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Funds granted to clean up vacant gas stations and auto repair shops

Three area communities were recently awarded Urban Land Assistance Program grants for the redevelopment of vacant and underutilized gas stations and auto repair shops. The Hamilton County Redevelopment Company, the official Economic Development Office for Hamilton County, doles out the ULAP grants.
A total of $80,260 was awarded to Norwood, Reading and Golf Manor to redevelop four different sites in the communities.
In Reading, an auto repair shop at 100 W. Benson St. will become a green space and parking lot. The City of Reading will soon own the property; the project received $17,790 for the environmental assessment of the property from the ULAP grant.
Norwood received $14,100 for the Phase II assessment of 5425 Carthage Ave. to determine the extent of contamination from the abandoned auto repair shop and the adjacent pesticide manufacturer. The City of Norwood also received $30,370 to remove the underground storage tanks at 5300 Section Ave. The city plans to redevelop the former gas station, but can’t until the tanks are removed.
Golf Manor wants to clean up an abandoned and condemned building next to the Cincinnati Hebrew Day School. The former oil change business, which is located at 2290 Losantiville Ave., has been vacant since 1998. The $18,000 grant is for asbestos removal, the demolition of what remains of the building and the removal of the asphalt surface. The Jewish Foundation owns the property, and the school plans to redevelop it into a parking lot with landscaping

New Covington event space to promote community

A city-owned space at Seventh and Washington streets in Covington won’t be a parking lot for much longer. Renaissance Covington and MKSK, along with other partners, are turning the lot into a pop-up performance park for public programming.
“This lot has been used for a variety of events over time, so one of the goals of the project is to make the space more accessible to the public and better equip it for outdoor events,” says Katie Meyer, Renaissance manager for the City of Covington.
Plans for the space include string lighting, painted pavement, landscaping, a kiosk, planters, outdoor electric and a covered stage that can be set up and torn down in less than 30 minutes. BLDG is currently working on the name and branding for the space.
The yet-to-be-named space has a slew of events coming up, including the Pop Up Park Launch Party on August 2, which will feature local musicians, food, drink and performances; a NKY Fairness event; UpStart on September 2; and Art Off Pike on September 28.
In 2013, Place from Space awarded Renaissance Covington and MKSK $1,000 for the project proposal. Then in 2014, Renaissance Covington and Keep Covington Beautiful received a $2,000 Place Matters grant from the Center for Great Neighborhoods.
Cov10, a local private citizen funding opportunity, awarded the project another $2,000, and the remaining costs for the space are being covered by Covington Arts and Art Off Pike.
Volunteers are needed for the Pop Up event, as well as for several cleanup days in July. You can sign up here.

New NKY private school focuses on individualized approach to learning

A private, faith-based, co-educational K-12 school is starting September 2 in Florence. Union Pointe Academy will be held on the Indiana Wesleyan campus, with hopes of having its own building in the future.
Union Pointe was founded by Sheila Levi, a retired teacher and owner of the Learning Curve Tutoring Center, and Jim Skoog, an educator, athletic director and administrator for 39 years and supervisor of alternative programs at Butler County ESC. The school also has a team of educators from a variety of backgrounds to help provide students with a well-rounded curriculum.  
Union Pointe will address its students’ needs, strengths and talents through individual learning plans, cutting-edge technology, programs for dyslexia and related reading issues, and a performing arts and gifted program.
Its dyslexia program will be one of a very limited number at Kentucky schools that is specifically dedicated to helping students with dyslexia, Levi says.
Students will learn through a multisensory approach in reading, writing and math called the Orton-Gillingham Approach, which focuses on language retraining through multisensory techniques, direct instruction, repetition and guided practice.
The school’s national standards-based curriculum will use a blended learning concept, where students learn at least in part through online delivery of content and classroom instruction. The model uses a higher level of critical thinking skills and an integrated and reflective thinking that is enhanced through project-based lifelong learning experiences.
All graduation requirements were set by the Kentucky Department of Education, and include college prep courses and honors and AP classes. Students will have the opportunity to take drama, fitness/wellness and global languages/cultures, and will have the chance to travel, take field trips and enjoy outdoor activities. Union Pointe also offers an a la carte menu of classes for homeschool students. 
Tuition is $7,500 for grades K-6 and $8,000 for grades 7-12 per year. Payment plans are available, and costs are reduced if more than one child attends Union Pointe. You can register your student for the fall or request more information via email (info@UnionPointeAcademy.org).
Fundraising for Union Pointe started in late 2013; the school is currently seeking $500,000 for startup costs for the first year. To support the school, visit its website.

Madisonville Blooms Garden Tour beautifies neighborhood

On June 22, the Madisonville Beautification Committee is hosting its third annual Madisonville Blooms Garden Tour. The tour begins at the corner of Madison Road and Whetsel Avenue, and includes seven gardens.
In 2010, the inactive Beautification Committee reorganized under new leadership, and many of its members were gardeners. They all shared a vision and were eager to change the perception of Madisonville.
Three years ago, the Beautification Committee discovered “hidden treasures” among Madisonville’s gardens, and felt it was important to showcase the gardens to show that residents take pride in their yards.
“We wanted to foster community involvement and preserve and improve the beauty of the neighborhood,” says Beautification Committee member Carolyn Winstead.
Each garden has its own character, and many are reminiscent of the homeowners’ childhood memories of their parents and grandparents’ yards, Winstead says.
The gardens also vary in type: One is a mix of vegetables and flowers and has been around since 1920; another vegetable garden was created by the youth at Lighthouse Community School in 2012; a third has bamboo and is considered a Zen garden; and the other four are mainly flower gardens.
The tour is from noon to 4 p.m., and tickets are $10 per person. Tickets can be purchased at French Rendezvous, located at 6124 Madison, before the event or the day of. At the end of the tour, guests are invited to a reception at Madisonville Arts and Cultural Center for refreshments and entertainment.
All proceeds from Madisonville Blooms will benefit the Beautification Committee’s work to promote beauty in the neighborhood. The event is sponsored by H.J. Benken Garden Center and Lighthouse Community School.

Sixteen mini-grants awarded to Covington projects

In April, the Center for Great Neighborhoods awarded 16 mini-grants from the Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program to Covington projects. The grants, which totaled $34,000, are funded by Place Matters and are managed by CGN.
Projects highlight both the neighborhood’s history and the Covington Bicentennial, and range from repurposing an underutilized parking lot into a community gathering space to transforming vacant lots into urban farms.
In all, 15 different resident-led organizations in Covington received grants, in amounts that range from $700-$4,000.
Awesome Collective received $2,000 to host four community gatherings and another $2,000 to create a zine, the Index of Awesome, that celebrates Covington’s diversity and creativity.
The Eastside Neighborhood Association received $800 for Phase VI of its beautification efforts, and $2,000 to beautify the area adjacent to Randolph Park. Friends of Linden Grove Cemetery got $2,000 to create a video presentation of the cemetery’s history, current restoration and improvement efforts, and appeal for financial support.
The Historic Licking Riverside Civic Association received a $2,000 grant to design, create and install 10 banners in Licking Riverside for Covington’s Bicentennial. Keep Covington Beautiful received $2,000 to turn a parking lot at the corner of Seventh and Washington into a multi-purpose community gathering space. In partnership with Make Goebel Great, Keep Covington Beautiful also received $4,000 to renovate Goebel Park.
The Latonia Community Council and the Latonia Small Area Study received $4,000 to hold a series of events throughout Latonia to reach out to the community and engage residents. The Levassor Park Neighborhood Association received a $2,000 grant to hold a workshop to educate residents on the importance of being ready for an emergency.
The Linden Gateway Small Area Study Oversight Committee received $2,000 to create an urban greenway that will connect Westside and the Linden Gateway Cemetery to MainStrasse. Monte Cristo received $700 to hold events in the spring and fall for the community.
The Northern Kentucky Council of the Blind received $2,000 to enhance White Cane Safety Day in October. Grow the Cov got $2,000 to hold a workshop to educate residents on the importance and benefits of rainwater, as well as $2,000 to build six community gardens. The Westside Action Coalition and Old Seminary Square received a $2,500 grant to build a park south of MLK between Russell and Banklick.
Since 2007, CGN has awarded almost $299,000 to support 149 resident-led projects, which has helped engage the Covington community in shaping the neighborhood’s future.

Brewery tour company connects beer drinkers with beer brewers

Bryan and Emily Moritz, along with Emily’s brother, Ben Beachler, have always shared a passion for craft beer and small business. After taking a tour of a Denver brewery last year, they decided to start Craft Connection Brewery Tours in Cincinnati.
“We wanted to connect the people of Cincinnati to great breweries and give the breweries a chance to share their beer and their stories,” Bryan says. “We’re connecting the beer makers to the beer drinkers.”
A 14-passenger shuttle takes guests to four different breweries in four hours. For $55, guests get a behind-the-scenes look at Rhinegeist, Listermann Brewing, MadTree Brewing and Fifty West, as well as beer samples.  
Craft Connection’s maiden voyage was May 2, and since then, they have hosted corporate groups, bachelor parties, and groups of friends and family. They’ve also done a few tours to raise money for charities.
“Our guests love interacting with the faces of the breweries, whether that’s the owners, brewers or taproom managers,” Bryan says. “They also enjoy the simplicity of being guided through four breweries and having beer poured for them throughout the tour.”
Tours are held from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. All tours depart from HalfCut in Over-the-Rhine.

To learn more about the inner workings of these breweries, check out our recent article about Cincinnati's craft beer market.

DownTowne Listening Room provides quiet place to enjoy music

The second-floor Club Room in the Shillito building is rarely used. But Scott Skeabeck saw the potential to turn it into a listening room, where patrons can enjoy music in a quieter atmosphere than a bar or coffee house.
The DownTowne Listening Room is nonprofit—the $10 entry fee is considered a donation, which goes entirely to the artists. If donations don’t cover the artists’ fee, Skeabeck covers the balance.
“I’m bringing back the lost art of live music,” he says. “Yes, there’s live music all over Cincinnati, but not like this. It’s not just live music but original music, too.”
Skeabeck pairs out-of-town acts with local performers whose style is similar. “I’m a big Cincinnati promoter, but I wanted to get out-of-town talent because they get the idea of the listening room,” he says.
But out-of-town acts don’t necessarily consider Cincinnati a tour destination. It’s easier for artists to get around on the coasts because everything is connected, and the Midwest is a bit off the beaten path. Bringing in out-of-town acts will help fill the room, Skeabeck says, and local acts will really be able to get their name out there.
The DownTowne Listening Room will provide free snacks and soft drinks, and patrons are encouraged to BYOB.
Upcoming acts include New York pop-rock performer and pianist Julian Verlard on June 13 with Charlie Millikin, a local singer-songwriter, opening; and Philadelphia-based Deirdre Flint on July 19.

Lytle Park to receive major facelift

In the next year, Lytle Park will receive a major facelift that could help turn southeast downtown into a thriving financial district.
The Park Board is finalizing the $6 million plan for the park, which includes more green space, a water wall to absorb noise and camouflage I-71, and an adventure playground for kids.
By next spring, the Ohio Department of Transportation will begin a $33 million construction project of the I-71 tunnel under Lytle Park, which includes installing new ventilation, lighting and tiles.
Construction will occur while the Cincinnati Park Board renovates the 2.3-acre park, which is home to the Anna Louise Inn, the Taft Museum, a Residence Inn, the Literary Club of Cincinnati and Park Place at Lytle.  
The Woodford Building will be removed from the Lytle Park Historic District to make way for redevelopment. It’s possible that Western & Southern Financial Group will add a headquarters, as the firm owns one of Cincinnati’s oldest former police stations, a handful of apartments adjacent to the park, and 750,000 square feet of office buildings in the area.
There are also plans for a new housing project, parking garage and restaurants. And next summer, W&S will begin converting the Anna Louise Inn into a hotel.

Molly Wellmann adds event space to repertoire

Molly Wellmann, of Japp’s, Neon’s, Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar and Myrtle’s Punch House, is adding an event space to her brand. The Hearth Room, which is in the old Twist Lounge space downtown, is expected to open this fall.

The Hearth Room is the solution for Wellmann, whose bars are a hot commodity for people who want to rent out space for events. It doesn't make sense to shut down a bar for the night for a private party, she says, but an event space is an entirely different story.
The Hearth Room will be used exclusively for private events, including reunions, rehearsal dinners, corporate events and pop-up dinners. It can hold about 140 people, and will have a preferred list of caterers. Wellmann-trained bartenders will also be available for events.

Wellmann is working with Jeff McClorey of Bromwell’s, a luxury fireplace and home décor retailer, on the venue. McClorey owns the building, and there will be a Bromwell fireplace in the Hearth Room.

If you’re interested in reserving The Hearth Room for an event, contact Lisa Colina, event coordinator, at 513-479-6554 or lcolina@wellmannsbrands.com.
By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter


Online public art map takes Cincinnatians on "artventure"

Downtown Cincinnati Inc. recently launched Cincinnati’s online public art map, ArtVenture. The map includes a list of murals and sculptures found downtown and in Over-the-Rhine, and users can find themed itineraries that highlight works and fun spots along different routes.
Years ago, the Ohio Arts Council and SAVE OUR OUTDOOR SCULPTURE! Program developed A Guide to Public Art in Downtown Cincinnati, and the print edition was later migrated to the web. But the information hadn’t been updated since the early '90s.
ArtVenture was developed using information from Cincinnati Parks, ArtWorks and A Guide To Public Art in Cincinnati.
“It made sense for DCI to take on the project and combine information from different sources into one, easy-to-use database,” says Tricia Suit, director of marketing at DCI.
There are five itineraries—Hometown Heroes, Music City, The Old Ballgame, Take in the History and Mother(lode) of Presidents—and there are plans to add more this summer.
The Hometown Heroes itinerary includes Carew Tower, which is an important part of Cincinnati’s architectural, artistic and business history. Also on that itinerary is Cincinnati Venus, Jim Dine’s sculpture at Centennial Plaza. The Music City itinerary includes a stop at Memorial Hall, which has six free-standing sculptures on its façade that pay tribute to veterans from the Revolutionary War to the Spanish-American War.
The Old Ballgame is a tour around Great American Ball Park; and Take in the History features the National Steamboat Monument at the Public Landing. The Mother(lode) of Presidents itinerary includes stops at The Cincinnatian and The Phoenix, where local history is mixed in with the story of Ohio’s presidents.
“We created ArtVenture to be more than just an art walk,” Suit says. “Many cities have maps and routes to see monuments and unique architectural features, but by combining information about art with fun stops along with way, we’ve created a unique experience with all downtown has to offer.”
The public is invited to share its artventures with DCI using #cincyartventure on Twitter and Instagram.

New mixed-use development in the works near Xavier

Xavier University’s bookstore, Starbucks and Graeter’s are the first retail tenants to sign leases for University Station, a new development near Xavier. The mixed-use project is already under construction.
The $54 million, 15-acre development sits along Dana Avenue and Montgomery Road. The first phase is slated to be completed in August, and will include 46,000 square feet of office space, 39,000 square feet of retail space, a 178-unit apartment complex for both Xavier students and the community, plus 1,000 parking spaces.
The new bookstore will fill 11,000 square feet of the available retail space, and will include Starbucks and Graeter’s. It will be about twice the size of the current on-campus bookstore, and will sell technology, school supplies, Xavier clothing and gifts.
TriHealth and CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services will be leasing office space, and the apartment complex is about 93 percent leased.
Ackermann Group and Messer Construction Co. are developing University Station. Planning is currently underway for the second phase, and could include more office and retail space, as well as a hotel.

Foodie Cincy supports local restaurant scene

In December, Brian and Gina Barrera launched Foodie Cincy, a deck of 52 cards that feature local and independent restaurants from Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Each card contains a coupon for $10 off a minimum of $30 purchase for a different restaurant.
Rome Ali started Foodie US in 2009 in St. Louis; since then, the franchise has spread to 11 cities, including Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Indianapolis. Each Foodie city has a local charity that receives a portion of the proceeds from the deck sales. Foodie Cincy dedicates a portion of its sales to the Freestore Foodbank.
Featured restaurants were chosen based on Yelp reviews and broader Google searches, Gina says.
“When we started searching, we had a list of hundreds of restaurants. We narrowed that list down to those with the highest ratings in customer service and food quality, and chose restaurants from a variety of Cincinnati neighborhoods.”
The Barreras pitched Foodie Cincy to more than 150 restaurants, and those restaurants chose whether they wanted to be included in the deck, which consists of offers from 52 restaurants, for a total savings of $520.
Foodie Cincy decks cost $20, and are available until they’re sold out online and at a number of restaurants, including BrewRiver GastroPub, Mokka and The Sunset, Nicola’s and Café De Paris. Coupons are valid through November, and next year’s deck will be valid starting December 1.
Next year’s deck will feature many of the same restaurants seen in this year’s deck, but there will be quite a few new ones, Gina says.
“The deck doesn’t make people rush to restaurants, but keeps a steady stream of customers coming in with Foodie cards, and customers love it,” she says.
For a complete list of Foodie Cincy restaurants, visit its website or Facebook page.

ArtsWave gives $45,000 to five Place Matters neighborhoods

This year, ArtsWave will award grants to five of the Local Initiative Support Corporation’s (LISC) Place Matters neighborhoodsAvondale, Covington, Madisonville, Price Hill and Walnut Hills—totaling $45,000. The partnership, which began in January, will help support arts activities in the neighborhoods.
Each neighborhood will use the funds to contract arts organizations that are supported by ArtsWave, or to support activities that include community-building arts programs. Each grant project will also involve local community partners, such as the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, the Urban League of Cincinnati, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, schools, community councils and business associations.
Avondale’s Comprehensive Development Corporation will use the grant money to bring the “Kin Killing Kin Art Series” to the neighborhood as part of a strategy to promote alternatives to violence, and help residents connect to the African culture through cooking and performance programs from Bi-Okoto and the Cincinnati Black Theatre Company.
In Covington, the Center for Great Neighborhoods will help enhance the 2014 Art Off Pike with “ArtsWave Presents” appearances by Visionaries & Voices and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. Covington will also celebrate its bicentennial next year with site-specific performances by groups like the Cincinnati Opera and the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.
The Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation will launch the Madisonville Jazz and BBQ Festival in the fall in the heart of the neighborhood’s business district, adjacent to the Madisonville Arts and Cultural Center.
The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation will add arts programming to the We Are Walnut Hills Springfest and the second annual Cincinnati Street Food Festival, and to the community space in Five Points Alley.
Price Hill Will and Santa Maria Community Services plan to bring members of their community together to share performances by the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and MYCincinnati in schools and community centers.
The initiative falls under ArtsWave’s ArtsWave Presents program, which is an effort to extend arts programming across the region. It follows a partnership with Interact for Health on “Join the Fun,” which launched in February.

Cincinnati Saints kick off first home game in OTR

This season, the Cincinnati Saints’ soccer team will play their home games at Stargel Stadium at Taft High School. The first men’s home game is tonight, and the women’s first home game is June 7.
Stargel seats 3,000, but can hold more than that in standing-room only.
“Soccer isn’t a sport you need to sit to watch,” says David Satterwhite, president and CEO of the Saints.
Although alcohol can’t be sold inside the stadium, the Saints are partnering with Over-the-Rhine bars and restaurants for tailgates before and after games. Beer sales will benefit different nonprofits each week, with the Muscular Dystrophy Association as the first game's sponsor.
The Saints are also planning events at Fountain Square, such as watch parties for the World Cup.
“We want to show what a true soccer atmosphere can bring to the city,” Satterwhite says. “It’s always been in the suburbs, and now it’s coming downtown.”
The ultimate goal is to bring an MLS team to Cincinnati. According to Satterwhite, Cincinnati is a huge market for soccer because of the almost 60,000 kids who play the game in the area.
The men’s team has seven home games, and the women’s have five. All games are streamed live on YouTube by official broadcasters. And if you want to watch a game in person, admission is $8.
By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter


Happy Belly health food cafe coming to OTR

Happy Belly on Vine, a new health food café, will soon open in Over-the-Rhine. It’s owned by Abby Reckman, a University of Cincinnati graduate in food and nutrition sciences, and her sister-in-law, Molly Reckman.
“I’ve always been passionate about nutrition and how it affects the body,” Abby says. “If you eat healthy, you feel healthy, both mentally and physically.”
Clean eating means eating foods in their most natural state—limiting highly processed foods, preservatives and added refined sugars. It’s not always easy, and Abby and Molly want to offer this type of food to the residents of OTR.
“We hope to bring a healthy lifestyle to the community,” Abby says. “We know that a lot of people in OTR are already health conscious and pay attention to what they put in their bodies, and we want to make it more convenient for people to eat healthy.”
The menu will feature smoothies like The Foundation and Hawaiian Berry, as well as a sweet potato burger, a free-range chicken wrap, the Peanut Butter and Berry Sandwich, and Spirulina Energy Bites. Sides include popcorn and mixed fruit. All of the oats used at Happy Belly are gluten-free, and there will be a gluten-free bread option too.  
Happy Belly will have a take-away cooler with cold sandwiches, wraps and salads, all made fresh daily. Abby says they expect about 80 percent of their business to be carry-out.
Molly recently moved back to Cincinnati from Chicago, but Abby has lived in OTR since 2010, and has seen a lot of the development that’s been going on during the past four years. Abby’s father-in-law, husband and brother-in-law have all been part of the growth and development in OTR through Model Group and Urban Expansion.
“OTR is growing every day, and it’s an amazing neighborhood with so much life and energy,” Abby says. “This area seemed like a natural fit for us, and we want to continue to see OTR grow and be part of it.”
By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter

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