Real estate in America has largely followed predictable funding patterns over time. This, however, appears to be shifting. In one recent example in Washington D.C., a pair of young developers are looking to empower a community with the opportunity to invest in developing a property in their own neighborhood. Some believe that this kind of deal could change the way real estate deals are brokered in the future. More from CityLab:
Real estate developments are typically financed by wealthy investors who live in the suburbs, or by Wall Street funds even farther away. In a neighborhood like Washington’s H Street Northeast corridor, this means that local projects often can’t find backing, or that far-flung investors put up safe, formulaic products in their place: say, “the glass shiny office/condo building that’s horrible,” Dan Miller says, grimacing.
This model – with its broken connection between a neighborhood’s desires and its investors’ bottom line – seemed to the brothers illogical. Why couldn’t people in the community invest in real estate right next door? Why couldn’t the Millers raise money to purchase a property on H Street from the very people who live there? The neighborhood is a quirky mix of barbershops and hip beer gardens. It’s not the kind of place that investors from wealthy Chevy Chase, Maryland, quite get.
Since that time he has continued his quest to improve the visual nature of map-making in Cincinnati, including serving as UrbanCincy’s official contributing cartographer, but he also embarked on another major endeavor. Instead of a transit map with bus frequencies, Wessel this time focused his energies on creating a new regional bike network map.
“Imagine someone kept taking, and reproducing and sharing, very unflattering photos of you or someone you loved. If you’re like me, you’d probably let the first one slide,” Wessel stated. “Maybe it was an accident, but by the fifth or sixth one, you’d start noticing a pattern and you’d start getting kind of miffed about it.”
This is the feeling the twenty-something urban planner, cartographer and fashion designer felt about the region’s existing bike maps, and he wanted to take control of the situation and improve it.
“This is a subtle visual game and words won’t do,” Wessel explained. “You need to make your own photo that shows the beauty you see in what you love; and then get other people to see what you see.”
One of the ways to accomplish that, he says, is to get the maps into people’s hands – digital maps are not enough. While the physical presence of a printed map gives it a sense of permanency and seriousness, producing a hard copy map also comes with its challenges.
After finishing the design for the Cincinnati Bike Map, Wessel said that he received feedback from the binder recommending a redesign to better accommodate the way the paper would fold, but that it was too late in the process. As a result, he wishes the maps folded a bit better, but that he is otherwise quite pleased with the final product. Perhaps leading to that feeling of satisfaction, however, is the fact that no compromise was needed since the project was entirely self-funded.
“Both times I’ve raised money for these projects it was in advance of having a real demonstrable product,” said Wessel. “In neither project have I ever had to check anything with a sponsor, supervisor or co-designer. The maps were totally my own in both cases, held to my own standards alone and uncompromised. That is very unusual for print maps.”
While quite unusual, it was a situation he preferred. In fact, Wessel says that a local organization very generously offered to fully fund the printing of Cincinnati Bike Map should he work with their graphic designer. A generous offer indeed, but one that came with risks that the final product not turn out as originally envisioned.
The release of the new regional bike map last month comes at a time when Cincinnati is in the national spotlight for its dramatic gains in bike ridership and development of new bike infrastructure.
Now that the project is complete, the goal now shifts to distributing the stack of Cincinnati Bike Maps that now exist. In addition to distributing the maps to local bike shops and organizations, Wessel is also mailing out copies of the map. His hope is that new or unfamiliar riders feel empowered by the maps, and that experienced riders use them to explore new routes throughout the region.
“Regular cyclists have found their favorite routes and will probably stick with what they know,” said Wessel. “Though, I totally discovered Fort Thomas through this map. Every map I’d seen made it look like a pretty crappy, suburban place to ride and I always avoided it; but the streets are beautifully wooded and very slow with 25mph speed limits.
Of course, all of this would not have been possible without access to the treasure trove of data on-hand at Cincinnati City Hall, and with the OKI Regional Council of Governments.
Those who would like to get a free copy of the Cincinnati Bike Map can do so by emailing Nate Wessel at email@example.com and informing him of your name, how many copies you want, and the address to which he can ship them.
Just about a year ago, a new food delivery service entered the Cincinnati market. The idea behind it was one not uncommon in other larger urban centers around the country, but was new to the area.
While it can be simple to get sandwiches, pizza, or Chinese food delivered locally, that tends to be the limit of your options. But Robbie Sosna, who had lived Miami, New York City and Los Angeles after growing up in Blue Ash, knew the city could do better. So he launched Cincybite last December.
What Cincybite does is partner with area restaurants to deliver their regular menu items to hungry customers around the city. Sosna said they first started with just six restaurant partners and delivered only during dinner time in the center city. However, after a strong start, Cincybite quickly added lunch delivery options and added an additional seven restaurant partners within two weeks after their initial launch.
The early success of the business is yet another example of the retail services not keeping pace with the city’s population growth. While the age-old idea of ‘retail follows rooftops’ may still be true, technology is also now allowing some of that to be bypassed through innovative on-demand delivery services.
“In New York and LA there were restaurant delivery services, and I was surprised to find none existed in town,” Sosna explained. “The response has been phenomenal and I’m working hard to expand the service through the metro area.”
This is not his first foray into the food industry. In 2009, he purchased his first Freshii franchise in Los Angeles before ultimately moving those operations to Cincinnati and bringing the popular fresh food chain to the region in 2012.
Cincybite’s offices are located downtown and are currently staffed by six employees who are tracking all sorts of data and usage patterns. The data they are collecting, Sosna says, is what is helping them determine what other restaurants to approach, types of food to add, and which areas to expand to next.
One area that has not yet been officially added to Cincybite’s delivery area is the city’s west side neighborhoods, but they say it is only a matter of time, and drivers, before that happens. As for now, the focus remains on the region’s center city neighborhoods and many on the city’s east side and along the I-71 corridor.
“When looking at future areas of growth, my director of ops and I study our current sales data and customer feedback,” Sonsa explained. “We’re looking at strengthening our variety of restaurants in our current zones and planning our growth north.”
When asked where those next areas of operations might be, he said that they are looking at Kenwood, Madeira, Blue Ash, Montgomery and Indian Hill, but also clarified that Cincybite has unofficially also begun serving the west side.
Growing Cincybite’s delivery area and food options is just the beginning of the company’s overall growth plans. They have just launched a new service that offers delivery of basic grocery items and other incidentals like batteries, cleaning products, toiletries, over the counter medicine, baby food and supplies, and snacks. Likening the service to Amazon Fresh, Sosna says that he is working with a number of other businesses in order to add even more items.
“We’ve had conversations with local pet shops, butcher shops, dessert companies and a variety of other businesses looking to add additional revenue and awareness to their brand,” said Sosna. “There really is no limit for what Cincybite can offer Cincinnati, and we’re working hard to expand the delivery zones so everyone in the city can enjoy.”
Those who want to use the service merely need to register for an account and then shopping as would typically be done with any online retailer. The website also allows customers to select the date and time they would like to have their items delivered, and also allows for the user to pre-select an amount to tip the driver.
But one thing that was made clear was that none of this would be possible for Sosna without the resurgence taking place in Cincinnati. Had it not been for that, he said he may have stayed in Los Angeles instead of coming home.
“The commute back and forth for 2.5 years helped calm my nerves, but as I opened my Freshii location and began spending more time in the city, I realized a lot of progress had been made and the city was headed in the right direction,” Sosna told UrbanCincy.
“The approval of the streetcar, construction of The Banks, revival of OTR, food scene throughout the city, investment in tech with Brandery and Cintrifuse, and GE selecting Cincinnati for their future operations center were just a few of the reasons highlighting how great the city had improved and made the transition all the easier.”
It’s a question that no one from outside Cincinnati has a good answer for. A question feared or reveled in by a native from the city. It is almost a code question determining a person’s origin, their loyalties, their location and even their net income or political affiliations. It’s probably the most daunting question anyone could ask in any random conversation here in Cincinnati: What high school did you go to?
And some believe that it needs to stop.
“Our story isn’t Skyline or the Reds. Our story is the different people that came here,” Aftab Pureval, co-chair of the Grand City Experiment told UrbanCincy.
The Grand City Experiment will feature daily challenges, throughout October, that will aim to plug people into what can oftentimes be Cincinnati’s insulated social circles. And Pureval says that the goal is to go beyond targeting young professionals and engage as many people as possible, even those that do not use technology.
The idea for the project project came from a team within C-Change, a program run by the Cincinnati USA Chamber of Commerce. This year’s C-Change class was challenged to come up with ways to better engage residents and newcomers to the city alike.
“You don’t have to be a part of the experiment for the experiment to have an affect on you,” Pureval explained.
So how does the experiment work?
Basically, participants sign-up through the Grand City Experiment website. Then, beginning on October 1, they will receive daily challenges via email that could be as simple as striking up a conversation with someone in line next to you, or something more involved like taking a trip into uncharted territory – things like westsiders going to the east side, Northern Kentuckians checking out areas north of the river, and so on.
Not every challenge, however, needs to be accomplished; only the ones participants feel comfortable doing.
Participants are then encouraged to share their experiences on social media with the hashtag #thegrandcity. The C-Change group will be tracking these experiences and sharing different stories of their own.
For people looking to participate that do not have access to the Internet, the group reached out to Cincinnati area Community Councils, who will then distribute challenges through the area’s many community councils. Organizers also say that daily challenges will be broadcast on the video board overlooking Fountain Square.
After the experiment concludes, the group says that they will collect the data to determine whether or not the effort was a success. If so, the idea could find its way to other cities throughout the country. But as Pureval explains, for now the goal of the experiment is to spark real connections with new people and places.
The dog days of summer are upon us but that is no reason to not enjoy good food, drinks and company. It’s time again to have our monthly URBANexchange happy hour event! Join us at Taste of Belgium on Short Vine fine Belgian foods and craft beers this Thursday from 5:30pm to 8pm.
As always, the event will be a casual setting where you can meet others interested in what is happening in the city. We will gather in a section near the crepe bar 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 Taste of Belgium.
As always URBANexchange is free and open to the public.
Taste of Belgium is located on Vine Street in Corryville between the University of Cincinnati’s east and west campuses and is located just two blocks from a future uptown streetcar stop. If you choose to bike, free and ample bike parking is available outside the building. The venue is also served by SORTA’s Metro*Plus bus, as well as buses on the #19, #78 and #46 routes.