Up To Speed

Clifton Gaslight Market may open as soon as early 2013

Clifton Grocery Store To Reopen Early 2013

Clifton residents are close to being able to shop at a newly remodeled grocery store that has taken the place of Keller’s IGA after its closure in 2011. Although work on reopening the neighborhood grocery store had been delayed, Steve Goessling, who purchased the struggling store after it closed, is close to winning approval of a crucial development loan package that will relaunch the store with an expanded food selection more tuned to the neighborhoods needs. More from the Cincinnati Enquirer:

If all goes as planned, Goessling will accomplish a feat far more amazing than simply opening a new neighborhood market. He’ll prove that big things can happen when a business, a city and its people give their time, energy and money to a common cause, even in the worst economy. In this case, Goessling will bring back the fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, wines and beers that neighborhood shoppers sorely miss. He’ll return a business district anchor, recreate the neighborhood’s chief gathering place and likely make a nice living for himself, too.

Business Development News

Group Health moves into new $27 million tower in Clifton

Group Health Associates is celebrating the opening of their new $27 million medical office building in Clifton today. The eight-story tower is connected to Good Samaritan Hospital at Clifton Avenue and Dixmyth Avenue. The existing building, located approximately a half-mile down the street at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Clifton Avenue, is scheduled to be imploded this September.

Both Group Health Associates and Good Samaritan Hospital are divisions of TriHealth, and TriHealth President and CEO, John Prout, reiterated the company’s’ commitment to servicing the urban core and contributing to Uptown’s vibrancy.

“This investment is part of TriHealth’s ongoing commitment to Uptown as a vibrant community, business center, education center, and medical hub for the region,” Prout told UrbanCincy. “And I add my thanks to all the private and public partners who helped make this a reality.”

Group Health’s new Clifton facility sits next to Good Samaritan Hospital along Dixmyth Avenue. Photograph by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy.

The 67,000-square-foot facility had been under construction since early 2011, and is considered to be state of the art. Individuals passing on the street will notice that the medical tower sits atop a five-story parking garage, but individuals using the facility will reportedly experience better access to physician specialists, a full service pharmacy and more integrated services as a result of being located on the Good Samaritan campus.

According to Group Health officials, the medical group will also begin offering neurology as a specialty and plans to add ten more physicians to round out the facilities services in September.

Construction of the new medical facility was made possible by low-cost financing from the Uptown Consortium through its Uptown Partners’ Loan Pool.

The land, however, was not readily available until the $4 million realignment of Dixmyth Avenue in 2006. Previously, the street had been located further south, with homes along its northern side. The street’s realignment made Good Samaritan Hospital’s recent expansion possible, along with the construction of the new Group Health facility.

The controversial road realignment eventually took 28 residential properties through the use of eminent domain, and was upheld in court against one hold out, Emma Dimasi. The project was seen as controversial at the time because while city officials claimed the realignment was for safety purposes, others speculated that it was to free up additional land next to the then constrained Good Samaritan Hospital site.

Just one year after the realignment of Dixmyth Avenue, in 2007, Good Samaritan commenced construction on a ten-story patient care tower.

Health care professionals say that the rapid expansion of health facilities is a response to the growing demand placed on the region’s health care system by an aging population. The issue of aging and expanding health care has been the subject of numerous studies highlighting this trend on the national and global scale. Regionally, it has justified the expansion of the hospitals in Uptown’s “Pill Hill”, including expansions at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center and University Hospital in Corryville, and Christ Hospital in Mount Auburn.

The expanding local hospital system is offering improvements in health care services for the region’s aging population, and creating thousands of new high-paying jobs. At the same time, however, it is coming at the expense of historic neighborhoods and entire blocks of residential housing.

Such a tradeoff might be good for city coffers, but it will certainly do nothing to directly help Cincinnati’s ongoing struggle with population loss.

Business Development News Transportation

Massive funding cuts at ODOT pose threat for Cincinnati-area projects

The tentative project list released last week by the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) Transportation Review Advisory Committee (TRAC) will delay many major highway construction projects throughout the Cincinnati region.

Some of the Cincinnati-area projects to be impacted by ODOT’s budget crisis include the Oasis commuter rail line which had its funding erased, the highway portion of the Eastern Corridor Project which has now been delayed, and start dates on future phases of I-75 reconstruction work have been pushed beyond 2020.

ODOT’s cuts have also affected the City of Cincinnati’s West MLK Drive Access Improvement, since that project was coordinated with phase four of the I-75 Millcreek Expressway project. Some of that prep work has begun with ODOT demolishing the old Interstate Motel and several apartment buildings near McMicken Street in 2011 in preparation for reconstruction of the Hopple Street interchange in 2013.

Martin Luther King Drive works its way uptown [LEFT]. An aerial view of the Hopple Street Interchange [RIGHT]. Photographs by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy.

With $109 million in Millcreek Expressway phase four funds now delayed until after 2020, Michael Moore, Director of the Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE), told UrbanCincy that the city will continue to proceed with work planned for MLK Drive between Dixmyth Avenue and McMicken Street in 2012.

“We will have to modify the west end of the project, since our design ties into the ODOT work,” explained Moore. “Then ODOT will have to modify their eastern end to tie into our work. At issue will be how the shared bike/hike path terminates, but there is really little that can be done at this time with our project to connect to Central Parkway without the reconstruction of the Hopple Street bridge.”

Two miles east of the West MLK Drive Access Improvement, preliminary planning will continue for an interchange between East MLK and I-71. TRAC has programmed $3 million to fund environmental studies, select a preferred alternative, and perform preliminary design work.

Construction work progresses on the Waldvogel Viaduct in Lower Price Hill. Photograph by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy.

“No timetable had been set for construction, since this preliminary work had not been funded, but this TRAC infusion is good news and allows us to move ahead to prepare plans,” Moore detailed. “ODOT is also working out a plan of action for changing this project to the new Plan Development Process. This should help streamline the project development a bit.”

Elsewhere, phase one reconstruction work on I-75 will continue near Mitchell Avenue, and work on phase three, the reconstruction of the I-74 Beekman/Colerain interchange, has been fully funded and will commence later this year. However, funding for reconstruction of the I-75/I-74 interchange and all work south of that point has been delayed, as has all planned work between the Norwood Lateral and I-275.

When asked about the ongoing work on the Waldvogel Viaduct, DOTE’s director informed UrbanCincy that the reconstruction project has been fully funded, and will not be affected by ODOT’s cuts. A second phase of that project, which involves upgrades to the Sixth Street Expressway, has also been fully funded and will proceed as planned.

Download a PDF of TRAC’s entire project list.

Arts & Entertainment News

Architreks walking tours connect Cincinnati with history

Why was Northside called “Helltown,” and what role did local soap mogul, Andrew Jergens, have in cleaning up its image? Every Saturday and Sunday until October, the Cincinnati Walks Architreks walking tours take participants on guided, two-hour jaunts through the city’s first communities. Walk about Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, Mt Adams, Walnut Hills, Clifton or Northside and learn how these 19th century neighborhoods took shape.

“Our objective is to inspire our participants to discover Cincinnati’s history and connect to the unexpected,” says Trudy Backus, Architreks/Cincinnati Walks founder and volunteer coordinator. “Our tours explore the hidden gems and architectural landmarks of Cincinnati so that both visitors to our city and local residents walk away with a new perspective.”

This is Architreks/Cincinnati Walks’ 10th season, and as always, proceeds benefit community preservation and education. Sponsored by the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Preservation Association, all two-mile tours are wheel-chair accessible, and there is a wheelchair available at the Contemporary Arts Center for customers downtown.

No reservations are necessary to reserve spots on the tours, and groups and businesses may arrange custom tours by request. Tours are $5 for children, $15 for adults, and $120 for groups of 10 or more. Subscriptions are only $30. You can stay connected by becoming a fan of Architreks on Facebook.

Visit the website or the Architreks/Cincinnati Walks Facebook Page for tour schedules and other information.

Business News

Taco Azul to finally hit Cincinnati’s streets in time for Reds Opening Day

A new California-style food truck will bring authentic Mexican fare to Cincinnati’s streets just in time for Reds Opening Day this Thursday. The food truck, long anticipated by Cincinnati’s street food connoisseurs, will feature a special al pastor available on tacos, burritos, tortas and gringas – a style of quesadilla from northern Mexico.

Taco Azul owner and operator, Gary Sims, says that he has been very excited to begin operations in his hometown after living in Los Angeles for years.

“When I moved back to Cincinnati I was surprised at how much had changed, especially in our urban core. Younger people were staying in the city and couples were moving back into downtown and Over-the-Rhine,” Sims told UrbanCincy in an exclusive interview. “There was also a culinary rejuvenation here. I could actually find good sushi in Cincinnati, and I just felt that with all of this, the timing was perfect for a Cincinnati taco truck.”

Since Sims has been back in Cincinnati he says that he has also been encouraged by the work of City Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan who led the effort to create food truck parking locations throughout the Central Business District. But he does hope that more can be done to further accommodate the burgeoning food truck industry.

“Maybe in the future we could have some temporary spots for food trucks during special events like ball games, concerts or festivals. But as I said, I cannot imagine a more welcoming city council than ours here in Cincinnati.”

The desire for special event parking locations has been echoed by other food truck operators including Café de Wheels. Both food truck operators have recently expressed interest in being more closely located to Great American Ball Park for Reds Opening Day, and other special events taking place at The Banks.

“I grew up in Cincinnati, and even as a kid I can remember Opening Day being the biggest day of the year for this city,” Sims explained. “The Reds have such a great history here in Cincinnati. It is our unofficial start to spring.”

After Reds Opening Day, Sims says that customers will be able to find Taco Azul for late night food between 11pm and 2:30am in Over-the-Rhine, Northside, Mt. Adams or Downtown. He says that their lunch schedule will vary, but encourages customers to follow Taco Azul’s Twitter and Facebook accounts for live updates.

To ensure no confusion, Sims notes that Taco Azul stands out from the other local food trucks (stay up-to-date on all of Cincinnati’s food trucks through UrbanCincy’s comprehensive Twitter stream) because it is the only place to find “authentic Mexican street food,” and that food is self-contained and cooked-to-order on the truck. As the truck matures he experts to also offer specials, breakfast and try other food fusions with Latino fare.

“I love Café de Wheels and the other trucks here in Cincinnati. I think we will compliment each other and bring this city variety, and a new street cuisine that is hard to find outside of a few major cities.”

Taco Azul photograph by Thadd Fiala for UrbanCincy.