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Over-the-Rhine : Development News

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Owners of Neons and Japp's open bourbon bar in Covington

Ninety five percent of all bourbons are made in Kentucky, so opening a bar that has an extensive collection Kentucky's famous spirit makes perfect sense, especially for a team that runs two successful bars.
 
The same team that runs Japp’s and Neons, John Back and Jeff Brandt, teamed with Molly Wellman again and opened Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar on Saturday May 5. Located in the 600 block of Mainstrasse in Covington, OKBB has a heavy focus on American bourbon. OKBB is keeping Wellman busy  while she curates between 50 and 70 types of whiskey. After the bar is up and running for a few months, Wellman hopes to build the list to 150 different bourbons and whiskeys. To compliment the many American bourbons and whiskeys, OKBB will also feature Irish and Canadian whiskeys, along with a small selection of cask-conditioned ales.

“Bourbon has such a amazing history,” Wellman says. “It takes a long time to make and it should be enjoyed. (OKBB) is a place for sitting down and understanding and enjoying this perfect drink.”

During the soft-opening and 'Friends and Family' event, representatives from both Makers Mark and Jim Beam distilleries were present. On Saturday, Yvette Simpson, Cincinnati City Council Member was present, along with members of Covinton's City Council. 

"It was great to see support from both Cincinnati and Covington," Back says.
 
Brandt has owned the building for a while and always intended on opening a bar, but he, Back and Wellman wanted to open Japp’s first and really develop a concept before expanding to Covington.

"We really want to cross-promote and bring people from both sides of the river to the other," Back says. "The Covington neighborhood has been very supportive and talked us up."
 
OKBB's 800-square-foot space has an intimate 30-40 person capacity and bartenders that know the story and process of each label they serve. The interior, which reflects the rustic beauty of the bourbon trail, was designed by Back, who is also an architect. Described as a “polished bluegrass” feel, OKBB will highlight the agrarian beauty of bourbon country in a modern way.
 
OKBB is the trio’s first foray outside of OTR but they are working to ensure a cohesive feel between bars by using staff from their two current bars and want to make OKBB a destination bar for both bourbon connoisseurs and novices. OKBB will host bourbon tastings and meet-and-greets with distillers in an effort to immerse patrons of OKBB in a bourbon-centric experience.
 
“It’s about making a place where people can have an experience they remember,” Wellman says. “Those places work to make the city more exciting.”
 
By Evan Wallis

Community-builder LISC moves to United Way building

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (L ISC) of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati have always had a close relationship. Now, they are neighbors.

LISC, the nonprofit community development group, moved into the United Way building at 2400 Reading Road, in Walnut Hills, in late April after calling the Emery Building, at 100 E. Central Parkway, home for the past five years.  

“We couldn’t really expand and do better neighborhood development work where we were,” says Kathy Schwab, LISC executive director. “This was perfect: It was newly renovated, the expense was really neutral and it was better space for us. Most importantly, it was more accessible for the funding community.’’

LISC is a national nonprofit group that fosters development in city neighborhoods through technical help and financial investments. Last year, they helped prevent local foreclosures, invested in housing for homeless veterans and helped open Gabriel’s Place, among a myriad of other projects to support health and safety, education and youth, economic development, housing development and improving family incomes.

In 2011, the group invested $2.7 million locally and leveraged $39.5 million. Since 2000, the nonprofit has invested $51.9 million and has leveraged $286.1 million. The staff works with local community development groups including the Cincinnati Development Fund and NeighborWorks.

Schwab and three other staff members packed themselves up and moved themselves into the building with the help of a local moving company. A new employee started last week in the new second-floor office. The full-time staff will be joined this summer by two interns and a VISTA AmeriCorps member to work with the group’s Financial Opportunity Centers and also with LISC’s AmeriCorps program.

Schwab said the move means she will be closer to other community development organizations in the city. She is also excited about the opportunity to collaborate with the United Way’s grant writer to win federal grants tied to community development.

“Greater Cincinnati has a great community development infrastructure,’’ Schwab says. “We already do collaborative projects … It will be so nice to be housed with the United Way . . .where we can share space and be supportive of others.”

By Chris Graves
Chris Graves is the assistant vice president of social and digital media at The Powers Agency, a public relations and advertising agency.

SpringBoard grad sells handy bagged lunches

While walking around Findlay Market on a busy weekend, Jamie Williams couldn't find a place to sit down and eat. This led her to think about eating "walking tacos" at fairs and other events. She then wondered, "Why not make food that is easier to eat while walking around?"
 
Now, after graduating from the most recent SpringBoard class, a business development program sponsored by ArtWorks, Williams and her new food-service venture, Cincy Bag Ladies, is selling lunchtime favorites like chicken salad and seafood salad, at Fountain Square's Tuesday market. 
 
"It gives people an easier way to eat while on the go," Williams says. "It will be perfect for places like Fountain Square and Findlay Market."
 
Cincy Bag Ladies debuted on Fountain Square the same day as the graduation ceremony from SpringBoard. Williams says the business acumen she learned in the course was instrumental in her quick launch. 
 
"I had the idea to make Cincy Bag Ladies, but I was really able to nail everything down while in SpringBoard," Williams says. "It made me realize things I never would have thought about, like how beneficial it can be to spend the money on branding from the beginning."
 
Williams, an OTR resident, will be on Fountain Square every Tuesday through May and hopes to move into a spot in Findlay Market in June. Williams and her mother prepare all the food in a kitchen in Kentucky, but are looking for a space to rent closer to where they will be serving. All of the meats, veggies, fruits and spices are sourced from Findlay Market. She's gotten a lot of advice from market business owners. 
 
"I've talked to people from Daisy Mae's and Eli's BBQ about when they both got started and  asked if they had any advice," says Williams. "Everyone has been so willing to help; it's been a great experience." 
 
Williams' goal is to eventually move into an OTR storefront and expand on the Cincy Bag Ladies name to sell purses and totes as well as the bagged lunches. 

Have a business idea you'd like help with? Registration is now open for the June SpringBoard sessions.
 
By Evan Wallis

Ensemble Theatre rebrands, rebuilds

Ensemble Theatre opened its doors in 1986 as a place to give professional artists a place to work without having to travel to Hollywood or Broadway. The theater has since become a landmark in Over-the-Rhine. Now, for the first time, Ensemble has unveiled new branding, a new website, and a refreshed exterior.
 
With attendance at an all-time high and after being awarded a $1.2 million grant from the state of Ohio, ETC is in the midst of a long-overdue makeover. 
 
"We've been in the neighborhood for 26 years, I think it's time to celebrate," says D. Lynn Meyers, artistic director. "The tenacity of us staying here through times that weren't as good as they are now is something special." 
 
With a new user-friendly website designed by LPK and a facade that is currently being painted, the goal of the rebranding and renovations is to raise visibility and mirror ETC's ambitious schedule in both building and branding. The branding has four main colors -- blue, red, green and purple. All represent the four "E's" ETC strives toward: Excite, Enliven, Enrich and Entertain.
 
"What we do on stage has a very eclectic feel," Meyers says. "Our branding was very typical. We wanted something more exciting and colorful, like what you see on stage." 
 
Visibility was also a concern for ETC. Meyers says patrons have sometimes walked by the entrance. New banners outside of the entrance should alleviate confusion. 
 
"I think a lot of people walk by and wonder what we are," Meyers says. "We want people to know we are here and want people to come in and check us out."
 
The grant ETC received won't be awarded until the group raises $1.2 million in matching funds. So, ETC is in the midst of kicking off its "Next Stage Capital Campaign," a $6.5 million renovation plan. Renovations will include a larger lobby, increased accessibility, a new HVAC system and building connections between the main theater building and other buildings ETC owns on the block.

Capital funds must come from contributions, since ticket sales support 10 full-time employees and more than 180 professional set builders, actors and other artists throughout the year. One the state grant is matched, ETC can begin renovations.
 
"We have a lot of fun neighbors now, and that means more people walking around," Meyers says. "People are walking in and buying tickets. That never used to happen, so we want to continue to make sure people feel welcome and know what we're about."
 
By Evan Wallis
 

Architecture 359 connects with community

After breaking away from BHDP Architecture, Architecture 359 has descended from "The Cloud" and settled on Twelfth and Jackson Streets for its first office space. 
 
While working remotely since April 2009 from Mariemont, Westwood, Wyoming, Madrid, Spain and Raleigh, North Carolina, the A359 team decided it was time for an office. After looking around the city and not finding a space that felt right, they drove through OTR and saw a hand-written 'For Rent' sign in the old 4 U Urban Fashion Boutique. They had a lease in their hands by the end of the day. 
 
"It all came back to wanting to be in this area," says Robert Rich. "Finding a storefront office was important to us. We want to have have an urban presence and become part of a community." 
 
A359 acquired the office last November and has since cleaned out and renovated the space. Currently, the firm, which consists of Robert Rich, Cori Cassidy, Gregory Kissel, Brian Coffman and Brian Bailey, is working on national projects but hopes to start working with local businesses soon. 
 
"Our specialty isn't so much a product-type," Rich says. "We thought we could provide a better product by creating better relationships with our clients. There were impediments to creating those relationships when we were all part of a bigger firm."
 
While Bailey and Coffman work out of Raleigh and Madrid, respectively, the other three are deeply involved in Cincinnati. Kissel, who has a background in preservation, has been working to save the Gamble house in his Westwood neighborhood. Cassidy worked as a project designer for Washington Park. In fact, some of the first OTR Flags that will soon hang in the park now hang in the windows of A359's office. 
 
"We have a fantasy to see more and more storefronts like ours become part of these great communities around Cincinnati," Rich says. "It's just a great way to be connected."
 
By Evan Wallis

OTR Kickball back for season three

This summer, the third season of the OTR kickball league will return to Cutter Field, this time, with a little more organization.
 
The kickball league was started two years ago by Jenny Kessler, who, until now, has found sponsors, rounded up teams, organized referees and scheduled the 22 teams who have competed during the first two seasons. At the end of last season, Tom Hodges, an OTR resident and lawyer, asked Kessler if she was going to plan a third season. After a short discussion, Hodges and Kessler, along with Joe Yoo, decided to form Urban Sports Cincinnati (USC), an LLC which will help govern the kickball league, and other downtown games like bocce ball at Neons and ping pong at the Drinkery. 
 
"The idea is to have something in place so once the person who started doesn't want to run it anymore, it still continues," Hodges says. "It's about the neighborhood. We want it to continue to thrive, and small things, like kickball, contribute to why people want to live here."
 
USC will create an infrastructure, complete with a website, to help in the planning of sports in the downtown area. 
 
"When I decide I don't want to run kickball anymore, someone won't have to build it from scratch again," Kessler says. "I can give someone the contacts, the set-up and all the other information they need to keep it going."
 
USC will also help keep the funds in one place. Soapbox contributor Casey Coston started ping pong at the Drinkery last year, but it has since stopped because of a lack of functioning tables. Hodges hopes that with USC, gathering the money needed will be easier, and better than having one person invest in the equipment alone.
 
The third season kicks of in late June and runs through August with a cost of $15 per person. The low cost has always been a goal, and is aimed at making the league more relaxed and all-inclusive, rather than ultra-competitive. It was a goal of Kessler's to bring the community together. Neighborhood children have always been encouraged to join teams when substitutes are needed, and those children have since become welcomed members of some teams.  
 
"I think the organization will give these games legitimacy, so people won't mind paying the $15," Hodges says. "But it's also cheap enough to keep the feeling that this is for fun and to make the community a more vibrant place." 

Sign your team up here.
 
By Evan Wallis
 


VisuaLingual's Seed Bomb biz blooms

Tucked into the third floor of a warehouse on W. 15th Street, right above Harvest Gallery, Maya Drozdz and Michael Stout, the duo that comprises VisuaLingual, have been busy stuffing muslin bags full of Seed Bombs for everything from baptisms to orders for Williams-Sonoma.
 
The Seed Bombs are gumball-sized brown balls made out of a cookie dough-like substance that encases different seeds. The bombs break on impact with the ground and eventually start to grow in almost any environment. Seed Bombs are completely hand-made and the bags are screen-printed by the couple in Over-the-Rhine.
 
One of their recent, larger developments is a contract with Williams-Sonoma. At the beginning of April, Drozdz put together two exclusive products for the new "Agrarian" line of products. The two products are cocktail garnishes that include cinnamon basil, lemon mint and lime basil, and culinary herbs, which include parsley, basil and cilantro. 
 
"It's been in the works for a long time," Drozdz says. "Once our products get featured in one national store, people start to see it and then contact us about getting it in their store." 
 
In the midst of stuffing bags, tying knots and packing up boxes for national retailers like Anthropologie and Williams-Sonoma, Drozdz and her two after-school employees and three part-time helpers work on custom orders for people and businesses around the country. Right now, the team is stuffing 10,000 bags of parsley seed bombs, which is a digestive-aid for dogs, for the all-natural dog food company, The Honest Kitchen. The Seed Bombs will be sent out as gifts to the dog food company's customers. 
 
Seed Bombs were also featured at an Etsy event in New York that showcased one-of-a-kind Etsy products for wedding favors. In the past year, VisuaLingual has experienced much growth, which will allow Drozdz's partner, Stout, to join the team full-time in May. 
 
"We've had to learn a lot of things as we go," Drozdz says. "But I feel like I always have a challenge and am learning and doings things I never thought I would." 
 
Next up, Drozdz is already thinking about the holiday season and making their Blooming Briquettes, a creative stocking-stuffer that looks like a piece of coal but is actually a Seed Bomb
 
By Evan Wallis
 


Plan, Build, Live encourages community feedback

City and neighborhood leaders, led by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, have been building support for a new approach to development regulations for more than four years. Much of that has been developed through the program Plan, Build, Live.
 
Plan, Build, Live is a program driven by community feedback and discussion, all gathered  via the project's website. The website encourages people to share their ideas about how a city should be designed. This weekend, instead of just online, Cincinnati residents and business leaders will come together to shape our future through a citywide Urban Design Workshop. The Workshop takes place from April 28 to May 2 to help create a "form-based code" that can be used by neighborhoods all over Cincinnati -- and help shape how development happens in Cincinnati in decades to come.  
 
"Traditional zoning focuses on the use of the building and how far the building is off the street or how large the building is," says Della Rucker, public engagement office for Plan, Build, Live. "Form-based code flips that around and focuses on how a property contributes to the experience people have in the area. How it creates a vibrant, walkable community."
 
Plan Build Live is funded by a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Local funding is provided by the City of Cincinnati, the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Health Department, and the Mill Creek Restoration Project.
 
One of the Plan Build Live tools, a form-based code, encourages strong neighborhoods, business districts, and downtowns by focusing on the shapes of buildings, streets and sidewalks. Form-based codes can helps maintain or enhance a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly environment that offers a mix of residential options, transportation methods, workplaces, shopping and more. Traditional zoning codes encourage patches of similar use, forcing long distances between work, home and play. Form-based codes allow different uses to cluster – restaurants, apartments, drug stores and grocery stores, for instance – as long as they stick to rules that address the ways they relate to the neighborhood.  
 
Form-based codes are not planned to replace other types of zoning in Cincinnati, but they are intended to give neighborhoods a more flexibility.
 
A key difference of form-based codes is that even people who are not trained planners help put them together. Participants only need to be willing to share their ideas. During the Workshops, citizens will meet with planners, architects and engineers to talk about what they like and want to see -- both in Cincinnati's neighborhoods and on several "special opportunity" sites. 

The preliminary Workshop focuses on creating a city-wide form-based code that will serve as a framework for the fall workshop, which will focus on four neighborhoods: Westwood, College Hill, Madisonville and Walnut Hills. 

The estimated completion date is 2013, but feedback and participation from residents and business owners is critical to helping the city implement the program.

By Evan Wallis

Queen City Cookies truck: pink elephants, tasty treats

The next food truck to hit the streets in Cincinnati won't look like any that have come before it. Queen City Cookies' "Schnecken Shack," set to roll through downtown before the end of April.

Sure to get attention, the truck incorporates the elephant-inspired vision of Queen City Cookies owner Peggy Shannon, with assistance from graphic designer Lisa Ballard. "I had the idea the truck should be an elephant and have the blanket area open to serve from," Shannon says. "Lisa thought to put the elephant in the back window, which I think is a stroke of genius. It completely expresses the essence of who we are: fun, unexpected, attention-to-detail and delicious."

As with the rest of Queen City Cookies' ventures, from the storefront at Findlay Market to gourmet offerings in specialty stores like Dean and Deluca and online, the focus on good taste and joy shaped the food truck's initial menu. "We’re focusing on three areas of service for the truck, so the menu will change out during the day," Shannon says. "For our breakfast fans, individual schnecken rolls (or by the box for those who can’t get enough), pig pockets (adorable pig pop overs filled with ham, cheese), my latest creation, donut toast (a baked donut in the shape of toast that’s sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, frittatas, a vegan popover option, crack pie (which lives up to its name) and of course, Coffee Emporium coffee to kick start the day. Later in the day, we’ll have ice cream sandwiches made with Madison’s gelato and our cookies, amazingly dense Oreo brownie explosions, Bundt cakes (think bourbon), cupcakes and light-as-a-feather meringue swirls in cardamom, Madagascar vanilla, heavy cream, violet lavender, tangerine, raspberry. We also have a full line of beverages — Steez Tea, Synergy drinks."

For more information, visit Queen City Cookies online and read the Soapbox Q&A with Peggy Shannon.

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter

Brandery accepting applications for next round

Cincinnati’s nationally recognized startup accelerator, The Brandery, is accepting applications for its 2012 class via its Web site. Applications are due May 15, and early-admission decisions will be made May 1. The 2012 class of 10 companies will be announced on June 1. 
 
As a member of the Global Accelerator Network and named a top 10 accelerator by the Kellogg School of Management/Kauffman Fellows/Tech Cocktail rankings, the Brandery has graduated 14 companies in its first two classes. These companies have generated funding across the country from CincyTech, Crosslink Capital, Draper Associates and Transmedia Capital.

The Brandery runs a four-month program in Cincinnati for startups that are consumer-focused and brand-driven. It will add several aspects to its program this year:
 
Brandsmiths. The Brandery will hire developers or designers who don’t have a specific startup idea but want to work for one. They will work full-time for a stipend with Brandery participants and may have the opportunity to join one of the startups. The application and additional information can be found here.
 
edSpark. The Brandery is soliciting applications for an education-focused startup. The Greater Cincinnati Foundation has funded a new initiative called edSpark to encourage educational innovation. Startups focused on education initiatives should apply through the standard channel. 
 
Office hours. For those looking for more information or advice before submitting an application, the Brandery is holding office hours from 5-7 p.m., Tuesday, April 3, at The Brandery office, 1411 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine. Register for office hours.
 
“The Brandery aims to give startups an unfair opportunity to succeed by leveraging Cincinnati’s regional strengths in marketing, branding and design and world-class companies such as P&G, Kroger, LPK, Nielsen and dunnhumby,” says Mike Bott, general manager of the Brandery, a position that was added this year. “Startups are attracted by the mentors and resources associated with The Brandery. We’ve already attracted applicants from six continents.” 

The Brandery provides each company with $20,000 in seed money, training sessions with other entrepreneurs and industry experts, and networking with more than 50 mentors who work with startups to provide insights and help grow each idea into an investable, scalable product. Additionally, Cincinnati’s design agencies have donated their services to help each of the startups develop their branding and visual identity. The seed money that each company receives from The Brandery is now being provided by an award from the Ohio Third Frontier’s One Fund program for accelerators. For the first two years of the Brandery programs, CincyTech provided the $20,000 grants.

Building upon a mentor list of industry leaders, The Brandery has recently welcomed Tim O’Shaughnessy of LivingSocial, Jonathon Triest of Ludlow Ventures, Bill Hildebolt of ExpoTV and Mike Brown Jr. of AOL Ventures.
 
The 2012 session will begin July 2 and culminate Oct. 4 at Demo Day, where each Brandery company pitches its startup to a room of angel investors, venture capitalists, marketers and media. Last year’s Demo Day attracted more than 350 people to Great American Ball Park.  
 
By Sarah Blazak
 

Five Design Challenge welcomes ideas for empty spaces

What do an empty lot and the wasteland underneath an overpass have in common? They're both unused space. 
 
The wide range of unused space in the city got the people at MSA Architects thinking about the Five Design Challenge. Their offices on Fourth Street overlook a lot that has been empty for too long. Instead of putting the space to good use, the owner put up a fence. That fence sparked ideas. Why not find other unused spaces around the city and see what people, designers, architects, artists, would do with the it?
 
"Michael Schuster [Founder of MSA] wanted to start a dialogue about general design issues and opportunities in Cincinnati," says Chris Rohs, project designer at MSA. "He's a very community-minded person." 
 
The competition evolved from an earlier idea last year. Last year, competitors were charged to convert drivers to riders -- to come up with a solution to get drivers off the road and using public transportation. Almost 40 entrants offered ideas, but that doesn't begin to compare to this year's level of interest.
 
The competition is to take one of the five downtown spaces, come up with an idea for it and submit it. The options are as varied as entrants' imaginations: create a destination, a park, a zoo, an art gallery, something temporary, something permanent, something temporarily permanent.

Submissions will be accepted until April 26; winners will be chosen by May 15; $5,500 in prizes will be handed out. Jurists include Tamara Harkavy of ArtWorks, Chad Munitz of 3CDC, Leah Spurrier of High Street, William Williams of DAAP and City Council member Wendell Young.
 
Five Design Challenge is meant to be all-encompassing and include as many entrants, from as many professions as possible. So far, Nick Dewald, who handles the entries as they come in, has seen entrants from Italy, China, Australia, India, Germany  and around the US. Currently, there are more entrants from outside Cincinnati than from within. 
 
"The whole idea is to get people to be more active in their community," Rohs says. "To work to make it a better place."
 
By Evan Wallis

Tranformula Studios offers holistic spa services, and more

Laura Pavey can sound a little crazy when you talk to her on the phone. But you might, too, if you wore as many hats as she does daily. She’s a trainer, an esthetician and a spiritual guru. And those are only her day job(s).
 
Pavey, 43, is the CEO of Transformula Studios in Liberty Hilli, a new wellness center that seems a bit schizophrenic in terms of the services it offers. Face peels, Pilates, yoga and eyelash extensions are just a small taste of what this new wellness Mecca delivers.
 
But there is method to Pavey’s madness. She’s not looking to just help you with dry skin or inflexible knees: she’s looking to give your body, mind and spirit a complete, youthful overhaul.
 
“Transformula Studios is all about anti aging,” Pavey says. “It’s about feeling good and looking good, but not just for vanity’s sake.”
 
Pavey traveled a multi-forked career route before arriving at Transformula Studios. Her resume reads like vocational training pamphlet. She began her career as a social worker in San Francisco. When it became difficult to survive financially, she migrated east to Colorado for grad school and then to New York, where she became a freelance make-up artist.
 
As a makeup artist “I got really obsessed with skin,” Pavey says. “Makeup looks best on good skin.”
 
She moved to Cincinnati when her father became ill and quickly dipped her toes into the wellness field. Pavey emphasizes that she’s very interested in people’s cellular-level health, from skin to joints. Many of the services offered at Transformula Studios are designed to make your cells as healthy as possible.
 
“My skin care is all about rejuvenating the cells without invasive therapy,” she says. Her skin peels – one of her most popular treatments — are done with Physician’s Care Line products that only go to the skin’s epidermis layer and no further.
 
Pavey also emphasizes Pilates for joint and cartilage health. “We’re at a crossroads where our organs are living longer,” she says. “You can beat cancer and other diseases, but our skeleton and joints have a 45-year lifespan.”
 
Pilates helps maintain and strength joint flexibility and prevents wear caused by a life’s worth of use, she says. “I can’t think about my social security running out. I’m too worried about my joints.”
 
Volunteerism is also big part of the Transformula ethos. In keeping with her social work past, Pavey encourages staff and clients to get involved in the community through fundraising and volunteering.
 
“We also believe that doing good things keeps you young inside,” she says. “Nothing ages you more than negative energy.”
 
By Ryan McLendon

Model Group work expands to north OTR

After selling all of their units available south of Liberty Street in OTR, The Model Group has set its sights on renovating 14 buildings north of Liberty to provide affordable housing. 
 
The North Rhine Heights Project is scheduled to be completed by late summer and includes buildings on various streets. The renovated buildings will offer high-quality housing for low-income residents. Low-income housing is determined by calculating 60 percent of the neighborhood's household median income. 
 
"The existing affordable housing was in really bad shape," says Bobby Maly, COO and principal at The Model Group. "In a neighborhood like Over the Rhine, you want a good mix of market rate and affordable housing, but it all needs to be high-quality."
 
With continued renovations in the Gateway District, The Model Group looked for a new focus area. With much of the area north of Liberty Street still blighted, The Model Group went to work the build affordable housing that is indistinguishable from its market-rate neighbors. With the help of Federal Historic Tax Credits, The Model Group will open 65 newly renovated units this year. The Model Group sees the new rehabs as replicating the work they did south of Liberty. With all their completed condos sold out, the area north of Liberty was chosen because of its potential. 
 
"We went in with the same idea we had when working on our developments in other areas, and that is blight is blight, no matter where it is," Maly says. "Blight deters investment, and we want to turn that around."
 
The Model Group has spent more than $100,000 on police details in the neighborhood while completing the rehabs, which Maly hopes will also contribute to further revitalization. 
 
"We want to make the neighborhood safer for investment," Maly says. "We worked on making high-quality affordable housing a priority in other areas, so we're doing the same with this project." 
 
By Evan Wallis
 

City Flea sets 2012 sites on Washington Park

City Flea co-founders Nick and Lindsay Dewald are poised to make cool-shopping history again this year, with a new schedule and more venues, including stops in the reopened Washington Park in OTR.

“We loved how the flea was jammed into an underutilized lot last year, but feel that being integrated into the park will prove to be a great move for us, the vendors and the shoppers,” the Walnut Hills’ couple writes in an email. “We will be sharing the park with a dog run, a state of the art playground, brand new restroom facilities, a parking garage, fountains, a grassy lawn, shady benches and so on.”

Four of the couple’s seven June through December monthly events will be held at the OTR park, with Music Hall as a beautifully historic backdrop. Additional stops are slatted for the original 12th and Vine Street lot and at the American Can Lofts in Northside. They will also be a part of the OTR Summer Celebration, and have a mystery, yet-to-be-announced location for the November Flea.

With the application process for vendors open now through May 12, the Dewalds are looking forward to creating even better experiences for vendors and shoppers alike. For now, that means keeping the Fleas monthly instead of making them more often. “We feel like keeping them once a month is a nice frequency and forces people to make sure they definitely go instead of just saying they'll make it next week,” they write. “Lots of the vendors are very small operations and we think that a month in between each event allows them to restock their shelves.”

In the future, though, those monthly shopping sprees may not be enough. “We would love to get to a point where The City Flea could be a weekly event that is sustained by a steady combination of tourists and a critical mass of urban residents,” they write.

And the entrepreneurial-nurturing entrepreneurs are trailblazers, too. “We have heard of at least four or five other urban flea markets that are about to pop up in other cities, several of which have contacted us for info,” they write. “Hopefully the city will continue to embrace our events and we will be thought of as being a bit ahead of the curve. We would love for The City Flea to gain a reputation that extends outside of Cincinnati and contribute to bringing visitors and import residents.”  


By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter

ArtWorks plans heat up for summer

This summer, the little piggies will be back, filled with porcine glee, as ArtWorks once again brings a herd of pig sculptures to downtown and OTR for the Big Pig Gig. With 70 pigs already lined up, the arts nonprofit expects 100 porkers to hit the streets as the season heats up.

With additional schools and nonprofits in search of pig sponsorships, ArtWorks is looking for donors to bring in the bacon for either “Whole Hog” sponsors, who get to keep the pig for $8,000; or “Sow-lo-ist” sponsors for $5,000, with the pig going to auction. For businesses or individuals who want to help a school or nonprofit get their pork on, $4,500 covers a pig and an artist, while $3,500 covers a pig who already has an artist standing by.

Schools and nonprofits that still need support include: Duke Energy Children’s Museum, Moeller High School, Art Beyond Boundaries and JDRF.

But pigs are the only goings-on at ArtWorks. While the Big Pig Gig takes shape, the organization is also gearing up for its summer mural projects in neighborhoods around the region. For the next six weeks, donors can sponsor apprentice artists in their efforts to beautify communities while learning skills and making money.


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