do with the North Building? Aside from demolition the building, its redevelopment potential is restricted due to the high ceilings and massive floorplates which were necessary to hold the weight of hundreds of thousands of books.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati Public Radio (CPR), the license holder of WVXU, WMUB, and WGUC is looking to move. CPR’s current space in the CET Building and garage at 1223 Central Pkwy behind Music Hall has been rumored to be redeveloped in the near future, due to its proximity to the future FCC Stadium and the deteriorating condition of its public parking garage.
Why fight over one parking lot when there are plenty of other options to pursue?
There is one option that would give CPR a new space and potentially satisfy the repositioning of the Library’s North Building: Move CPR to the North Building.
CPR needs large spaces for their studios and equipment, as well as office space. While they may not entirely fill the North Building, they could anchor a new era in the life of this critical public space in the region’s core. Ideas for the remaining space could include a museum on public radio and public libraries which could accompany CPR, as well as other public uses. There could be a news ticker that wraps around the building fronting on Vine and 9th Streets, giving updates to downtown residents, workers, and visitors.
As UrbanCincy previously explored, this area of downtown can be a reactivated with more residential housing. More residents help drive the vibrancy of the core and will help activate retail storefronts already in the area. Despite having city departments, Pure Romance, and other office users, retail activation still lags in this part of the neighborhood that has seen generations of demolition for parking.
A move to the North Building for CPR could potentially reactivate 9th street, be close the Cincinnati Streetcar and keep the space public. Likewise, continued residential development in the northwest quadrant of downtown will strengthen and reconnect that area of downtown to Over-the-Rhine and the new FC Cincinnati Stadium. Seems like this could be a win-win for everyone.