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Pleasant Ridge / Kennedy Heights : Development News

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Formerly blighted corner is harbinger of Pleasant Ridge redevelopment

Pleasant Ridge’s signature property at the corner of Montgomery and Ridge roads is in the midst of a $2 million redevelopment. Once finished, 6099 Montgomery Road, or Sixty99, will be home to Cincinnati’s newest brewery and other businesses that add to the neighborhood’s entertainment district.
The two-story building dates back the 1800s, when it was a stagecoach hotel. In the late 2000s, it fell into foreclosure and sat vacant for several years. The Pleasant Ridge Development Corporation (PRDC) began to look for opportunities to redevelop and formed a partnership with Gene Levental of Cincinnati Premier Realty.
In 2011, PRDC won a $200,000 Neighborhood Business District Improvement Project grant from the city and used the money to purchase the building. Phase I of redevelopment included shell stabilization of the building and preparing it for future tenants.
“Since securing our entertainment district license, it’s always been a vision of PRDC to supplement the existing business mix with more destination businesses,” says Jason Chamlee, president of PRDC.
In addition to Nine Giant Brewing, two existing tenants will remain in the building: a salon above the brewery and an insurance company. There are currently three spaces awaiting tenants, which Chamlee says he hopes will be food- and beverage-based businesses.
“The new model of using these types of businesses as anchors can be replicated,” he says. “It used to be the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, but food and beverage businesses are the ones that will drive traffic.”
The three remaining storefronts vary in size, and two of the three have a shared wall that could be removed to create a larger space.
PRDC wants to show Cincinnati that there are great opportunities for investment and development within Pleasant Ridge and help raise the profile of the business district.
“We’re hoping to increase Pleasant Ridge’s customer base with this development,” Chamlee says. “We’re a very strong community, but we’re small. We’re targeting our larger nearby neighborhoods and beginning to draw people in from outside. With that, we’re working to bring attention to Pleasant Ridge. We’re trying to raise the district’s profile and the awareness of the area in the city.”

Nine Giant to expand local craft beer growth into Pleasant Ridge

Nine Giant Brewing will open its doors this summer in Pleasant Ridge’s newest development, Sixty99, at the prominent corner of Montgomery and Ridge roads. The brewery is the brainchild of brothers-in-law Michael Albarella, a self-proclaimed beer nerd, and Brandon Hughes, who has a business background.
While on a yearly family trip to North Carolina, Albarella and Hughes hatched a plan to start a brewery. This was before MadTree and Rhinegeist, and the two felt that Cincinnati was ripe for a craft beer revolution.
“We were definitely onto something,” Hughes says.

He quit his job last April, and he and his wife moved back to Cincinnati to start making Nine Giant a reality.
When Nine Giant opens its 3,400-square-ft. facility, it won’t be launching flagship beers. Instead, each of its eight taps will be dedicated to a certain category of beer — there will always be a tap dedicated to pale ale, but it could be a German pale, an American pal, a Belgian pale or something more exotic like a chile-spiked pale ale, Hughes says.
“We’ll revisit beers over time, but we want to have room to experiment and to have fun and offer customers a great experience every time,” he says.
Albarella and Hughes will also be creating beers with lower alcohol contents, although that doesn’t mean all of the beers will be "session-style," or beers lower in alcohol so you can drink more in one session. There will be high-gravity styles alongside more session style beers, and there might be an imperial IPA with a 7.5-8 percent ABV, which isn’t a session beer but is lower than most double IPAs on the market.
“As a taproom-only brewery, we want people to be able to try a number of our beers at one time,” Hughes says.
Nine Giant is also a snackery and will offer a menu of 8-10 small plates that pair well with its beers. The final launch menu isn’t set in stone yet, but Hughes says there will definitely be a charcuterie plate and riffs on traditional American bar foot, including pomme frites and deep-fried housemade pickles. Sliders might make the menu, and there will be heavy Mexican and Central American influences.
“We’ve always envisioned ourselves being part of a neighborhood, a community,” Hughes says. “Pleasant Ridge was perfect. The local residents really rally behind local businesses, and the support and well wishes we’ve received since announcing the brewery have been amazing. The area has a ton going for it, with affordable housing, a new elementary school and great accessibility. We’re really excited to be part of the larger economic revitalization of this proud neighborhood.”

New movie theater concept to offer classics and cocktails

Jacob Trevino’s heart is in craft cocktails—he works at Japp’s—but his other passion is movies. About six months ago, he started trying to find a way to combine his passions.
Trevino has been to movie theaters that serve beer, but he wants to improve upon that idea. His venture, Gorilla Cinema, will feature food and beverages that tie in with the movies being shown.
“Gorilla Cinema will be a truly immersive experience that celebrates the films that I love,” he says.

Trevino plans to show mostly classic movies that everyone has seen at least once. And Gorilla Cinema’s menu, which was designed by Chef Martha Tiffany of The Precinct, will feature upscale pub food that will change for special events. It will also reflect what movie is being shown.
“There’s something about watching a movie in a theater that you can’t get when you watch it at home,” Trevino says. “There’s something magical about going to the theater and seeing your favorite movie on the big screen. It invokes a kind of nostalgia that our generation really didn’t get to experience.”
Trevino is currently looking for a space in Bellevue or Pleasant Ridge to renovate and is seeking investors, but until then, he’s hosting popup events around the city to help build the company. The ideal permanent location for Gorilla Cinema will be in an old movie theater, with seats for 124 people, with space for a front bar and lounge area.
“Gorilla Cinema will celebrate the memories that movies bring back, and help recapture some of those memories,” Trevino says. “People talk about having their first kiss in the movie theater. I remember seeing Jaws for the first time. Movies are a weird art form that people remember when they saw something—they’re engrained in our culture.”
If you’re interested in a popup movie, Gorilla Cinema is hosting a horror movie double feature, with the original Dracula and House on Haunted Hill with Vincent Price, on Oct. 26 in a parking lot at the corner of Montgomery Road and Ridge Avenue in Pleasant Ridge. Keep tabs on its Facebook page for event information.

Nourish Yourself offers healthy, home-cooked meals to busy clients

After a 15-year career with P&G, Cherylanne Skolnicki became a certified health coach and started teaching people how to eat better. In January 2011, she started Nourish Yourself, a service that will cook dinner for you.
“The concept of a home-cooked meal resonates with busy families,” Skolnicki says. “Clients want to feed their families fresh, healthy, unprocessed, seasonal food, but struggle with the time and skills to cook those meals. We take the guesswork and challenge out of it.”
Nourish’s core team has three employees who focus on everything from customer care to menu development to marketing. A team of nine cooking partners go into clients’ homes and make the magic happen, Skolnicki says.
Clients are matched with a Nourish cooking partner in their area—they shop for and prepare meals in your kitchen. Meals are prepared all at once, and Nourish even cleans up afterward.
Nourish offers flexible pricing that starts at $159 per week plus groceries, and you choose the service date. Nourish’s winter menu is available on its website, with 50 entrée choices, many of which are freezable, plus fresh salad greens and homemade dressing.
The menu changes seasonally, but favorites include healthy makeovers of restaurant dishes, such as chicken enchiladas, Thai basil chicken and buffalo chicken meatballs. Skolnicki says both Nourish’s risotto with asparagus and peas and bison burger with Cabernet caramelized onions and white cheddar are also popular.
“Busy is the new reality for today’s families,” Skolnicki says. “We hope to make dining in the new normal for busy, health-conscious households. And cooking is one of the aspects of a healthy lifestyle that you can now outsource and still get all of the benefits.”
Today, Nourish serves the Greater Cincinnati area and northwest Arkansas (because of P&G employees), but Skolnicki hopes to expand to other markets in 2014.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Neighborhood Asset Mapping tool focuses on neighborhoods' strengths

The Community Building Institute recently partnered with Xavier University and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati to develop and launch the Neighborhood Asset Mapping tool. It’s an online resource that allows all 52 Cincinnati neighborhoods to create a profile of community-based assets and resources in the area.
NAT was made available to the public this spring,and was in development for six to eight months before that. It’s free, and it promotes engagement and resource-sharing among residents. Residents can add assets to NAT, and they’re immediately available to other users.
“If you’re new to the community or thinking of moving to a neighborhood, you can find what’s going on there,” says Trina Jackson, program director of the Community Building Institute. “You can find community councils and neighborhood associations. Lots of people don’t know about grassroots organizations, and Nat allows residents to connect with one another through smaller organizations.”
The United Way helps support community development and community-based organizations, and NAT is the community engagement arm for Xavier, Jackson says. “We were focused on getting people connected with each other, and helping them see what’s out there.”
For example, in Evanston, many people know about the employment resource center. But if you’re not from the neighborhood, you don’t necessarily know it’s there, so you turn to the computer or your phone to find the things you need.
NAT focuses on a neighborhood’s strengths, and doesn’t include crime data or vacant property statistics. It's intened to be used by new and potential residents, entrepreneurs and developers as a tool to help find the best locations to live, work and play.
The Community Building Institute plans to host a series of “data entry parties” where people can get together and enter assets into NAT and learn new things about the neighborhood they live in. The first one is planned for Walnut Hills, but the date is to be determined.
By Caitlin Koenig
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New online tool aims to keep Cincinnati residents engaged in their neighborhoods

On July 24, the City of Cincinnati adopted Nextdoor, a free, private social network for you, your neighbors and your community. The goal is to improve community engagement between the City and its residents, and foster neighbor-to-neighbor communications.
Each of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods will have its own private Nextdoor neighborhood website, which is accessible only to residents of that neighborhood. City administrations and several city departments will also use Nextdoor to share important news, services, programs, free events and emergency notifications to residents, but they won’t be able to see who is registered to use the site or the conversations among residents.
Founded in 2010 in San Francisco, Nextdoor’s mission is to bring back a sense of community to the neighborhood. The site was tested in 175 neighborhoods across the country, and results showed that neighborhoods had some of the same issues, plus a variety of different issues.
“We all remember what our neighborhood experience was like as kids, when everyone knew each other, looked out for one another and stayed in the community longer," says Sarah Leary, co-founder of Nextdoor. “We want to invoke that nostalgia for neighborhoods.”
To date, Nextdoor is being used by about 17,000 neighborhoods across the country. In June, Nextdoor partnered with New York City and Mayor Bloomberg to communicate with the city’s 8.3 million residents. The site plans to roll out in other major cities like Cincinnati over the course of the next several months.
Nextdoor also recently released its iPhone app. “We’re really putting the lifeline of the neighborhood into the palm of the residents’ hands,” says Leary. “The common thread is an interest in using technology to make connections with neighbors. But it doesn’t stop there—once people have an easy way to communicate, they’re more likely to get together in the real world.”
You can sign up for Nextdoor on its website, or download the app in the App Store.
By Caitlin Koenig
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CiNBA hosts networking event for Cincinnati independent businesses

On March 27, the Greater Cincinnati Indpendent Business Alliance is hosting a workshop that will focus on the unseen benefits of nurturing and supporting local independent businesses.
“This event provides a unique opportunity to explore the beneficial impact an independent business alliance can provide Cincinnati and the community,” says Owen Raisch, CiNBA’s founder.
CiNBA was started in March 2012 Raisch visited the American Independent Business Alliance’s national conference. Since then, Raisch has been working with businesses around Xavier University, including Betta’s Italian Oven, Betta’s Café Cornetti, Center City Collision, Baxter's Fast Wheels, Listermann Brewing, Kleen Print Products, Cincinnati Cash Mob and Beans and Grapes.
All of CiNBA’s members except Center City Collision worked with Xavier students to assess business models and develop their businesses. Over 60 students were involved in classes that range from an MBA management project to undergraduate graphic design courses.
CiNBA is the recipient of a Fuel Cincinnati grant that funded Raisch’s trip to the AIBA conference, and paid for CiNBA’s first year of membership to the organization.
“The grant and membership to AIBA provided startup support and promotional materials that were critical to the current level of CiNBA’s development,” says Raisch. “I’m very appreciative of Fuel’s support. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
The workshop will feature a presentation by Jeff Milchen, founder and director of the first International Business Alliance. The free event will be held at Beans and Grapes in Pleasant Ridge at 8:15 a.m. Contact Raisch at 937-402-6596 for more information.

By Caitlin Koenig
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Oasis Rail Transit bound for Cincinnati region

For the first time since 1988, Cincinnati will play host to the 2015 MLB All-Star Game. And by that time, the Greater Cincinnati area could have a rail service, Oasis Rail Transit, which would be part of the Eastern Corridor program of multi-modal transportation improvement projects.
The Oasis project is the first proposed leg of the new regional rail system that will provide a new and much-needed transportation alternative for area residents. The Oasis line would span 17 miles between downtown Cincinnati and Milford. There are existing tracks along the route, but a number of miles of new track would be laid as well.
According to a press release, using existing track is a less expensive way to build a foundation of regional transportation. It would allow a passenger rail service network to advance more quickly and could serve as a national model for other commuter rail projects.

“Regional passenger rail isn’t a pipe dream, nor is it something for the far-off future,” according to Todd Portune, Hamilton County Commissioner and chair of Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District, in a press release. “It is here. Now. We can make this happen by 2015, but it will take a regional commitment from our local municipalities, chambers of commerce, state agencies and leaders to remove any barriers.”
The rail project was awarded funding last fall from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s House Bill 114 to help secure the right-of-way for extending the existing rail line from the Boathouse downtown to the Riverfront Transit Center. HCTID has also been working with local groups to explore joint-use opportunities, such as bicycle and walking paths, within the rail corridors. 
There are other rail lines in the works for the region that would connect Hamilton, Clermont, Butler and Warren counties in Ohio, and parts of Northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana as well. The future rail line will travel from Xavier University to Fairfax to Eastgate (Wasson line); along I-71 from Cincinnati/NKY International Airport/Florence to Blue Ash; along I-75 to Union Centre; along the I-471 corridor to Northern Kentucky University; and along western I-74 to Green Township and US-50 to Lawrenceburg.
By Caitlin Koenig
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City Hall launches app as a community-organizing tool

The City of Cincinnati has taken out the back-and-forth that can occur when residents try to reach them to report issues in their neighborhoods. At the Neighborhood Summit on Feb. 16, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls announced that the Cincinnati City Hall mobile app is available to the public.
With the app, residents can look up trash, recycling and street sweeping days, and set reminders; locate and report problems by address; bookmark locations for quick reporting; and track the status of reports. City Hall mobile also has GPS, so users can report issues, even without an address. There’s even a searchable map with property owner information, which enables residents to see if a property is occupied or vacant.
A few years ago, residents had to use the Yellow Pages to look up the number for city departments to file complaints, says Kevin Wright, executive director of Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation. The city then implemented a hotline for all complaints, but residents never knew the status of their reports.
“It’s amazing how comprehensive the app is,” Wright says. “If you see a broken window, pothole, graffiti, hanging gutter or anything else that is physically wrong with your neighborhood, street or community, you can report it in an instant. It’s a great tool for neighborhood redevelopment.”
The app can also be used as a community-organizing tool, Wright says. For example, if there is a property owner who historically hasn’t taken care of his or her property, social media can help organize a community and target the property to enforce codes until the property is fixed, which is what neighborhood councils and organizations like WHRF do.
“We’re really putting power in the hands of the citizens of the neighborhoods,” he says.
As with most tech programs, the app has room to grow, too. In the future, it could be linked with Facebook or Twitter, so your friends and followers will know who reported problems and where they are.
Cincinnati residents can download the app in the Apple App Store or download it through Google Play.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Pleasant Ridge Development Corp. awarded $150K to buy land, vacant properties

Thirteen neighborhood projects were recently awarded $1.65 million through the 2013 Neighborhood Business District Improvement Program.
The Pleasant Ridge Development Corporation received $150,000 for the acquisition and redevelopment of 6025 Montgomery Road, which includes two separate buildings on one parcel of land. PRDC is in negotiations with the current owner and plans to have the property under contract by January.
The majority of the NBDIP funds will go toward purchasing the property; the remainder will be put toward redevelopment. PRDC will then partner with another community organization or developer to finish the project.
PRDC currently has a working partnership with the Pleasant Ridge School Foundation at Pleasant Ridge Montessori for the project. PRDC and the Foundation have talked about several ideas for the property, including a potential daycare to supplement the school’s part-time preschool. Depending on the how planning for the daycare goes, there might be more than one use for the property, says Jason Chamlee, president of PRDC.
PRDC takes a different approach to its NBDIP projects than other neighborhoods. For the past two years, PRDC has focused on purchasing existing real estate and redeveloping it, says Chamlee. PRDC wanted to acquire the Montgomery property because it is a vacant building that can be redeveloped to capitalize on business opportunities near Pleasant Ridge Montessori, which is adjacent to the property.
Pleasant Ridge is a strong, engaged neighborhood with a stable housing market, says Chamlee. “The biggest need in Pleasant Ridge is rebuilding the business district. With support from the City of Cincinnati, our colleagues in other business districts and strong community partnerships, we are gaining momentum and want to build off our early successes. The quality of our neighborhood is very closely tied to the vitality of the business district."
Last year, PRDC was awarded $200,000 through NBDIP for the acquisition of a property at Montgomery and Ridge roads. The property had fallen into foreclose and disrepair and was about 75 percent vacant. PRDC formed a joint partnership with a local developer who will renovate the property.
The project from last year is going through the final approval process for full rehabilitation construction. In the end, there will be three or four new, redeveloped storefronts that total about 13,000 square feet of restaurant or retail space that will be available for lease in early 2013.

For additional information regarding development projects in Pleasant Ridge, please contact prdevcorp@gmail.com.

By Caitlin Koenig
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Twelve neighborhoods receive $1.65 million for projects

The City of Cincinnati Economic Development Division and Cincinnati Neighborhood Business Districts United (CNBDU) recently allocated $1.65 million to 13 projects for the 2013 Neighborhood Business District Improvement Program.
John Price, then-president of the Clifton Business Association, started CNBDU in 1992. He gathered all of the business association presidents in Cincinnati because he wanted to figure out a way to get funding for those neighborhoods that weren’t downtown, says Mike Wagner, president of CNBDU.
Over the years, CNBDU has appropriated about $33 million between federal and city money, and leveraged more $350 million in private money, to support non-downtown neighborhood projects.
CNBDU awards money annually to Cincinnati neighborhoods through the NBDIP, which receives federal money from the City’s Community Development Block Grant and city capital funds. Neighborhoods can use the money for a variety of capital improvements and other uses to promote economic development in their business districts.
Each neighborhood is allowed to apply for one major and one minor ask, says Bill Fischer, division manager of economic development for the City. The maximum amount for a minor ask is $30,000; there isn’t a maximum amount for a major ask. There are generally more minor-ask projects accepted because more projects can get done.
This year's process began in June when 29 neighborhoods submitted their initial proposals, which totaled $3.1 million in requests. A 28-member peer advisory group of community members who had submitted proposals and representatives from neighborhood business districts reviewed the proposals. In September, the reviewers took a bus tour of the project sites.
“There wasn’t much to look at when we first started CNBDU,” says Wagner. “But now we can see what has been accomplished in the past 17 years.”
In October, the peer group made recommendations to the City’s Economic Development Division after hearing presentations from the different neighborhoods. Neighborhood groups were notified at the end of November if their proposals would be turned into a project through NBDIP.
“Each neighborhood has a different approach to the project proposals,” says Fischer. “Some are looking to maintain what’s already there, whereas others are looking to create new business.”  
CNBDU funding is in addition to the Focus 52 program, a combination of bond and casino revenues, which will create a pool of $54 million for neighborhood projects throughout the city.
The neighborhood projects that were awarded money through the NBDIP are:
  • Walnut Hills: Park-Kemper Streetscape Design, $30,000
  • West Price Hill: Covedale Center Marquee/Community Message Board, $79,145
  • Roselawn: Business District Feasibility Study, $30,000
  • Clifton: Ludlow Avenue Storefront Improvement Program, $77,500
  • Westwood: Parking Lot Renovation, $30,000
  • Northside: Hoffner St. Garden, $80,000
  • Northside: Dhonau Garden, $30,000
  • Corryville: Façade Improvement Program (continuation), $236,397
  • Bond Hill: Bond Hill Identity Project, $30,000
  • East Price Hill: St. Lawrence Corner Public Square, $107,500
  • Pleasant Ridge: 6025 Montgomery Acquisition & Redevelopment, $150,000
  • Avondale: Reading, Rockdale & Forest Streetscape, $400,000
  • Mt. Adams: Streetscape Completion, $375,000
By Caitlin Koenig
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Vacant CPS schools recently sold at auction

On Nov. 8, Cincinnati Public Schools auctioned 13 school buildings and four land parcels, valued at more than $27 million, according to the county auditor's office. Eleven of the buildings sold, along with one piece of land. Bidding opened on Nov. 5 at $50,000; at the close of the auction, CPS made $3.5 million, which was more than enough to complete the district's Facilities Master Plan.
The FMP was part of a bond levy that was passed in spring 2003 that combined state and other funds for a $1 billion build-out of the district. In the next 18 months, every school currently in use by CPS will either have been renovated or rebuilt to create a better environment for students, faculty and staff.
As part of the FMP, many of the schools that were sold at auction were “swing” schools, which means they were used for classes while other schools were being renovated. After renovations, CPS no longer had a need for the schools, but wanted the buildings to have second lives.
“As part of the plan, we knew we couldn’t overbuild, and we didn’t want to under-build,” says Janet Walsh, director of public affairs for CPS. “The consequence of that was that there were some beautiful buildings that we weren’t able to use as school buildings, but could be used by the community in other ways.”

The district's approach, as it has been before, was to put the buildings up for auction.
CPS held a successful auction about three years ago, but this one included more buildings and raised more money than expected, says Eve Bolton, board president of CPS. Some of the schools that didn’t sell in the 2009 auction sold this time around.
“The reality is that the economic upturn in this region and the interest in Greater Cincinnati leaves a stock of historic, well-built schools empty,” says Bolton. “We want to see our buildings reused and recycled so that they can be beneficial to the neighborhoods they are a part of.”
State law allows CPS to auction off unused buildings, but only after they have first been offered to local charter schools. Those left after auction can be sold on the public market as pieces of real estate. Buyers have no legal restrictions regarding what the school buildings can be used as—some of the buildings will become other schools, residential housing or office buildings; others will be torn down and something else will be built in their places.
CPS schools and land included in the Nov. 8 auction:
  • Burton Elementary School, 876 Glenwood Street, North Avondale: sold for $305,000; built in 1966, last class in 2008
  • Central Fairmount Elementary School, 2475 White Street, South Fairmount: sold for $310,000; built in 1900, last class in 2012
  • Heberle Elementary School, 2015 Freeman Avenue, West End: sold for $60,000; built in 1929, last class in 2007
  • Hoffman Elementary School, 3060 Durrell Avenue, Evanston: sold for $200,000; built in 1922, last class in 2011
  • Kirby Road Elementary School, 1710 Bruce Avenue, Northside: sold for $230,000; built in 1910, last class in 2005
  • Lafayette Bloom Middle School, 1941 Baymiller Street, West End: sold for $60,000; built in 1915, last class in 2006
  • Linwood Fundamental Academy, 4900 Eastern Avenue, Linwood: sold for $75,000; built in 1927-29, last class in 2005
  • Losantiville Elementary School, 6701 Elbrook Avenue, Amberley Village: sold for $525,000; built in 1954, last class in 2008
  • Old SCPA, 1310 Sycamore Street, Pendleton: sold for $1.3 million; built in 1910, last class in 2010
  • Old Shroder Junior High School, 3500 Lumford Place, Kennedy Heights: sold for $150,000; built in 1956, last class unknown
  • Paradrome Street parcel, Mount Adams: sold for $135,000
  • Winton Montessori School, 4750 Winton Road, Winton Place: sold for $265,000; closed in early Nov. 2012
  • George F. Sands School, 940 Poplar Street, West End: not sold, valued at $1.89 million; built in 1912, last class in 2007
  • North Fairmount Elementary School, 2001 Baltimore Avenue, North Fairmount: not sold, valued at $2.2 million; built in 1954, last class unknown
  • E. Apple Street parcel, Winton Hills: not sold, valued at $485,628
  • Terry Street parcel, East Price Hill: not sold, valued at $13,400
  • Site of old Millvale school building, 3277 Beekman Street, Millvale: not sold, valued at $135,550
By Caitlin Koenig
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Big plans in the works for Cincinnati

As many areas of Cincinnati are being rejuvenated, including OTR and Washington Park, the City of Cincinnati approved a comprehensive approach to focus on development in the city as a whole, not just targeted neighborhoods. 

Last Friday, the City Planning Commission approved and adopted Plan Cincinnati, which was designed with input from residents. The Plan is an opportunity to strengthen what people love about the city, what works and what needs more attention, says Katherine Keough-Jurs, senior city planner and project manager.
The idea is to re-urbanize suburbanized Cincinnati; in a sense, to return to the strengths of the city's beginnings. Cincinnati was established just after the American Revolution in 1788 and grew into an industrial center in the 19th century. Many of those industries no longer exist in the city, which is part of why Cincinnati has become more suburbanized in the past 50 years. One of the long-term goals of the Plan is to bring new industries to Cincinnati.
With a new approach to revitalization, Cincinnati is blazing the trail for other cities. With a focus on building on existing strengths rather than tearing down structures and creating new ones, the Plan aims to capitalize on the city's “good bones” and good infrastructure.
Cinicinnatians had a huge role in developing the Plan. The first public meeting for the Plan was held in September 2009, when residents offered their insights into “what makes a great city?" and "what would make Cincinnati a great city?” A steering committee of 40 people representing businesses, nonprofits, community groups, local institutions, residents and City Council helped develop the Plan.

The Plan also got support from a grant from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which the City received in 2010. The grant allotted $2.4 million over three years to support the Land Development Code, which combines and simplifies Cincinnati's codes, reviews the development process, implements Form-based Codes and considers more creative uses for land. The grant allowed the city to start implementing some of the ideas voiced in public meetings.
Visionaries included youth, too. City staff worked with community centers and Cincinnati Public Schools to develop an art project for children. They were given clay pots and asked to paint their fears for the city on the inside and their dreams for the city on the outside. The children saw the big issue was quality of life, just like the adults did.
“It was an interesting way to get the kids involved and thinking about the future,” Keough-Jurs says.
The Plan aims to strengthen neighborhood centers—the neighborhoods’ business districts. It maps out areas that people need to get to on a daily basis and found that most are within about a half-mile of the business districts. But in some neighborhoods, residents can’t access their neighborhood centers. 

The accessibility of a neighborhood center is based on walkability—not just for pedestrians, but also about how structures address walking. For exampke, if a pedestrian can walk from one end of the neighborhood center to the other without breaking his or her pattern (the window shopping effect), the area is walkable; if he or she has been stopped by a parking lot or vacancies, it’s not walkable, Keough-Jurs says.
The neighborhood centers are classified in one of three ways in the Plan: maintain, evolve or transform. Some neighborhoods have goals to maintain levels of walkability, whereas others need to gradually change or evolve. Still others need to completely transform in order to strengthen their business districts.
“Cincinnati is at the heart of the region,” Keough-Jurs says. “If we strengthen Cincinnati, we strengthen a region.”

The next step for the Plan is to go before the Cincinnati City Council, specifically the Livable Communities Committee, which is chaired by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Gyms build muscle in downtown locations

Several gyms have opened or relocated in downtown Cincinnati in the past few months, all with one goal to pump up young working professionals.

Snap Fitness 24-7, which opened in mid-April at 15 E. Seventh Street next to the former Blackfinn Saloon, is one of the gyms bypassing the suburbs and focusing fitness efforts on Cincinnati's urbanites.

The 24-hour gym, accessible by key card, is within walking distance of many residential complexes, says Beth Roe, its manager.

"We have people coming in here at all times," Roe says. "We have people coming in here at 3 a.m. to work out. We have cops coming in at 4 a.m. after their shifts. We just believe a 24-hour gym works here in downtown."

It's that type of clientele the young professional living downtown that encouraged another downtown gym, Sweat Training, to move from Pleasant Ridge to downtown.

The gym, which offers indoor boot camp and personal training, moved into its location at 18 W. Seventh St. in October 2010, says owner Danielle Korb.

It's a gym that focuses on catering to the demands of professionals who want to come in, work out hard, improve their bodies and then go play hard, she says.

"We're really for those people that are moving and shaking," Korb says.

Korb, who is also a trainer at the gym, scouted out 20 locations throughout Greater Cincinnati before settling downtown.

The open warehouse loft atmosphere of the location was a unique selling point in the gym's relocation, she adds.

"The gym is a big part of the atmosphere while working out," Korb says. "It's a loft with open windows and graffiti on the walls."

The move downtown also spurred growth, she says.

"It's the perfect pairing up of brand, location and clientele," Korb says. "I just felt like my brand was the perfect match for downtown."

By James Sprague

CPS green building projects attract national attention

Cincinnati City Council's Quality of Life Committee received an update Tuesday on Cincinnati Public Schools' progress on its facilities master plan. This system-wide construction and renovation project has garnered national attention, not only for its scope but also for its emphasis on green building. The project's 23 LEED certified or registered schools have CPS on track to be one of the nation's most environmentally sustainable school systems, and is playing a key role in some of Cincinnati's key goals, said council member and committee chair Laure Quinlivan.

"The most important thing [council] can do as politicians is try to get more people and businesses into the community. One of the big questions I hear again and again is, 'how are the schools?'" she said. "The better our schools, the more people we retain in our urban core."

CPS Director of Facilities Planning and Construction Michael Burson reported that the project has completed construction and renovation on 36 of its 51 planned and current schools. Ten more are under construction, and five are in various stages of the construction bidding process.

But the master plan, which was initially approved in 2002, is already showing results, he noted. The biggest change comes from 'right sizing' the system, he said.

"We were operating 80 schools, a legacy of the 90,000 students we had in the 60s," he said. "A lot of the old buildings didn't consume a lot of energy, but they were not that functional and their environment wasn't that great.

"The master plan, he explained, changed in 2007 to mandate LEED Silver certification or better, meaning that CPS would had the potential to become one of the greenest school districts in the nation. Burson reported at the meeting that CPS has already achieved a number of noteworthy marks, including the first LEED Silver certified school in the state (Pleasant Ridge Montessori). And the sustainable construction is more than a bragging point; he explained that CPS is on track to operate its upgraded facilities - complete with new technology, security features and modern air conditioning - for the same cost per square foot it spent to operate the outdated, inefficient schools with a fraction of the amenities.

"I was really surprised at all I heard CPS is doing," said Quinlivan. "They're really on the cutting edge of facilities, and it's great for students to be in buildings that are healthy as well as new."

Burson went a step further, noting that the green building features are becoming a hands-on part of curricula throughout the system. And therein, he said, lies the biggest contribution CPS is making to the city through its facility upgrades. "For us, I think we're able to influence the younger generation, and we're instituting this into the culture," he said.

Writer: Matt Cunningham
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