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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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Two locals 'frame' OTR in new ways in new shop

Imagine the walls from Professor Dumbledore’s office in the Harry Potter movies—space covered with framed photographs. That’s what the four walls of Over-the-Rhine’s newest business, Frameshop, will look like, but they’ll be covered in framed posters, neon signs, taxidermy and other oddities.
“We want customers to get creative, and we’re trying to do that with a more creative space,” says Frameshop co-owner Jake Gerth.
Frameshop happens to be across the street from Gerth’s apartment. “I wanted a business that would be part of the community,” he says. “We want to let Cincinnati know that people are moving to OTR, that it’s a good place to be.”
The storefront was in pretty good shape when Gerth and his business partner, Jake Baker, rented it—the floors, walls and hand-painted ceiling tiles are all original. The front of the store is the retail floor, where Baker and Gerth will showcase their talents, and their shop is in the back of the building.
While Frameshop isn’t quite finished, Gerth and Baker are excited for their Final Friday opening Feb. 22. They’re going to have a grand opening party that night, and start taking framing orders from customers.
The two Springdale natives have been friends since first grade. After college (Baker went to Ohio University; Gerth went to AIC College of Design in Springdale), they decided to open a business together. They had lots of ideas, but their experience in framing lead them to Frameshop—Baker worked in retail framing for a brief time; Gerth has a creative background.
“You can’t get what we do at Michael’s,” Gerth says. For example, they have an OTR print in a black wood frame made from 100-year-old reclaimed wood from OTR.
All Frameshop pieces will be custom, and the owners plan to turn around orders faster than a typical frame shop that takes about two weeks to complete a job—Baker and Gerth will have orders finished in about an hour.
“Our goal is to have customers come in, drop off a piece, go have dinner and then come pick it up,” Baker says.
Frameshop opens at 6 pm on Final Friday. There will be a DJ, food and tours of the store. Plus, customers can start placing orders that day.
By Caitlin Koenig
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S&J Bakery Cafe updates name, plans for Findlay Market

With a new business name, a liquor license and sole ownership of S&J Bakery Café in Findlay Market, Stefan Skirtz is about to get even more creative with his offerings. Which is saying something for a baker who already serves a blueberry pancake cupcake with maple buttercream icing and topped with a garnish of chocolate-dipped bacon. Mmmm, bacon.

As his storefront nears its third anniversary at the Over-the-Rhine landmark this May, Skirtz remains dedicated to keeping things local and making a stop at his flourishing shop just one part of a varied market experience. 

“The reason why I wanted to come to Findlay Market was to strengthen the Findlay Market experience,” says Skirtz, 44, who grew up in Clifton Heights. “I go out every Saturday and buy our produce for the week.”

Skirtz, who opened the shop with a partner, reports that they spent 96 percent of the capital costs for the business within the 45202 zipcode. After making it through the first year in business, sales doubled in year two. He’s hopeful about the prospects for year three, during which he opened a second location—the S&J Café in the Main Library downtown.

“The sales have been very strong,” Skirtz says. “It’s given us an opportunity to constantly adapt and adjust.”

Adapting and adjusting comes naturally to the entrepreneur who started his working life far from a kitchen. He worked summers at Kings Island, then stayed with the park as its owners shifted from Kings Productions to Paramount and Viacom, where he produced live shows and planned events. 

But the Cincinnati native, who once again lives in Clifton Heights, grew tired of constant travel. He decided to pursue his lifelong love of cooking at the Midwest Culinary Institute, where he could turn his hobby into a career.

Skirtz’s theme park background makes him particularly sensitive to his customers’ feedback, which he has already incorporated into his business plans. For example, the dining room section of the Findlay store was intended for storage, but customers enjoyed having a place to sit and enjoy breakfast and lunch so he made the cheerful space permanent.  

“People instantly started coming down and starting their Findlay Market experience with us,” Skirtz says. Regulars bring their own coffee mugs, cloth napkins and silverware. Some stop in for the same menu items every Saturday at 8 a.m. sharp; others make S&J a midway break during their trip; still others end their shopping with a leisurely lunch. 

“It’s really about listening to your guests,” says Skirtz, who works with a wide range of market and local vendors, from Coffee Emporium (which created a special blend for S&J) to Bender and Eckerlin Meats for sandwich fillings.

Feedback has also led Skirtz to sell his bread in demi-loaves—customers told him that whole loaves were too big for them to finish. He’s also expanding the shop’s weekday hours to 6 p.m. to accommodate a second baguette baking in the afternoon; baguette-lovers pushed for an option to stop by S&J on their way home from work to buy a warm loaf.

Skirtz was also granted a liquor license this month as part of the newly formed Findlay Market Entertainment District, and is deciding how to incorporate it into his plans for rebranding, which will include a new menu, brunch, special programs and live entertainment.

One thing is for certain: Skirtz will continue to see Findlay Market as a “destination attraction,” reminiscent of his theme park days. “My goal is that anybody who comes in my door and eats my food, I want them to go into the Market House and start shopping,” he says. 

By Elissa Yancey
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OTR's Cogswell Building gets new life

Construction on one of Over-the-Rhine’s 19th century buildings will soon be finished, and will open up new office space for members of the community. Rehabilitation began on the Cogswell Building in November and should be completed by March.
“I visited the Cogswell when it was CS13 Gallery and really liked the space,” says Pat Feghali, the building’s owner. “I used to drive by the building on the way home and saw that it was for sale, and eventually bought it.”
According to records, the Cogswell Building at 1219 Sycamore Street was built in the 1880s, and the first tenant was a shoe and boot store. The storefront was later converted into apartments. A bit of renovation work was done in the 1990s, but nothing major.
The building has been vacant since 2010, when CS13 occupied the space. Before that, it was a bar called The Cabaret. Both tenants only used the first two floors of the four-story building. When Feghali purchased the building in 2012, the fourth floor didn’t have heat and the plaster was peeling off of the walls.
Even though the Cogswell will have new office and conference space, all of the original detailing was kept intact, including the doors, trim, windows and floors. The first floor will have conference rooms available to those with offices in the building or members of the community who need meeting space for an hour or two, Feghali says.
The second and third floors will contain offices for individuals or small companies, and the fourth floor is now one room with open access for occupants of the building who need more room to spread out to do their work.
“I hope the building will bring more people to Sycamore,” Feghali says. “It’s a weird street, with only a few blocks of inhabited buildings. The Cogswell is on the corner, and you can see it from quite a distance.”
Feghali has a few tenants lined up, but she’s still looking to fill offices. If you’re interested in renting space in the Cogswell Building, contact her at p.feghali@gmail.com.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Louisville startup brings culture club to Cincinnati

The Original Makers Club is a fairly new startup from Louisville—it was founded in 2011 by photographer Josh Merideth— but it already has branches in Lexington, Cincinnati and Brooklyn. OMC is an aesthetically minded brand and publication that curates, highlights and looks to elevate the culture, society and local business scenes of cities.
“A few years ago, Louisville was going through a similar revitalization to Cincinnati’s current one, which makes it a prime time to celebrate local culture,” says Mike Brady, managing partner and events director of OMC.
Comprised of design-conscious, forward-thinking local businesses, Cincinnati’s branch of OMC has about 60 members, including A TavolaEnsemble TheatreSloan Boutique21c Museum Hotel3CDCSmart Fish Studio5 Dot DesignBakersfield OTRPaolo Modern JewelersJapps4EGMiCaTaste of BelgiumDIGS and Jaguar Land Rover.
“We are less about adding anything than we are about showcasing the culture and talent that exists here,” Brady says. “We want to insure that those visiting the city get a real taste of her. We also wish that those currently living in Cincinnati are experiencing it to the fullest.”
On Feb. 8, OMC is hosting its launch event for the Cincinnati branch. Members of OMC will be providing appetizers, drinks, music and neat things to look at—including A Tavola, 5 Dot Design, Marti’s Floral DesignsParlourChristian MoerleinMatthew Metzger and Jaguar Land Rover.
Besides the launch event, OMC is working on creating a mural with help from Artworks and hopes to co-host larger events like a Dinner Series, which would showcase member chefs and entertain a group of people in an exotic location in or near the city, Brady says.
There are only a handful of tickets available for the launch event for non-OMC members, so get them while you can.
By Caitlin Koenig
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dunnhumby to occupy lot at Fifth and Race streets

The property at Fifth and Race streets has seen its fair share of change in the past 14 years. Plans for a Nordstrom, a skyscraper, even condos came and went. The parking lot stayed. But by December 2014, the new dunnhumby Centre will occupy the space.
Construction began on Jan. 31 on the nine-story, $122 million building that will house the branding giant’s headquarters. When completed, the project will include a three-level parking garage with 1,000 parking spaces; 30,000 square feet of retail space; and 280,000 square feet of dunnhumby office space.
Building plans boast lots of open space and glass windows, plus a wide staircase that will allow for more interaction between employees and less time at their desks.
In the future, dunnhumby can expand downward by taking over the parking garage, if needed.
dunnhumby currently has about 650 employees, and it plans to grow to more than 1,000 by 2018, which is one of the reasons for the new building. Also, the current dunnhumby headquarters is in the right-of-way for the proposed new Brent Spence Bridge, says Ann Keeling, public relations representative for dunnhumby.
Turner Construction Company is building dunnhumby Centre; it’s funded by new market tax credits, 3CDC-managed corporate loan money, and state and conventional loans.
By Caitlin Koenig
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More bike lanes, early planning for cycle track highlight city's Bike Plan

Some of the city's biggest bike-related projects in the works for 2013 are still in the planning stages, but a few will continue and build on the momentum from last year. 

This year, the city's Bicycle Transportation Program includes plans to finish more than two miles of bike lanes along Riverside Drive, a project that was started in 2009. Plans are also in the works to extend the Spring Grove bike lanes from Hopple to Bank Street downtown; proposals have been drafted for rehabilitation projects along Dalton Street, Bank, Western Avenue and Langdon Farm Road. 

The City also hopes to continue its design work on the Ohio River Trail, extending bike-friendly paths from Salem Street to Sutton Road and Collins Avenue to Corbin Street.
The City is also in the early stages of looking to put Ohio’s first cycle track on Central Parkway between Ludlow Avenue and Liberty Street. “Cycle tracks aren’t mainstream yet, but New York City and Washington, D.C., have quite a few,” says Melissa McVay, senior city planner in the Division of Transportation & Engineering. “They’re the most family-friendly bike facility you can build.”
A cycle track is like a bike trail or shared path, but it’s in the street, for bikes only and separated from cars by a physical barrier, such as planters, trees or a curb. Cycle tracks are meant to keep cars from veering into bicyclists’ paths.
“A typical bike lane is usually enough to encourage cyclists to try them, but sometimes, they don’t make everyone feel comfortable,” says McVay. “The physical barrier of a cycle track is meant to make cyclists feel safe.” 

One of the most exciting developments for bicyclists last year was the addition of a green bike lane on Ludlow last year. “It started the conversation among people who don’t ride bikes, and they’re beginning to see the infrastructure,” McVay says. “I feel like the bike community has grown, and there is now a growing city-wide awareness.”

Approved by the City in 2009 and put into action in 2010, the Bike Plan outlines bicycle-related projects over the next 15 years. In all, the plan recommends 445 miles of on-street and off-street bike facilities, such as bike lanes, bike racks and multi-use trails.
In 2009, there were about seven miles of bike lanes and sharrows in Cincinnati, says McVay. In 2010, 2.3 miles were added; in 2011, 4.5 miles; in 2012, five more miles were added, for a total of 19 miles.
Since 1993, many bike-friendly projects have been implemented, including striping 12 miles of bike lanes, creating 21 miles of shared-use paths and trails and installing six miles of sharrows, or shared lane markings, throughout the city.
The bulk of the Bicycle Transportation Program's focus is on developing on-street and off-street bike facilities as outlined in the Bike Plan, but it also organizes bike-related events, proposing policy and zoning changes, and working on advocacy projects with Queen City Bike and Mobo Bicycle Co-op.
The public played a huge part in developing the Bike Plan by utilizing online tools to show the City where bike facilities were needed.
Even though there has been an outpouring of public support for bike facilities, there are still issues when it comes to removing parking. The City proposed a project along Spring Grove Avenue this past summer that would consolidate on-street parking to one side of the street, but businesses liked having parking available on both sides of the street.
“The project will be successful if the community comes together and rallies around the project, and the trade-off of on-street parking for a bike lane will ultimately benefit both business owners and bicyclists,” McVay says.

The City wants to hear from you! Take the survery and grade Cincinnati on different bike-friendly aspects around town.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Happy Chicks' at-home bakers offer vegan goods

The idea for Happy Chicks Bakery began in Jessica Bechtel’s kitchen. She and Jana Douglass, 31, have been friends and colleagues for about 10 years, and over those years, they’ve made many batches of cookies together. Since they love to bake and are both vegans, the pair figured they could make it into a business.
Douglass and Bechtel started Happy Chicks, a vegan bakery, in April of last year. Happy Chicks doesn’t have a storefront, but they sell their products wholesale to Park+Vine and the Family Enrichment Center in Northside. In the summer, Happy Chicks has a booth at the Northside and Madeira farmers markets. Bechtel and Douglass also do custom orders and cater special events.
“Our goal is to have a storefront in the next few years,” says Bechtel, 33. “We’re trying to do the business without taking out loans. When the time comes, we’ll probably look for a space downtown.” 

Happy Chicks is also in the process of looking for other wholesale opportunities to help expand their business.
Happy Chicks makes cakes, cupcakes, cookies, macaroons, pies, scones, muffins, a vegan croissant, breakfast roll and coffee cake; the breakfast items are popular at both Park+Vine and the Family Enrichment Center, Bechtel says.
The black raspberry chocolate chip cookie is a top-seller, as are the tiramisu and caramel chocolate stout cakes. They also offer seasonal-flavored treats, such as the Snowball, which is a coconut cupcake topped with coconut frosting and filled with a cranberry sauce.
All of the bakery’s goodies are dairy and egg-free, and most of the recipes are also soy-free. Many can be made gluten and nut-free, too.
Need to satisfy your sweet tooth before Valentine’s Day? Visit Happy Chicks at Sweet Victory, a wedding dessert tasting and cake-decorating contest, Feb. 6 at Cooper Creek Event Center. Or get tickets to Cupcakes & Cocktails, a ladies-only event that benefits the Eve Center, Feb. 8.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Metro-Zipcar partnership boosts car sharing in Cincinnati

The European notion of car sharing has found broad appeal around the world because of its environmental and economic sustainability. In December, the City of Cincinnati brought Zipcar to downtown to make commuting easier.

Metro and Zipcar then formed a partnership. It's an ideal selling point because using one or both of the transportation services is environmentally conscious, saves money and gives people the freedom to get up and go. It’s a win-win for Metro and Zipcar.

Zipcar, a business with a mission to create a future where car-sharing members outnumber car owners, offers a self-service alternative to car rental. Intended for the technologically savvy commuter, Zipcar members log in online or through the mobile app, see where vehicles are located, choose one and unlock the car by holding their Zipcard against the windshield. 

Its successful rollout on the University of Cincinnati’s campus last year prompted Larry Falkin, director of the City’s Office of Environmental Quality, to bring the program to Over-the-Rhine and downtown. 

Kim Lahman, Metro’s ridership development manager, says that using both Metro and Zipcars eliminates excuses that not owning a car limits commuters’ ability to travel when and where they need to.

“We thought this was a great opportunity to say, ‘If you ride the Metro downtown and don’t have to worry about parking or the hassle of traffic, and you need a car to use during the day, all you would need to do is take a Zipcar,’” Lahman says. “You would have it out for an hour or a couple of hours, and then take it back to the lot and go back to your office. How convenient would that be?”

Walking from your downtown apartment or office to somewhere close by, like Garfield Place, would be very convenient for many urban dwellers. According to Falkin, 20 percent of Cincinnati households do not own a car, or own less than one car per licensed driver. 

“More and more of us are choosing a sustainable lifestyle, in which we walk or bike first, use transit as the second choice and drive as a last resort,” Falkin explains. “Using Metro and Zipcar, a person can go anywhere, anytime, without being burdened by car ownership.”

“It can also save money,” says Jill Dunne, Metro public affairs manager. “If you’re riding Metro, you’re saving money, versus the gas and the parking expenses you would pay if you had your own car. And then if you’re able to give up that car payment and you pay per trip the fee for a Zipcar, that could really save you a lot.”

The partnership also means that Metro riders get a special incentive to register and become “Zipsters.” Besides already saving money on gas and parking, Metro riders can expect to see interior advertisement cards in February from Zipcar with a discount code redeemable for up to $60 worth of free Zipcar rental.

Zipcars are parked next to blue signs that say “City of Cincinnati Car Share Parking Spots.” 

Current locations are:
  • NW corner of 12th and Vine (on the north side of 12th Street)
  • Court Street between Walnut and Vine (angled parking spaces)
  • NW corner of Garfield and Race (on the north side of Garfield Place)
To join or for more information, visit Zipcar's website

By Mildred Fallen

Babushka Pierogies brings Eastern European staple to Cincinnati

Sarah Dworak and Iwona Przybysz started Babushka Pierogies in July 2012 with a vegan pierogi tasting at Park+Vine. At the same time, they gave a sample of their traditional potato and cheese pierogi to  Findlay Market favorites Bryan and Carolyn Madison, who liked them and agreed to sell them at their store.
Both Dworak, who is of Ukrainian, Croatian and Polish descent, and Przybysz, who is from Poland, learned to make pierogies from their babushkas—their grandmothers. Their pierogi recipe is a combination of their family recipes, Dworak says.
Currently, Dworak and Przybysz make pierogies in a kitchen in Glendale, then deliver them to Findlay Market and Park+Vine. When the weather permits, Babushka Pierogies also hold pierogi tastings outside of Madison’s at Findlay Market on Saturdays.
They only spend two days per week in the kitchen, making about 500 pierogies in that time. Dworak and Przybysz are the only official employees, but Dworak’s boyfriend, Josh Mrvelj, helps out whenever he can. He designed their logo and fries up the pierogies at Findlay Market during tastings.
Babushka Pierogies is looking for a storefront near Findlay Market, Dworak says. They also want to expand the number of stores that sell their products.  
“The store will allow us to offer more varieties of pierogies, in addition to other Eastern European foods we love, such as borchst; halushki, a cabbage and noodle dish; and stuffed cabbage,” she says.
Babushka Pierogies sells a potato, cheese and onion pierogi; a potato and sauerkraut pierogi and a vegan potato, cheese and onion pierogi. The potato and cheese and potato and sauerkraut pierogies are $5 per half dozen, and the vegan pierogies are $5.75 per half dozen.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Three OTR apartment complexes get funds for fresh rehab

Three apartment complexes in Over-the-Rhine recently received tax credit money through the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit program. Losantiville Apartments, Pendleton Apartments and Abington Flats will soon yield 104 apartments and more than 12,000 square feet of retail space.
Two buildings located at 521-523 E. 12th Street are to be rehabbed as part of the larger Losantiville Apartments project. According to the Ohio Development Services Agency, the affordable housing project will include rehabilitating 14 buildings in four different neighborhoods in Cincinnati. The property on 12th Street will yield six residential units, and received $203,362 in tax credits.
Pendleton Apartments at 1108-1218 Broadway Street and 404-414 E. 12th Street received $2.6 million in tax credits for redevelopment. Eighty residential units and more than 12,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space will come out of the rehab project. Pendleton Apartments spans 17 historic buildings in the OTR National Register Historic District. The redevelopment is meant to serve working professionals who are employed at the new Horseshoe Casino downtown.
Located one block south of Findlay Market, Abington Flats was built in 1910 as a mixed-use residential and commercial space. After redevelopment, Abington Flats will continue to provide 18 rental apartments above first-level commercial space.
The projects in OTR received more than $3.3 million in tax credits. The three apartment buildings will add to the rejuvenation of OTR and bring in hundreds of new residents.
By Caitlin Koenig
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3CDC to begin renovating three buildings in Central Business District

More cosmetic changes will be coming to Cincinnati’s Central Business District in the opening months of 2013.
3CDC was awarded $1.8 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits to redevelop three buildings at the intersection of Third and Main streets. The Heister Building (308 Main), the Brockman Building (312 Main) and the Clark Machine Company Building (316 Main) have been vacant for quite some time. They were once planned for demolition for new-build office space, but those plans fell through.
Early in 2012, 3CDC acquired the three buildings and began to draw up plans for their future. The new project will include 10 to 15 condos and 5,000 to 10,000-square-feet of street-level commercial space, says Anastasia Mileham, VP of communications for 3CDC.
“The tax credit program is a wonderful program that allows us to do projects that we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise,” Mileham says.
The 3CDC development is one of seven preservation projects in the Cincinnati area. The projects were awarded a total of $9 million in tax credits from the Ohio Development Services Agency through the state’s historic preservation program. The Cincinnati projects received about 25 percent of the total $35.9 million of tax credit money that was distributed to projects throughout the state in the program’s ninth round of funding.
The other Cincinnati projects include Losantiville Apartments, Abington Flats and Pendleton Apartments in OTR; the conversion of Eden Park’s pump station into a tap room and brewery; the redevelopment of three historic buildings in Walnut Hills; and the renovation of Hamilton’s, old newspaper building, which will become a multi-use education center.
By Caitlin Koenig
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PizzaBomba opens storefront in Covington

PizzaBomba, a Northern Kentucky food truck, is no longer just on four wheels. As of Dec. 26, PizzaBomba opened its doors to its permanent location on E. Fifth Street in Covington. Both the food truck and the store serve New York-style pizza, made with homemade dough and sauces and local ingredients.
PizzaBomba’s owner, Bill Stone, put himself through college bartending and waiting tables at a high-end Italian restaurant in Rochester, NY. He’s also worked in Cincinnati restaurants and been trained in food and beverage management.
Stone and his partner Terri Wilson, who helps with PizzaBomba when she can, began their food truck last March 30. After their fast success, a storefront seemed like the next logical step, says Stone.
If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, the Load of BS pizza is topped with homemade pizza sauce, Brussels sprout leaves, bacon and ricotta cheese. PizzaBomba also serves salads, sandwiches (atop homemade bread) and pasta skillets. Customers keep coming back for the Bangin’ Elvis sandwich, which is topped with creamy Thai peanut butter, pepper jelly and bacon, says Stone.
Stone currently employs four people, and once PizzaBomba’s POS system is completely up and running, they’ll start delivery service to Covington, Newport, Bellevue, downtown Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine to Liberty Street. PizzaBomba is still waiting on its beer-only license from the state, but they’ll soon serve local brews and a few higher-end microbrews.
The restaurant is open Tuesday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. If you’re looking for the food truck, make sure to follow PizzaBomba on Facebook and Twitter to find its daily location.
By Caitlin Koenig
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New residential and commercial developments in OTR

Eight of the nine spaces in Bakery Lofts, the historic 1421-23 Race St.building just a half block from Washington Park, are already on "hold," according to developer 3CDC, as interest in and development around living spaces in Over-the-Rhine continues its brisk pace.

3CDC is currently working on a three-phase, $62 million project that encompasses two city blocks on 14th Street between Vine and Walnut, says Anastasia Mileham, communications director for 3CDC. Included in the Mercer Commons project are 19 historic building renovations and new construction on 26 vacant pieces of land.
The project will ultimately contain 96 market-rate apartments, 30 affordable apartments, 28 condominiums, 17,600 square feet of commercial space and 359 parking spaces, says Mileham.
The first phase of development began on June 30—it will yield a 340-space parking garage; 11 condos housed in four historic rehabs on Mercer, which will open in March 2013; a mixed-use building on Vine that will have 12 condos and 3,900 square feet of commercial space; and Mercer Townhomes, with five living units. The mixed-use building and the townhomes are slated to open in September 2013.
Phase 2 includes 13 historic rehabs that will house 46 mixed-income apartments, 6,000 square feet of commercial space and a mixed-income building on Walnut with 21 apartments and 4,600 square feet of commercial space. Phase 3 of the project includes two historic building rehabs with eight apartments; eight new construction, three-story townhomes with 16 apartments; and a new building with 35 apartments, 3,100 square feet of commercial space and 19 parking spaces.
One of the highlights of the project is the affordable housing that will be available. It’s also the first of its kind with a mixed-income building.
“We worked really hard to get low-income tax credits for affordable housing,” Mileham says. “It was difficult because OTR is saturated with low-income tax credits and vacant housing. We wanted to show the community that you can have affordable units that at the same time are nice.”
The new development in OTR will help create a walkable community with residential, commercial and office space all in one area. It will also help rejuvenate yet another part of the neighborhood.
In all, 3CDC has completed four phases of development in OTR, including 186 condos and 91,000 square feet of commercial space. All but three of those condos have sold and about 90 percent of the commercial space is leased. 3CDC also has seven other projects around OTR, with 65 condos, 23 apartments and 17,900 square feet of commercial space. 

By Caitlin Koenig
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10 bars in 10 years: 4EG debuts Igby's this month

With 10 restaurants and bars launched in 10 years, and more set to open soon, Four Entertainment Group (4EG) continues its successful run with Igby’s downtown, at 122 E. Sixth Street in between Main and Walnut streets.

4EG founders Bob Deck, Dave Halpern, Dan Cronican and Ben Klopp have two spaces reserved in the new U Square development in Clifton, one of which will be the group’s third Keystone Grill (other locations are in Covington and Hyde Park) and an adjacent bar.

“I think Cincinnati’s just moving in the right direction,” says Deck. “I grew up here, so, just seeing the city change over the last, you know, six or seven years, with all the independent restaurants and all the independent owners, it’s pretty cool.”
Deck and his partners cemented their commitment to the city by opening a central business office in Over-the-Rhine, across the street from The Anchor-OTR restaurant and above Zula, a bistro and wine bar slated to open soon.

“We moved our offices down here because we’re invested in the city,” Deck says. “We didn’t have a central office, so we thought, ‘Hey what better place than to put our offices down in OTR, and support the whole area and movement.’”

Just across downtown, Igby’s represents 4EG’s collaboration with Core Resources, Beck Architecture and 3CDC. Think its name sounds mysterious? That’s the point.

“We called it Igby’s because we really wanted to come up with a name that didn’t really give you any idea of what the bar would be before you walked in,” Deck says
“We’re really designing this bar around good beer, and good wine and good craft, fresh cocktails,” Deck says.

Open Monday through Saturday, Igby’s weekends ramp up the energy by opening its second and third floor open up and featuring a DJ.

The space itself is huge—approximately 7,500 square feet. The Civil War era building posed challenges, but developers persevered through massive restoration work to create a wood-filled, modern and hyper-stylized space. Igby’s atrium features balconies around each level so that patrons can look up or down onto the other floors. Igby’s also has an outdoor patio with a lounge.

Cincinnati Chef Lauren Brown has a five-item menu, featuring oysters, sodabread and cheese and even seasonal salads, that is served from 4 to 10 pm. “It’s really meant to accompany people coming in and having some drinks,” Deck says. “It’s all very high-quality and fresh, and everything we can source locally, we try to source locally. It’s hard to source West Coast oysters locally, though.”

All of the juices for the extensive cocktail list are also fresh. Mixologist Brian Van Flandern from New York created the craft cocktail menu, which includes the bourbon-tinged Black Cherry Sling (with a kick of nutmeg), the Apple Toddler, which has Gerber Apple baby food in it, and locally themed drinks like RedsRum and Naked in Newport. Igby’s has 16 beers on tap, including craft beers, imported bottles and cans.

By Stephanie Kitchens
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