Development News

Clifton Plaza an early success, improvements needed

Clifton Plaza took the place of the former Bender Optical building along Ludlow Avenue in the heart of Clifton’s vibrant neighborhood business district.  Early on in its concept people were concerned whether more open space was needed, or whether more businesses and people were needed in that central location.  After seeing the results of a recently completed streetscaping project in combination with the new Clifton Plaza, it now appears that additional public space was very much in demand.

The new public space created along Telford Avenue added simple, yet functional, park benches along with a new community board for event postings and other random information.  It took slightly longer to complete the new Clifton Plaza across the street, but the impact appears to be equally strong if early use is any indication.

The problem is not the creation of the new public space, but rather the design of it.  The primary design flaw of Clifton Plaza is the fixed seating.  Seating is extraordinarily important when it comes to public space design, and this type of seating design is straight out of the urban design playbook of two to three decades ago.  Since that time several studies have indicated that users prefer movable seating options where they can assert their control over the space.  This might mean the slight adjustment of a chair as one prepares to sit, or it might mean wholesale change to avoid or seek out sunlight.

“The possibility of choice is as important as the exercise of it.  If you know you can move if you want to, you feel more comfortable staying put,” explained William H. Whyte in The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces.  “This is why, perhaps, people so often move a chair a few inches this way and that before sitting in it, with the chair ending up about where it was in the first place.  The moves are functional, however.  They are a declaration of autonomy, to oneself, and rather satisfying.”

Whyte goes on to discuss how fixed seating is often awkward in public spaces as there is often much space around them as is the case at the new Clifton Plaza.

“The designer is saying, now you sit right here and you sit there.  People balk.  In some instances, the wrench the seats from their moorings,” Whyte continued.  “Where there is a choice between fixed seats and other kinds of sitting, it is the other that people choose.”

Beyond user preferance, fixed seating allows for a less functional space.  When planners redesigned Fountain Square, non-fixed seating in part helped to create a more open and flexible space better suited for the many events that attract thousands of people to the public space every week.

What works for Clifton Plaza is its large open area towards the back that will allow for flexible programming.  A simple fix could be made by removing these fixed seating options and replacing them with non-fixed alternatives.  This would create a more welcoming public space that encourages users to stay longer and take ownership of the space in a truly dynamic way.

Arts & Entertainment Business News

Celebrate American Craft Beer Week May 17-23

“The Mother of All Beer Weeks” is upon us and as always it provides the opportunity for beer enthusiasts, casual observers, industry professionals and everyone in between, to experience and celebrate the honored traditions and spectacular experimentations that make American Craft Beer world class.

Founded in 2006, American Craft Beer Week is the largest, nationwide initiative to focus purely on US craft brewing and beers, with over 200 breweries formally participating in 2009, to go along with thousands of other “unofficial” coordinated events in each of our 50 states. Locally, you can kick-off the week tonight at one of downtown Cincinnati’s best beer spots, JeanRo Bistro, with their weekly “Half-Price Pint Night” and an expanded selection of draft beers on one of their 12 taps.

On Tuesday, May 18, Milton’s Prospect Hill Tavern is hosting a tasting event that will feature Moerlein Lagers & Ales paired with an assortment of cheeses from select Findlay Market vendors. The cost is $4 for six, three ounce pours accompanied by the cheeses, and Moerlein Brewers and staff have promised to be on site to discuss the pairings.

“Hump Day” provides an added bonus because while the work week may be half way completed after Wednesday, there are still four full days of American Craft Beer Week left to enjoy. Among other options on May 19th, Marty’s Hops and Vines in College Hill (map) is offering a beer tasting from 5:30pm to 8pm, and the Catskeller is hosting their “Pint Night” from 6pm to 10pm. Tucked away in the Tangeman University Center, smack in the middle of the University of Cincinnati’s Main Campus, the Catskeller is a hidden gem with good tap and bottle selections that is doing an exceptional, and location appropriate, job of craft beer education.

On Thursday, May 20th, head down to Fountain Square and join the festivities at what is currently Cincinnati’s only brewpub, Rock Bottom Brewery. There will be an open house in the brewery throughout craft beer week and during happy hour, and “Beer 101” packets will be available with an illustrated beer making process, for those that are either unfamiliar or interested in learning more about the specifics of brewing. In addition to award-winning brewmaster Mitch Dougherty’s regular rotation of brews, Thursday brings the tapping of a Firkin as well. A Firkin is a cask of beer that is drawn manually with a hand pump and served at the appropriate “cellar” temperature as to assimilate the traditional British pub methods that have been enjoyed for centuries.

There are quite a few events around town this weekend including a Saturday beer tasting at Ludlow Wines in Clifton’s Gaslight District, the 2nd weekend of the Moerlein Biergarten at Findlay Market, and Sunday’s “Pubfest” at the Rookwood restaurant in Mt. Adams from 12pm to 4pm. $25 secures 25 beer tasting tickets, free food and live music. You can mingle with a multitude of beer reps, while enjoying craft beer from producers such as Rogue, Bells and Dogfish Head in the historic Rookwood location.

While obviously the next seven days provide ample chance for the enjoyment of craft beer at any number of organized events, the opportunity is also there to embrace the spirit of American brewing and branch out to explore new environments and experiences. With a rich brewing tradition, Cincinnati is full of beer bars and local watering holes that are just waiting to be discovered. Grab some friends and head out to celebrate American Craft Beer Week and raise a glass to toast an industry that so truly embraces the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of our great country. Please enjoy every delicious sip responsibly. Cheers!

News Transportation

Cincinnati Aims to Double Number of Cyclists by 2015

Cincinnati has been making bold efforts recently to establish itself a more bicycle friendly city. New bike lanes, sharrows, on-street bicycle parking, bicycle parking development requirements, a bike share program, a bicycle commuter station and a bold new Bicycle Transportation Plan are all helping to change Cincinnati’s bicycling community for the better.

So far, the City’s Department of Transportation & Engineering has made bicycle infrastructure improvements in several city neighborhoods including Clifton, University Heights, O’Bryonville, Walnut Hills and Northside. City officials hope that the new bicycle infrastructure and public policy will double the number of people bicycling regularly for transportation in five years. Many local bicycling advocated believe that some of those future improvements need to start happening now.

“We’re urging the City to immediately begin putting bike lanes and other improvements in place on Riverside Drive, Madison Road and Spring Grove Avenue,” stated Gary Wright, President, Queen City Bike. “Those three streets must be a critical part of any serious bike network in the City, and doing this now will show that this is not a plan that will sit on the shelf.”

Of those three streets Wright mentioned, Madison Road is scheduled to be repaved this year making for a perfect opportunity to install bike lanes at the least possible cost to a major transportation route between eastern neighborhoods like Hyde Park to the center city.

Wright adds that Spring Grove Avenue runs right through the epicenter of Cincinnati’s bike culture in Northside and that additional investment along Riverside Drive could bolster that corridor from the popular recreation route it is now to something much more.

“Adding bike lanes now and making other changes to slow traffic through the East End community will encourage more people to give street riding a try while also doing a lot to enhance the neighborhood,” Wright explained. “Bike lanes along Riverside will not serve as a substitute for completing the Ohio River Trail, but they will also make the Little Miami Trail connection planned for Lunken more accessible to a few more riders right away.”

Following eight months of surveys, open houses and on-the-street focus groups, the City is ready to release a draft of the plan and receive final comments from the public. The release of this plan will take place on Wednesday, May 5 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center (map).

The Bicycle Transportation Plan calls for additional infrastructure improvements, educational and encouragement efforts, and enforcement programs. Those interested in providing feedback may do so by contacting the City with comments online or by calling (513) 591-6000 prior to Friday, May 14.


This Week In Soapbox 12/1

This Week in Soapbox UrbanCincy has the following seven stories and one video that you must check out. You can read about the booming residential market in OTR’s Gateway Quarter, Neyer Properties’ plan for explosive growth, the results from the City’s first-ever Bicycling Report Card, the progress on Newport’s proposed Courthouse Square historic district, the $11M renovation project going on at the CCAC, Findlay Market’s new local foods project, and the feature story about Cincinnati’s neighborhoods that boast tremendous city views.

If you’re interested in staying in touch with some of the latest development news in Cincinnati please check out this week’s stories and sign up for the weekly E-Zine sent out by Soapbox Cincinnati. Also be sure to become a fan of Soapbox on Facebook!

TWIS 12/1:

  • Housing in Over-the-Rhine’s Gateway Quarter selling out fastfull article
  • Cincinnati-based Neyer Properties positioning for fast growthfull article
  • Cincinnati gets a “C” on first-ever Bicycling Report Cardfull article
  • Proposed Courthouse Square historic district clears important hurdlefull article
  • Clifton Cultural Arts Center moving forward with first phase of $11M renovation projectfull article
  • Findlay Market awarded $219k for local foods projectfull article
  • Rooms With A View (feature story)full article

Arts & Entertainment Business News

Clifton Beer Fest tonight at Fries Cafe

The 6th Annual Clifton Beer Fest takes place tonight from 4pm to 9pm at Fries Cafe on Jefferson Avenue (map). The beer tasting event will feature 70 American craft beers available in 4oz tastings for $1 to $2 each.

In addition to the great beers to sample, the Rumpke Mountain Boys will providing live music on Fries’ outdoor patio. There will also be burgers, bratts and metts available in addition to the best shuffle board in Cincinnati downstairs in the comfortable main bar area.

Last year’s Clifton Beer Fest was great fun with an absolutely fantastic beer selection. The upstairs outdoor patio was a terrific spot to mill about enjoying a variety of beers and fraternizing with all the other beer-lovers and Cliftonites. If you haven’t been to Fries Cafe (not pronounced like the things you get from McDonalds – tip: pronounce the second vowel in German words), then you must go to check out the great neighborhood bar that is extremely comfortable and a great place to have a few drinks served up over good conversation.

UrbanCincy’s recommendation: Get to Fries Cafe early (around 4pm) for some great beer, food and music then make your way to Fountain Square to catch the amazing concert lineup for Popopolis which starts at 7pm. Since you’ve more than likely had too much to drink to drive down to Fountain Square just hop on the Cincinnati Streetcar and head south until it drops you right off at the Square #17, 18, or 19 Metro bus route that picks up at Clifton and Ludlow avenues. Take the bus all the way down to Government Square and simply walk a block west to Fountain Square.

Special thanks to Hoperatives for reminding us here at UrbanCincy about this great annual event in Clifton. Photo courtesy of Flickr user bonegirl.