Friday, February 29, 2008

'Life Peace Zones' for Ohio, Cincinnati?

Steven Gerard Sidlovsky, S.F.O. thinks a statewide option for pro-life zoning is a good idea, and he wants Cincinnati's support in drafting the bill.

In a recent letter to City Council, Sidlovsky introduces the concept of the Life Peace Zone, a new zoning designation that would be available to any community in the state of Ohio if a proposed Ohio Bill for Life makes it through the state legislature.

The legislation would work as an umbrella overlay, preventing the construction of any clinic or other medical facility that provides abortions from setting up a practice in that area.

Any clinic already in operation would be forced to cease operations, though Sidlovsky says that the neighborhood could "peacefully and diplomatically encourage" the clinic to undergo a change of practice.

Sidlovsky estimates that 25 percent of pro-choice people will be supportive of the Life Peace Zone as a "Constitutional right".

In the letter, Sidlovsky says that people have been generally optimistic about what he calls an Interfaith, all-partisan idea.

"This receptivity leads me to conclude that many cities throughout Ohio and the rest of the United States would welcome establishing themselves as Life Peace Zones," he said.

Sidlovsky visited nine Cincinnati neighborhoods in 2007 and three in 2008, and is urging residents to send letters of support to their community council presidents.

His letter to Council has been referred to the City Manager's office for a report, which is due by March 19.

Sidlovsky is an adjunct instructor at the University of Cincinnati's Department of Mathematical Sciences.

Kroger taking bids for expanded East Price Hill store

The following story originally appeared in the February 12 issue of Soapbox

The Kroger Company is currently accepting bids for an expanded East Price Hill store that will allow them to offer more product lines to the neighborhood.

Construction of the new 64,000-square-foot store, which was designed by Cole + Russell Architects, is expected to be completed by early November.

The new Kroger will include new product offerings such as a drive-thru pharmacy, a photo lab and a Nature's Market organic food section.

Given the pedestrian-oriented nature of Warsaw Avenue, the exterior site plan was designed with a new streetscape, new crosswalks, improved lighting, a new bus stop and a taxi stand.

According the Kroger Real Estate Manager Kelvin Peyton, the neighborhood's diversity dictated the need to replace the 25-year-old store.

"There's a void for customers in Price Hill and surrounding areas to get the products they want," Peyton said. "It's a diverse community over there. To be able to give the diverse customer base what they want, we have to be bigger than we are now."

The current store will close in mid-March, with demolition by the end of the month.

Link: Just for View

A recent entry into the local blog scene has already produced some very interesting conversations.

Just for View is about our public spaces generally, but has been about Over-the-Rhine almost entirely.

Recent posts include discussions on public space and inclusion, gentrification, "ghost signs" and alleys - some of which are punctuated with documentary-style photographs.

The link's been added to my blogroll.

Governing: Do you really want to be the best?

Does the infinite supply of "best city" rankings make or break a city?

In the February issue of Governing, Zach Patton examines the benefits and the drawbacks of these rankings.

As an example, Charlottesville, Virginia says that a #1 ranking in Sperling's 2004 "Cities Ranked and Rated" led directly to growth in the population and a boost in thecity's creative class. (There is also a large state university there.)

But what those working in economic development see as a boon, others will see as a loss. A flood of new, incoming residents, sprawling growth and rising housing costs can destroy everything that made the city so great in the first place.

In the latest edition of Sperling's book, Charlottesville had fallen to #17 due to "escalating housing prices".

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pleasant Ridge study sent for planning review

Photo courtesy of Urban Ohio

The Pleasant Ridge market study has been sent by the Pleasant Ridge Community Council's (PRCC) Neighborhood Committee to the City's Department of City Planning for review.

The market feasibility study was prepared by Kinzelman Kline & Gossman as an update to the neighborhood's 1999 strategic plan.

The document is meant to help guide future business development, tenanting and recruitment for the neighborhood, specifically within the Montgomery/Ridge/Woodford "triangle" and along the Montgomery Road corridor.

Residents, business owners and stakeholders were all part of the planning process, which began in 2005.

Among some of the study's ideas:

* A village green with outdoor dining or a large, centralized office or residential building for the "triangle"
* Market-rate housing above ground-floor retail along Montgomery Road
* Development of medium- to high-density residential or a retirement community on the Ridge Club site
* A performing arts venue
* Inter-connected public parking, surface or decked
* Mixed-use infill
* Single-family detached homes on scattered sites
* Relocation and/or expansion of UDF and Mullaney's
* Redevelopment of Burger King site

A report from the planning department is due by the middle of March.

Katharine Powell, one of the vice presidents of the PRCC, estimates that the finalized plan will appear before City Council for adoption in June.

Community brainstorms on Rothenberg engagement process

Photo courtesy of Urban Ohio

Now that Rothenberg School will apparently be saved as a neighborhood school and community learning center, Over-the-Rhine residents and stakeholders are beginning to brainstorm on how to jumpstart the community engagement process.

A working group is being assembled that includes assistance from the Community Building Institute, with the goal of bringing together neighborhood and community council representatives, school staff, Rothenberg partners, parents and students to decide what types of programs should be offered in a renovated facility.

As a gauge of the community's reaction, the group is considering holding a "pep rally" to get people excited and informed about the project.

At a recent meeting, they also discussed:

* How the design process can be reconciled with the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) building "template"
* How to present information on the types of educational styles available and what would bring people back to the neighborhood school
* Whether or not surveys are a reliable way to gauge public opinion, given that many may be uninformed

The shift to a community-based facility will require residents and stakeholders to line up project partners to fund and implement the desired programs.

The working group and the resulting public meetings are a direct outgrowth the citizens' desire to save a neighborhood anchor.

The historic brick building at Main Street and Clifton Avenue (BIRD'S EYE) was originally scheduled for demolition and a rebuild, but CPS reconsidered after finding that the cost savings of such a move would be minimal.

The design process is scheduled to begin in April.

Renovation is expected to take about 18 months.

Previous reading on BC:
Peaslee to host meeting on Rothenberg (1/15/08)

EXTRA: BOOST! at Metaphor Flats

In the February 12 issue of Soapbox, I wrote about Jenny White's new meeting space BOOST!, located in Metaphor Flats at 538 Reading Road (BIRD'S EYE).

Though I missed her open house due to the inclement weather, she was nice enough to give me a tour last Friday.

The space exceeded my expectations and was well worth my drive through a near blizzard.

Please click on each image to enlarge to 640 x 480. Photos will open in a new browser window.

NYT: Is your house making you look fat?

Calling large, cookie-cutter homes in formulaic subdivisions "the architectural equivalent of transfats", writer Allison Arieff states that we should be less concerned about how much housing we build, and more concerned about how our homes and communities are designed.

First and foremost, she argues that we should stop designing for cars - homes and communities should be designed for human patterns of use, including the ability to walk to nearby amenities.

Her other major point is that sustainablity must be built into our projects, not slapped on as an afterthought. Not only is access to green building information more widely available than ever before, but fixes such as reducing the square footage of new homes can make a huge difference.

When you talk about homes and personal choice, it's sure to generate quite a discussion - check out the 87 comments for a fascinating read.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cincinnati's first LEED-certified public building opens today

Cincinnati's first LEED-certified public building will open today at a dedication ceremony for Cincinnati Fire Station No. 9, 4379 Reading Road (BIRD'S EYE) in Paddock Hills.

The new building, at two stories and 15,555 square feet, will house Engine 9, Squad 9 and Ambulance 9 of the Cincinnati Fire Department.

The new station replaces Engine 9's former station, which was built in 1929, and is the first new fire station built in Cincinnati since 1982.

The ribbon-cutting will occur at 10 AM and will include a meal and a display of fire department apparatus.

Shuttle buses will be available at the Jimmy Woods Learning Center, 4081 Reading Road, and the Ohio National Guard Armory parking lot, 4130 Reading Road, from 9 AM-10 AM and for one hour following the ceremony.

Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory, city manager Milton Dohoney Jr., members of City Council and representatives from Cole + Russell Architects are expected to attend.

Brent Spence project releases amended schedule

The Ohio Department of Transportation, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, and the Brent Spence Bridge advisory committee have released an updated project schedule that will keep construction from starting until 2011 at the earliest - assuming that funding for the $3 billion project can be found by that time.

The original project schedule, which was released in 2005, has been modified to allow for some aspects of engineering and design work to proceed concurrently, rather than in their previous step-by-step fashion.

Delays were also caused by the performance of a travel lane study in which traffic volumes were estimated for the expansion to five, six and seven continuous lanes, which showed no appreciable increase in volume for each lane added.

A study of certified traffic data has been bumped up in the process and is now due on June 16. This study will take into account estimates of daily traffic, hour volumes and truck traffic to determine the number of lanes necessary for the project.

Other changes include:

* Conceptual alternatives study: Due October 24, 2008, was originally planned for November 2006. This will combine design and environmental data to produce a list of feasible alternatives.

* Assessment of feasible alternatives: Due August 9, 2009, was originally planned for August 2007. This provides a more detailed document of the feasible alternatives for presentation to stkeholders, agencies and the public.

* Preferred alternative verification report: Due August 16, 2010, was originally planned for September 2008. This document further refines data given for the preferred alternative.

* Draft environmental document: Due September 2, 2010, was originally planned for February 2009. This is a document detailing the preferred alternative's impacts and mitigation procedures and coordinating activities with other agencies.

* Final environmental document: Due April 21, 2011, was originally planned for August 2009. This is a revision of the draft environmental document that also includes comments from regulatory agencies and input received from the public during a 45-day comment period.

EXTRA: Cincinnati Beer Company's Elm Street buildings

In the February 12 issue of Soapbox, I wrote about Bryon Martin's desire to build a brewpub in the former offices of Christian Moerlein, pending the City's approval of streetcars.

Here are some photos I took on January 26, the day he gave me a tour of the buildings.

Cincinnati Beer Company has also started a blog, which will hopefully be around to document the progress of what could be a Brewery District anchor.

The main office building itself, which was completed in 1878 with an addition in 1904, can be found at 2019 Elm Street (BIRD'S EYE), just north of Findlay Market.

Please click on each image to enlarge to 640 x 480. Photos will open in a new browser window.

Architect: How would you spend $1.6 trillion?

The United States spends just 0.93 percent ($112.9B) of its gross domestic product on infrastructure, and the Urban Land Institute estimates that it would take $1.6 trillion to make the much needed upgrades required to bring it up to par.

In its February issue, Architect magazine asks architects, engineers, planners, and others how best to spend that hypothetical $1.6 trillion.

Aside from opinions from well-known names like Ron Paul, Richard Florida and James Hoffa, there are ideas from lesser-known - but highly qualified - people that range from the practical to the whimsical to pure fantasy.

I wonder what they would say about our Brent Spence Bridge?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cincinnati to sell streets for Columbia Square

Plat of vacated streets (CLICK)

The City of Cincinnati has agreed to sell two vacated streets to Al Neyer, Inc. to accommodate the retail portion of the Columbia Square development in Columbia Tusculum.

The sale will include 0.46 acres of Broughton Street and 0.11 acres of Butterfield Alley, which will allow for the planned second phase, a retail center along Columbia Parkway, across from Hoge and McDowell streets.

The City will receive a permanent traffic easement to keep Butterfield Alley accessible from Columbia Parkway.

Phase I, a 50,000-square-foot office building, is currently under construction on the southeast corner of Columbia Parkway and Delta Avenue.

At buildout, Columbia Square will include the office and retail buildings as well as an additional 34,000-square-foot office building on the northwest corner of Columbia and Delta.

Previous reading on BC:
Columbia Square photo update, 1/9/08 (1/14/08)
Columbia Square photo update, 10/4/07 (10/12/07)
Service agreement, funds for Columbia Square (8/7/07)

Google mashup identifies Cincinnati's public steps

A new Google Maps mashup on the Community Walk website provides information on Cincinnati's numerous public steps, including those that are closed to the public.

The interface gives the name and address of each set of steps, directions on how to find them, and photos of what you'll find when you get there.

The City maintains nearly 400 sets of hillside stairways, which were a key transportation shortcut for pedestrians looking to traverse the City's often rugged terrain.

The steps are still heavily used today, though their presence is not without controversy.

In 2006, the Dayton Street Neighborhood Association successfully lobbied for the closure of the Horace Street steps, which connect Horace Street with the intersection of Bank and Linn streets. The residents claimed that the steps caused drug dealers and prostitutes to come down and use Horace Street, which is basically an alley for Dayton Street residents, as a place to conduct criminal activity.

And in March 2007, City Council voted to close the Collins Avenue steps - a major connection for residents and students from Taft Road to O'Bryonville - after Keys Crescent residents complained that the steps brought crime onto their street.

Despite the closures, the City sees some value in retaining pedestrian connectivity. This spring, work will begin to replace the public steps between Holy Cross-Immaculata Church and the Adams Crossing condominiums.

This map is a fantastic tool for people like me who like to do a little urban exploring, and it's helpful in finding the public steps that may be hidden from plain view or that are in unfamiliar neighborhoods.

Random projects photo update, 2/26/08

Here are a few overflow photos of projects I encountered while driving around.

Please click on each image to enlarge to 640 x 480. Photos will open in a new browser window.

This house at 459 Strafer Street in Columbia Tusculum has a translucent garage door.

Vineyard Homes continues building Excelsior Row - one house at a time - up Sycamore Hill in Mount Auburn.

Previous reading on BC:
Excelsior Row photo update, 11/20/07 (11/23/07)