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NKY riverfront development to give public better access to Ohio River

Thirty-two acres of Covington’s riverfront is soon to become a waterfront promenade, complete with performance pavilions, walkways, and trails for pedestrians and bicyclists. When finished, the redevelopment will make the riverfront more accessible to the public.
 
Amenities along the promenade include a kayak and paddle board launch on Cobble Beach under the Roebling Bridge, restrooms, lighting and landscaping all along the riverfront.
 
The City of Covington applied for an $11 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant from the U.S. Deptartment of Transportation for the redevelopment of the riverfront from Highway Avenue to the Licking River, which is 1.25 miles.
 
A total of $3.2 million has already been invested in the project from a number of grants, both locally and nationally. Other grants will be sought to fund the rest of the project.
 
The redevelopment is part of the regional Riverfront Commons project, which is being completed by Southbank Partners. The 11.5-mile trail spans six Northern Kentucky cities and includes tourist spots along the way.

Covington celebrates 200 years with yearlong birthday party

Covington kicked off its bicentennial on May 22, but if you missed the start of COV200, there are more events in store over the next year. Covington’s actual bicentennial is Feb. 8, 2015.
 
In November, Covington is releasing its first complete historical account, Covington, Kentucky, 1815-2015, which was edited by James C. Claypool, Paul A. Tenkotte and David E. Schroeder. It includes chapters on the city’s past, its people and what makes Covington special.
 
On February 7 and 8, Covington is having a birthday party to celebrate 200 years at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. There will also be free viewing parties around the city on February 8 to watch the COV200 documentary.
 
A city-wide block party is planned for June 2015, and a big closing event is in the works for late summer of next year.
 
The city plans to initiate a public works project to commemorate the bicentennial, as well as educational programs for all ages. For example, the Center for Public History at Northern Kentucky University and the Behringer-Crawford Museum are putting together an interactive exhibit that will eventually have a permanent home in the museum.
 
There will also be a QR-coded tour of the city’s neighborhoods that will provide downloadable text, maps, mini-documentaries and coupons for those who live, work and visit Covington.

Kirby Road School to become 40 apartments

Later this year, the former Kirby Road School in Northside will become an apartment complex, developed by Bloomfield/Schon+Partners. The school was purchased at a Cincinnati Public Schools auction for $230,000 in 2012.
 
The $4.2 million Kirby Lofts project will convert the 50,000-square-foot, three-story building into 40 apartments, which could be completed by June 2015. The former gym will become three two-story, loft-style apartments, and the auditorium will become a 1,800-square-foot unit with 20-foot ceilings.
 
Much of the exterior of the building will remain, along with the preservation of the building’s Rookwood tile, cabinets, trim, doors and blackboards.  
 
Kirby Road School was built in 1910, and closed in 2005. It temporarily housed Chase School before closing for good in late 2012. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
 
Bloomfield/Schon also redeveloped Northside’s American Can Lofts. The city granted a property tax abatement that will be worth $130,000 annually for eight years, and Bloomfield/Schon already received $600,000 in state preservation tax credits.
 
Plans are still in the works, and bids are being sought for the construction work.

Funds granted to clean up vacant gas stations and auto repair shops

Three area communities were recently awarded Urban Land Assistance Program grants for the redevelopment of vacant and underutilized gas stations and auto repair shops. The Hamilton County Redevelopment Company, the official Economic Development Office for Hamilton County, doles out the ULAP grants.
 
A total of $80,260 was awarded to Norwood, Reading and Golf Manor to redevelop four different sites in the communities.
 
In Reading, an auto repair shop at 100 W. Benson St. will become a green space and parking lot. The City of Reading will soon own the property; the project received $17,790 for the environmental assessment of the property from the ULAP grant.
 
Norwood received $14,100 for the Phase II assessment of 5425 Carthage Ave. to determine the extent of contamination from the abandoned auto repair shop and the adjacent pesticide manufacturer. The City of Norwood also received $30,370 to remove the underground storage tanks at 5300 Section Ave. The city plans to redevelop the former gas station, but can’t until the tanks are removed.
 
Golf Manor wants to clean up an abandoned and condemned building next to the Cincinnati Hebrew Day School. The former oil change business, which is located at 2290 Losantiville Ave., has been vacant since 1998. The $18,000 grant is for asbestos removal, the demolition of what remains of the building and the removal of the asphalt surface. The Jewish Foundation owns the property, and the school plans to redevelop it into a parking lot with landscaping

New Covington event space to promote community

A city-owned space at Seventh and Washington streets in Covington won’t be a parking lot for much longer. Renaissance Covington and MKSK, along with other partners, are turning the lot into a pop-up performance park for public programming.
 
“This lot has been used for a variety of events over time, so one of the goals of the project is to make the space more accessible to the public and better equip it for outdoor events,” says Katie Meyer, Renaissance manager for the City of Covington.
 
Plans for the space include string lighting, painted pavement, landscaping, a kiosk, planters, outdoor electric and a covered stage that can be set up and torn down in less than 30 minutes. BLDG is currently working on the name and branding for the space.
 
The yet-to-be-named space has a slew of events coming up, including the Pop Up Park Launch Party on August 2, which will feature local musicians, food, drink and performances; a NKY Fairness event; UpStart on September 2; and Art Off Pike on September 28.
 
In 2013, Place from Space awarded Renaissance Covington and MKSK $1,000 for the project proposal. Then in 2014, Renaissance Covington and Keep Covington Beautiful received a $2,000 Place Matters grant from the Center for Great Neighborhoods.
 
Cov10, a local private citizen funding opportunity, awarded the project another $2,000, and the remaining costs for the space are being covered by Covington Arts and Art Off Pike.
 
Volunteers are needed for the Pop Up event, as well as for several cleanup days in July. You can sign up here.

New NKY private school focuses on individualized approach to learning

A private, faith-based, co-educational K-12 school is starting September 2 in Florence. Union Pointe Academy will be held on the Indiana Wesleyan campus, with hopes of having its own building in the future.
 
Union Pointe was founded by Sheila Levi, a retired teacher and owner of the Learning Curve Tutoring Center, and Jim Skoog, an educator, athletic director and administrator for 39 years and supervisor of alternative programs at Butler County ESC. The school also has a team of educators from a variety of backgrounds to help provide students with a well-rounded curriculum.  
 
Union Pointe will address its students’ needs, strengths and talents through individual learning plans, cutting-edge technology, programs for dyslexia and related reading issues, and a performing arts and gifted program.
 
Its dyslexia program will be one of a very limited number at Kentucky schools that is specifically dedicated to helping students with dyslexia, Levi says.
 
Students will learn through a multisensory approach in reading, writing and math called the Orton-Gillingham Approach, which focuses on language retraining through multisensory techniques, direct instruction, repetition and guided practice.
 
The school’s national standards-based curriculum will use a blended learning concept, where students learn at least in part through online delivery of content and classroom instruction. The model uses a higher level of critical thinking skills and an integrated and reflective thinking that is enhanced through project-based lifelong learning experiences.
 
All graduation requirements were set by the Kentucky Department of Education, and include college prep courses and honors and AP classes. Students will have the opportunity to take drama, fitness/wellness and global languages/cultures, and will have the chance to travel, take field trips and enjoy outdoor activities. Union Pointe also offers an a la carte menu of classes for homeschool students. 
 
Tuition is $7,500 for grades K-6 and $8,000 for grades 7-12 per year. Payment plans are available, and costs are reduced if more than one child attends Union Pointe. You can register your student for the fall or request more information via email (info@UnionPointeAcademy.org).
 
Fundraising for Union Pointe started in late 2013; the school is currently seeking $500,000 for startup costs for the first year. To support the school, visit its website.

Madisonville Blooms Garden Tour beautifies neighborhood

On June 22, the Madisonville Beautification Committee is hosting its third annual Madisonville Blooms Garden Tour. The tour begins at the corner of Madison Road and Whetsel Avenue, and includes seven gardens.
 
In 2010, the inactive Beautification Committee reorganized under new leadership, and many of its members were gardeners. They all shared a vision and were eager to change the perception of Madisonville.
 
Three years ago, the Beautification Committee discovered “hidden treasures” among Madisonville’s gardens, and felt it was important to showcase the gardens to show that residents take pride in their yards.
 
“We wanted to foster community involvement and preserve and improve the beauty of the neighborhood,” says Beautification Committee member Carolyn Winstead.
 
Each garden has its own character, and many are reminiscent of the homeowners’ childhood memories of their parents and grandparents’ yards, Winstead says.
 
The gardens also vary in type: One is a mix of vegetables and flowers and has been around since 1920; another vegetable garden was created by the youth at Lighthouse Community School in 2012; a third has bamboo and is considered a Zen garden; and the other four are mainly flower gardens.
 
The tour is from noon to 4 p.m., and tickets are $10 per person. Tickets can be purchased at French Rendezvous, located at 6124 Madison, before the event or the day of. At the end of the tour, guests are invited to a reception at Madisonville Arts and Cultural Center for refreshments and entertainment.
 
All proceeds from Madisonville Blooms will benefit the Beautification Committee’s work to promote beauty in the neighborhood. The event is sponsored by H.J. Benken Garden Center and Lighthouse Community School.

Sixteen mini-grants awarded to Covington projects

In April, the Center for Great Neighborhoods awarded 16 mini-grants from the Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program to Covington projects. The grants, which totaled $34,000, are funded by Place Matters and are managed by CGN.
 
Projects highlight both the neighborhood’s history and the Covington Bicentennial, and range from repurposing an underutilized parking lot into a community gathering space to transforming vacant lots into urban farms.
 
In all, 15 different resident-led organizations in Covington received grants, in amounts that range from $700-$4,000.
 
Awesome Collective received $2,000 to host four community gatherings and another $2,000 to create a zine, the Index of Awesome, that celebrates Covington’s diversity and creativity.
 
The Eastside Neighborhood Association received $800 for Phase VI of its beautification efforts, and $2,000 to beautify the area adjacent to Randolph Park. Friends of Linden Grove Cemetery got $2,000 to create a video presentation of the cemetery’s history, current restoration and improvement efforts, and appeal for financial support.
 
The Historic Licking Riverside Civic Association received a $2,000 grant to design, create and install 10 banners in Licking Riverside for Covington’s Bicentennial. Keep Covington Beautiful received $2,000 to turn a parking lot at the corner of Seventh and Washington into a multi-purpose community gathering space. In partnership with Make Goebel Great, Keep Covington Beautiful also received $4,000 to renovate Goebel Park.
 
The Latonia Community Council and the Latonia Small Area Study received $4,000 to hold a series of events throughout Latonia to reach out to the community and engage residents. The Levassor Park Neighborhood Association received a $2,000 grant to hold a workshop to educate residents on the importance of being ready for an emergency.
 
The Linden Gateway Small Area Study Oversight Committee received $2,000 to create an urban greenway that will connect Westside and the Linden Gateway Cemetery to MainStrasse. Monte Cristo received $700 to hold events in the spring and fall for the community.
 
The Northern Kentucky Council of the Blind received $2,000 to enhance White Cane Safety Day in October. Grow the Cov got $2,000 to hold a workshop to educate residents on the importance and benefits of rainwater, as well as $2,000 to build six community gardens. The Westside Action Coalition and Old Seminary Square received a $2,500 grant to build a park south of MLK between Russell and Banklick.
 
Since 2007, CGN has awarded almost $299,000 to support 149 resident-led projects, which has helped engage the Covington community in shaping the neighborhood’s future.

Brewery tour company connects beer drinkers with beer brewers

Bryan and Emily Moritz, along with Emily’s brother, Ben Beachler, have always shared a passion for craft beer and small business. After taking a tour of a Denver brewery last year, they decided to start Craft Connection Brewery Tours in Cincinnati.
 
“We wanted to connect the people of Cincinnati to great breweries and give the breweries a chance to share their beer and their stories,” Bryan says. “We’re connecting the beer makers to the beer drinkers.”
 
A 14-passenger shuttle takes guests to four different breweries in four hours. For $55, guests get a behind-the-scenes look at Rhinegeist, Listermann Brewing, MadTree Brewing and Fifty West, as well as beer samples.  
 
Craft Connection’s maiden voyage was May 2, and since then, they have hosted corporate groups, bachelor parties, and groups of friends and family. They’ve also done a few tours to raise money for charities.
 
“Our guests love interacting with the faces of the breweries, whether that’s the owners, brewers or taproom managers,” Bryan says. “They also enjoy the simplicity of being guided through four breweries and having beer poured for them throughout the tour.”
 
Tours are held from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. All tours depart from HalfCut in Over-the-Rhine.

To learn more about the inner workings of these breweries, check out our recent article about Cincinnati's craft beer market.

DownTowne Listening Room provides quiet place to enjoy music

The second-floor Club Room in the Shillito building is rarely used. But Scott Skeabeck saw the potential to turn it into a listening room, where patrons can enjoy music in a quieter atmosphere than a bar or coffee house.
 
The DownTowne Listening Room is nonprofit—the $10 entry fee is considered a donation, which goes entirely to the artists. If donations don’t cover the artists’ fee, Skeabeck covers the balance.
 
“I’m bringing back the lost art of live music,” he says. “Yes, there’s live music all over Cincinnati, but not like this. It’s not just live music but original music, too.”
 
Skeabeck pairs out-of-town acts with local performers whose style is similar. “I’m a big Cincinnati promoter, but I wanted to get out-of-town talent because they get the idea of the listening room,” he says.
 
But out-of-town acts don’t necessarily consider Cincinnati a tour destination. It’s easier for artists to get around on the coasts because everything is connected, and the Midwest is a bit off the beaten path. Bringing in out-of-town acts will help fill the room, Skeabeck says, and local acts will really be able to get their name out there.
 
The DownTowne Listening Room will provide free snacks and soft drinks, and patrons are encouraged to BYOB.
 
Upcoming acts include New York pop-rock performer and pianist Julian Verlard on June 13 with Charlie Millikin, a local singer-songwriter, opening; and Philadelphia-based Deirdre Flint on July 19.

Lytle Park to receive major facelift

In the next year, Lytle Park will receive a major facelift that could help turn southeast downtown into a thriving financial district.
 
The Park Board is finalizing the $6 million plan for the park, which includes more green space, a water wall to absorb noise and camouflage I-71, and an adventure playground for kids.
 
By next spring, the Ohio Department of Transportation will begin a $33 million construction project of the I-71 tunnel under Lytle Park, which includes installing new ventilation, lighting and tiles.
 
Construction will occur while the Cincinnati Park Board renovates the 2.3-acre park, which is home to the Anna Louise Inn, the Taft Museum, a Residence Inn, the Literary Club of Cincinnati and Park Place at Lytle.  
 
The Woodford Building will be removed from the Lytle Park Historic District to make way for redevelopment. It’s possible that Western & Southern Financial Group will add a headquarters, as the firm owns one of Cincinnati’s oldest former police stations, a handful of apartments adjacent to the park, and 750,000 square feet of office buildings in the area.
 
There are also plans for a new housing project, parking garage and restaurants. And next summer, W&S will begin converting the Anna Louise Inn into a hotel.

Molly Wellmann adds event space to repertoire

Molly Wellmann, of Japp’s, Neon’s, Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar and Myrtle’s Punch House, is adding an event space to her brand. The Hearth Room, which is in the old Twist Lounge space downtown, is expected to open this fall.

The Hearth Room is the solution for Wellmann, whose bars are a hot commodity for people who want to rent out space for events. It doesn't make sense to shut down a bar for the night for a private party, she says, but an event space is an entirely different story.
 
The Hearth Room will be used exclusively for private events, including reunions, rehearsal dinners, corporate events and pop-up dinners. It can hold about 140 people, and will have a preferred list of caterers. Wellmann-trained bartenders will also be available for events.

Wellmann is working with Jeff McClorey of Bromwell’s, a luxury fireplace and home décor retailer, on the venue. McClorey owns the building, and there will be a Bromwell fireplace in the Hearth Room.

If you’re interested in reserving The Hearth Room for an event, contact Lisa Colina, event coordinator, at 513-479-6554 or lcolina@wellmannsbrands.com.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter

 

Online public art map takes Cincinnatians on "artventure"

Downtown Cincinnati Inc. recently launched Cincinnati’s online public art map, ArtVenture. The map includes a list of murals and sculptures found downtown and in Over-the-Rhine, and users can find themed itineraries that highlight works and fun spots along different routes.
 
Years ago, the Ohio Arts Council and SAVE OUR OUTDOOR SCULPTURE! Program developed A Guide to Public Art in Downtown Cincinnati, and the print edition was later migrated to the web. But the information hadn’t been updated since the early '90s.
 
ArtVenture was developed using information from Cincinnati Parks, ArtWorks and A Guide To Public Art in Cincinnati.
 
“It made sense for DCI to take on the project and combine information from different sources into one, easy-to-use database,” says Tricia Suit, director of marketing at DCI.
 
There are five itineraries—Hometown Heroes, Music City, The Old Ballgame, Take in the History and Mother(lode) of Presidents—and there are plans to add more this summer.
 
The Hometown Heroes itinerary includes Carew Tower, which is an important part of Cincinnati’s architectural, artistic and business history. Also on that itinerary is Cincinnati Venus, Jim Dine’s sculpture at Centennial Plaza. The Music City itinerary includes a stop at Memorial Hall, which has six free-standing sculptures on its façade that pay tribute to veterans from the Revolutionary War to the Spanish-American War.
 
The Old Ballgame is a tour around Great American Ball Park; and Take in the History features the National Steamboat Monument at the Public Landing. The Mother(lode) of Presidents itinerary includes stops at The Cincinnatian and The Phoenix, where local history is mixed in with the story of Ohio’s presidents.
 
“We created ArtVenture to be more than just an art walk,” Suit says. “Many cities have maps and routes to see monuments and unique architectural features, but by combining information about art with fun stops along with way, we’ve created a unique experience with all downtown has to offer.”
 
The public is invited to share its artventures with DCI using #cincyartventure on Twitter and Instagram.

New mixed-use development in the works near Xavier

Xavier University’s bookstore, Starbucks and Graeter’s are the first retail tenants to sign leases for University Station, a new development near Xavier. The mixed-use project is already under construction.
 
The $54 million, 15-acre development sits along Dana Avenue and Montgomery Road. The first phase is slated to be completed in August, and will include 46,000 square feet of office space, 39,000 square feet of retail space, a 178-unit apartment complex for both Xavier students and the community, plus 1,000 parking spaces.
 
The new bookstore will fill 11,000 square feet of the available retail space, and will include Starbucks and Graeter’s. It will be about twice the size of the current on-campus bookstore, and will sell technology, school supplies, Xavier clothing and gifts.
 
TriHealth and CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services will be leasing office space, and the apartment complex is about 93 percent leased.
 
Ackermann Group and Messer Construction Co. are developing University Station. Planning is currently underway for the second phase, and could include more office and retail space, as well as a hotel.

Foodie Cincy supports local restaurant scene

In December, Brian and Gina Barrera launched Foodie Cincy, a deck of 52 cards that feature local and independent restaurants from Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Each card contains a coupon for $10 off a minimum of $30 purchase for a different restaurant.
 
Rome Ali started Foodie US in 2009 in St. Louis; since then, the franchise has spread to 11 cities, including Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Indianapolis. Each Foodie city has a local charity that receives a portion of the proceeds from the deck sales. Foodie Cincy dedicates a portion of its sales to the Freestore Foodbank.
 
Featured restaurants were chosen based on Yelp reviews and broader Google searches, Gina says.
 
“When we started searching, we had a list of hundreds of restaurants. We narrowed that list down to those with the highest ratings in customer service and food quality, and chose restaurants from a variety of Cincinnati neighborhoods.”
 
The Barreras pitched Foodie Cincy to more than 150 restaurants, and those restaurants chose whether they wanted to be included in the deck, which consists of offers from 52 restaurants, for a total savings of $520.
 
Foodie Cincy decks cost $20, and are available until they’re sold out online and at a number of restaurants, including BrewRiver GastroPub, Mokka and The Sunset, Nicola’s and Café De Paris. Coupons are valid through November, and next year’s deck will be valid starting December 1.
 
Next year’s deck will feature many of the same restaurants seen in this year’s deck, but there will be quite a few new ones, Gina says.
 
“The deck doesn’t make people rush to restaurants, but keeps a steady stream of customers coming in with Foodie cards, and customers love it,” she says.
 
For a complete list of Foodie Cincy restaurants, visit its website or Facebook page.
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