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Port of Cincinnati hoping to expand boundary

The Port of Cincinnati wants to expand its boundary to include 205 miles of the Ohio River for statistical reporting. Currently, the port has a 26-mile boundary that includes Boone and Kenton counties in Kentucky. The port is currently ranked 49th among United States ports, and the extended boundary would rank it ninth.

Historically, the Ohio River is underutilized for transportation and has great potential for the Greater Cincinnati region. A larger port will lead to increased traffic as regional businesses realize the benefits of using the river for commerce and transportation.
The new boundary could include Trimble, Carroll, Gallatin, Boone, Kenton, Campbell, Pendleton, Bracken, Mason, Lewis and Greenup counties in Kentucky, and Hamilton, Clermont, Brown, Adams and Scioto counties in Ohio.
No costs or new taxes would be associated with the port’s expansion for any county involved, and there would be no limitations on how each local government could operate on the river or any ports within the county.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Cincinnati Children's plans to reopen Harrison health center

The Cincinnati Children’s health center in Harrison, which was operated by Neighborhood Health Care Inc., was one of four locations closed at the end of 2013. But there are plans to reopen the center on a temporary basis until a permanent operator or solution is found.
Along with the Harrison location on New Haven Road, the Cincinnati Children’s health centers in Walnut Hills, Norwood and downtown closed after Neighborhood Health failed to receive a federal grant to continue operation. The nonprofit served about 10,000 children and about as many adults, most of whom were uninsured or on Medicaid.
Neighborhood Health also ran school-based health centers at Rockdale Academy, South Avondale and Hughes Center; Children’s has agreed to take over service at each of the school-based sites until the end of the current school year. The hospital is working with Cincinnati Public Schools, Interact for Health and others on a long-term solution.
The Harrison location was chosen for reopening because officials felt that children in Walnut Hills and downtown had nearby access to other health care providers, and the Norwood site is currently on hold because of the building lease.
UC Health and other local health center operators are working to help adult patients that used to go to Neighborhood Health Care transfer to other providers. The city health department, Crossroads Health Center and UC Health are now accepting former Neighborhood Health patients.
The health department has hired additional staff to help field calls from Neighborhood Health patients and is considering expanding its hours. To book appointments, please call 513-357-7320.
In the coming weeks, the federal government is expected to announce a grant that would allow health centers to apply for additional money that is needed to serve former Neighborhood Health patients.
There is no official date for the reopening of the Harrison health center, but Children’s plans to operate it for three to six months.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Hamilton County looking to sell downtown buildings

Hamilton County is looking to sell a number of downtown buildings for condos or hotels. A tthree-person board of commissioners presented a year-long study that looked at the use and efficiency of the six downtown county-owned buildings, with an eye to consolidate to save on operational costs.
City commissioners are considering moving the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office, which is currently in Corryville, and the main operations of the Board of Elections, which is located in a leased space downtown, to the former Mercy Health-Mt. Airy Hospital.
The average age of the downtown buildings is 100 years. Over the next 20 years, the six buildings are estimated to need about $170 million of work, and declining budgets means that the county has spent less than the industry average on the upkeep of the buildings.
The Times-Star building, which is located at 800 Broadway, currently houses the juvenile court and probation offices. The Alms & Doepke building is a former store on the north side of Central Parkway that now houses the county’s welfare offices. The study also looked at the county administration building on Court Street, the courthouse, the justice center and the prosecutor’s office.
The debt on all six buildings is $35 million, and individually ranges from $2 million to $11 million. Some of the debt stems from when the buildings were first acquired and some is due to improvements.
Several of the buildings have 15 percent of unused space.
Phase 2 of the study will examine the operational benefit of moving the offices to different buildings, or into the same one or two buildings.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Westwood to become fourth neighborhood to adopt form-based code

On December 13, the Cincinnati Planning Commission approved a portion of Westwood to adopt the city’s new form-based code, which replaces the traditional zoning code and allows for future development to be mixed-use, with retail, commercial, office and residential spaces occupying the same development. A public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 10 for City Council's decision. If approved, Westwood will be the fourth Cincinnati neighborhood to adopt form-based code (Madisonville, College Hill and Walnut Hills have already officially adopted the code, respectively).

The new code focuses on the form of the building, not its use. Form-based code also makes sure that whatever structures are built or remodeled in an area fit with what is already there and meet the wishes of the community.
The Westwood Coalition is focused exclusively on the neighborhoods' historic business district, which is on Main Street. The Coalition wants to apply the form-based code to the area as just one part of its plans for revitalizing the area.
If approved by City Council, form-based code would apply to an area including and around Harrison Avenue from King Avenue to the Cheviot line. Multi-use application is focused primarily on the Harrison Avenue business district, addressing the “Main & Main” area at Harrison, Epworth and Montana, with the application of single-family in much of the current zoned area along the business district.
By doing so, the Coalition will be able to preserve the residential aspect of the neighborhood around the business district.
The Coalition expects Westwood’s business district to benefit from a focused, deliberate planning process that has demonstrated residents’ interest in a vibrant, community-based business community that is surrounded by a historic, walkable, pedestrian-friendly area. They expect that property owners and businesses will want to be a part of the changes and positive growth, and will continue to participate in events like the Westwood Art Show, Deck the Hall and the Home tour.
The Coalition is also focusing on short-term goals for the neighborhood, including working with the community to develop specific proposals for the revitalization of the business district, and having community dialogue that is focused on economic factors and retail development.
Follow the changes in Westwood through the Twitter handle #WestwoodNext.

Read more about the city's new form-based zoning code and the first neighborhood to adopt it.

By Caitlin Koenig
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UC Health opening primary care facility on Fountain Square

This month, UC Health will open a new primary care facility in the US Bank Tower on Fountain Square. UC Health and UC Physicians have never had offices located downtown.
The office will be staffed by Dr. Bernie Lenchitz. UC Health currently has more than 75 primary care providers at 15 locations in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. They also have plans to open medical offices in Columbia Township and Florence this summer, both with primary care practices.
Mercy Health has three medical offices downtown, two on Fourth Street and one on Logan. Christ Hospital Health Network also has a primary care office at 312 Walnut St.
The Fountain Square facility is now accepting new patients and setting up appointments. Call 513-475-8000 to schedule an appointment.
By Caitlin Koenig
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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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