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Development News Opinion

Why Does Kroger Continue to Avoid Urban Store Model in Cincinnati?

Kroger is one of the Queen City’s prized Fortune 500 gems. The company was founded here in 1883 and has grown into the nation’s largest grocer, and one of the nation’s largest retailers overall. While the company has done much good for the city, the question is now being asked if they are now content with their hometown market.

While public officials work to rid the city of its food deserts, Kroger has been largely absent from the conversation. Furthermore, the grocer’s remaining stores throughout the city are seemingly in a constant state of fear of closure. Cincinnati still has Kroger stores in about a half-dozen neighborhoods, but many have either fallen into disrepair or are showcases of urban design failures.

In 2008, Kroger rebuilt its East Price Hill store to the pleasure of city and neighborhood leaders. The possibility of losing the neighborhood’s only full-service grocery store was a real concern. While shiny and new, the rebuilt store now sits more than 100 feet off of Warsaw Avenue, with a sea of parking and a Kroger Fueling Station in front.

Mt. Washington had their neighborhood Kroger built in 1999. In this case, the parking for the store is off to the side of the building, and it sits right along Beechmont Avenue. However, the building includes virtually no windows, and instead of serving as an anchor for the business district is more of an eyesore. While its site plan differs from Kroger’s East Price Hill store, both are still oriented to cars, not the pedestrians or cyclists that make the respective neighborhood business districts attractive.

As UrbanCincy reported yesterday, Kroger is now working with transit officials to improve bus facilities in and around their Walnut Hills store in Peeble’s Corner. But aside from that, the store is essentially defined by the same story as its Mt. Washington counterpart.

In Corryville a different story is unfolding. First developed in the 1960s as part of what is now seen as an awful urban renewal project, Kroger’s uptown store is one of its worst. Fortunately the store will soon be torn down, but after years of discussions with neighborhood leaders and developers, it sounds as if the new store will be not much different from the existing one in terms of its form or function.

Kroger stores in Winton Place and Westwood, and the one currently under construction in Oakley, are nothing more than urban design atrocities ignorant of their surroundings.

Of course, all of this goes without discussing the poor state of Kroger’s Over-the-Rhine store, which practically sits in the shadow of the company’s global headquarters, or the fact that Kroger has yet to actively pursue a store for the city’s exploding residential population downtown.

Meanwhile, approximately 80 miles south along I-75, Kroger has worked with community leaders in Lexington on a new store near the University of Kentucky. The newly opened 86,000-square-foot store is two stories tall with parking situated on the building’s rooftop. The structure is built to the street, includes facades with windows, café seating both inside and out, local food offerings, and has been designed with the surrounding community in mind.

In short, Lexington’s brand new Kroger shines as an example for what the Cincinnati-based company could and should build in its hometown.

Cincinnati is fortunate to have Kroger headquartered here; and the half-dozen or so neighborhoods that have a store are surely thankful to not be left stranded, but at some point Cincinnati should demand better from its hometown company. It is not too late for Kroger to get it right in Corryville, Walnut Hills, Over-the-Rhine, Downtown, or any of the city’s existing neighborhoods without any access to a full-service grocer.

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Business News

While Limited in Size, Individuals With Limited English Capabilities Perform Well in Regional Economy

In the United States, more than 45 million working-age adults – over 20% – speak a language other than English in their homes.

According to a report released by the Brookings Institute, approximately 19.2 million (almost 10%) of this sub-population are considered “limited English proficient” (LEP). More than 70% of these LEPs participate in the work force, and the Brookings Institute found that they make considerably less (anywhere from 17-135%) than their English-proficient counterparts. These individuals, researchers found, are also more likely to suffer from unemployment and poverty.

While most LEP individuals live in the nation’s large metropolitan areas, like Cincinnati, their numbers are rapidly growing in smaller urbanized regions, like Dayton and Lexington.

In the Cincinnati metropolitan region, the number of LEP adults exceeds 35,000 and has grown 55.1% since 2000. This places the region in the top 25 of the 89 largest metropolitan areas in the nation; however, LEP individuals only make up 2.5% of the metropolitan region’s total workforce. This places Cincinnati 88th out of the 89 largest regions in America.

There has been a growing interest in this topic recently, with some organizations going as far to organize workshops to help non-native English speakers with business start-up and management training.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the report found that the most commonly spoken language by LEP individuals is Spanish. Across the nation, that percentage is 66.3%, but represents just 41.9% of the LEP population locally.

The Cincinnati region does, however, have a relatively high percentage of Asian and Pacific Island language LEP workers (35.2%), with Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese following Spanish as the top languages spoken. French speakers come in next at 3.9%.

It should be emphasized that while Germans represent the region’s predominant historical migrant community, the German language did not rank amongst the top five languages spoken within Cincinnati’s LEP community. This, however, may be the result of Germans immigrating to the region several generations ago. It also speaks to the complexity of the issue of immigration and the need for a comprehensive study of the matter.

Following national trends, the Brookings Institute found that LEP workers in Cincinnati are most likely to work in industries like manufacturing, accommodation and food service. Cincinnati’s LEP workers, however, were found to be slightly more educated than the national average, with a smaller percentage of individuals with less than a high school education and a larger percentage of individuals with an education level of at least some college or a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Those positive numbers seem to translate into better economic performance for the region, with more than 76% of Cincinnati’s LEP workers active in the regional workforce – a rate that is slightly better than the national average.

With demographers predicting that almost all growth in the U.S. labor force will come from immigrants and their children over the next half-century, these statistics have a large impact on the overall well-being of the American economy.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Listen to our podcast with Alfonso Cornejo, President of the Cincinnati Hispanic Chamber, and Kristin Hoffman, an Immigration/Administration Lawyer with Hammond Law Group, to learn more about the region’s efforts and needs to become more welcoming to immigrants and foreign language speakers.

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Business News

Federal Reserve Data Reveals Cincinnati Economy is Out-Performing Regionally, Lagging Nationally

New data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, which covers Ohio, western Pennsylvania, the West Virginia panhandle, and the eastern half of Kentucky, provides a glimpse into the recovery and transition of the region’s economy.

According to the newly released data, spanning from 2001 to 2012, this Federal Reserve region has weathered an incredibly tumultuous 11 years.

“Historically, much of the region has specialized in manufacturing, a sector that has been particularly hard hit over the past few decades,” noted Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland research analyst Matthew Klesta in his data brief. “Since the end of the Great Recession in 2009, however, the decline in manufacturing employment has slowed. In some places, employment has even grown.”

Since the first year of recorded information in this data set, all 17 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) in the region, with the exception of Wheeling, WV, saw losses in manufacturing employment – the region’s historical economic stalwart. MSAs like Dayton and Steubenville posted losses of almost 50%. Cincinnati, meanwhile, saw its manufacturing sector decline by nearly 25% – a mark that is low by regional standards.

International trends in trade in the early 2000s, like China’s entry into the WTO and the increase of offshoring from developed to developing nations, combined with the Great Recession, dealt a critical blow to the area’s manufacturing sector. Excluding education and health services, every other industry in the region saw significant jumps in the annual percentage of jobs being lost during the Great Recession.

For example, between 2001 and 2007 the average loss per annum for the manufacturing sector was a little less than 3%; but from 2008-2009 it jumped to nearly 7%. Since the Great Recession, however, many MSAs in the area have posted modest gains in manufacturing employment, while still falling well below baseline levels in 2001.

While the manufacturing sector has declined throughout this Federal Reserve region, health and education sectors have grown. Despite a nationwide average of 1.2 health and education service jobs gained per 1 manufacturing job lost, only four MSAs in the region (Cincinnati, Columbus, Huntington, Pittsburgh) can boast an overall replacement of lost manufacturing jobs with health and education employment.

The replacement of manufacturing jobs with health and education employment does not bode well for the region’s workers. According to the data, the health and education sectors pay, on average ($44,000 in 2012), significantly less than manufacturing ($55,000 in 2012).

But while this changing economic landscape has meant a smaller presence for manufacturing in the region, this Federal Reserve Bank region continues to be highly specialized in that economic sector. Perhaps as a result, population loss continues to plague many MSAs within the region.

From 2001-2011, while the national population grew by 10% the regional population posted an average gain of only 1.6%. In fact, only five (Cincinnati, Huntington, Akron, Columbus, Lexington) of the 17 MSAs in the region saw their population rise over that time period. Of those five metropolitan areas, only two (Lexington and Columbus) posted gains in both population and private-sector employment.

Pittsburgh and Wheeling, meanwhile, managed to post positive gains in private-sector employment while still shedding population. The remaining 10 MSAs all posted losses in private-sector employment and population.

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Business Development News Opinion

EDITORIAL: It’s Time for Cincinnati to Build a New First-Class Arena

The Cincinnati region has an arena problem that is two-fold. The first part of the problem is that there is no stand-out venue that offers both the capacity and modern amenities to attract large-scale events. The second is that the region has far too many venues competing with one another.

Within a one-hour drive from Fountain Square there are eight arenas with a capacity of more than 9,000 people for their primary tenants. Of these, only three have been built or undergone major renovations since the year 2000. The lone major project currently on the books is the $310 million renovation and rebuild of Rupp Arena in Lexington, which also happens to be the furthest away of the eight venues mentioned.

  1. Rupp Arena (23,500): Built in 1975 with minor renovations in 2001. Primary tenant is University of Kentucky athletics. Major renovation and rebuild planned for completion in 2017.
  2. U.S. Bank Arena (17,566): Built in 1975 with a major renovation in 1997 and subsequent minor renovations. Primary tenant is the minor league hockey Cincinnati Cyclones team.
  3. UD Arena (13,409): Built in 1969 with major renovations in 2002 and minor renovations again in 2010. Primary tenant is University of Dayton athletics.
  4. Fifth Third Arena (13,176): Built in 1989 with several minor renovations since. Primary tenant is University of Cincinnati athletics.
  5. Cintas Center (10,250): Built in 2000. Primary tenant is Xavier University athletics.
  6. Cincinnati Gardens (10,208): Built in 1949 with no major renovations since its opening. Primary tenant is the amateur women’s roller derby Cincinnati Rollergirls team.
  7. Bank of Kentucky Center (9,400): Built in 2008. Primary tenant is Northern Kentucky University athletics.
  8. Millett Hall (9,200): Built in 1968 with no major renovations since its opening. Primary tenant is Miami University athletics (sans hockey).

Recent talks closer to the core of our region have revolved around either embarking on a major renovation of Fifth Third Arena, or building a new one altogether; and performing major renovations on U.S. Bank Arena. The problem with these two approaches, however, fails to address the two core problems with the region’s plethora of arenas.

Any discussion on this topic should be focused on creating a stand-out venue that is both large enough and offers the modern amenities needed to attract major events, while also decluttering the regional arena landscape.

To that end, UrbanCincy recommends building a brand new arena adjacent to the Horseshoe Casino at Broadway Commons that would become the new home for the Cincinnati Cyclones, Cincinnati Rollergirls and University of Cincinnati Men’s Basketball. This venue would also accommodate the existing events held at U.S. Bank Arena and should be built in a way that is conducive for casino operators to program additional events, such as boxing, at the venue.

As part of this plan, U.S. Bank Arena and the Cincinnati Gardens should be torn down, and Fifth Third Arena used as the multipurpose facility it was originally intended to be.

This location makes perfect sense with immediate access to the center city’s hotels and convention facilities, casino, streetcar system, highways and abundant parking. Such a plan would also allow for the current U.S. Bank Arena site to be redeveloped with additional housing and shops akin to what is being developed at The Banks.

The land left over at the Cincinnati Gardens site in Bond Hill could then be repackaged, with surrounding land, to be developed as part of community-driven master plan.

As is often the case, funding is one of the primary hurdles preventing any of this from getting done. In this particular plan, each of the partners (University of Cincinnati, City of Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Horseshoe Casino) could contribute to the capital costs. Furthermore, value capture tools could be used for the U.S. Bank Arena and Cincinnati Gardens properties to help offset costs even more.

The last thing our region needs is another tax to pay for a sports or entertainment complex. Those scarce public resources should be reserved for more pressing things like improving our region’s transit network.

Our region’s political and business leaders need to think holistically when it comes to this challenge. Moving forward in a panicked and rushed fashion will get us an end result that does not solve the problems before us, and ultimately squanders public dollars.

Let’s build ourselves a modern arena venue that can attract top-level events, but do so without placing the burden on the taxpayers. Let’s also do so in a way that rids the region of some of its excess number of existing arenas, and frees up land to be redeveloped in a more productive manner for our neighborhoods.

There is a wealth of talent and C-Level executives in this region. Let’s get creative and start thinking beyond the sales tax. Let’s get this done.

Categories
Arts & Entertainment Business News

Record Fair to Gather Area Music Lovers in Northside This Weekend

Northside Presbyterian ChurchHundreds of vinyl collectors and music lovers will gather in Northside this weekend for the second annual Northside Record Fair.

The event, according to its website, seeks to “bring together record collector dorks from all over the Midwest to buy, sell, trade and generally nerd out” over thousands of records, CDs, cassettes, 8-tracks, reel-to-reels, posters, concert DVDs, zines and other music memorabilia.

More than 40 vendors from across the Midwest – a mix of independent record stores, small limited-edition labels, dealers and private collectors – will sell at the event, including event sponsor Shake-It Records, Black Plastic in Northside and Louisville record store Astro Black.

The Northside Record Fair extends beyond the boundaries of a typical record swap however.

“I’m more of the mindset of wanting the record fair more out there than just Elvis records and Beatles records,” explained event organizer Jon Lorenz. “My interests are in more obscure punk records or indie records or experimental stuff.”

Lorenz had always wanted to organize a large-scale record fair, taking inspiration from New York’s WFMU Record Fair. When a friend first suggested organizing a record swap in 2012, Lorenz said, “Why not go all out and make it as big as we can?”

Last year’s inaugural Northside Record Fair at Hoffner Lodge attracted over 400 people from Cincinnati and as far as Lexington, Louisville, Indianapolis and Columbus. This year Lorenz anticipates an even bigger crowd.

The event is produced by Lorenz under the moniker Dome Presents, a music promoter specializing in underground, DIY and experimental music. Lorenz says that he started Dome Presents to try to engage bigger bands that have a more underground or cult following that would normally skip Cincinnati.

The Northside Record Fair will take place on Saturday, November 23 at the Northside Presbyterian Church on Hamilton Avenue from 11am to 4pm. Early bird admission will cost $10 and start an hour earlier at 10am. Regular admission will cost just $5.

The event is easily accessible by several Metro bus routes, and Northside offers an abundance of free bicycle parking.