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New housing development coming to Northside

Northside’s first new housing development since the American Can Lofts in 2012 is under construction. The Gantry, located at 4100 Hamilton Ave., will bring 131 apartments to the neighborhood.

With Northside's business district continuing to stabilize, The Gantry will help bring more residents and foot traffic to the area. Most of Northside's housing stock is circa 1950s, and land for new developments is hard to come by in the neighborhood.
The $16 million project involves redeveloping the site formerly occupied by the Myron G. Johnson & Son Lumber Co., which closed in the early 2000s. The city purchased the land parcel in 2006, and Indianapolis-based Milhaus Construction was chosen as the developer after a request for proposals in 2012.
The mixed-use project will include three separate buildings: two four-story buildings and a three-story building at 1518 Knowlton St., which was the home of a bowling alley and pool hall. There will also be 8,000 square feet of retail space, which will bring a number of new businesses to the Hamilton Avenue business district.

Apartments will range from 400 square feet to 1,100 square feet, and prices will range from $600 to $1,600 per month. The LEED Silver-certified apartments are expected to be ready by next summer.   

Pedal Wagon, Halfcut owner opens coworking space in OTR

Jack Heekin, owner of Over-the-Rhine’s Pedal Wagon and Halfcut, recently opened up a coworking space dubbed The Office attached to Halfcut at 12th and Walnut Streets. Gomez Salsa, Push Pull Studios, Squirrel Films and Venn have joined Halfcut and the Pedal Wagon so far, and Heekin says there’s an open door policy.
“People are always coming in and out, and more and more people are asking about using it,” he says. "The Office is definitely open to whoever wants to use it."
Heekin says The Office evolved on its own: As he opened Halfcut and his friend from high school, Andrew Gomez, opened Gomez Salsa next door, they each realized they needed an office. They turned Halfcut’s storage space into The Office — it’s between the kitchen, which Gomez Salsa uses, and Halfcut’s bar.
The space has slowly developed into a place for friends and friends of friends to come in and work together.
The bottom floor is just under 1,000 square feet and has a lounge area for meetings as well as a ping pong table for hanging out. The second floor is about 300 square feet, with a number of desks for companies to work at and share ideas.
“The Office will help add to the big picture and overall success of Cincinnati,” Heekin says. “If another startup needs help with something, you’ll be able to get it, as well as pitch ideas and collaborate with others.”

Lifelong musician/artist Waller opens downtown art gallery

You might know Dick Waller from his 34 years as principal clarinetist for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra or the Linton Music Series, but you might not know that he’s also a painter. Waller, 85, opened an art gallery and studio in November, Dick Waller’s Art Place.
Two years ago, Waller showed 150 paintings at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center and realized if he wanted to continue doing shows of that size he needed a larger space. He found the building at 130 W. Court St. about a year ago, and with the help of the building’s landlord he's transformed the space into an inviting gallery that feels like a living room.
The 2,000-square-foot gallery includes a cozy seating area in the middle and studio in the rear of the space. Waller says he spends four or five nights a week there for about five hours, creating new pieces. Each of his 290 pieces look as if they're alive, which can be contributed to the fact that he listens to classical music as he paints. And if he doesn't like something, he brushes it off, leaving a unique combination of colors.
“At 20, I went to an art exhibit in New York and became enthralled,” Waller says. “I went home and created my first painting in my basement, which my daughter has hanging in her house.”
Unlike Waller’s more recent work, his daughter Margy calls the first piece “Paris Metro.” The rest of his paintings are titled “Contrasts” after a piece he loved to play by the same name. Waller then numbers each piece with Roman Numerals, much like symphony opuses. That way, when they’re set up in the gallery viewers can enjoy them how they wish.
Waller was on the leading edge of audience development for classical music locally, starting the 801 Plum Concerts, which aimed to get young professionals interested in classical music, as well as Peanut Butter and Jams for children ages 3-6 and their parents. And now he’s on the leading edge of helping to develop a new neighborhood.
Waller wants the gallery to be a community space where people gather for coffee and hang out. He plans to host events, both large and small, as well as hold meetings for the Cincinnati Abstract Art Group. 
“I want to help bring life to this area,” he says. “It’s a new frontier, and I see it being a very live place in the next few years.”

Article owners opening women's wear shop

Anthony Graziani and his wife opened the men’s clothing store Article in Over-the-Rhine last September. And after positive customer response and continued development on Vine Street, they're opening a second shop, Idlewild Woman, just down the block.
“We’re still in the startup mode with Article, but there’s so much promise in the neighborhood we decided to take the leap and open a second store,” Graziani says. “The credit really goes to Cincinnati and the renaissance going on right now.”
The 1,000-square-foot space at 1232 Vine St. is currently serving as a holiday pop-up shop for Idlewild and Fern Studio, but by April it will be 100 percent Idlewild.
“People really like that Article is dialed into what men are looking for as far as a shopping experience,” Graziani says. “We plan to do the same thing with Idlewild.”
Graziani also found that female shoppers were looking for that same type of retail experience that Article offers. He received lots of feedback from female customers shopping at Article either for the man in their life or for themselves. As fit jeans, oversized sweaters and menswear-inspired work pieces have become more popular, female shoppers have begun to frequent Article more and more.
Idlewild will have items that aren’t necessarily on-trend but are classic. Graziani is focusing the retail options on brands not currently available in Cincinnati and is working to create a women’s general store with a wide variety of items rather than a boutique.
Currently, the pop-up shop features goods from a variety of designers, including Imogene and Willie, Baldwin Denim, Steven Alan, Objects Without Meaning, Faherty, Almond, Billy Kirk, Shinola, Tiro Tiro, Another Feather, Mazama, Jacobsen Salt, Herbivore Botanicals and Mast Brothers Chocolate. Additional brands will be added throughout the holiday season, and many of the brands will become Idlewild staples.
Where Article sells Noble Denim, Graziani says he hasn’t found a regional designer like it that makes women’s denim, although there’s probably one out there that does.
“We’re trying to support regional manufacturers as much as we can, and the majority of the designers we carry manufacture their products here in the States,” he says. “But our focus is really on quality, not necessarily where it’s made.”
The holiday pop-up shop is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays in December. Deeper Roots Coffee is on-site 11 a.m.-3 p.m. serving pour-over coffee, and there are also nightly wine tastings.

Covington looking to the community to redevelop properties

The City of Covington launched its Community Developer Initiative last week to seek out residents to redevelop blighted or vacant properties. Residents or business owners will choose vacant properties they’re interested in rehabilitating, and the city will decide if it can foreclose on the property or acquire it through other means.
The community developers will then purchase their chosen property from the city once it's been acquired. The developer will also cover the foreclosure costs.
Eight community developers will be redeveloping 17 properties in the first phase of the program. Each developer has agreed to pay the cost of bringing foreclosure action and to purchase the property from the city for a predetermined price.
Properties included in the first phase of the program are 2024 Donaldson Ave., 709 Greer St., 1110 Holman Ave., 2245 Jo Ann Place, 3512 Lincoln Ave., 307 Orchard St., 309 Orchard St., 622 Philadelphia St., 830 Philadelphia St., 232 E. Robbins St., 302 Robbins St., 310 Robbins St., 243 E. Tenth St., 306 W. Twelfth St., 322 W. Twelfth St., 324 W. Twelfth St. and 901 Worth St.

The Center for Great Neighborhoods is purchasing nine of the 17 properties and plan to rehabilitate the houses and then put them up for sale.
Covington is home to about 800 vacant properties — some are rundown houses, others are empty lots. These properties cost the city more than $800,000 per year to maintain or demolish, and some have been vacant for more than 20 years.
If you’re interested in the Community Developer Initiative, contact the City of Covington at 859-292-2311.

Turn-of-the-century bar coming soon to Northside

The Northside building most recently occupied by The Serpent will open as Tillie’s Lounge in February and feature champagne cocktails, craft beer, wine, premium snacks and bite-sized desserts sourced from a local bakery.
The building, located at 4042 Hamilton Ave., was built in 1881 for Droege Shoes and remained a cobbler for over 75 years. It’s been vacant since The Serpent closed and has seen a makeover, since the inside was previously all black.
Tillie’s will incorporate Northside’s history as well, and the champagne cocktails will be named for neighborhood nostalgia. For example, The Walk-Over, which is named for one of Tillie’s tricks, is made with raspberry vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and pomegranate juice.
The bar is being named after Tillie the elephant, one of the exotic animals from John Robinson’s Circus, which performed at the intersection of Blue Rock and Hamilton in the early 20th century. Tillie is known for stopping an elephant stampede and a derailed streetcar, and when she died schools were closed so the children could attend her funeral.
Tillie’s won’t be circus-themed but will be period-themed. Owners Nigel Cotterill and JC Diaz, who also own Below Zero Lounge, are working with Dwellings on Madison to give the bar a turn-of-the-century feel. The space will feature a baby grand piano and TVs and will host local and national music acts.

Previously vacant Covington space welcomes new restaurant

You’ve probably heard the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, and by January you’ll get to experience the tale in a new way. Avram and Kristin Steuber teamed up with BLDG to create the concept for their new restaurant, The Gruff Pizzeria & Deli, which is opening at 129 E. Second St. in Covington.
“As the experience is carried out through the space, you’ll see the Three Billy Goats have landed where the grass is greener, on the other side of the suspension bridge,” Kristin says.
On the inside, the 4,500-square-foot restaurant has eight taps for craft beer as well as a full-service bar. The 75-seat dining room has views of the Roebling Bridge, and there’s an outside seating area for about 30. The outside of the building features a brightly colored mural, and the walls inside have lines from the "Three Billy Goats Gruff" fairy tale.
The Steubers aren’t new to the restaurant business, as they owned and ran Twin Bistro, also in Covington, for over four years. The Gruff occupies a larger space than Twin Bistro and is part restaurant, part deli and specialty shop.
The Gruff has a brick oven for pizza, and the menu will be rounded out with deli-inspired sandwiches and salads. All of the meat featured on the menu is sourced from Indianapolis-based The Smoking Goose Meatery and are nitrate-free and available by the pound at the deli. Sandwiches will be served on Sixteen Bricks bread, which will also be sold at the deli.
The specialty shop will also have milk, bread, eggs, beer, wine and liquor for sale, and the deli portion will have rotating specials like at old-school delis, like chicken cordon bleu or beef stroganoff.
“We want The Gruff to be a place where the neighborhood and extended community feels comfortable and welcome,” Kristin says. “We plan to be a resource to the community that brings amazing food and a unique experience to Covington. As Covington residents, we see the potential in the city to become known as a destination again, and with the location at the base of the bridge we hope to be an important part of that.”
Once open, The Gruff’s hours will be 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.

Business accelerator opening storefront in OTR

Business accelerator MORTAR is opening a storefront at 1327 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine to provide space for entrepreneurs to operate their businesses while taking full advantage of support services. Called Brick OTR, the space hosts its first brand, Originalitees, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 28.
“We took a step back and looked at the landscape of Cincinnati,” says William Thomas II, leadership strategist and business developer for MORTAR. “The city is on the brink of a major comeback, and we wanted to make sure we were growing collectively. We also saw there were many others who wanted to take part in the progress who are often overlooked.”
Thomas and his partners Derrick Braziel and Allen Woods realized that many of OTR’s longtime residents were getting left behind as the neighborhood’s landscape was changing. MORTAR is designed to provide support for entrepreneurs or business owners who face barriers, including race, socioeconomic status, access to capital or institutional expertise.
MORTAR is open to entrepreneurs who have the desire to take their idea, listen to feedback, pivot and do what's needed to succeed.
“Our plan is to assist these entrepreneurs, whether they’re starting a new business or growing an existing business throughout the course, mentorship and continued guidance,” Braziel says.
The storefront is only 380 square feet but has the space for up to two businesses at a time. Businesses can rent out Brick OTR for a day, a week or a month, so the brands you see will be constantly changing. Follow Brick OTR on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for upcoming concepts.
“One week you might stop in and see two brands working side-by-side, and next time one brand will have the entire space,” Thomas says. “We want to encourage people to stop in frequently because you never know what you’ll find.”
Brick OTR is currently only in Over-the-Rhine, but MORTAR’s goal for the coming years is to have multiple locations in underserved areas all over the city.

Hotel, apartments, parking garage coming to Newport riverfront

An $80 million development is in the works for Newport’s riverfront. Dubbed Aqua on the Levee by developer Capital Investment Group, the project will include a hotel, apartment complex and parking garage next to Newport on the Levee.
The 144-room, seven-story hotel will feature loft-style guest rooms and a 10,000-square-foot meeting space for events. The 238 apartments will sit atop an 800-space parking garage. Prices for the one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments are yet to be determined.
Price Group, which owns Newport on the Levee, has committed $12.5 million to build 305 spaces in the parking garage for Levee visitors as well as a common area to connect the Levee to the new hotel and apartment complex.
A hotel was part of the plan for Newport on the Levee back in the late ‘90s, but it was never built after the project opened in 2001. The lot east of the Levee was a surface parking lot until it was closed down last month to make way for Aqua on the Levee.
The parking garage will be built first and the apartments are expected to be completed in fall 2016, with the hotel projected to open in late 2016 or early 2017.

Coffeeshop brings slice of Americana to Ludlow, Ky.

Two and a half years ago, Matt and Mary Williams purchased the building at 332 Elm St. in Ludlow, Ky., at the insistence of their late friend Mike Amann, founder of BLDG. They moved in upstairs and a month ago opened Folk School Coffee Parlor in the first-floor retail space.
“It’s an attempt to keep the community alive and the shared knowledge aspect of traditional American arts, tied into the local folk/Americana music scene,” says Casey Campbell, who manages the Folk School.
The Folk School offers small Americana-based workshops, including beginners guitar and mandolin, clawhammer banjo and songwriting workshops. The classes aren’t all music related, and there are plans to have a few installations from local visual artists as well as a series of rotating resident artists, gallery showings and hands-on workshops.
In January, Folk School will start offering masters series classes, with the first featuring renowned recording artist Jeff Plankenhorn.  
“Folk is a very broad term, but I regard true folk arts as something that has its heart and roots in traditional American storytelling and mediums, quilt-making, songs of protest and worker’s rights, and banjos and fiddles playing two-step music no matter the decade it was written,” Campbell says. “Folk can be whatever you want it to be. But I think of it as something that ties me to a time way past my own, like a black-and-white picture of something extraordinarily familiar.”
Everything at Folk School is small batch, including a limited food menu. But you can enjoy Grateful Grahams, Whirlybird Granola and Dean’s Mediterranean while you sip coffee from Deeper Roots.
“Ludlow is on the cusp of bringing in a top-notch arts and entertainment scene to an area that is still run by quiet side streets and people that live and work in peace,” Campbell says. “It’s the epitome of small town by the big town.”
Folk School is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Keep tabs on Folk School’s calendar for upcoming classes and installations.

CAC to get artistic new lobby, hours in 2015

The Contemporary Arts Center’s Kaplan Hall lobby will close to visitors Jan. 6 for a $1.1 million renovation, which was designed and will be completed by FRCH Design Worldwide. The CAC will remain open during construction, and the lobby is scheduled to reopen March 13.
Lobby renovations include a new lounge space, a café and a relocated welcome desk and gift shop. The café will offer coffee, breakfast, lunch and evening treats and will have an open layout with communal tables. The new lounge area will feature lounge chairs and sofas, artistic lighting and a series of art installations.
The welcome desk, which is currently off to the side by the elevator, is being moved so the staff can better greet CAC visitors. The gift shop will be moved to a more central location, and its inventory will become a better curated collection that highlights local, national and international artists and artisanal items.
The new lobby will feature commissioned artwork from three artists: Cincinnatian Matt Kotlarczyk will create two large-scale chandeliers that will resemble clouds and water; Assume Vivid Astro Focus, whose founders are based out of NYC and Paris, will create expressive wallpaper and wall paintings; and Erwin Redl of Bowling Green, Ohio, will develop an installation to cover the entire "urban carpet" from the lobby up to the sixth floor of the CAC.
The CAC is also in talks with AVAF for a large-scale mural on the building's exterior.
The CAC’s hours will change beginning in March. The gallery will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Monday and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday. The lobby and café will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday.
During the renovation process, visitors will enter the CAC through the door next to the loading dock on Sixth Street, and admission will be free during construction.

Urban Sites creating living, working spaces in OTR

Across the street from the Emery Theatre, Urban Sites is redeveloping two buildings, located at 1123 and 1125 Walnut St. The buildings will yield 16 units—14 apartments and two commercial spaces.
Sixteen years ago, the city loaned money to a developer to renovate the buildings. The developer defaulted on the loan, and Urban Sites purchased the property and began construction a few weeks ago.
The 14 market-rate apartments will all be two-bedroom, and are slated to be completed next summer. Each is about 800 square feet, and still has the original wood floors and fireplace facades intact. A small, concrete courtyard connects the two buildings.

“There are lots of young professionals and people who work downtown here, and we want people who work down here and love OTR to live here,” says Seth Maney, vice president of development for Urban Sites.

Urban Sites was founded in the '80s, and since then has focused much of its development south of Liberty Street in Over-the-Rhine. But the developer recently purchased the 40,000-square-foot film center building just north of Liberty.
“We’re currently working with Findlay Market to understand their needs, and we’ve been approached by several companies about the building too,” Maney says. “It’s still in the early stages, but it’s one of a few large office buildings like it.”

To date, Urban Sites has redeveloped 400 apartments and more than 100,000 square feet of retail and office space. Almost 100 percent of the developer’s units are occupied, but 70 more will soon be online.

Leadership Cincinnati designs projects to strengthen region

Every year, Leadership Cincinnati develops projects that will benefit Greater Cincinnati—the charitable pharmacy at St. Vincent de Paul, Cincy Red Bike, Crayons to Computers and the Power Pack Program at Freestore Foodbank all began at Leadership Cincinnati. 
In its 38th year, Leadership Cincinnati is made up of people who are in senior management at both for-profit and nonprofit companies and organizations. As a class, they focus on what will help make the region stronger.
“We seek to have a diversified class each year, and have a mix of people who come from many different backgrounds,” says Dan Hurley, who is in his seventh year as director of Leadership Cincinnati. “The theme is bridging the gap—how do we identify, learn about, understand and strategize the gaps in the regional community.”
This year’s class has already participated in a number of things, from looking at the proposal for the governance structure of the airport to dealing with gaps in the justice system. Each member of the class went on a police ride-along, and saw interrogations and court cases.
“The experience is important,” Hurley says. “You can’t begin to come up with solutions until you’re willing to stand in the gap yourself.”
Leadership Cincinnati is the beginning of many projects, including Preschool Promise, which aims to provide quality care and education for preschool-age children. STRIVE is currently leading it, but was started at Leadership Cincinnati three years ago. Each project has to have an organization already formed that is willing to take it on and continue it beyond the initial startup phase.
Ozie Davis, executive director of the Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation and member of the current Leadership Cincinnati class, proposed that no matter the project, it uses Avondale as the focal point.
One group is looking at food security issues, another is addressing infant mortality. Davis’ group is working on rehabilitation options for St. Andrew’s Catholic church.
“It’s a collective impact,” Hurley says. “Some projects will work, some won’t. We’re not going to solve infant mortality, but we’re trying to find a niche where we can be helpful.”
Some projects also shift halfway through, when a group realizes their initial idea won’t work, but something else will. For example, Cincy Red Bike started out as a streetscape project in Over-the-Rhine. Group members began looking at what was going on in other cities, and although bike share wasn’t everywhere then, they decided it would work in Cincinnati.
“I love when people go in thinking they know what the answer is, and finding out it isn’t the best approach, and they pivot and make something else really work,” Hurley says.
If you’re interested in Leadership Cincinnati’s 10-month program, visit its website to learn more.

Local theater company setting up shop in Northside

New Edgecliff Theatre is currently between homes, but by April, it will be rehearsing and performing in a new event space in the old St. Patrick Church in Northside, located at 1662 Blue Rock St. Grayscale Cincinnati is currently renovating the church, which will also be home to a brewery and taproom.
“We hope to help strengthen the arts in Northside, and bring more vitality to the area,” says Jim Stump, New Edgecliff’s producing artistic director. “Northside has an arts profile already, but it doesn’t have a permanent theater company.”
On Nov. 15, the theater group is performing a murder-mystery fundraiser at Below Zero Lounge. It will feature The Whodunit? Players, as well as members of the New Edgecliff staff. There’s also a radio drama performance of Miracle on 34th Street at Northside Tavern this winter. During the extended intermission, the audience will be able to enjoy desserts from Cincinnati State’s culinary arts department.
New Edgecliff is also working on doing bar nights at Northside haunts over the next few months. Stump is performing his one-man show at Below Zero in January to help raise funds for the theater.
“Northside is very similar to our former home in Columbia Tusculum,” Stump says. “It’s a unique community with lots of locally owned and operated businesses. And our new facility has so much potential.”
New Edgecliff’s mission is to create a powerful artistic experience by utilizing local professionals and stressing the fundamental communion between the actors and the audience.
New Edgecliff will christen its new space with its performance of Race April 9-25. Tickets to all performances are $27, and student tickets are $20. You can purchase them online or by calling Cincy Ticket at 888-428-7311.

New housing project breaks ground in Avondale

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Nov. 6 for Avondale’s newest residential development, Northern Townhomes. The eight market-rate townhomes are located at the corner of Northern and Harvey avenues, and are part of the area’s larger Burnet Avenue Plan.
Northern Townhomes is the first new market-rate housing in the neighborhood since the '90s, and is part of a larger infill development plan to bring more residents to Avondale, says Beth Robinson, president and CEO of the Uptown Consortium.
“We’re trying to bring homeowners into the neighborhood,” she says. “Avondale has a lot of rental units, but research has shown that when homeowners are invested in the community, they tend to stay, get involved and help bring the neighborhood up.”
Avondale has a variety of housing choices for all income levels, including a number of in-need-of-rehabilitation homes, which are costly to renovate. And when new houses come on the market, they don't stay for sale for long, says Ozie Davis, executive director of the Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation.

"Northern Townhomes is an opportunity for higher-end housing," he says. "Major rehabs are costly endeavors, and this way, people won't have to worry about renovations for years."

The townhomes were designed to attract young professionals, and all feature two full master bathrooms and one-car garages, with additional parking available on the street. Six of the 1,400-square-foot units are two-bedrooms, and two are three-bedrooms, which is meant to attract families. The townhomes will start in the $175,000 range.
Avondale is planning to add another eight units in the same area along Northern, but the design concept is still in the works. Davis says he hopes the townhomes are a catalyst for future commercial development that could lead to an entertainment district much like that on found Short Vine, as well as amenities for new and current residents.
The roughly $2.4 million project, which is slated for completion next spring, is a partnership between A-CDC, Uptown Consortium and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. It is being funded through the Uptown Partners Investment Fund and the Uptown Cincinnati Development Fund.
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