For the hundreds of thousands of people expected to visit the center city this weekend for Oktoberfest and the home opener for the Bengals, now would be a good time to check out Smale Riverfront Park and its surroundings. In fact, the Überdrome at Moerlein Lager House is actually situated within the park and gives you a great overview of the rest of its features.
The following video offers a good overview of what all is there and what you should see and do while at the park. Prost!
There has been much rancor over the past week about how or if to operate the streetcar during major events such as Oktoberfest or Taste of Cincinnati. The perceived problem is that the streetcar’s tracks cross the existing location of those major festivals, and would thus pose a conflict.
It is worth taking a look at these festivals and their locations along Fifth Street, along with what other options might exist.
Both festivals got their start in the 1970s, with Oktoberfest tapping its first keg in 1976 and the Taste of Cincinnati kicking off in 1979. While Oktoberfest originally began on Fifth Street, Taste of Cincinnati did not. In fact, it was not until very recently that the Taste of Cincinnati moved to Fifth Street and joined its mega-festival partner.
When Taste of Cincinnati modestly kicked off 36 years ago, it was actually held in Piatt Park. It stayed there for three short years and then moved to Central Parkway, where it remained until 2007 when the renovation of Fountain Square was completed. At that time, it made sense to host both festivals to Fifth Street around the reborn Fountain Square.
When the city’s first modern streetcar line opens next year, it will have been nine years since both festivals were regularly being held on Fifth Street. Following this year’s scheduled events, it will also be time for both festivals to consider moving to even better environs along the central riverfront. Of course, since the streetcar isn’t planned to open for operations until September, that means Taste of Cincinnati could stay where it is without any problems for 2016 as well.
One of the biggest positives and negatives about Fifth Street is its central location and connectivity to Fountain Square – the traditional public gathering point for Cincinnatians. Everyone knows where it is. The problem with it is that it is also all of that for everyday residents, visitors and workers in the bustling central business district; and these events shut down that corridor for days at a time.
With the events typically extending from Race/Vine Street to Sycamore/Broadway Street – a four- to five-block span – they also require a number of cross streets and major transportation hubs like Government Square to shut down. When the streetcar begins its operations, it too will have to alter its operations and only run approximately half of its initial route during the events.
By moving both festivals to the central riverfront they would be able to take advantage of the huge Central Riverfront Garage underneath The Banks, and also be able to take direct advantage of the Riverfront Transit Center, which was custom built for serving massive crowds such as those that attend Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati.
At the same time, Metro bus service and streetcar operations would be able to continue uninterrupted.
Furthermore, unlike Fifth Street, the streets at The Banks do not serve as major access points for the regional highway system, so closing those streets off would not severely disrupt the flow of goods and people in the central business district. Without that restriction, Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati could explore the idea of taking place over additional days, instead of being limited to three-day weekends.
Like Fifth Street, the central riverfront is within close walking distance of the many hotels located in the central business district, but it doesn’t serve as a barrier to them with its tents, debris and staging.
In addition to the hotels, businesses at The Banks would be much better-suited to handle mega events such as these. Buildings and storefronts along and around Fifth Street have been designed in a traditional sense, while those at The Banks have been custom built to accommodate large street crowds and festivals with walk-up windows, fold open walls and the forthcoming open-container law.
In fact, the huge popularity of Oktoberfest has already begun to spread beyond Fifth Street. UberDrome is now set-up in Smale Riverfront Park by the Moerlein Lager House and Paulaner; and the growing number of breweries in Over-the-Rhine are also now hosting special events during the period during and around Oktoberfest. A perfect connection between all of the festivities, as has been suggested by Christian Moerlein’s owner Greg Hardman, is the first leg of the streetcar.
Organization and Set-Up
Fifth Street, unlike the central riverfront, has very little in terms of open areas for special activities. With the $125 million dunnhumby Centre now complete at Fifth and Race, Fifth Street has also lost a large surface parking lot that had served as a staging area for these festivals. Along the central riverfront there are several event lawns that not only offer more flexibility for programming, but also are more comfortable for event-goers than the hardscapes offered along Fifth Street.
Furthermore, while Cincinnatians have grown accustomed to the linear organization of these types of festivals, which may not be the best set-up for them. With the ability to shut down multiple streets at a time without causing problems for traffic flow, The Banks allows for a more district-oriented festival. This would allow people to more easily get from one spot to another, without needing to go back against the grain an entire four blocks to meet friends just arriving.
In addition to all of this, The Banks development and Smale Riverfront Park are only getting bigger. So as they expand over the coming years, so will the possibilities for both of these great festivals that help to define the spirit of Cincinnati and its people.
While the Cincinnati Streetcar may be sparking this conversation, the decision to move Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati to the central riverfront is clear on its own merits and should be seriously considered. Both continue to grow in popularity and set record crowds each year. At some point soon we are going to have to make a decision about how to accommodate these growing crowds.
Let’s allow our companies in the central business district to flourish without interruption, our transit systems to serve huge crowds at full capacity, and two of our greatest cultural festivals the ability to grow and prosper for generations to come. Move Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati off of Fifth Street and to the central riverfront.
The weather has finally warmed up so we had decided to return the Moerlein Lager House to take in the view of the ever growing Smale Riverfront Park. As to avoid a conflict with a Reds home game, and also accommodate our special guest, this month’s URBANexchange will take place on Thursday, April 10 from 5:30pm to 8:30pm.
Our monthly URBANexchange will come one night after Aaron Renn, author of The Urbanophile, speaks at University of Cincinnati about the region’s sustainability and comparative advantages.
“I plan to talk about the unique environments and assets of Cincinnati, the financial unsustainability of sprawl, how Cincinnati’s sprawl isn’t even close to the best anyway, and the barriers to execution in the deep community divisions.”
If you cannot make it to Renn’s lecture, or just want to get to spend more informal time chatting with him, you will have that chance at URBANexchange where he will be our special guest this month. The event will be a casual setting where you can meet others interested in what is happening in the city.
We will gather in the biergarten so that each person can choose how much or little they buy in terms of food or drink. Although we do encourage our attendees to generously support our kind hosts at the Moerlein Lager House.
We will be situated in the northwest corner of the biergarten (near the Moer To Go window), but you can also ask the host where the UrbanCincy group is located and they will be happy to assist.
The new 45-acre Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park is making tremendous progress just south of The Banks development along the Ohio River. Phase 1 of the $120 million project is now visually recognizable and the final pieces will soon come together in order to reach its projected completion date in spring 2012.
One of the most anticipated elements of phase one is the Moerlein Lager House. Once complete, the 15,000-square-foot establishment will become the region’s largest brew pub ahead of the Hofbrauhaus just across the river.
In this latest round of updates, Christian Moerlein owner Greg Hardman discusses the inspiration for the dramatic mural that will greet customers as they enter the Moerlein Lager House.
In addition to the Moerlein Lager House, phase one updates also include the Walnut Street Fountain & Stairs, Bike Mobility Center and Ohio River Trail.
As mid-rise residential buildings rise from the ground nearby at The Banks, the Cincinnati Riverfront Park (CRP) is making significant progress of its own. Phase 1 of the $120 million, 45-acre park is now just one year away from completion and the first elements of the park are becoming recognizable.
Crews have completed the installation of twenty, 300-foot geothermal wells that will heat and cool several facilities within CRP’s first phase. At the same time construction workers are finishing work on the realigned Mehring Way which will free up direct riverfront space, create a more user-friendly street for all modes of transportation, incorporate space for the Ohio River Trail, and maintain the roadway’s necessary specifications for hazardous materials transportation.
In this fall 2010 update, Project Manager Dave Prather also discusses how meticulous the project team has been in their selection of materials including the granite which will be prominently used throughout this first phase.
The Head House that connects the underground parking garage to the park is the first feature of the Cincinnati Riverfront Park to be completed. The next elements to come online will be the Schmidlapp Stage & Event Lawn in May 2011 with the Moerlein Lager House following shortly thereafter. Project officials expect the Walnut Street Fountain & Steps and Bike, Mobility & Visitors Center in late summer 2011. The remaining features of Phase 1 will be completed next fall.