Arts & Entertainment Business Development News

American Sign Museum hopes to make Cincinnati national center for research and information

The American Sign Museum in Walnut Hills opened in 2005 and has since steadily gained in popularity while attracting visitors from across the country. When director and founder Tod Swormstedt first conceived the idea for the museum, he had no collection and was going through a self-proclaimed mid-life crisis. Years later, however, the museum’s success has allowed him to think much bigger and his ambitions have grown exponentially.

In January, 2012, Swormstedt is hoping to move his popular museum into a new 43,000 square-foot historic building in Camp Washington (map) called Machine Flats. So far $1.6 million has been put towards the new museum with an additional $800,000 needed before they can officially move into the entire building. To date, approximately 98 percent of those funds have been donated by the sign industry.

Swormstedt’s goal for the new space is to make Cincinnati the National Center for Sign Research & Information. He says that the museum will move beyond merely displaying the unique collection of historic signs and memorabilia, and move towards a more comprehensive approach to sign information and education.

“The history of signs is a micro-history of design trends and technology in the U.S., and I want to capitalize on that right here in Cincinnati,” says Swormstedt, who sees the new museum as fitting in perfectly with Agenda 360’s Regional Action Plan and the recent designation of Cincinnati as a Hub of Innovation & Opportunity in the area of Consumer Marketing.

The new building will eventually be split into two main sections: a museum that will feature the history of signs, and a training facility that will focus on the usage and future development of signage. The museum section of the new space will feature three-dimensional artificial storefronts that will allow the historic signs to be displayed in their original form, both on the buildings and in storefront windows.

However, it is in the new training facility where Swormstedt sees the most potential for community growth. His hopes are to eventually work with the University of Cincinnati’s College of Business and College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning to create a space where students can learn about the value, design, structure and history of signs. Ultimately Swormstedt views the new museum as a way to blend some of Cincinnati’s most valuable assets – history, art, design and commerce.

The American Sign Museum is currently located at 2515 Essex Place in Walnut Hills and is open to the public on Saturdays from 10am to 4pm.  All other times must be scheduled by appointment at (513) 258-4020 or

Business News

American Sign Museum provides unique look into Cincinnati’s past

You do not need to have the taste of an art critic or the knowledge of an historian in order to appreciate the beauty of the neon memories on display at the American Sign Museum in Walnut Hills. The museum is filled to the brim with historic signs that in their own way act as shimmering archives of Cincinnati’s past, providing us with an unwritten narrative of our own history.

The museum, hidden in Walnut Hills, opened its doors in 2005 and is the only public sign museum in the country. The space currently houses some 3,800 signs and pieces of memorabilia, some dating back to the late 19th century. It is, however, not always the objects themselves that provide the real attraction.

”We, of course, like to have the signs in the museum, but it’s as or sometimes more important to know the story behind them…they have more meaning that way,” said founder and museum director Tod Swormstedt.

One such example Swormstedt points to is the story surrounding an old Georgiton’s Pizza sign that last stood in the back parking lot of Mac’s Pizza Pub in Clifton Heights. According to Swormstedt, soon after opening his restaurant/bar Mac renovated his back parking lot and brought down the old sign.

He decided that it would be best to donate it to Swormstedt’s collection, and as the sign was brought down from its metal post a bit of history was, literally, uncovered. Once viewed up close it was apparent that Georgiton’s Pizza had simply been carved into sheet metal and layered over an older Papa Dino’s sign.

After some investigating, it was discovered that two brothers had once operated Papa Dino’s out of the building that now houses Mac’s Pizza Pub. The brothers eventually had a falling out that caused them to split up and form rival pizza restaurants. While one left and took the name Papa Dino’s just one block north to Calhoun Street, the other stayed and simply changed the name on the sign to Georgiton’s Pizza. Today, Papa Dino’s is still in business at the corner of Calhoun Street and Clifton Avenue, and although Georgiton’s Pizza is now just a memory, we still have two great pizza joints within one block of each other in Clifton.

You can currently view the Papa Dino’s/Georgiton’s Pizza sign and its story at the Cincinnati Art Museum. It is part of their Artworks: The American Road series that runs through August 29th.

The American Sign Museum is located at 2515 Essex Place in Walnut Hills and is open to the public on Saturdays from 10am to 4pm.  All other times must be scheduled by appointment by (513) 258-4020 or

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.

Development News Transportation

Cincinnati kicks off Uptown street rehabilitation projects

The City of Cincinnati is starting several street rehabilitation projects in Mt. Auburn, Walnut Hills Clifton Heights and Corryville. Auburn Avenue, Burnet Avenue, McMillan Street, Vine Street and William Howard Taft Road will all be affected by the various improvements totaling $2.3 million.

Depending on each street’s current condition they will receive partial- or full-depth repairs followed a process that will grind off the existing asphalt. According to Don Steins, Senior Engineer with Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE), the partial and full-depth repairs will last approximately two weeks.

From there, crews from Little Miami Construction Company will replace deteriorated curbs, construct curb ramps, sidewalks/driveway aprons where necessary, adjust utility castings, and resurface all of the pavement area. All of the street rehabilitation work should be completed by early August, 2010.

Steins noted that this time line might very well change with the potential addition of other Clifton Heights streetscaping work, and said that the DOTE is encouraging drivers to use alternative routes during the reconstruction process. While reconstruction takes place there will always be some degree of access for drivers, and during morning and evening rush hour times all lanes will be open to traffic.

Development News Transportation

UC students working to solve Cincinnati’s urban issues

When it comes to finding solutions to fix the problems our city faces, we can’t overlook the talented minds found at the universities and colleges right here in our city. And for urban design issues, many of these minds can be found at the University of Cincinnati in the fields of urban planning, engineering, architecture and political science.

68 students in these fields have been working on solutions to problems in Downtown, Uptown, Northside, Camp Washington, and other Cincinnati neighborhoods recently, and many will be presenting their findings today at the Turner Building (2728 Short Vine, Corryville) from 1pm to 5pm.

One group focused on improving the interchange between I-71 and Taft/McMillan Streets in Uptown. Their plan adds a giant roundabout connecting Taft & McMillan and adding access to southbound I-71. Their plan also calls for converting McMillan Street through Walnut Hills from a one-way street to two-way.

“The chief part of our business district (located on McMillan Avenue between I-71/Gilbert Avenue and Victory Parkway) was harmed when the city designated McMillan and William Howard Taft as one-way streets years ago,” said Kathy Atkinson, president of the Walnut Hill Area Council. “People speed right through our business district. It’s no longer a destination due to traffic patterns. Top on our list is to have that changed.”

As bold as the students’ plan may sound, there are other, even bolder options for improving the urban landscape of Uptown. Several neighborhoods have been pushing for a completely new interchange to the north at Martin Luther King Drive. This would allow for improved access on the already auto-oriented MLK Drive, while taking much of the traffic demand off of Taft and McMillan streets. Both streets could then be converted to two-way for their entire lengths, making them more pedestrian- and bike-friendly.

Eventually, a streetcar loop could be added to the Taft/McMillian pair, connecting the Clifton Heights and Walnut Hills business districts together while also connecting those areas with the proposed north-south Cincinnati Streetcar line at Vine Street. New businesses and residents would be attracted to this energetic, accessible, multi-modal corridor.

Other students’ plans focused on Broadway Commons, the future site of Cincinnati’s casino; an area in Northside and South Cumminsville that will be affected by the Mill Creek Expressway I-75 construction project; and many other sites throughout the city. Learn more about the students’ plans by visiting the presentation tonight, or read more about the plans online.