Development News Politics

Smart Growth May Offer Cincinnati a Way Out of Its Structurally Imbalanced Budget

Land Use Budget ImpactsThe City of Cincinnati passed yet another structurally imbalanced budget late last week. At the meeting Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls (C) and other council members admitted that the approved budget once again relied on a one-time fix to get the city through another budget cycle without significant layoffs and major funding cuts.

Despite having its hands tied in coming up with creative ways to find revenues, Cincinnati is not alone in dealing with this dilemma. Hundreds of cities across the nation are struggling with budget deficits with some much larger than ours.

Smart Growth America recently completed a national report, titled Building Better Budgets, with findings that could help many municipalities find long-term solutions to their budget crisis. The report makes three main arguments that smart growth development, described as compact, walkable and mixed-use overall save municipalities on upfront infrastructure costs, service costs and serve to increase the city’s tax base better than suburban style developments.

After reviewing a diverse collection of cities across America, such as Raleigh, NC,  Nashville, TN and Champagne, IL, the study found that smart growth development costs an average of 38% less for upfront infrastructure, saves municipalities an average of 10% on ongoing delivery of services, and generates approximately 10 times more tax revenue per acre when compared to conventional suburban development.

“These figures are conservative, and many communities could save even more,” authors of the report stated. “Smart growth development’s potential for lower costs and higher revenues means that many municipalities can operate smart growth development at a surplus rather than a deficit.”

How local projects stack up
Several projects on the horizon are poised to add to the tax base in Cincinnati’s urban core. Phase two of The Banks, dunhumbyUSA Centre, the 580 Building apartment conversion, hotels at the Bartlett Building and Enquirer Building, and proposed apartment buildings above Fountain Place and the parking garage at Seventh and Sycamore all offer the upfront infrastructure cost savings and long-term revenue advantages discussed in Smart Growth America’s report.

The redevelopment of the Pogue’s Garage into a 30-story apartment tower with a grocery store, and an 11-store Holiday Inn at Broadway and Eighth Street are two other projects that offer similar benefits, but are currently on hold due to the ongoing legal dispute surrounding the City of Cincinnati’s Parking Modernization & Lease Plan. Additionally, a slew of projects in Over-the-Rhine, Walnut Hills and Northside also appear poised to help stabilize the city’s finances thanks to their smart growth advantages.

Property Tax Yield

Not all is well, however, as many recent real estate investments throughout the city have taken the conventional suburban development approach. The Incline District in East Price Hill, Villages of Day Break in Bond Hill, Oakley Station in Oakley, MetroWest in Lower Price Hill, and developments along Red Bank Road in Madisonville all seem to be missing the bigger picture about the financial advantages of smart growth.

In addition to the actual footprint of the development, the report discusses the importance of a project’s site location.

“The per-acre measurement of tax revenue is extremely important because land is a precious commodity for every jurisdiction,” the report concluded. “It is true that in some cases the total dollar amount of tax revenue in conventional suburban settings can be very large, but those conventional suburban developments consume large amounts of land. Many cities in the United States have a constrained land supply and must husband their land resources carefully in order to protect their solvency.”

While many of the real estate investments throughout Cincinnati are being done in a smart manner, others seem to be squandering valuable urban land with suburban-style developments. The City of Cincinnati, and other cities around the region, might be able to make a long and sustained positive impact on their budgets by refusing to go forward with projects that offer an easy, short-term score, and instead demanding more sustainable development practices in their community.

Development News Transportation

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, 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.

Business Development News

2011 CitiRama to expand urban community in Bond Hill

The Home Builders Association and City of Cincinnati are celebrating a decade of urban living with this year’s CitiRama home show. The Villages of Daybreak, located in Bond Hill, is being developed by NorthPointe Group in a public faith venture with the Allen Temple Foundation and Tryed Stone Family and Community Development Center.

Located at the intersection of Langdon Farm Road and Rhode Island Avenue, the development will eventually include 196 single family homes and 102 townhouses and condos.

After the success of 2010’s CitiRama in Northside, the Home Builder’s Association looked to the newly designated NEP neighborhood of Bond Hill to continue the growth of urban home building.

“Bond Hill is strategically positioned to create an urban walkable community,” said Dr. Everett Gregory, President of the Bond Hill Community Council. “With the new Neighborhood Enhancement Program designation, we will be working together to improve Bond Hill. The Villages of Daybreak will be a part of that.”

The homes, built by both Drees and Potterhill Homes, have elements of new urbanism designed into the site plan. There are single family houses with driveways facing on the backside into an alley, with wide sidewalks and more houses on smaller lots. While not completely integrated into a walkable neighborhood with commercial infill, the development is located next to a shopping mall which is a parking lots’ walk away.

The 2011 CitiRama will be held September 17 through 25, 2011 at the Villages of Daybreak. There will be a poster contest in the coming months to showcase the work of local artists, and a kick off to celebrate both CitiRama and National Home Builder’s month in June.

“We’re excited and very confident that our 10th CItiRAMA at the Villages of Daybreak will once again showcase the region,” said HBA President Dan Dressman. “We will show that the city of Cincinnati is truly a great place to live.”

Villages of Daybreak site plan photograph by UrbanCincy contributor Thadd Fiala.

Business Development News

Cincinnati to test broken windows theory in Over-the-Rhine, Bond Hill

Cincinnati has selected the next two neighborhoods for its 2011 Neighborhood Enhancement Program (NEP). This year’s 90-day blitz will take place in Over-the-Rhine and Bond Hill.

First started in 2006, the NEP has moved through 10 of the city’s 52 neighborhoods including Mt. Washington and Corryville which were targeted last year. City officials say that the collaborative effort is designed to jumpstart community revitalization and reinvestment, and focus on developing neighborhood assets and improving quality of life.

Some in Over-the-Rhine feel like the focused effort could not come at a better time given the recent progress there.

“While Over-the-Rhine is a strong neighborhood, we could use more tools to address some real barriers, such as buildings with code violations, that prevent us from getting more things done,” says Over-the-Rhine resident and owner of Park+Vine Dan Korman.

The NEP employs the broken windows theory that changes the norms of an urban area in order to influence social behavior in such a way that prevents an escalation into more serious crime. Cincinnati’s NEP has won numerous local, state and national awards, and puts significant focus on building code enforcement, litter removal, vacant lot maintenance, beautifying landscapes and public right-of-way, and “cooling down” crime hot spots.

The 2011 NEP is made possible by Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, People Working Cooperatively, Police Partnering Center, Leadership Cincinnati, Citizens for Civic Renewal and through the financial support of $8,000 from U.S. Bank.

2011 NEP Announcement photograph by UrbanCincy contributor Thadd Fiala.

Business Development News

Bond Hill to celebrate dedication of $11M Graeter’s production facility

After breaking ground on a 28,000-square-foot facility in May 2010, the new Graeter’s Ice Cream production facility is complete and poised to set-up the legendary ice cream maker for an aggressive national expansion plan.

Cincinnati leaders are scheduled to dedicate the new facility in Bond Hill, located at 66th Street and Paddock Road, at 10am today. As part of the ceremonies, 66th Street will be renamed to Regina Graeter Way in honor of the current owners’ great-grandmother who helped establish the Graeter’s brand as a local favorite.

City officials say that the $11 million project was made possible by $3.3 million incentive package from the City of Cincinnati, and will create 50 jobs – a number that is expected to grow in the coming years as Graeter’s grows its production. The incentive package also included a commitment from Graeter’s to “stay and grow” in Cincinnati for at least 20 years.

The ice cream maker will maintain its current facility in Mt. Auburn for production of some ice cream, candy, and baked goods. The new facility, meanwhile, will be used solely for the production of ice cream.

“As a Cincinnati-based, family-run company, we are proud of our association with this wonderful city and look forward to new generations of success,” said Richard Graeter, president and CEO of Graeter’s. “We are incredibly grateful [of the City’s assistance], because not only will their support help us expand nationally, but it is also helping us create jobs locally.”

The new Graeter’s facility sits on roughly 4.5 acres of land, and is the first development to take place on the 24.5-acre site owned by the City of Cincinnati which previously was home to the Mill Creek Psychiatric Center.  Officials with the city’s Economic Development Department hope to build out the rest of the site in accordance to the Growth & Opportunities Study for Cincinnati (GO Cincinnati) which calls for research and development, flex-industrial, and back-office space to be built in the Seymour/Reading Road Corridor.

“Graeter’s growth is contributing to the growth-mode that the City of Cincinnati is experiencing these days,” City Manager Milton Dohoney stated in a prepared release. “And as they take their brand to new national markets, they are a great ambassador for the city.”