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3CDC plans more housing and retail for OTR

Over the next two years, new construction and redevelopment of a number of existing buildings will yield more than 60 new living units and 37,500 square feet of retail along Race Street between 15th and Liberty streets. This will be one of 3CDC’s largest projects in Over-the-Rhine, second only to Mercer Commons.
The 2.2-acre development will be built in seven different phases and be residential-based, making it a bit different from the bar and restaurant scene 3CDC developed on Vine Street.
Phase 1: A new three-story building along Race Street will contain 17 units and 4,500 square feet of retail. The one- and two-bedroom apartments will be between 1,000-1,300 square feet, and the retail spaces will be split between two or three businesses. Construction is slated to begin in July, with completion next summer.
Phase 2: A one- to two-story commercial addition at 1505 Race will yield four condos on the upper floors.  

Phase 3: Originally 3CDC envisioned a parking garage within the block, but the newest plans include a surface parking lot with 34 spaces behind the development, with an entrance from 15th Street.
Phase 4: There will also be 10 or 11 townhomes with private parking plus four condos in the 1500 block of Pleasant Street. These will be geared more toward families and will be mostly new construction.
Phase 5: On Race Street, a historic rehab will yield 27 affordable housing units and 7,000 square feet of commercial space. Model Group and Cornerstone Renter Equity are partners on this portion of the development and will be applying for low-income housing tax credits as well as historic tax credits.
Phases 6 & 7: The empty lot on Liberty between Pleasant and Race will be spruced up as surface parking for now and could host new development in the future. The vacant Elm Industries space on Race will also be renovated into 22,000 square feet of commercial space.

April 19 Beyond the Curb event to highlight NKy's urban core

Northern Kentucky’s river cities of Bellevue, Covington, Dayton, Ludlow and Newport are experiencing urban revival as new residents, businesses and visitors flock there, creating a need for more urban residences and creative workplaces.
Jeanne Schroer, president and CEO of The Catalytic Fund, wants to help accelerate the momentum of that urban renaissance.

“There is more to be done, but so much progress has been made,” she says. “It’s time for residents throughout the Greater Cincinnati region to visit Northern Kentucky’s urban cities and see the revitalized and new places to live, to work and to visit.”
On April 19 The Catalytic Fund is hosting “Beyond the Curb,” a one-day event with self-guided urban-living tours of 12 properties in Covington to highlight the city’s bicentennial, COV200. Beyond the Curb moves to Newport in late September, and eventually The Catalytic Fund plans to have events in all five of their target area cities.
“There have been historic home tours in the past in Covington, Newport and Over-the-Rhine, but as far as we know this event is the first of its kind, an urban living tour for the region,” says Tara Ford of The Catalytic Fund.
Beyond the Curb provides people from all over the region the chance to see what urban living is all about as well as introduce them to the uniqueness of each city and the amenities it provides. In order to appeal to everyone, the event will feature a mix of property types and price points.
“This is a rare opportunity to go ‘beyond the curb’ into 12 very different residential, mixed-use and co-working environments and surrounding amenities,” Ford says.
Featured Covington neighborhoods include:

• Historic Licking Riverside/Roebling Point: Roebling Row, 240 Greenup St.; The Ascent at Roebling’s Bridge, 1 Roebling Way; and Boone Block, 402-422 Scott Blvd.

• Pike Street Corridor: Braxton Brewing Company, 27 W. Seventh St.; Mutual Building, 629 Madison Ave.; Pike Star, 112 W. Pike St.; Market Lofts, 209-211 W. Pike St.; 220 Pike St.; and Pulse Lofts, 832-842 Banklick St.

• MainStrasse Village: The Firehouse, 827 Main St.; 422 W. Seventh St.; and Platform 53, 503 W. Sixth St.
Free parking will be available along the tour route, and there will be event-day coupons from local businesses and a raffle. To purchase tickets ($15 early bird, $20 day-of), visit www.beyondthecurb.eventbrite.com. Day-of registration is 10 a.m.-3 p.m. April 19 at Braxton Brewing, and Beyond the Curb begins at 4 p.m.
“For those not yet acquainted with Northern Kentucky’s urban assets, we believe you’ll like what you see,” Ford says.

Historic MainStrasse buildings to see new life

Thanks to Model Group and Welcome House, 13 buildings in Covington's MainStrasse Village will undergo historic renovations.
Renovations will be done in two phases, with the first phase slated for completion by the end of next year. The project was awarded about $700,000 in federal low-income housing tax credits through the Kentucky Housing Corporation, and that money will be applied to 801 and 803 Main St.; 710-712 Greer Ave.; and 257, 301 and 315 W. Seventh St.
All properties are residential, except 801 Main, which will remain a commercial space.
The remaining five buildings will receive additional tax credits in 2016. The entire project will also be eligible for historic tax credits, as the Model Group is planning full historic renovations of each building. When the project is complete, the current number of low-income housing rentals will be reduced from 53 to 41 to allow for larger living spaces.
The Welcome House, a Covington-based social services agency, wants to develop more affordable housing opportunities for single parents. And Model Group is aiming to make low-income housing indistinguishable from market-rate apartments.
Construction will begin on the project as soon as the tax credits are closed on in early December. The Welcome House is already overseeing the properties, though.  

Price Hill Will receives grant for neighborhood revitalization efforts

Price Hill Will received a grant from Wells Fargo March 18 through the NeighborhoodLIFT program to help expand its revitalization efforts in the Cedar Grove area of West Price Hill.
The $500,000 grant will help support Price Hill Will’s Buy-Improve-Sell program, which purchases homes in the neighborhood, rehabilitates them and then sells them to prospective homebuyers.
Apart from the grant, Price Hill Will has invested more than $15 million over the past eight years to rehab residential properties. A significant portion of this amount, $3.5 million, has gone to rehabbing 30 homes in the Cedar Grove area.  
Price Hill Will recently rehabilitated 45 single-family houses in Price Hill as well as removed a long-vacant mixed-use building that sat on a key neighborhood corner.
The NeighborhoodLIFT program, which was established last fall, is a $5.2 million local effort to help provide 235 eligible homebuyers with $15,000 in downpayment assistance grants. Wells Fargo is collaborating with the City of Cincinnati, Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati and NeighborhoodWorks America on the program.
To date, 26 homeowners have received the grant, with a number of prospective homebuyers in the process of receiving the grant and completing a homebuyer education program with the Home Ownership Center.

Revisiting recently opened and still-to-come restaurants

Over the past several months, the Soapbox Development News section has covered a large number of restaurants and breweries planning to open all over the region. We thought it was time to provide updates on these new businesses as well as when you can hope to visit those that aren’t quite ready to launch yet. (Links go to our original Development News coverage of each business.)
Arcade Legacy
3929 Spring Grove Ave., Northside
The bar and vintage arcade concept plans to open its doors in April.
Braxton Brewing
27 W. Seventh St., Covington
The grand opening is at 5 p.m. March 27. There will be four beers on tap, including their flagship Storm Golden Cream Ale and Juniper Hoppy Wheat Ale. Neltner Small Batch will reveal their largest indoor installation, two local bands will be playing, and guests will be able to tour the brewery.
6 W. 14th St., OTR
The Columbus-based pretzel shop opened its second location in September, offering everything from your traditional salted pretzel to more unique, seasonal creations. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday & Wednesday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
E+O Kitchen
3520 Edwards Road, Hyde Park
The Asian restaurant, opening in the former Dancing Wasabi space, doesn’t have a grand opening timeline.
The Gruff
129 E. Second St., Covington
The grocer, deli and brick oven pizza restaurant opened on Jan. 14. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday & Saturday.
Krueger’s Tavern
1211 Vine St., OTR
The owners of the Bakersfield and The Eagle opened the American-style restaurant, which is known for its house-made sausages and 100 cans of beer, in December. Hours: 4 p.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday & Saturday.
Macaron Bar
1206 Main St., OTR
The city's only bakery dedicated to macarons opened Dec. 12. Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
O Pie O
DeSales Corner, Walnut Hills
The sweet and savory pie shop is shooting to open in May. Until then, their pies are available each weekend at Findlay Market.
Off the Vine
1218 Vine St., OTR
The cold-pressed juice bar opened Nov. 17, offering to-go juices and take-home cleanses. Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends.
Revolution Rotisserie & Bar
1106 Race St., OTR
Featuring free range chicken and all-American sides, the restaurant opened March 2. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday & Saturday.
Tap & Screw Brewery
5060 Crookshank Road, Westwood
The Westside restaurant changed its name, revamped its menu and added a brewery, reopening Dec. 19. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Monday-Sunday.
Tillie’s Lounge
4042 Hamilton Ave., Northside
The turn-of-the-century bar’s grand opening is set for March 19. Hours: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday-Sunday.
World Cup
4023 Hamilton Ave., Northside
Owner Alex Kuhns is working with new partners on his sports-themed international restaurant. He plans to open by the end of the year, but an exact date remains up in the air.
The food truck that will serve dishes from the former Cincinnati favorite Zino’s is still finalizing locations where it will serve and could possibly open a brick-and-mortar space, too.

93-year-old Baker Hunt Center undergoing expansion, renovation

By next year’s “Twilight in the Gardens” event, the 93-year-old Baker Hunt Art & Cultural Center will have undergone a $2.5 million expansion and renovation. The plans were presented to the City of Covington’s design review board in late February but haven’t been put before the board for approval yet.
The Baker Hunt was founded in 1922 by Margaretta Baker Hunt, a Covington arts, education and religious activist. The adjacent Scudder mansion is also part of the property and once belonged to Baker Hunt’s niece, Kate Scudder. A 1920s auditorium and studio space round out the 3.5-acre campus.

The Baker Hunt offers arts and cultural classes for children and adults, serving about 2,700 students in the Tristate each year. Classes include painting, drawing, photography, ceramics, quilting, language, dance and yoga for all ages and skill levels.
All four existing buildings on the Baker Hunt property will be renovated, and there will be some new construction as well. A ramp and elevator will be added in order to make the main building more accessible, and a new front entrance will allow the Baker Hunt to be more accessible from Greenup Street.
New structures will be added around the campus as well as a modern glass-walled “functional sculpture” that will serve as a space for various activities.
Along with the physical renovations, the Baker Hunt is also improving its curriculum and adding more teachers.
GBBN Architects will be heading up the renovation. Some of the necessary funding is already in place, and the Baker Hunt plans fundraising activities for the rest.

"Twilight in the Gardens" is a yearly celebration of art, food and music and is held in the gardens on the Baker Hunt property in the fall. Stay tuned to Baker Hunt's website for event details, including date, time and participating restaurants.

New brewery focusing on dark beers coming to Northern Kentucky

When Eric Bosler moved to Bellevue about 15 years ago, he missed the Colorado beer scene he knew and loved from his childhood. So he and fellow homebrewer Ron Sanders decided it was time to start their own brewery.
Bosler has worked in a number of local bars and restaurants over the years, and Sanders has a sales and marketing background. The pair liked the idea of a neighborhood brewery.

"I live in Bellevue, currently work at Virgil's Cafe and see a need here and in Northern Kentucky for such a place," Bosler says. "We want it to be welcoming to all types of people and give Bellevue somewhere to walk to and get a good pint."
Darkness Brewing will focus on dark beer — stouts, porters and browns — because Bosler and Sanders love dark beer. There will be some surprises, too, like a dark beer that tastes like a light beer. Bosler and Sanders plan to start with five or six styles for in-house sales only, with featured guest taps as well. Darkness will also offer lighter options, like a wheat or an IPA, in order to broaden their appeal.
The brewery will be in a 4,200-square-foot industrial-style space that was originally a car lot and showroom at 224 Fairfield Ave. The front part of the building will be the public taproom, and Bosler and Sanders will brew in the back. The taproom will offer to-go growlers, and there will be games and an outdoor space.
The interior will have an open, industrial feel with exposed rafters and duct work, as well as a stage for live music. There won’t be a food menu, but customers can bring in food from local restaurants.
Bosler and Sanders will be starting a Kickstarter campaign in the next few months to help them raise the remaining funds needed to open Darkness Brewing in September.

Gabriel's Place seeks grant support for Avondale community health initiatives

Gabriel’s Place recently applied for a $25,000 grant from Convergys in order to further its community health initiatives in Avondale. Convergys' Corporate Social Responsibility program centers around issues that impact the community, such as workforce development and skills training, health and wellness, housing, transportation, financial literacy, child care and food security.

"We were introduced to Gabriel's Place during our United Way Service Day," says Karen Ryan, Convergys' director of government and community affairs. "We admired their commitment to not only feeding their neighbors but also their desire to educate and provide for others."

Avondale is considered a food desert, which means that there is no fresh food retailer or grocery store in the neighborhood. Instead, there are lots of fast food restaurants, corner stores and mini-marts. Residents in food deserts generally have poor health outcomes, including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and preterm births.
Gabriel’s Place served over 8,000 plated meals in 2014 through its Share a Meal program. On Tuesdays, the community comes together for a donation-based, restaurant-style meal designed by a chef and prepared at Gabriel’s Place using fresh ingredients. Volunteer nurses are also on hand to perform health screenings during the meal.
There’s also a Thanksgiving Share a Meal event called ThankFALL, which served over 250 people in 2014. The meal is locally sourced and focuses on food and health education.
Share a Meal is designed to help start conversations about food, health and heritage. It helps people make healthier choices, and facilitates skills-based learning in the kitchen so Avondale residents can learn to cook and share skills while preparing a weekly meal together. Yes, Gabriel’s Place is always looking for volunteers to help prepare and serve at Share a Meal events.
Gabriel’s Place also hosts a weekly farmers market on Thursdays at 4-6 p.m. The majority of the fresh produce sold at the market is grown in the organization’s garden or provided by Pic’s Produce and ranges from $.25 to $2. The farmers market is the only fresh food retailer currently in Avondale.
In conjunction with the farmers market, there are plans to offer interactive cooking demonstrations featuring seasonal ingredients. Residents will have the chance to cook alongside a chef, taste-test snacks and take recipes home.
Gabriel’s Place also offers two cooking classes. The first is the Jr. Chef Institute, a free eight-week summer culinary education program that's open to high school students who have a passion for food or an interest in pursuing a career in the culinary arts. The program creates a pipeline to the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State and helps prepare kids for jobs in the food industry.

The other cooking class, which is still in the works, will be an eight-week skills-based class that features a basic cooking curriculum designed by Gabriel’s Place. This class will not only teaches the basics but also designed to focus on different aspects of cooking, including healthy meals and meals on a budget.
There are also plans to partner with the Hirsch Recreation Center to host dinner theater vignettes with neighborhood performers to showcase Avondale's talent as well as connect residents in a new way.

Walnut Hills aims for better overall community health with gardens, events

Childhood obesity, and obesity in general, is a growing problem in Walnut Hills. In order to help combat the problem, Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation (WHRF) partnered with numerous organizations to develop a number of community health and wellness initiatives.
When Betty Waite was brought on full-time as the organization's CFO, she wanted to organize a community garden in the neighborhood. Over the past year she's helped activate two large community gardens and has two more planned for 2015.
The two existing community gardens were designed primarily to provide food for the Open Door Pantry at the Church of the Advent and Walnut Hills Food Kitchen, and there are two community members who have personal plots.
“The main purpose is to grow things for the hungry and to build the community around this common goal,” Waite says.
The Concord Street Community Garden has room for a total of 75 raised beds — there are currently 25 raised beds in the garden, and Waite says this year they will add 25 more. Volunteers grow everything from peppers and tomatoes to herbs and a variety of greens, including kale and collards. The garden also has two beehives, and viney plants like beans and cucumbers grow up the existing barbed wire topped fence.
Volunteers are trying to upcycle whenever possible — they built a retention pond from used tires found during a neighborhood cleanup, and the seven compost bins were built from pallets. A patio was constructed from bricks gathered from neighborhood demolition sites, and this year there are plans to construct a small greenhouse from used windows.
Last year, a total of 2,000 volunteer hours were logged in the community gardens. Volunteers come from groups all over the neighborhood, including the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, which organized a group of 10 children to take a class at the Civic Garden Center and then volunteer 16 hours a week for eight weeks in the community gardens; Elevate Walnut Hills; GO Cincinnati; and Keep Cincinnati Beautiful.
In 2015, Waite hopes to plant an urban orchard in one of the number of vacant lots in the neighborhood, which will help supply fresh fruit. She also plans to construct a children’s garden across the street from Frederick Douglass School, made possible by a $1,500 grant from the Community Leaders Institute.
Another gardening effort is coming in the form of edible landscaping in two pots in Walnut Hills’ business district. Waite says sweet potatoes, sweet peppers and rainbow Swiss chard will be planted in the pots.
“We’re going to plant the edibles and see what happens,” she says. “We also plan to plant some edible landscaping in a few of the neighborhood parks and see how that works in an urban setting.”
Walnut Hills’ other healthy initiative is Health & Wellness Wednesdays, which began at the end of January. The weekly event is funded through Interact for Health’s Thriving Communities grant.
Health & Wellness Wednesdays begin at 4:30 p.m. at the Dilllard Building (719 E. McMillan) and include free know-your-numbers health screenings, yoga classes for beginners and intermediate levels, cooking and nutrition classes, Healing Touch and chair massages, and urban gardening classes. The programs are geared for those 13 years of age and older, and each night is capped off with an unwinding session, which includes citrus-infused water and red wine for those of age.
“Studies show that one glass of red wine is good for your health,” Waite says. “We’re trying to cover all bases.”
Vitality, which teaches the event’s yoga classes, also offers yoga teacher training. Classes are normally upwards of $3,000, but through the grant classes are only $50, and yogis are expected to volunteer 100 hours in and around Walnut Hills (many volunteer at the community gardens).
“We’re really planting the seeds of yoga, and hopefully when the yogis are officially trained they’ll have classes all over Walnut Hills,” Waite says.
When the weather gets better, the Findlay Market Farmstand will be part of Health & Wellness Wednesdays, and the Go Vibrant walking routes throughout the neighborhood will yield a walking group. WHRF also plans to partner with Queen City Bike for biking groups.
Waite says they’re challenging the Walnut Hills community to do one million minutes of exercise in three months — that’s just 549 people doing 20 minutes of exercise per day.

As a neighborhood, Walnut Hills has a number of other healthy initiatives coming in the next year, so stay tuned!

Steinhaus owners choose Newport for second restaurant

Detlef Koeppe and Marcus Repp, owners of Steinhaus Restaurant in Florence, are planning to open their second venture, Factory, next month in Newport. Factory pays homage to the steel mills of both Newport and Germany but with a modern spin.
Repp came to the Cincinnati area in 2008 after receiving his Master Chef certification and spending time cooking in Germany, Moscow and the Caribbean. Koeppe has lived in the area since the early ’80s.
“This is very exciting for us,” Repp says. “We’ve done German food and beer, but this is new terrain for us.”
Koeppe and Repp wanted to do something different from Steinhaus, which focuses on German cuisine. So with Factory they’re bringing in other European influences such as Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Although the menu isn't finalized yet, Repp says it will be more like a coffee shop and wine bar, with growlers of beer to go as well.  
The 2,400-square-foot space located in the newly constructed Monmouth Row apartment complex. Back in Germany, Koeppe worked in a steel mill, as did Repp’s grandfather, and the inside of the restaurant will be reminiscent of the cantinas in the steel mills where workers go to relax and eat.
Concrete countertops, exposed duct work and a concrete floor give the restaurant an industrial feel, which carries into the kitchen, where diners can watch the cooks prepare food.
“We were looking for an up-and-coming area with lots of revitalization, and Newport, Monmouth especially, is in a sleep, and we have to wake it up and bring it back to what it used to be,” Repp says. “Eventually, maybe Monmouth will be like a European street, where you can eat, drink and shop all within walking distance.”
Not only do Koeppe and Repp want to bring a new, fresh space to Newport, but they want to attract people who are going across the river to Cincinnati to stay in Northern Kentucky. Repp says future plans for Factory might include live music and art displays on the walls.
“We want it to be a meeting place, not just for young people but for everyone,” he says.

Bar and vintage arcade concept opening soon in OTR

Over-the-Rhine will be home to a new type of bar concept when 16-Bit Bar + Arcade opens in the spring, combining beer and cocktails with vintage arcade games. The location at 1331 Walnut St. joins the flagship 16-Bit in Columbus, which opened in 2013, and a second that opened in August in Cleveland.
16-Bit will have over 50 vintage arcade games, including classics like Frogger, Galaga and Ms. Pacman, as well as late ‘80s and early ‘90s fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II. There will also be four-player games like The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and X-Men.
Owner Troy Allen spends a lot of time researching, finding and restoring games for 16-Bit. He plans to have more obscure games, too, including titles like Capper and Omega Race.
“We want to deliver the experience of when someone comes in, they’re stepping in and discovering something from their childhood,” he says. “We love when people come in and see a game they haven’t seen in years.”
The 4,000-square-foot space has three garage doors on the front that open onto the sidewalk in warmer weather. And as soon as customers walk inside, they’ll be transported back to the ’80s and ’90s by the music, décor, menus and movies on the TVs.
“It’s so much more than a bar or an arcade,” Allen says. “We want those visual cues that will take people back to remember a time in their childhood.”
OTR will also boast 16-Bit’s first dedicated console bar, an area at the front for console play on Atari 7200, Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Super Nintendo and all the way up to Xbox. Players will be able to choose from the arcade’s vast console library and play in dedicated tournaments for games like Mario Kart and Smash Bros.
On the bar side, 16-Bit will have 24 craft beer taps with local, Ohio and seasonal beers. It will also have your basic beer in cans as well as a two-sided cocktail menu. One side will have new-wave cocktails named after icons from the ‘80s and ‘90s (think Molly Ringwold and Cindy Lauper), while the other side will feature old-school classic cocktails, also named after icons from the ’80s and ’90s. "Poptails" will be featured in the summer — the Hulk Hogan is flavored vodka, lemonade and Sprite in a pint glass with a Bomb Pop.
16-Bit won’t charge a cover, and all games are free to play. Allen says that even though the quarter machines are disabled people still feed quarters to them because they like the nostalgia it brings.
And although 16-Bit is a bar first and is therefore 21 and over, Allen plans to have “Bring Your Shortie” days once a week, when all ages can come and play. The bar will also be available for special events and private parties.
“We want to give people the chance to introduce younger generations to these games,” he says.
Allen also owns a Columbus-based brand strategy and design firm where he launches businesses and brands for others. He started to look at the idea of 16-Bit from a business standpoint and realized that it would be a good test for his new company.
From the beginning, Allen had planned to launch five markets in three years, with Cincinnati in the running for the third or fourth market. He was approached by 3CDC in 2013 to bring the concept to OTR, where 16-Bit will anchor the second phase of the Mercer Commons development.
“I remember Over-the-Rhine as something completely different,” Allen says. “I came down about a year ago, and I couldn’t believe how much it and downtown had changed. From that moment, I was hooked.”
Once open, 16-Bit’s hours will be 4 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Monday-Friday and noon to 2:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

UC building to be renovated into research accelerator

The University of Cincinnati is renovating its former Campus Services Building, located at 2900 Reading Road, into a research accelerator. The $16 million project will be finished in about 18 months.
The new research accelerator will help encourage entrepreneurial innovation at UC by providing the space for UC-based startup companies. The first tenant has been announced, UC Research Institute, which is an independent nonprofit that helps attract local, national and international industries to then partner with faculty and students in sponsored research.
The 133,000-square-foot building was built in 1929 as a Sears, Roebuck and Co. department store. Over the years, UC housed a number of departments in it, but it was emptied and slated for demolition last year.
The two-story tower at the center of the building that in a previous life housed a water tank for the building’s fire suppression system will become office space. A 40,000-square-foot addition that was added in 1945 at the north end of the building will be demolished. A new elevator and stairway will be added along with new safety, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems.
Development will be done one floor at a time, and areas of the building will be finished to meet tenant specifications.
Funding was approved for the project last week, and it will receive $14 million in debt funding and $2 million in local funds.

Catering business expands, opens cafe at downtown library

Stephen Spyrou, whose brother is also a chef, grew up watching his parents and grandparents cook. The experience led him to pursue a culinary arts degree at the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State and then join the American Culinary Association of Cincinnati as the program director and now president.
He was working for Kroger when he realized he had a passion for catering, so Spyrou started Vertigo Catering in 2011. Now that business has expanded into a café at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County downtown.
“I realized that adding another avenue would help supplement day-to-day sales,” Spyrou says. “I looked into a variety of opportunities to do that, and the café popped up.”
Vertigo Café opened on Feb. 17 and serves a variety of soups, salads and sandwiches. It uses Boar’s Head meats and cheeses to create a sandwich of the week. The menu is a grab-and-go concept, but guests can also sit down and enjoy their meal in the café.
“There are lots of chain lunch places in the area, and we’re here to offer something more unique,” Spyrou says.
Vertigo is open from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Spyrou plans to continue catering as well and is excited about the exposure to new potential catering clients the café will bring him.

Clifton citizen group working to improve neighborhood

In October, Clifton Town Meeting, Clifton Business & Professional Association, Clifton 20/20 and Uptown Consortium commissioned Urban Fast Forward to do a comprehensive study of the Ludlow Avenue business district. The study, called Ludlow 21, revealed a list of suggested improvements in order to attract new residents and businesses to Clifton as well as retain current residents and businesses.
After the report came out, the neighborhood organizations knew they couldn’t let it sit on a shelf. So a new organization, the Ludlow 21 Working Group, was formed. The nine volunteers meet twice monthly and host monthly public meetings in order to keep residents and business owners talking about Clifton.
“We’re constantly thinking about what we can do to preserve the integrity of what we love about Clifton,” says Jan Brown Checco, member of the L21WG. “Cliftonites enjoy a high level of education and are employed by our universities, hospitals and city corporations. The neighborhood’s lively debates often make it feel like the international crossroads of Cincinnati, but this is what makes Clifton a desirable place to live, work and play. It’s also what makes the planning and communication work of L21WG challenging but essential.”
Clifton is known for its history but is in danger of becoming eclipsed by new developments near UC and in neighboring communities. L21WG’s goal is to freshen up the neighborhood and make it more interesting and attractive to residents and visitors.
The biggest question being discussed: What kinds of businesses do residents want to see?

Ludlow Avenue has become a European shopping experience, in that residents have access to everything they need ... except some things. One of those missing ingredients is a grocery store — the IGA was a Ludlow Avenue anchor for decades — but residents aren't necessarily pushing for a traditional 20,000-square-foot Kroger.
The Clifton Market campaign is in the midst of raising money to bring a co-op grocery store to the former IGA building. The campaign received an extension through mid-March, but if for some reason that doesn’t happen L21WG has an alternative plan in place for future development there.
Currently, there are no middle- to higher-end condos in the business district. Residents want to be able to walk out their front door and enjoy Clifton without having to drive or take the bus. Ideally, the three-acre IGA property and adjacent lot would become a mixed-used development, with condos and first-floor retail space as well as parking.
If the Clifton Market plan is successful, there would still be about two acres of land that could potentially be developed into condos by an as-yet-to-be-identified developer.
Other suggestions from the Ludlow 21 Report include regular programming for Clifton Plaza, attracting the right types of businesses for the business district and fresh storefront signage. Clifton is the recipient of Eye Candy Design’s Amp Award, which will provide free marketing services to the neighborhood. The award is given to one local and one national organization each year, and this year Clifton won the local award.
Eye Candy Design will develop a simple marketing plan for the neighborhood as well as a fresh brand and logo. A number of neighborhoods and cities are rebranding, including Covington, and most recently Newport announced that it's working on a rebranding plan. 
As a neighborhood, Clifton is focusing on new programming for Clifton Plaza, which is across the street from Graeter’s. Lydia Stec, owner of Om Eco Café, brings in live music on Friday and Saturday nights and helped attract a farmers market to the space, but L21WG wants to get residents involved too. 
“We’re working to convene residents in a way that invites them to action,” Brown Checco says. “Historically you had to own a business or be on the board of Clifton Town Meeting to have a say, but not any more.”

Partnerships help Madisonville get healthier

Two new programs are emerging from the Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation’s partnership with Interact for Health and Go Vibrant, as a 5K training program and walking routes will soon be part of the neighborhood’s effort to get out and get active.
MCURC and Interact for Health are creating a training program to help participants prepare for the neighborhood’s third annual 5K run/walk, scheduled for Sept. 12. The twice-weekly coordinated group walks and runs will be lead by experienced trainers and will start with 1-mile routes, with the distance gradually increasing throughout the summer.
Sessions are open to anyone who wishes to participate, which will allow people to exercise in a group setting with others from the neighborhood, with no experience required.  
MCURC hopes to increase the number of 5K participants from 140 to 240.
“We hope that the training program turns into a more permanent part of the neighborhood’s community life,” says Sara Sheets, executive director of MCURC. “It would be great to continue the walking and running groups after the 5K. We also hope we can grow the 5K ever year. We want to keep enticing more and more Madisonville residents to take part in a healthy and fun event, and it has the potential to grow to include more health-related initiatives.”
The partnership with Go Vibrant will allow MCURC to install visible, marked walking routes throughout Madisonville on 1-, 2-, 3- and 5-mile routes. The routes will be available on printed maps as well as online and will include historical points of interest in the neighborhood.
“I can imagine linking the routes with potentially new routes in nearby communities like Oakley, Hyde Park, Mariemont and Fairfax, which would create a robust system of pedestrian routes on the East Side,” Sheets says.
In 2012, Madisonville’s Quality-of-Life Plan called for the promotion of walking, hiking, biking and other physical outdoor activities in the neighborhood as part of its health and wellness strategy. Along with the 5K and the walking routes, the development and promotion of the Little Duck Creek Trail is progressing, and this winter the neighborhood hosted Family Fitness Fridays at the Madisonville Recreation Center to encourage families to play together. The next of these events is March 13.
This summer, there are plans for Tuesdays in the Park at Bramble Park to further encourage healthy living.
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