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Companies' moves creating 341 new jobs in Northern Kentucky

Informatics companies Xcelerated Learning Dynamics and Clear Measures will soon be moving into the Corporex Companies RiverCenter office complex in Covington. The moves, along with the expansion of the parent companies, will add 341 jobs over the next three years.
 
XLD, which was launched in April 2013, plans to create up to 50 jobs in the next three years. It transforms healthcare education by helping organizations elevate their performance with efficient and effective learning programs.
 
XLD was launched from the Covington-based TiER1 Performance Solutions in 2012 to help hospital systems meet the challenges of the current health care reform by aligning their workforces with the rapidly evolving Affordable Care Act. TiER1 recently located 70 jobs to RiverCenter and plans to add about 40 more in the next three years.
 
Clear Measures is bringing 121 jobs to Northern Kentucky, and plans to add about 60 additional jobs over the next three years.
 
Clear Measures involves two local IT firms, Lucrum and dbaDIRECT, providing IT infrastructure management services to the financial services, retail, health care and educational industries. Its services include strategic management consulting, scalable IT project support, staff augmentation and infrastructure management services across the globe. Clear Measures will also help build, manage and enhance systems that make data meaningful.

"We believe that with Northern Kentucky University's College of Informatics and Gateway Community and Technical College's urban campus in Covington, we are building a high energy, high tech corridor in our region that will create jobs to keep talent local," says Dan Tobergte, president and CEO of Northern Kentucky Tri-Ed.
 
TiER1 and XLD will occupy 15,000 square feet on the first floor of RiverCenter, and Clear Measures will occupy 25,000 square feet on the ninth and 10th floors.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Obscura cocktail lounge opens new VIP room

At the beginning of December, Obscura cocktail lounge opened the Jim Thompson Room, a membership and VIP room in the lower level of the building. The room offers exclusivity to members and special guests with wine tastings twice a month, spirit tastings and a private events.
 
The room is named after Jim Thompson, an American businessman who revolutionized the silk trade in Thailand. On Easter Sunday 1967, he took a hike through the jungle and never returned. Co-owner Scott Sheridan learned about Thompson during a tour of his house in Thailand.
 
“Although Jim Thompson doesn’t have a connection to Cincinnati, the room is a way to say that he is alive and well and in Cincinnati—we’re making that connection,” says Will Chambers, wine director and head of VIP relations at Obscura.
 
The décor for the Jim Thompson Room is very different from that of Obscura, which is more of a pastel palette with a European parlor-esque theme. In contrast, the downstairs features deep, sensual colors and a Thai-inspired theme, complete with a stuffed life-size Bengal tiger that died of natural causes.
 
There are different price tiers for membership packages to the Jim Thompson Room. Membership includes access to Obscura’s wine lockers and bourbon and tequila barrel programs, preferred reservations and room rental. The room also offers exclusive cocktails, including the Good Morning, Mr. Thompson; Mai Tai; Rum Punch; and Frozen Pineapple.
 
Obscura is a high-volume, high-end cocktail lounge that is focused on providing intimate conversation and a place to network. The main level of the lounge is divided into three sections—a conversation space, bar area and mezzanine. The lower level includes the Jim Thompson Room, a kitchen for light bites and sweets, and liquor lockers and a service bar.
 
Be looking for Obscura’s bistro-seated patio on Seventh Street later this year.

Read more about Obscura in Soapbox.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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New Kentucky Career Center coming to Covington

A state-of-the-art employment and education center for Northern Kentucky residents and employers is coming to the old Robke Chevrolet on Madison Avenue in Covington. The City of Covington will buy and lease the renovated property to the state and the Northern Kentucky Area Development District.
 
The Kentucky Career Center is currently located at 320 Garrard St., and is one of 75 across the state. When the new location opens, the old career center will close.
 
The project includes a single-level, 28,000-square-foot building, plus a parking lot for more than 100 cars. The new Kentucky Career Center will house 66 employees and will have facilities to accommodate information sessions and interviews by large employers. NKADD will also sublease a portion of the space to local organizations, including the Brighton Center, Goodwill and the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky.
 
The $4.8 million renovation will take about six months to complete. The eight-year lease on the building includes management and maintenance of the facility, which will be contracted out. The city issued bonds for the project.
 
In addition to the community organizations that will be located at the career center, all Department of Workforce Investment agencies will provide services there as well.
 
The Kentucky Career Center also has a new website that features a free-to-use, online job-matching portal for employers called “Focus Talent” and a separate interface for job-seekers called “Focus Career.” The Focus Talent section allows employers to post job ads and search résumés, as well as offers employers quick and easy access to a large pool of talent. The Focus Career section provides job-seekers a professional résumé builder and a path to job registration.
 
The career center also offers other services for job-seekers, including career coaching, access to local job openings, job leads and referrals, professional résumé services, job search resource centers with free WiFi and Internet access, unemployment insurance claim filing assistance, employment services for military veterans and those with special needs, and education and training opportunities.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Craft beer cafe soon to open in OTR

Childhood friends and founders of the Pedal Wagon, Jack Heekin and Tom O’Brian, will soon open the doors to their newest venture, HalfCut. The craft beer café will carry pints, flights and growlers of fresh beer or six-packs to go.
 
The idea for HalfCut came from Heekin’s father, a beer lover and Cincinnati history enthusiast. He told them about the resurgence of growlers in different parts of the country, and they thought it would be a good avenue with which to join the craft beer movement in Cincinnati.
 
“Half cut” is a slang term from the 1920s that means "the perfect state of mind."
 
“We feel like HalfCut will occupy a unique niche in OTR,” Heekin says. “There’s nowhere else like this neighborhood in Cincinnati, and there’s so much development going on. We love what’s happening and are excited to be part of it.”
 
In December 2012, Heekin and O’Brian took a cross-country road trip to refine their craft beer bar idea. HalfCut will serve craft beer from across the country, but with a heavy local influence.
 
HalfCut is housed in the 130-year-old Gobrecht building at 1128 Walnut St. The 800-square-foot space will be very low-key, much like a coffee shop. It will also offer a to-go window for customers who pass by on the street.
 
“Before you make your decision, you can sample different beers,” Heekin says. “We want to bring a unique experience that focuses on beer. No matter what level of beer you’re at—whether you don’t like beer, drink Bud Light or love craft beer—you’ll feel welcome at HalfCut.”
 
All of the tap handles will be the same, so customers are making their selections based on taste rather than handle design, he says.
 
In addition to beer, HalfCut will serve light snacks like pretzels and possibly meat and cheese platters. There will also be beer pairings with Gomez Salsa, which is a restaurant that is coming soon to the area.
 
Heekin and O’Brian hope to have HalfCut up and running by the end of January. They used the crowdsourcing site indiegogo to raise funds for their venture.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Sleepy Bee Cafe creates a buzz in Oakley

Oakley’s newest restaurant, Sleepy Bee Café, opened its doors the week of December 16 at 3098 Madison Road. Dr. John Hutton and Sandra Gross, owners of Oakley’s blue manatee children’s bookstore and decafé and Brazee Street Studios, also own the café.
 
The idea for Sleepy Bee came from the recent dramatic decline in the honeybee population. Hutton and Gross wanted to get involved, and to them, a restaurant seemed like the best way.
 
Sleepy Bee serves breakfast, lunch and brunch with a focus on local, organic, and hormone-free produce, meat and dairy products. The menu, created by chef Frances Kroner, also caters to the health-conscious eaters with the Buff Bee lineup and offers creative, “real” food for kids. Some of the restaurant’s signature dishes include “Killer Bee” cookies, gluten-free Bee Cakes and the Queen City Bee breakfast, which features locally made goetta.
 
The restaurant showcases bee-centric art made by artisans from Brazee Street Studios of Glass and C-Link Local. Sleepy Bee boasts unique bee-inspired kiln-formed glass light fixtures and local artwork, including custom tiles in the dining room and restrooms that feature vegetables that are fertilized by hardworking bees.
 
Hutton and Gross plan to offer catering services and host annual bee-themed fundraising dinners to do their part for bee conservation and awareness.
 
Sleepy Bee is open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Recently renovated downtown office building sold

At the end of December, a recently renovated office building was sold for $6.07 million to 3rd & Vine Partners LLC.
 
The building, which is located at 309 Vine St., offers some of the largest vacant office space in downtown. The 325,000-square-foot building has a two-story parking garage and is attached to PNC Tower.
 
It recently received $15 million in improvements, including new windows, fixtures and exterior lighting and signage.
 
Its prime location in downtown and proximity to The Banks and Fountain Square, on-site parking, river view frontage and up to 49,000 square feet of available office space make it a valuable asset to the area.
 
The building was bought in 1995 by Central Trust Tower Associates.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Online survey lets public weigh in on Oasis Rail line until Friday

The Ohio Department of Transportation is using an Internet-based feedback program to give the public more opportunity to engage in the planning and development of Oasis, the region’s first commuter rail line.
 
The simple-to-use, online survey—which was developed by Envision Sustainability Tools Inc. from Vancouver, British Columbia—gives the public a chance to weigh in on topics ranging from priorities for travel to desired amenities at rail stations.
 
The survey was launched on December 10 during the first public involvement meeting, and will remain available to the public through January 10. Results and responses to comments received will be provided in the Oasis Rail Transit public meeting report, which is expected to be available mid-February.
 
The website features five interactive screens in order to gather data from the public. The first screen gives an introduction to Oasis, and includes maps that can be enlarged. The second screen asks users to rank their top three priorities for travel by dragging and dropping their options. The third screen asks users to identify their typical travel destinations—home, work, daycare, grocery store, etc.—on a map, as well as make suggestions for improvements along travel routes (streetscapes, bike connections, new crosswalks, etc.). The fourth screen asks users to rate what factors would influence their use of a commuter rail (frequency of service, weekend service, fares, etc.), and rank their priorities for transit station design, such as shopping amenities, WiFi access, bike storage, etc. The last screen asks users for basic demographic information, including their age, ethnicity, zip code and how they might use rail transit.  
 
The Oasis Transit Line is 17 miles, and will introduce a new transportation choice to the Eastern Corridor. The line would utilize publicly owned rail right-of-way and potentially share existing track with freight operations; in other places, track would be built to complete necessary connections. The four phases of Oasis are from the Riverfront Transit Center to the Boathouse (1 mile); from the Boathouse to US 50 in Fairfax (7 miles); from US 50 to Fairfax to the Ancor area, which is slightly northeast of Newtown (4 miles); and the Ancor area to Milford (5 miles).
 
The survey can be accessed at easterncorridor.org.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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New children's play area at CVG features high-tech interactivity

The Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport recently partnered with The CTM Group Inc. to develop the latest in children’s play areas. The new development, called Funway Runway, provides entertainment for the whole family.
 
Funway Runway is located in the food court seating area of Concourse B at CVG. It features an interactive floor that is equipped with MotionAware technology, which comes to life and reacts with human movement. By interacting with projected images, travelers activate animations, trigger sounds, play games or interact with content applications.
 
There are touch screen monitors with educational and fun games for younger children, and individual rides for all ages. Funway Runway’s colorful walls provide a backdrop for images of local landmarks that were provided by the Cincinnati Enquirer.
 
The CTM Group installed the first to market iReality ride, which incorporates augmented reality into a ride. The four-way motion ride lets riders watch their faces as they're featured as part of the ride in real-time. It is enhanced through hand mapping, which allows riders to participate in the action through simple hand movements. iReality lets everyone watch the fun on a 55-inch flat screen monitor above the ride.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Japp's owner looking to East Walnut Hills for new bar

Molly Wellmann, owner of Japp’s and Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar and co-owner of Neon’s, is looking to open a new bar in East Walnut Hills. Myrtle's Punch House will be located at the corner of Woodburn Avenue and Myrtle.
 
The concept for Myrtle's is a punch house, where you can get a punch bowl at your table to share with your friends. Punch will also be available by the glass.
 
“Recipes for punches date back about 500 years; it’s a very old way of drinking,” Wellmann says. “We want to bring that to Cincinnati—there’s such great heritage here, and a great drinking heritage.”
 
There will also be a wine list and craft beer selection. Beer will be served by the glass, pitcher and growler. The focus will be on wine by the bottle or beer by the growler that you can take home and enjoy.
 
Wellmann and her partners hope to offer acoustic music in the basement, as well as a room in the basement that can be rented out for parties.
 
“East Walnut Hills is such a cool neighborhood,” Wellmann says. “It’s waking up, much like Over-the-Rhine was when we opened Neon’s and later Japp’s. We want this bar to be a place for the people of the neighborhood. When you’re looking to start a community, there are always two main things: a place to worship and a tavern. And East Walnut Hills already has a church.”
 
Plans are still in the preliminary stages, but Wellmann is hoping for a late summer opening.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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ArtsWave receives NEA grant for Arts Atlas project

ArtsWave recently received a $40,000 National Endowment for the Arts Art Works grant to support Arts Atlas Cincinnati, an interactive, web-based geographic information system that is designed to provide a comprehensive picture of the arts assets in the region.
 
Arts Atlas was created to address the social impact metrics for the arts sector. The custom-designed GIS is intended to assist local arts constituents and standardize the measurement of the social impact of the arts. The GIS provides the capability to collect, manage, manipulate, analyze and distribute information that is geographically based to provide a better visual image of patterns and relationships.
 
The site will launch in late 2014, and will be continually updated with data gathered by ArtsWave and other local arts organizations.
 
The NEA Art Works grant supports the creation of art that meets the highest standard of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts and enhancing the livability of communities through art. The NEA received 1,528 eligible applications that requested more than $75 million in funding. ArtsWave was one of 895 nonprofit organizations to receive the grant, and one of six in Cincinnati, with a total of $23.4 million in funding overall.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Northside art gallery features modernist art by local artists

Object, a new art gallery and retail store in Northside, features modernist pieces from the early 20th century. Artists Keith Chrapliwy of Modology and Andrew Kozakov teamed up to offer a range of art-driven furniture, paintings, sculpture and small objects.
 
Items run an artistic range that starts with early 20th century-inspired Constructivist paintings and sculpture, and continues through the 1950s living room culture. It finishes with chairs of the 1950s and 1970s by designers like Eames and Kofod-Lawson. There are also restored and reworked items like valises and small tables, paintings in new styles and a small collection of creatively made jewelry. Object’s collection will vary as Chrapliwy and Kozakov bring in new pieces from their collections.
 
Chrapliwy and Kozakov made a large number of the furniture and artwork pieces—Chrapliwy’s walnut Modology cabinets are in high demand, and are colorful with handmade Lucite panels; Kozakov focuses more on furniture, including a tall, elegant wooden sculpture that contains a hidden bar cabinet that’s large enough to hold glasses and wine.
 
“We want to blur the line between high art and functional pieces,” Chrapliwy says. “We both hope that visitors to the store can envision the possibilities of creating their own artistic environment.”
 
The store, which is located at 4008 Hamilton Ave., also has work by other artists, including Spencer van der Zee, a Cincinnati folk artist, and jewelry designer Brie Hiudt, who is Object’s guest artist through December.
 
Items range in price from $16 for T-shirts by van der Zee, to $25 for a metal case, to $2,750 for the handmade bar cabinet.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Keegan's Seafood to open second location on Hyde Park Square

Keegan’s Specialty Seafood Market is opening a second location on Hyde Park Square at the end of January. They work directly with fishermen, seafood auction houses and purveyors to bring the best seafood from around the world to Cincinnati.
 
Keegan’s also stocks a variety of specialty foods with an emphasis on local products, including salads, spreads and soups, which are prepared in their Anderson Township location’s kitchen. They will also continue to host private dinner parties in addition to their weekly Thirsty Thursday wine tastings in Anderson. During the wine tastings, customers can purchase a selection of four wines for $12, along with seafood, meat and cheese. Sometimes there are impromptu cooking demos.
 
The Hyde Park location will carry a variety of local products; Keegan’s popular housemade foods; and a selection of high-end grass-fed beef, lamb and pastured pork. The soups and sauces will be packaged in reusable Mason jars that customers can return for a rebate.
 
Although not a restaurant, the Hyde Park Keegan’s will feature a custom-made, German-style communal table for gathering and eating. Customers can order their food to-go or enjoy their meal at the table.
 
Keegan’s rotating breakfast and lunch menus will feature items prepared in-house, including New York-style bagels boiled and baked by Jean Paul’s Paradiso, housemade cream cheese and authentic lox from New York City. There will also be healthy made-to-order smoothies, fresh-pressed fruit and vegetable juices, and daily specials like steel-cut oatmeal, lobster quiche and shrimp and grits.
 
Owner Tom Keegan expects the new location to be an extension of the Sunday Hyde Park Farmers Market, as he says he has a good relationship with the vendors there.
 
Keegan’s is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Customers can sign up for e-mail alerts for more information about the new store opening and menu offerings at both locations.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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New police substation in Walnut Hills result of partnership, safety efforts

A new police substation at 921 E. McMillan, or Red Point, in Walnut Hills is the result of a partnership between Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, LISC, the City of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Police Department. Through a grant from LISC, WHRF has been able to focus its attention on safety issues and build a relationship with CPD.
 
The substation is part of WHRF’s efforts to redevelop McMillan between Gilbert and Kemper. It used to share an office with WHRF, and is more of a break room for CPD officers and an office for Hamilton County probation officers.
 
“We’ve used the presence of law enforcement to help stabilize the corner,” says Kevin Wright, executive director of WHRF.
 
Red Point was formerly a corner store that became one of the biggest drug houses in the neighborhood. After a homicide in March, police did an undercover drug buy that lead to a raid. WHRF suggested that police take a city code official with them on the raid to check out interior code violations.
 
The building was ordered vacant because of code violations, and the Land Bank could then foreclose on it. WHRF and the city purchased the building as part of a larger development project, and in nine months, Red Point went from a murder scene and drug hotspot to a Hamilton County probation office.
 
“Our partnership with LISC, Place Matters, the City of Cincinnati and CPD has been essential to community development in Walnut Hills,” Wright says. “Our shared objective makes the community stronger and allows us to effect change to make the neighborhood more livable.”
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Lick Run project to help redevelop and revitalize South Fairmount

This summer, the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati demolished 21 residential and commercial buildings in South Fairmount as part of the Lick Run project. It’s designed to help redevelop and revitalize the neighborhood by introducing a park-like urban waterway between Queen City and Westwood avenues.
 
The Lick Run project will include a series of underground storm sewers, water quality features and natural, aboveground waterways constructed throughout the watershed to transport stormwater and natural drainage to Mill Creek. The central element of the project is an urban waterway that will run through South Fairmount between Queen City and Westwood, just east of White Street.
 
The individual projects will eliminate about 624 million gallons of combined sewer overflows into Mill Creek each year. Construction is slated to begin in 2015, with construction completion in 2019.
 
Lick Run is part of Project Groundwork, a $3.2 billion project to rebuild and improve the region’s sewer system.  
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Gilpin's Steamed Grub opens second location near UC

Brad Gilpin opened his first restaurant, Gilpin’s Steamed Grub, downtown five years ago. He recently opened a second location in Clifton near the University of Cincinnati, his alma mater. He chose UC because the incoming freshman class is huge, and Gilpin's Steamed Grub is the kind of restaurant he wished was in Clifton when he went to school there.

"I love food, and wanted to bring the steamed sandwich concept to Cincinnati, but make it my own," Gilpin says.
 
The 1,600-square-foot coffee shop seats about 50 people, and has contemporary and rustic décor and a coffee house feel. There is also a separate study area for students. Like the downtown location, the UC Gilpin’s has an old-school Nintendo and a fake fireplace.
 
All of Gilpin’s coffee drinks are made via steam. The restaurant’s breakfast menu has eggs cooked via steam only as well; the lunch and dinner menus are the same as the downtown location’s, but with a few additions, including steamed pulled pork and additional steamed burgers with meat from Avril-Bleh. Gilpin’s sources pastries from Shadeau Breads, donuts from Holtman’s Donuts and cookies from Donna’s Gourmet.

The new location has five steamers—one for eggs, one for burgers, one for steamed cheese sandwiches, one for salads and one for deli sandwiches. So far, the smoked pulled pork and grilled chicken sandwiches have been the most popular, but customers are also ordering the Razzle Dazzle, which is pepperoni, turkey, bacon, provolone cheese, mesculin mix, honey mustard, Frank's Hot Sauce and nacho cheese Doritos on a pretzel bun.
 
Gilpin’s focuses on fresh, local produce, and encourages its customers to recycle and eat local.
 
The UC Gilpin’s is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday and Monday, and from 7 a.m. to 3:45 a.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Gilpin also has plans to open a third location in the next six months near another college campus.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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