Business Development News

Downtown Cincinnati Continues to See Annual Population, Tourism Gains

Backstage Entertainment DistrictCincinnati’s center city continued to experience gains in residents, employees, visitors, and safety in 2012, according to a new report released by Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI).

The newly released report is the annual compilation of facts and figures covering the Central Business District, Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton neighborhoods, and utilizes information gathered from industry and trade reports.

While the overall message of the 2012 State of Downtown Report was positive, growth in residential units and number of people living in the area began to level-off following years of strong growth.

In 2012, the report shows that the three neighborhoods added only 146 residential units last year. More than $100 million in residential projects, however, are either under construction or in pre-development stages, and will add hundreds of additional housing units to the center city over the coming years.

Transportation was another key element of the newly released report. The number of available parking spaces increased in 2012, and the cost of parking downtown decreased. Meanwhile, Metro continued the modernization of its bus fleet, but the Cincinnati Streetcar has seen continued delays.

“Cincinnati has become more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, but we still have work to do,” David Ginsburg, President/CEO of DCI, told the audience at the International Downtown Association Midwest Urban District Forum in Evanston, IL on May 21.

Two areas where the three neighborhoods showed particular strength were retail and hospitality. The downtown area added 59 businesses in 2012, bringing the retail occupancy rate to 96.2%. According to CBRE, the downtown area now has approximately three million square feet of retail space, which averages $89.49 in sales per square-foot.

Continuing on successes in recent years, the hospitality industry continued to post gains on its already impressive standing compared to other regional and national markets. The Central Business District, Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton now have 2,969 hotel rooms with the addition of 152 at the 21c Museum Hotel which opened this past November.

Downtown Population Trends
CBD Crime Statistics
The number of residential units downtown continues to grow, but at a slower pace than usual [TOP]. At the same time, crime rates have continued on their decade-long downward trajectory [BOTTOM].

According to the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau, these rooms boast a revenue per available room (RevPAR) of $77.37 – notably higher than the $65.17 RevPAR nationally. Downtown’s hotel rooms also had a better occupancy rate than anywhere else in the Cincinnati region, and matched the national average at just over 61%.

As a result of this hotel success, there are a handful of hotels either under construction or in the pre-development phases for this part of town, which would add hundreds of additional rooms. The realization of all of these plans may, however, put some existing hotels, like the aging 872-room Millennium Hotel, at risk due to the extra competition.

The 2012 State of Downtown report also noted a continued drop in all crime, with a 10% drop in violent crimes (Part 1) and a more than 8% drop in Part 2 crimes.

Ginsburg believes that the safety improvements come, in part, due to more activity taking place, and says that DCI stakeholders are working to continue those efforts.

“We’re turning pretty much everything downtown into a piece of art, and it’s putting feet on the streets.”

Arts & Entertainment Business Development News

$5M Gift to Fund Construction of Iconic Carousel at Smale Riverfront Park

The Cincinnati Park Board received a $5 million donation from the Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation today to construct the carousel at Smale Riverfront Park.

The money will not only fully fund the project, but it will allow it to be operational in time for the 2015 All-Star Game to be hosted at the nearby Great American Ball Park.

The project had been positioned to receive $4 million from the City of Cincinnati’s parking modernization and lease plan, but ongoing litigation and a forthcoming ballot referendum have left those funds in limbo.

Vine Street Plaza_1 Vine Street Plaza_2 Vine Street Plaza_3

Carol Ann Carousel_1 Carol Ann Carousel_2 Carol Ann Carousel_3

According to park officials, the new carousel will be built at the foot of Vine Street on a tree-lined plaza filled with water features similar to those found near Walnut Street in phase one of Smale Riverfront Park.

The plaza will include a lower-level with a banquet center and park offices, and the upper-level will become the home of the glass-enclosed carousel.

“This carousel is a gift to the Cincinnati Parks Foundation honoring the life and philanthropy of Carol Ann Haile,” Tim Maloney, President/CEO of the Haile Foundation, stated in a prepared release. “The sparkle, whimsy and pure fun this carousel will provide is a direct reflection of Carol’s sparkling personality.”

In honor of Carol Ann Haile, the facility will be named the Carol Ann Carousel, and become an iconic feature of what will eventually be a 45-acre riverfront park.

While a carousel has been part of the Smale Riverfront Park plans for years, it comes on the heels of an announcement in Atlanta where a 180-foot ferris wheel will be built at Centennial Olympic Park.

Cincinnati’s 44-seat carousel, with folding glass door walls, will be open year-round starting in May 2015. Riders will be required to pay a small cost to ride, but the cost has not yet been determined.

So far park officials have completed a significant amount of work on the first two phases of Smale Riverfront Park, and will begin future phases as funding is made available.

Up To Speed

Could Cincinnati host the 2014 Big East Basketball Tournament?

Could Cincinnati host the 2014 Big East Basketball Tournament?.

The 2014 Big East Basketball Tournament will be its last before the ‘Catholic 7’ take over and make the conference their own. This year’s tournament, which starts tonight at Madison Square Garden, will be its last in Midtown Manhattan. After that, league sources say that they will look to host the tournament in a new location with Cincinnati being one of the finalists for 2014. Could this be Cincinnati’s next major event following the World Choir Games and preceding the 2015 All-Star Game? More from ESPN:

The current Big East, which must have a new conference name by July 1, will be left with a 10-member league in 2013: Cincinnati, UConn, UCF, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, SMU, Temple and USF.

Louisville and Rutgers will remain in the league one more season before moving to the ACC and Big Ten, respectively, in 2014. The remaining Big East schools are considering new sites for next year’s tournament, including Hartford, Conn.; Memphis, Tenn.; Cincinnati and Dallas.


Up To Speed

Midwestern cities struggling to improve public perceptions about them

Midwestern cities struggling to improve public perceptions about them.

New research shows that all of those studies constantly released about the best and worst cities for (fill in the blank) may actually have an impact on people’s perceptions of those places. The analysis finds that people throughout the United States have poor perceptions of the Midwest and cities like Cincinnati, St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee. More from The Atlantic:

What we found is that our initial perceptions about cities are in fact often grounded in statistical reality. The positive or negative opinions of our survey respondents were correlated, often quite strongly, with such metrics as change in population, housing prices, and cost of living, and inversely correlated with measures like crime and unemployment. On the other hand, measures such as sales tax and traffic congestion appear to have little influence on people’s perceptions of different cities.

Arts & Entertainment Business News Opinion

Cincinnati misses huge marketing opportunity with Western & Southern Open

The Western & Southern Open is taking place right now, and a men’s and women’s champion will be crowned this weekend in what has become one of the world’s top ten tennis tournaments.

Once finished, the tournament will have drawn hundreds of thousands of tennis fans to Mason, but more importantly, it will have given Cincinnati exposure to millions of television viewers around the United States and the world.

The tournament is a huge regional draw, and it gives the region an annual chance to make its pitch as to why people should visit, invest, or move to the region. This year, the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau decided to build off of Lonely Planet’s choice of Cincinnati as one of its top travel destinations for 2012. Unfortunately, however, the 30-second commercial does not come close to selling the narrative written by the independent travel guide.

There was no mention or view of the Contemporary Arts Center in the recent Cincinnati USA television commercial. Photograph by Thadd Fiala.

“Seen Cincy lately? The pretty city on the Ohio River – off the main cross-country interstates – gets bypassed by many road trippers, but it’s quietly transformed itself in the last decade into a worthy weekend getaway,” Lonely Planet wrote about Cincinnati. “Life centers around the river – much which can be seen by foot: river walkways are best on the Kentucky side, reached via a couple bridges including John Roebling’s Suspension Bridge (a prequel to his famous Brooklyn Bridge). Narrow, twisting (and steep) brick roads of the Mt Adams district lead past 19th-century Victorian townhouses and the free Cincinnati Art Museum, while the once-dangerous, emerging Over-the-Rhine, just north of downtown, is home to the Findlay Market and a sprawling collection of historic Italianate architecture.”

After reading that, someone unfamiliar with Cincinnati may be intrigued to visit the city to experience its architecture, waterfront, historic neighborhoods, and judge the stated transformation first-hand. What Cincinnati USA’s television spot showcases (see below), however, is the tried and true regional selling cards to families looking for an affordable weekend getaway.

There is nothing wrong with selling a good product to a captive audience, but if Cincinnati wants to start attracting new people and new interest, it will have to do something new.

If Cincinnati USA wants to build on the Lonely Planet mention, then they should sell the region on what Lonely Planet is pitching. Show the millions of tennis fans a scene from Over-the-Rhine on a Friday evening, Fountain Square on a Saturday night, the twisting streets of Mt. Adams, the University of Cincinnati’s Main Street, people biking across the Purple People Bridge, and shoppers at Findlay Market on a Saturday morning.

Fortunately, the Cincinnati USA commercial did pay attention to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center which was prominently mentioned in the Lonely Planet write-up.

“Best, though, is the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, open since 2004, on the banks of the river where many slaves escaped to freedom in the 19th century,” concluded Lonely Planet’s writers.

Cincinnati has always been an affordable place and a great place for families. This narrative has been perfected over many decades. This strong calling card should not, however, preclude the region from telling the world about a new narrative that has come to life over the past decade. It’s a story about a resurgent city focused on youthful energy, innovation, independent thought, music, and a unique urban core that is hard to match anywhere in America.