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Over-the-Rhine : Development News

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Streetpops set to open OTR storefront

Last June, Sarah Bornick, owner and operator of Streetpops, told Soapbox that if her business went well, she hoped to open a storefront. That goal was reached in less than a year. 
With the lease already signed and after completing renovation with her brother, Bornick will open for business in late March.
She got her start after taking a couple classes at the Midwest Culinary Institute with the idea of making ice cream. After seeing a less competitive market in popsicles, she took a popsicle making class in Florida, came back to Cincinnati and ordered popsicle molds from Brazil. After testing out recipes and began her business.
Bornick started selling gourmet popsicles last May at the OTR 5K and continued with events such as Second Sundays in OTR. Until now, Bornick has been renting commercial kitchen space from a deli in downtown Cincinnati, but the kitchen can no longer handle Streetpop’s production scale. But in less than a year, she has created enough business to open up a storefront at 1437 Main St.

When Bornick saw the former Fork Heart Knife space open up, she jumped at the opportunity.
 “I’ve always loved that space,” Bornick says. “We can use it as our production kitchen, and also as a small point of sale.”
The 700-square-foot space includes a kitchen, and Bornick hopes to be making popsicles for events every day. Over the past year, Bornick only sold Streetpops a couple of days a week. Now, she is looking for weddings, corporate events and farmers' markets to make her business a daily routine. So far, a lot of business has come from word of mouth and referrals after people see her at farmers’ markets around the city.
“It’s hard to say how much we will be producing,” Bornick says. “But I know I will be hiring a couple seasonal workers to help me out.”

Bornick signed the lease for the storefront last September and has been using the kitchen to make batches since. Once she opens her doors, customers will be able to walk in and purchase popsicles in quantities of one to 50. Want more than that? Call Bornick and get a batch made just for you.
By Evan Wallis

Queen City Project gains recognition, projects

The Queen City Project launched in late October 2011 with the goal of highlighting some of their employees' favorite spots in Cincinnati. A partnership between Alias Imaging and Bluestone Creative, the QCP launched as a purely artistic endeavor to show Cincinnati through a unique lens.
The idea is to photograph a day in the life of a local business or organization, then bring the pictures to life in a face-paced, sort of digital flipbook. Thousands of pictures are put to music and an entire day at a business is illustrated in about two minutes.

The QCP website launched with videos of Arnold’s Bar and Grill and Shadeau Bread. After the site launched, the QCP began to look for other local institutions to feature. Since then, the QCP has featured Coffee Emporium, a special holiday feature and most recently, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
With the CSO, they ventured into new territory. The CSO wanted the QCP to help them attract a younger crowd. The video shows a CSO practice and offers a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into a performance.

The next project for the QCP is a feature with the Christian Moerlein Lager House, which is set to open on the riverfront in the next month. The QCP will shoot the first batch of beer brewed at the lager house. Then, immediately before the the first beer is poured, the video will play throughout the building.
“It’s above and beyond what we’ve done so far,” says Adam Browning, creative director at Bluestone and partner at QCP. “A lot has come out of our last couple projects.”
To help with the recent growth, the QCP has created posters, stickers and badges for websites so the subjects they feature can highlight the work. In only a couple of months, the QCP has gained recognition and potential clients are contacting them to highlight their businesses. Channel 9 even ran a feature about the creative venture.
“It’s always been a purely artistic process and a creative outlet for us,” Browning says. “We always try to focus on what we want to cover and make sure it is a place we believe in and care about.”
By Evan Wallis

ArtWorks employing artists for summer murals

Lifeguard, camp counselor, landscaper, these all may come to mind when someone thinks about summer jobs, but ArtWorks is once again giving artists and art educators opportunities to make a long-lasting impact on the region by creating murals this summer. 
Adding to 46 murals in 28 neighborhoods throughout the region, ArtWorks is hiring nine or ten emerging artists and art educators to help design, plan and create murals over the summer. They will also hire teams of teaching artists to help with each mural.
Since 2007, ArtWorks has been creating murals and offering slots for 14-21-year-old apprentice artists who help create the murals. 
Each summer ArtWorks plans to paint murals in three neighborhoods that don’t already have murals, as well as one downtown, one in Over-the-Rhine and one in Northern Kentucky. Each project manager works around 30 hours a week with a small support staff of artists and their apprentice artists. 
“The time will vary on the size of the wall,” says Allyson Knue, program and recruitment manager at ArtWorks. “Before the painting begins, each manager will be a part of a community engagement process.”
Members of the community work artists to flesh out ideas, create sketches and make sure the community is an integral part of each mural. The process is typically four to nine weeks and runs from June through August. 
Applicants must apply before Feb. 17 and have a strong background in the arts. Artists earn between $2,500 and $6,000, depending on the size of the project. Teaching artists will help in all aspects of the process and receive between $1,350 and $4,050.
“ArtWorks is all about creative enterprise, and at the heart of that is creating opportunities for fresh ideas and new talents to have a forum for expression in Cincinnati,” says Tamara Harkavy executive director at ArtWorks. “It is our mission to be able to offer jobs to the many talented artists in our region.”
By Evan Wallis

Permaganic kickstarts pedal-powered produce cart

One downside to traveling by bike is the lack of cargo space, especially if it’s produce to sell at Findlay Market or other farmers’ markets.

Permaganic, the Over-the-Rhine non-profit that sustainably grows produce and teaches teenagers gardening techniques, is pairing with a lead volunteer of Mobo, a volunteer run, bicycle co-op, to build a pedal-powered produce cart. The cart will be another asset for Permaganic’s youth internship program, which pays inner-city teens to work the garden. In turn they learn how to grow, sell and cook with fresh garden produce. Luke Ebner and Angela Stanbery, founders of Permaganic, approached Mobo about building the cart.

The cart will help Permaganic lower their carbon footprint, as well as remove barriers between customers and sellers for a more intimate interaction. The cart will be hand-built by Rob Grossman, a volunteer at Mobo and freelance designer. Once finished, it will serve as both a produce transport and an interactive point-of-sale, complete with a cooler that can hold a couple of hundred pounds of produce, a blackboard, shelves and an awning that is collapsible when not in use.

“We are trying to add to the overall charm of the city,” Grossman says. “We hope people will walk into Findlay Market and see this big, colorful tricycle and want to approach it and find out more.”

Grossman will also create a jig to help in production of more produce carts in the future. For funding, Grossman and Permaganic launched a Kickstarter campaign. The overall goal is $4,000. The cart is a couple years in the making, but Grossman remains optimistic. If the Kickstarter campaign doesn’t raise the funds, Grossman says they will still move forward with the produce cart, but maybe not make it a top priority.

“We’ve drawn out the design and researched all the parts we need,” Grossman says. “It’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when.”

By Evan Wallis

Winter Blues Fest moves to OTR

Next month, Over-the-Rhine will be filled with the blues—as the new home neighborhood for the region’s Winter Blues Fest, which will feature 25 local and regional bands over the two-night festival with two touring acts, Kelley Richey and RB Stone.

The last five of the seven Cincy Blue Society’s annual winter festivals took place at Southgate House in Newport, which closed at the end of 2011. Organizers quickly picked OTR as the fest’s newest locale.

“There are so many venues within walking distance (in OTR),” says Mary Beth Weaver, PR coordinator for the Winter Blues Fest. “Many had already featured blues bands and business owners were very receptive, so it worked out very well.”

The four Blues Fest venues are: the Drinkery, Below Zero, Japp’s Annex, and the former Harry’s Pizza space across from the Drinkery.

The Harry’s Pizza stage will be an all-ages venue that will showcase Blues Society and Blues in the Schools Band (BITS). The BITS band travels to schools in the area to expose children to the long-lasting art form of the blues through presentations and performances. Students can join the band, where members are taught by the same musicians who travel to the schools.

The Winter Blues Fest is just one aspect of the Blues Society, which was formed in 1990 as a non-profit. The group has been hosting the much larger Cincy Blues Fest in Sawyer Point for 20 years. The smaller Winter Fest provides one of the largest fundraising opportunities for the BITS program.

“The Cincy Blues Society is a non-profit with the mission of keeping the blues alive,” Weaver says. “Our Blues in the Schools program is one of the biggest parts of that.”

Each winter, the student-formed band plays at the Blues Fest and shows off their new blues skills. Weaver says many students end up forming their own bands and eventually playing in the Blues Fest.

The Fest runs Feb. 10-11 and costs $25 per person.

By Evan Wallis

Progress on Mercer Commons underway in Over the Rhine

The demolition of two 1850s buildings earlier this month were the first signs that the $55 million Mercer Commons project is on its way. The most expensive project undertaken by non-profit development group 3CDC will inject dozens of rental units, extensive commercial space, condominiums, townhomes and new construction into the Vine Street district of Over the Rhine.

The development will stretch from Vine street to Walnut street between 13th and 14th streets. It will cover nearly 3 acres with new construction, 19 renovated historic buildings, a 340-space parking garage and two green spaces. It will introduce 154 housing units and 17,600 square feet of commercial space to Over the Rhine.

The Mercer Commons project includes 30 units of affordable rental apartments for qualifying low-income residents. The units will be located in the same buildings, and have the same amenities, as 96 market rate rental units. To date, 3CDC has introduced 68 rental apartments to the neighborhood, so Mercer Commons will nearly triple that number.

The design features of a glass and metal structure to be built on Vine Street, and the demolitions, have drawn criticism from community groups.

Cincinnati's planning commission approved the project in December on the condition that the developer alter a few design features, mostly on the exterior of the large building on Vine Street. The changes are intended to bring the building in step with the "verticality and rhythm" of existing historic structures, 3CDC’s vice president of communications Anastasia Mileham said. The new design will mimic the appearance of several vertical buildings, rather than one wide building, to blend better with the row houses and other historic structures in the neighborhood, she said.

She said the new building’s design features are similar to other buildings constructed by 3CDC in the area.

“There are a lot of buildings in that surrounding area that mirror some of the design elements and materials that are used in [the new building on Vine Street],” Mileham said. “It’s a cool building and I think its going to make a statement.”

Mileham said the two historic buildings needed to be demolished so the project could “make sense financially” and still provide 30 units of low income housing. It will also allow the parking garage to be encapsulated within the interior of the development. She said there were major structural concerns with the buildings.

The first phase of construction on the project will begin in this quarter of 2012, with the third and final phase projected to be finished in the first quarter of 2013.

When it is finished, Mileham said the project will provide a vital link between the Vine Street neighborhood and the Main Street arts and entertainment district.

By Henry Sweets

Coffee Emporium reaches new heights

You know you’re on to something good when the developer of the city’s soon-to-be-tallest building comes to you and asks to help grow your business. For Tony Tausch, owner of Cincinnati’s homegrown Coffee Emporium, that visit evolved into the newest Emporium, which opened Jan. 3 in Queen City Square.

But there was one catch. To land the Queen City Square deal, Coffee Emporium had to take over a low-traffic kiosk on Third and Broadway.

“We knew the café in the lobby would do well,” Tausch says. “So we decided to go ahead with it.

Fitting in to the new skyscraper with a sleek setup that includes metal menu boards, the new café has a much more traditional businesslike atmosphere than its Hyde Park and OTR locations. If it seems that each Coffee Emporium location seems to fit the atmosphere and attitude of its surrounding community, that’s no accident.

“We don’t try to inflict our atmosphere on a location,” Tausch says. “The employees and the customers dictate the vibe.”
Since Tausch doesn’t plan on ever operating 50 locations in Cincinnati, he takes a careful look at expansion opportunities and makes sure they will be a positive change for his company. Tausch says he will never license franchises and will always stay near the urban core.

But Tausch’s dedication extends beyond the local community and into the entire coffee growing process.
He makes annual trips to El Salvador and trips to events such as the International Women in Coffee Alliance Conference, Tausch and his staff see their beans while they are still on the tree. They are even beginning to do a barista/farmer exchange with a farm in Guatemala. Roasting 55,000-65,000 pounds of coffee each year, Coffee Emporium uses beans from around the world, including beans from Tanzania, which help support the local non-profit Village Life Outreach’s work both locally and in the African nation, too.

Now with six locations -- Hyde Park, Central Parkway, Queen City Square, two at Xavier University and a small kiosk on Third and Broadway -- Coffee Emporium employs 55 people. Tausch offers health and life insurance and plans on implementing 401K options soon.

By Evan Wallis

Choremonster joins Startup America

Brandery 2011 graduate Choremonster will get a boost after its recent connection to Startup America.

Startup America (SA) is a private organization that has connected dozens of partners who have supplied more than $1 billion (yes “billion”) to help startups and eventually bring jobs to the economy. SA requirements are simple: startups must be for-profit and employ at least two people if they were founded in 2006 or later, or at least six people if they were founded in 2001 or later. Once accepted, clients get a Growth Kit, which includes five main resources; expertise, services, talent, customers and capital.

Expertise comes in the form of training, mentors and advisors. Services are provided at reduced costs, talented people are recruited, new markets are located, and capital is provided for funding.

“Their board of founders is incredible,” says Chris Bergman, founder of Choremonster. “The partnership offers they have available are super helpful.”

Choremonster was developed by Bergman and Paul Armstrong, the partners of Over-the-Rhine-based WiseAcre Digital. Their app aims to make doing chores enjoyable by giving kids points once for completing chores. Accumulated points lead to real-life rewards chosen by parents.

The duo worked in the Brandery’s 12-week incubation program along with seven other startups last year. Participants of the Brandery receive mentoring and $20,000 in seed funding, much like what Choremonster will receive through SA.

“It’s amazing how many options are available for startups today, even compared to one year ago,” Bergman says. “We just looked at what was out there and found tools we could use. It just augments the resources you already have.”

Currently, Choremonster is in the private Beta stage and has settled on a start date, but Bergman isn’t sharing that with anyone yet. He does say that he and Armstrong plan on hiring a couple of employees in 2012.

“It kind of blew my mind when we looked around and saw what we could get almost for free,” Bergman says. “People might be intimidated by applying for things, but the worst thing that happen is you get denied.”

By Evan Wallis
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Schwartz's Point lights up OTR Gateway

When the green light reads “Live Jazz,” Ed Moss is in the house. Literally.

Jazz pianist Moss, conductor of the Society Jazz Orchestra and a fixture in Cincinnati’s jazz scene, lives upstairs at Schwartz’s Point, the historic triangular building at a five-way corner of Vine Street in OTR.

Weekly schedules include a modest cash cover and good, free food.

For more of the story, watch and listen to this slideshow by Ian Johnson in his work as part of UCJournalism’s New Media Bureau at the University of Cincinnati.

Ed Moss - To The Point from New Media Bureau on Vimeo.

A new OTR cleans up downtown

The racks inside 1332 Vine St. are starting to fill up after On The Run Cleaners opened just more than a week ago.

OTR Residents Paul and Lihn Nguyen opened the business after talking to fellow residents, many of whom mentioned the need for a neighborhood dry-cleaning service. Nguyen and his wife purposely opened On The Run during the holiday season. They figured business would start off slow since many residents are out of town, and it would give them time to iron out all the kinks of the day-to-day operations.

Even though Nguyen, as one of a few service-oriented businesses in OTR, knows of Capital Shoe Repair’s impending closing, he believes his businesses has plenty of potential clients.

“There are more young professionals living down here,” Paul Nguyen says. “A lot more people who work downtown want to live down here. There isn’t another dry cleaner in the area.”

He says dry-cleaning business was at the top of almost all the residents’ lists. Nguyen thinks the location alone will allow him to compete with home-delivery dry-cleaning services. Using friends at Pho Lang Tang and other local businesses to help promote On the Run, as well as leaving cards all around the city, Nguyen is counting on referrals and walk-ins to grow the business. So far, he believes most business is from people who have seen the shop taking shape in the past two months.

If you drop off your clothes at OTR, garments are shipped out to be cleaned. Typically, you can pick up in two days. Rates for pants are shirts are $4 for one, or 3 for $11. Suits and dresses cost $8.50.

By Evan Wallis

Not so 'Lonely' thanks to Planet's rank

What do the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, California’s Gold Country and Cincinnati have in common? All made the Lonely Planet’s top 10 U.S. travel destinations list, published online Dec. 20.
Lonely Planet, a travel guide and information website that garners millions of monthly visitors, listed Cincinnati in between the Hudson River Valley and the Four Corners Region, but ahead of locations such as Chicago, Yellowstone and Boulder. The 145-word review touts Findlay Market, The Art Museum, OTR and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center as places to visit.
Freedom Center workers were grateful for the international exposure. With a financial deficit and talks of closing the doors, the center, which opened in 2004, has cut spending and is on the hunt for public funding. As an institution that has received national, and even international acclaim, staying open, especially with the soon-to-be-finished Banks Project, is a must.
“The mention couldn’t’ have come at a better time for us,” says Stephanie Creech, external relations manager at the NURFC. “We are working hard to close our financial gap and keep this important institution open for the people of Cincinnati. We also hope it helps show the tri-state area what a national treasure the center is.”
Findlay Market, the oldest continuous outdoor market in Ohio and a location on the National Register of Historic Places, was an obvious choice as a place for Lonely Planet to highlight, but as one of the cornerstones of the revitalization of OTR, the mention may help to bring more visitors to the market.
“I think people are really starting to realize the historical value of Findlay Market,” says Barb Cooper, owner of Daisy Mae’s Market, a vendor at Findlay Market. “If Findlay Market can be what the rest of the city spurs off of, it will really turn around. We need to be positive about what we have in the city.”

By Evan Wallis

Food trucks' drive pays off with added accessibility

Cincinnati hasn’t made it easy in the past couple years for mobile food vendors. With restrictions barring curbside service after midnight and removal of the vending tents from Fountain Square (due to aesthetic disturbance), the food truck culture didn’t seem to have a bright future downtown.

That changed Dec. 2, when signs went up around Fountain Square posting 12 spots for mobile food vendors to park and serve. City Council member Laure Quinlivan created the program which passed Council unanimously.

Several vendors have started serving from the new spots, which have created opportunities for new ventures, too. Tom + Chee, who had had one of the Fountain Square tent spots, has approached Qunlivan with interest in launching a truck, and a pizza truck slated for launch in early 2012, Pizza Bomba, plans to take advantage of the new spots.

Pizza Bomba, which should be receiving a truck within the next month, has even had their new set of wheels outfitted with windows on both sides to take advantage of one of the new spots.

“We can take one of the spots on Fifth Street where a lot of other people can’t use because their windows face the other way,” says Terri Wilson, co-owner of Pizza Bomba. “We’re excited to get out there and try it.”

Wilson and Bill Stone both have day jobs that may affect their ability to serve lunch, but they won’t let schedules stop them. “We’ll definitely be down there for events,” Wilson says.

As they wait for their truck and approval from the Health Department, the couple hopes that a more vibrant food truck to community will grow out of the expanded accessibility.

“I think it is a step in the right direction,” Wilson says. “I’d love to see even more food truck-based events around the city.”

By Evan Wallis

HighStreet buys building, grows brand

The Cincinnati start-up HighStreet, a full-service design studio and urban lifestyle store, and one of the best gift-shopping destinations in town, just made their home in Cincinnati a little more permanent.

HighStreet opened more than 10 years ago on Reading Road in an unlikely spot across the street from Staples. It has since grown into the go-to store for design help and home goods from furniture to lighting and wallpaper to awesome coffee table books you won’t find anywhere else. The broad collection of products and services blends modern and London styles to help consumers realize that they can be creative when designing their own spaces.

After two years of negotiations, co-founders Leah Spurrier and Matt Knotts purchased the building that houses their 8,000-square-foot store. They plan on using the extra two floors to expand their already award-winning business.

“We’ll have more than double the space,” Spurrier says. “We have some great plans for the rest of the building.”

HighStreet offers art direction, interior design and product design services and Spurrier is excited that the extra space will give those services room to grow.

The second floor will be stocked with more of HighStreet’s home goods, hand-selected from vendors from all over the world. Spurrier and Knotts also plan on offering framing, floral and even industrial antiques. But changes will extend beyond the interior. Spurrier says plans include making the massive space into a new Cincinnati icon.

The third and top floors of the building house a large loft-style apartment space, which Spurrier plans on finding a complimentary small businesses to occupy.

“It will be a more user-friendly design center for people who are serious about renovating their houses,” Spurrier says. “It will be much more open.”

With more space for warehousing, hosting events and offering more products, Spurrier and Knotts are poised and ready to elevate the stakes at HighStreet.

“We always wanted to grow,” Spurrier says. “This gives us the space we need to.”

By Evan Wallis

Sloane brings contemporary women's fashion to Over the Rhine

Before Duru Armagan opened Sloane Boutique, she called on the help of her neighbors.

She hired Switch to design the lighting, Joseph Williams Home to provide furniture and Such + Such to build interior woodwork. The three businesses are based within a short walk from Sloane, the high-end clothing boutique that Armagan opened at 1216 Vine street in Over the Rhine last month.

Armagan said she hopes her store can become a hub for a growing set of style conscious women in Cincinnati, and she wanted to draw from the creative character of Over the Rhine when she designed the business.

“I think there is a hunger for edgier fashions, especially with the young professionals who live downtown and in this area,” she says. “I think a lot of the people who make edgier fashion picks end up ordering online or going to New York, Chicago or other big cities to do their shopping. But I have made it my goal to get Sloane to be their shopping place instead.”

Armagan moved to Cincinnati from Columbus three years ago, and was swept into a growing community in Over the Rhine.

“I met so many people here that were really motivated and inspiring, and it became my home,” she says.

It was around this time that she began to plan her boutique. She shadowed a business owner in Columbus who had opened one of the first clothing boutiques in the Short North district there. She worked in a high-end boutique in Cincinnati, and prepared a business plan to open her own store.

By the time she was making preparations to open Sloane, Cincinnati’s fashion scene had seen major new additions like Cincinnati fashion week and the women’s style magazine A-Line. Also, Over the Rhine’s business district had grown significantly.

Sloane opened just before Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, a weekend she said was an overwhelming success at Sloane.

“A lot of people saw OTR on the news or from reading different articles and I think that sparked interest out in the suburbs as well as within the neighborhood,” she says. “There were a lot of people who came to Over the Rhine instead of going to the mall on Black Friday.”

Sloane carries a stable of designers that are new to Cincinnati, who’s work she describes as “edgy and contemporary, but comfortable.”  Some of the labels carried at Sloane include Aaron Ashe, Ellie Shabatian, Funktional, Rails and LNA.

The boutique is named after a fashionable district around Sloane Square in London which gave rise to the term “Sloane Ranger,” referring to members of a hip and high class young set living in London in the 1980’s. Armagan likes to call her customers “Sloane Rangers.”

By Henry Sweets

Architecture students taking their products from idea to reality

After graduating from the University of Cincinnati with undergrad degrees in architecture, three friends decided to try their hands at manufacturing, instead of just giving people instructions about how to build things.

Ryan Ball, Travis Hope and Joseph Kinzelman all graduated from the College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning in June of 2010. Ball and Hope went on to pursue their masters, and in April, the three decided to start their own business, a dream they had been discussing for month. When the business founders moved in to an E. 13th Street apartment in Over-the-Rhine, where they create all their products, the business name followed naturally: E13.

“In architecture school, you’re asked to design a lot,” Ball says. “We just made instructions on how to make things. We were really interested in trying to take an idea from conception through manufacturing.”

All three had created prototypes of products while in school, so they decided to take some of those ideas and see if they could turn them into marketable products. Their main focus, what makes their work unique, is their use of unusual materials to create their products. First up, a day-bag made from reclaimed air bags they found in junkyards. They look for durable materials that aren’t normally made into bags. The airbags look different than other bags on the market, plus, they darken and weather over time.

Once they had a product, the E13 team set out to create a brand and website. Everything from programming to photo editing was a complete in-house venture. After attracting positive attention from design blogs, E13 sold out of all the repurposed day bags.

With proven marketability on their side, the three entrepreneurs are now working on perfecting their manufacturing process. As they hone their sewing skills, they have enrolled in the third round of SpringBoard to help them develop a business plan. While Ball and Hope complete their advanced degrees, spare time is sparse. Still, the group continues to rethink its approach and launch more products as they build an inventory to meet public demand.

By Evan Wallis
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