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New downtown apartment tower will offer 111 units and lots of amenities

Construction started this month on Seven at Broadway, a 111-apartment building at the corner of Seventh Street and Broadway downtown. NorthPointe Group, North American Properties and the City of Cincinnati are working on the $21 million project.
It’s being constructed on top of an eight-story parking garage that was built by Al. Neyer in 2003, and added onto in 2010 to accommodate the needs of Procter & Gamble. The company is handling the design and build services for the apartment tower, and John Senhauser Architects is the lead architect for the project.
The apartments will have high-end finishes, including an open floor plan, an abundance of natural light, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Studio apartments will be about 630 square feet, one-bedroom apartments will range from about 960-970 square feet, and two-bedroom apartments will range from 1,080-1,700 square feet. Residents will also have access to a concierge service, workout room and rooftop common space.
The apartment tower is designed to appeal to executives and baby boomers who want to live downtown. Developers are planning to seek LEED certification on the project.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Life Learning Center gets new home

The Life Learning Center in Covington is moving to the old Stewart Iron Works building at the corner of Madison Avenue and 18th Street. When redevelopment is complete this summer, the Learning Center will move from its current space on 15th Street to its new location.
The redevelopment of the long-time vacant, blighted brownfield was made possible by a partnership among the Catalytic Fund, Corporex and the city of Covington. The city is taking care of the site's brownfield development, including installing new windows, and Corporex is redeveloping for the Learning Center.

Currently, the Learning Center is located in a 5,000-square-foot building; the Stewart Iron Works building is about 60,000 square feet, but the Learning Center is only redeveloping and occupying about 35,000 square feet.
When it moves in, the Learning Center will acquire the building from the city, which purchased it in 2009 with assistance from the Kenton County Fiscal Court.
In its new home, the Learning Center will continue to deliver its six yearly programs that target at-risk people and help them overcome employment challenges and financial obstacles, but it hopes to be able to offer the programs more often. Its holistic approach includes educational programs and other resources that help transform lives.

There will also be a child care center and fitness/wellness facility in the new Learning Center.

"We serve many single moms here, and now, they can participate in our programs and bring their kids to our on-site child care center," says Erich Switzer, the Learning Center's director of awareness and fundraising. "We've also had a lot of people request a fitness center and programs, so we're excited to be offering that too."
The Learning Center’s move is the last of three development projects along Madison in the last year. In October, Walgreens relocated to the corner of Madison and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard/12th Street; in December, the Kentucky Career Center announced its plans to move from 4th Street to the old Robke site at 1314 Madison.
Both the Kentucky Career Center and the Learning Center's projects are joint results of a deal that began in 2009 and involved multiple agencies, including the city, the Catalytic Fund, and other state and federal agencies.

The Learning Center is funding the renovation through a capital campagin—$2.4 million of the $3.2 million goal has already been raised. To donate, visit the Learning Center's website or send your donation to: Life Learning Center, 315 E. 15th St., Covington, Ky., 41011.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Walk-up Mexican restaurant coming to OTR

Andrew Gomez learned to make salsa from his father, who learned to make salsa when he was growing up from his mother. 
“I don’t make it like my dad, and he doesn’t make it like my grandma,” Gomez says.
At the end of March, Gomez will be opening his restaurant, Gomez Salsa, on 12th Street in Over-the-Rhine. It will be a to-go window only, with late night offerings until 3 a.m.
Gomez’s salsa is a thick, hand chopped salsa that lets you see exactly what you’re eating and adds texture to his tacos. Gomez Salsa will specialize in not just salsa, but tacos and another dish called the Turtle Shell, which consists of rice, beans, cheese, a tostada, sour cream, lettuce, meat and salsa seared closed with melted cheese.
“We want to be a convenient, fresh Mexican food option in OTR,” Gomez says. “It’s exciting to be one of the first new places over here after Rhinehaus to help get things going. We’re excited to be part of it.”
He also wants to offer customizable build-your-own taco bars for catering. And he plans to offer beer and food pairings with next-door neighbor HalfCut, which is owned by Gomez’s friend Jack Heekin.
Keep your eyes peeled for Gomez Salsa's Indiegogo campaign in the next few weeks. One of the offers will be a food and beer pairing, probably for happy hour, Gomez says.  
By Caitlin Koenig
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Gerke Building's unique characteristics make it ideal for beer

Three years ago, New York City native Noah Smith purchased the Gerke Building, which he's calling Kool Cellar, at 132 W. Court St. Because of the building’s unique characteristics, he envisions the building becoming a brewery or a restaurant.
The Gerke Building was designed and built by German immigrants in 1861, long before mechanical refrigeration. Instead, the building is fitted with a lager cellar, which was used to ferment beer that needed to be kept at cool temperatures. There are lots of buildings like the Gerke Building around town, but it has one of the deepest and most well-preserved lager cellars.
Beneath the 21-unit apartment building lies a 1,600-square-foot storefront that Smith says would make a great brewery or restaurant space. Below that is the upper cellar, which is 1,200 square feet and has an 11-foot ceiling. Then comes the lower cellar, which has an 18-foot ceiling and stays at 58.6 degrees, no matter the temperature outside.
Smith wants to rent out Kool Cellar, or part of it, for free because starting a business is an expensive venture. Another option for the space is a production facility for aging cheese, wine or even mushrooms—a less expensive option that would allow the storefront to be rented separately from the cellar.
Smith is a landlord and condo developer in New York City, and when the market went south, he began to look elsewhere for development opportunities. After looking at several buildings in places like Fort Dodge, Iowa, Smith came to Cincinnati. The city was in transition, and he wanted to be part of it.
“I really like what’s going on in Over-the-Rhine,” Smith says. “There’s lot of energy here, and Cincinnati has the promise of becoming a destination city.”
The Gerke Building was the first one he purchased in Cincinnati, and he now owns the Thunderbird Apartments in East Walnut Hills and the Manifest Gallery building, along with a few others.
“There’s so much happening below Liberty Street in OTR, but above Liberty, not much is happening,” Smith says. “I want to see development happen there, and that’s where I’m starting.”
By Caitlin Koenig
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Christ Hospital to utilize old Drawbridge Inn site

The Christ Hospital Health Network has plans to redevelop the former Drawbridge Inn site in Fort Mitchell. The 75,000-square-foot medical office building will be part of a larger, mixed-used development.
The project is still in the very early planning stages, and there is no set date for construction to begin.
“The former Drawbridge Inn site presents an exceptional opportunity for us to expand our presence in Northern Kentucky and provide more choice and access for consumers,” says Mike Keating, president and CEO of The Christ Hospital Health Network.
The City of Fort Mitchell wants to create a community with easy access to residential, retail and medical offices. The new facility will bring new jobs to the city and offer additional health amenities.
The Christ Hospital Health Network is working with Brandicorp on the construction of The Christ Hospital Outpatient Center in Montgomery, which is scheduled to open in spring 2015. Brandicorp is also leading the redevelopment of the Drawbridge Inn site.
The Christ Hospital Health Network currently has its Outpatient Center in Fort Wright, which offers primary care; cardiovascular care; diabetes and endocrinology; a foot and ankle clinic; gynecology; orthopaedics and sports medicine; urology; urogynecology and pelvic floor medicine; wound healing; pre-surgery testing; and imaging services. Services are still being reviewed for the new facility.
Other Northern Kentucky locations include Crestview Hills (hematology and oncology; obstetrics and gynecology; and certified nurse midwives) and Fort Mitchell (primary care).
By Caitlin Koenig
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Neighborhood Enhancement Program aims to improve Cincinnati quality of life

Cincinnati’s Neighborhood Enhancement Program, a 90-day collaborative effort between city departments, neighborhood residents and community organizations, focuses on developing the assets of individual neighborhoods.
By focusing, integrating and concentrating city service delivery and community redevelopment efforts, the NEP’s goal is to improve the quality of life in Cincinnati. Examples of integrated service delivery include concentrating building code enforcement; identifying and “cooling down” crime hot spots; cleaning up streets, sidewalks and vacant lots; beautifying landscapes, streetscapes and public right-of-ways; and engaging property owners and residents to create and sustain a more livable neighborhood. Targeted areas are identified through an analysis of building code violations, vacant buildings, disorder and drug calls, drug arrests, graffiti, junk autos, litter and weeds.
Neighborhoods with the most successful NEPs have taken key steps before the program begins, while it’s taking place and after it has ended. To date, Price Hill, Avondale, Northside, Clifton Heights/University Heights/Fairview, Westwood, Evanston, College Hill, Madisonville, Mt. Washington, Corryville, Over-the-Rhine, Bond Hill, Kennedy Heights, Pendleton, Mt. Airy and Carthage have participated in the NEP program.

East Price Hill and Walnut Hills are participating in the program this year.
Before beginning the NEP, a neighborhood must consider its community’s commitment to the program. Stakeholders must agree on what needs to be done in the neighborhood, and want to improve the neighborhood as a whole. An NEP Steering Committee needs to be established, which is made up of a community council representative, a business association representative, a redevelopment agency representative (if applicable) and a resident who lives in the neighborhood, and come up with a list of goals to accomplish within the NEP time frame.
The NEP has won numerous awards, including the President’s Award from the Ohio Conference for Community Development.

Check out Soapbox's "Hot 'Hoods" features on Price Hill and Walnut Hills to see NEP practices in action.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Two manufacturing companies looking at NKY would create jobs

Two manufacturing companies are considering a move to Northern Kentucky. Corrosion Resistant Reinforcing and Load Banks Direct LLC would add 50 jobs to the community and create more than $9 million in total investment if the relocation happens.
Corrosion Resistant Reinforcing, which receives stainless steel concrete reinforcing bar in coils and then straightens the coil to the desired lengths required for different jobs, is considering building a new facility in Walton. It is a new subsidiary of Evendale-based Contractors Materials Company.
The company would spend $1 million on land, $4 million on building construction and $3 million on other equipment. The new company would create 10 jobs in the Northern Kentucky economy. The project received preliminary approval for $200,000 in tax incentives over 10 years from the Kentucky Business Incentive program, and up to $100,000 in tax benefits through the Kentucky Enterprise Act, which allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use the tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development, and electronic processing equipment.
Load Banks Direct, a manufacturer of high-capacity load banks used in the commissioning, testing and maintenance of standby emergency power systems, is looking at building a new facility in Erlanger to meet demands.
The company would spend more than $1.2 million on building and improvements, $30,000 on equipment and $15,000 on other startup costs. It would create 40 jobs, and received preliminary approval for $200,000 in tax incentives over 10 years from the KBI program.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Breadsmith raises funds for ArtWorks youth programs

On January 18, the new Breadsmith location in Hyde Park raised $1,600 to benefit ArtWorks. One hundred percent of the funds raised during the sneak preview and open house went to ArtWorks to benefit its summer youth development programs.
The event included a behind-the-scenes tour and free samples of Breadsmith’s award-winning breads, muffins and sweets. Customers got a look at the bakery’s European-style interior design, and the handmade, hearth-baked process of Breadsmith’s products.
ArtWorks’ summer program, Adopt-an-Apprentice, will directly support the 120 teen apprentices who will be hired this summer to work on 10 new community murals and other creative projects throughout the city. To date, ArtWorks has provided opportunities for more than 2,500 youth artists and 650 professional artists, and has graduated 175 creative entrepreneurs and artisans from SpringBoard, the organization's 9-week business development class.
Breadsmith currently has 30 independently owned retail bakeries across the country. It has received awards for its European-style breads, including top honors from Bon Appeit magazine, Modern Baking, the International Culinary Salon, the National Restaurant Association and “Best of” awards nationwide.
The new Cincinnati location, which is located at 3500 Michigan Ave., is open Tuesday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
By Caitlin Koenig
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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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