Business News Politics

Roughly 39% of Hamilton County’s Workforce Commutes From Outside of County

Of the 490,222 workers in Hamilton County, 39% of them are commuters from outside the county. This is according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Compared to other similarly sized metropolitan areas, this is a larger than normal percentage. In Cuyahoga County, home of Cleveland, for example, only 28% of the almost 700,000 workers commute from outside the county; and in Allegheny County, PA – the center of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area – that number is 22% of more than 680,000 workers.

The difference, some say, may be attributable to the fact that the Cincinnati region’s job center sits directly on a state line, and borders three counties in Northern Kentucky.

However, in Jefferson County, KY, with a similar amount of workers in the county as Hamilton County, only 26% of employees commute from outside Jefferson County. This is in spite of the fact that Louisville sits directly on the Ohio River, like Cincinnati, with commuters crossing the state line from Indiana each day.

Perhaps further explaining the matter is the merging of Cincinnati and Dayton’s economic activities, which increasingly promote cross commuting between Cincinnati’s northern, and Dayton’s southern counties.

Such commuting patterns complicate transportation management for regional planners. Not only does it mean heavy rush hour commutes, but also more unpredictable reverse commutes.

While Hamilton County was a bit of an outlier, it was joined by Davidson County, TN (Nashville), and St. Louis County, MO (St. Louis) with similar complex commuting patterns.

Development News

Cincinnati Leaders Approve City’s Third Form-Based Code in Walnut Hills

Last week Cincinnati City Council approved the form-based code for Walnut Hills. The unanimous vote marks the third neighborhood to adopt this new regulatory tool for neighborhood redevelopment. Yet even after several years of development, many do not understand the basics about the new land use planning tool.

First of all, a form-based code is type of regulation that is developed by community stakeholders to guide future development or redevelopment of a community. Under a form-based code, new developments are typically configured to mesh with the character of the community’s vision.

Form-based codes get their name because it creates a type of regulation that typically focuses more on the form of the building and its relation to the public realm (i.e. the street) rather than the usage of the building. Development under the code occurs “by-right” and means if a new development complies with all the code’s provisions it can be built without having to go through the extensive and sometimes drawn-out process of traditional development.

Over 700 American cities have adopted some type of a form-based code, with Miami being the largest city to completely adopt this type of code. Near by they have been used in Nashville and Columbus to spark development in revitalizing areas of their inner cities.

Former Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls (D) championed this movement locally and actually led groups of local officials and business leaders to Nashville to study the results of their form-based codes in 2008 and 2012.

While some cities have used these tools to encourage pedestrian friendly, mixed-use developments where none exist, older more established cities such as Cincinnati have opted to implement them in order to ensure that new development integrates seamlessly into the historic charm and character of the city.

Bellevue, KY became the first municipality in the Cincinnati region to adopt this type of regulation in 2011.

Cincinnati first began pursuing the idea of developing a form-based code in 2009. After receiving funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, city staff selected Opticos to lead in developing the new code. Dan Parolek, principal of Opticos, wrote the book on form-based codes, quite literally.

After conducting a city-wide charrette in May 2012, the City of Cincinnati worked with Opticos to refine the code and prepare it for adoption. The form-based code was adopted in early 2013. From there staff from the city’s planning department worked closely with neighborhoods to craft the regulating plan map.

Four neighborhoods were included in the initial implementation schedule: Madisonville, College Hill, Westwood and Walnut Hills. Both Madisonville and College Hill have fully adopted the code with Walnut Hills being the latest. Westwood appears to be the next neighborhood poised to adopt the code after winning unanimous support from the city’s Planning Commission in December 2013.

Business Development News Transportation

Cincinnati Proposes Eliminating Parking Requirements in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine

The City of Cincinnati will hold a public conference this evening about proposed amendment to the zoning code that would deregulate parking requirements throughout the center city.

According to city officials, the amendment would create new ‘Urban Parking Districts’ and remove the current regulations that mandate how many parking spaces must be provided for any new development or for any project that is modifying the use of an existing structure.

The efforts to get rid of the parking requirements throughout the center city have been ongoing for years.

In June 2010, city officials moved forward with new legislation that allowed for a 50% parking reduction for residences located within 600 feet of a streetcar stop. Then in March 2012, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls (C) introduced a motion, which was co-sponsored by six other council members, to eliminate all parking requirements throughout the Central Business District and Over-the-Rhine.

Over-the-Rhine’s existing historic fabric is at risk of further demolitions, due to current parking requirements, as investment continues to pour into the neighborhood. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

Last March, UrbanCincy examined just how these off-street parking mandates are stifling growth and investment in the center city, which was largely built before the advent of the automobile. The requirements have led to not only increased costs for small businesses, but they have also led to an excess of parking in these neighborhoods.

The parking regulations also make it particularly difficult to redevelop smaller historic buildings like the ones found throughout Over-the-Rhine.

“Requiring parking for historic structures that have never had parking is incentivizing their demolition. This puts the property owner in a really difficult position; he must either find parking for the building, demolish it or let it languish in perpetuity.” Nashville city planner, Joni Priest, told UrbanCincy last March. “If a property owner wants to rehab an historic building – a building that marks the character of a neighborhood and contributes to the fabric of the city – all incentives, including the elimination of parking requirements, should be considered.”

Parking requirements have also contributed to the increased costs of redevelopment in these historic neighborhoods.

Last April, Chad Munitz, Executive Vice President of Development and Operations of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), estimated that existing parking mandates cost developers, on average, $5,000 for one surface parking space and $25,000 for a structured parking space. The increased cost associated with that parking, Munitz says, is then passed on to the consumer and raises the price of a residential unit by as much as $25,000.

The City of Cincinnati’s Planning & Buildings Department will host the public conference this evening at 5:30pm at Two Centennial Plaza, which is located at 805 Central Avenue downtown, and is well-served by a number of Metro bus routes (plan your trip). City officials say that the meeting will take place on the 7th floor, Suite 720 in the Martin Griesel Room A.

Up To Speed

Which cities did the biggest music hits come from in 2012?

Which cities did the biggest music hits come from in 2012?.

South Korea’s PSY took the world by storm in 2012 with his smash hit single “Gangnam Style.” His song, however, was an anomaly for Asian cities with regards to internationally pop song hits, with the vast majority originating from artists in North America and Western Europe. More from The Atlantic:

In this evolving international soundscape, just how global is the popular music Americans listen to? Where are its major locational epicenters? To get at this, UCLA urban planning doctoral candidate Patrick Adler took a look at the geography of two lists of the year’s best music: Pitchfork’s Top 100 Tracks and Billboard’s Hot 100 Songs.

Adler used geographic data from Twitter, SoundCloud, AllMusic, and Pitchfork to assign a location to the metro area where the artist behind each track currently resides. He gave preference to the locations identified by the artists themselves. The list is based on where artists currently live and work, not where they originally hail from. This can sometimes penalize non-U.S. locations.

Business Development News Politics Transportation

Cincinnati City Council prepares to take action against urban parking mandates

Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls (C) has introduced a motion co-sponsored by Councilmembers Laure Quinlivan (D), Chris Seelbach (D), Yvette Simpson (D), Cecil Thomas (D) and Wendell Young (D) to eliminate minimum parking requirements in historic Over-the-Rhine and the Central Business District.

Citing other urban examples such as Nashville, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Tacoma, Qualls stated that, “Cities are recognizing that allowing the market to function will produce a better result. If a developer wants to build an 800-room hotel without providing any parking, that’s probably not going to meet the demands of the market. But if a developer can sell or rent his units without meeting minimum parking requirements, then there is no need for them.”

The motion cited that current regulations require at least one parking space per dwelling unit and that providing parking can be a costly impediment to developers looking to invest in older buildings in the region’s urban core. That motion has been referred to the Livable Communities Committee, chaired by Vice Mayor Qualls, and could go before the full city council soon after.

The new Central Riverfront Garage will soon be built over with new businesses, residences and even more parking mandated by law. Photograph by Randy A. Simes for UrbanCincy.

Chad Munitz, Executive Vice President of Development and Operations of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), estimates that parking mandates cost urban developers $5,000 for one surface parking space and $25,000 for a structured parking space on average. The increased cost associated with that parking, Munitz says, is then passed on to the consumer and raises the price of a residential unit by as much as $25,000.

The announcement comes just two weeks after UrbanCincy proposed three solutions for reforming Cincinnati’s urban parking policies. One of those solutions included the idea of eliminating minimum parking requirements.

Expanding on the impacts of eliminating parking requirements, Nashville urban planner Joni Priest indicated that removing parking minimums did not reduce the number of parking spaces developed for new downtown projects. Instead removing parking requirements allowed the preservation of historic buildings by allowing developers to become more creative in developing parking strategies such as shared off-site parking agreements, and it prepared the city for long-term transportation infrastructure improvements.

“Nashville has built two new parking structures in recent years – one in conjunction with the new downtown library and the other beneath a civic lawn in front of the county courthouse,” explained Priest. “These parking structures are near the oldest parts of downtown.”

Priest highlighted The Stahlman development as an example of a historic building that was revitalized because of the removed parking restrictions. The historic 12-story office building was rehabilitated into apartments, and sits directly across from the civic lawn that has parking beneath it. One parking space, Priest explained, is included in the rental price and additional spaces are available.

“The Stahlman has been a big success because it is a great building with a great view in the heart of a great city, but also because the developer was able to find a practical solution to a problem that plagues historic structures,” concluded Priest who went on to say that similar stories can be told for other developments near Nashville’s library garage.

Small businesses in neighborhoods like historic Over-the-Rhine often stuggle to provide minimum parking requirements drafted with suburban business models in mind. Photograph by Randy A. Simes for UrbanCincy.

The expansion and renovation of Washington Park offers a similar opportunity in Cincinnati’s historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood where a great deal of new investment is taking place. Additionally, the results from Nashville seem to find that easing parking requirements would immediately make it easier to convert historic office buildings into residential uses.

The idea, policy makers say, is to allow the free market to operate within an urban context and allow cities like Nashville to anticipate increased demand for non-automobile forms of transportation.

“Removing the parking requirements from downtown zoning allows flexibility for site-specific and program-specific solutions. Flexibility is key in urban environments,” said Priest. “As downtown becomes more comfortable for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users, new development will have the flexibility to build less parking.”

As investment continues to spike in Cincinnati’s urban core, and construction work moves forward on the city’s new streetcar system, it becomes increasingly clear that the policy shift is more about lifestyle options than anything else.

“If you walk through Over-the-Rhine during a snowy winter, you’ll see cars in the surface parking lots covered with snow that has never been dusted off because they haven’t been driven in weeks,” Munitz said. “The convenience sought by downtown residents is not instant access to a car – it’s the ability to live without a car.”