Love of local brew fuels rapid rise of Cincy’s beer market

Soapbox covers the growth of craft breweries in Cincinnati:

“Knowing what I know now, I certainly would have done things a little bit different,” says [MadTree] owner Brady Duncan. “In our original business plan estimates, we underestimated it so much that our monthly estimate is now like an average Saturday night.” […]

“We’re only in our eighth month, and we’re brewing right now at the rate we thought we’d be brewing about three and half to four years into the business,” says Rhinegeist co-founder Bob Bonder.

Cincinnati Enquirer: Finish the streetcar

Even the Enquirer thinks it would be fiscally irresponsible to cancel the Cincinnati Streetcar project, which is very much under construction:

But now 200 construction workers are digging up Downtown streets, and 1,800 feet of rails are already in the ground. […]

Project manager John Deatrick estimates it will cost another $34 million to $47 million, and take up to a year, to stop it. There are streetcars under construction, tracks to rip up, streets and curbs to restore. By city estimates, we could spend $67 million to $80 million and have nothing to show for it.

And suddenly, the Enquirer understands that the streetcar will make Cincinnati more competitive with its peer cities:

A low cost of living is no longer enough to spur growth; we must also offer modern infrastructure and amenities, especially to the millennials and baby boomers interested in urban living. […]

To attract those kinds of jobs and workers, 20 streetcar systems are under construction or planned in the U.S., in addition to around a dozen in operation. They are in places like Charlotte, N.C.; Milwaukee; Austin, Texas; and Minneapolis –– places we compete with for people and jobs.

I wish the Enquirer would have considered these arguments years ago, instead of publishing ridiculous articles about Barry Horstman power walking the streetcar route.

And finally, what does the Enquirer say about their endorsement of John Cranley, who, uhh, ran on a promise to kill the streetcar?

In endorsing Cranley, we said he would “have to rein in his dictatorial tendencies and discipline himself to be diplomatic, respectful and collaborative.” What we’ve seen so far is a matter for concern. Hurling insults at professionals like streetcar project manager John Deatrick isn’t what we need.

Cincinnati Streetcar vehicles unveiled

UrbanCincy contributor Paige Malott writes on her website, CincyWhimsy:

The Cincinnati Streetcar is the first streetcar in the United States to be designed with curb level boarding at every stop, making it the most accessible in the nation. Curb level boarding means easy access for people with wheelchairs, visual impairments, walkers, or other mobility issues. Unlike a bus, they can enter the streetcar independently without the driver having to stop to assist them. Curb level boarding is also helpful for people with strollers, young children, or luggage.

And that’s just one of the many advantages of streetcars over buses.

New owner of Terrace Plaza plans to reopen hotel

Cincinnati’s Terrace Plaza hotel, which has been closed for three years, will soon be renovated and re-opened by a New York-based developer, Alan Friedberg. Just a decade ago, he was offered the opportunity to invest in the hotel but turned it down:

This isn’t the first time the property was brought to Friedberg’s attention. He visited the building in 2000. He wasn’t interested in buying it then because he didn’t think the city had momentum.

“Everything at that point was moving across the river,” he said. “I was not, at that time, enthusiastic about Cincinnati. I’ve been proven wrong.”

Now, he praises the “phenomenal job Cincinnati has done turning the city around.”

Not only have the city’s efforts improved the public’s perception of downtown — they’re resulted in businesses choosing to invest here.

John Schneider on Cincinnati’s riverfront rebuild

Once upon a time, Hamilton County’s decision to build two brand new pro sports stadiums on the riverfront was somewhat controversial. Some people argued that Broadway Commons (now the location of Horseshoe Casino) would have been a better home for a new Reds stadium, as the ballpark would have been integrated into a mixed-use neighborhood and created new development opportunities nearly.

However, John Schneider points out that it was a wise decision to put the stadiums on the riverfront, as it allowed us to fund several infrastructure projects to improve that part of the city. After all, people seem willing to spend a great deal of money on sports; citizens overwhelmingly approved a new sales tax to pay for the stadiums. But can you imagine Hamilton County passing a “riverfront redevelopment” sales tax earmarked for narrowing Fort Washington Way and building Smale Riverfront Park and The Banks? No way.

I recently re-discovered several comments that John Schneider left on an old UrbanCincy article, and I wanted to collect them all here in one place for future reference:

It’s probably worth writing an article about, but it wasn’t only “old money” that wanted the ball park on the river as the keystone of a plan to make the waterfront habitable.

Since 1788, the problem with Cincinnati’s Central Riverfront has been that it floods fairly regularly. Cincinnati never had the means to build a flood-proof riverfront until the massive infrastructure budget that accompanied the two sports facilities was on the table. It’s only because of the teams’ demand for game-day parking revenues that money was set aside to build 4,500 structured parking spaces between the two stadiums; otherwise that area would still be stuck in the mud today, used for ten Sundays a year for Bengals’ parking and marginal parking for downtown office workers.

So by putting both teams down there, we were able to lift the riverfront out of the flood plain, flood-proof a billion dollars worth of new development and create a parking bank that has cured downtown’s chronic parking deficiency (which, incidentally, serves to preserve olders buildings that might have otherwise become parking lots). Historians will reqard the city’s riverfront investment decisions of 1995-2000 as some of the most significant ever.

On a net basis, we’re better off with the Reds on the river. And beside, the Broadway Commons site was too small for a major league ball park, something that Channel 9 established beyond any doubt in the closing week of the 1998 campaign. It would have made for a good AAA ball park. Jim Tarbell would probalby tell you the same thing today.

I’ll hazard a considered guess that if the Great American Ball Park wasn’t exactly where it is today, then the State of Ohio would have never found the money to narrow Fort Washington Way from 750 feet to 375 feet and that the “unfriendly ribbon of concrete” would have been left the way it was, putting our riverfront on ice for another thirty or forty years.

Peter Bronson wrote, curiously, that “Remodeling Fort Washington Way had nothing at all to do with The Banks project.”

Peter Bronson is totally wrong on this. Narrowing Fort Washington Way gave back to Cincinnati 14 acres of land that was once wholly located within the Fort Washington Way (I-71)right-of-way. This land is precisely where The Banks is being built today. As the editorial page director of the Enquirer all through the period when FWW was planned and built, he should know better.

Bronson should also understand that you don’t rebuild almost a third of a major city’s downtown in a few years. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a generation to complete The Banks. And it probably will if it’s done right.

On ‘Loving the Midwest’

The op-ed “Loving the Midwest” by Curtis Sittenfeld, sister of Cincinnati City Council Member PG Sittenfeld, got a lot of attention earlier this month after running in the New York Times. While I appreciate the author’s fondness for this region of the country, I have a problem with the article’s premise and its portrayal of the Midwest.

Sittenfeld explains that she and her husband have now accepted their new life in St. Louis, after having lived in larger East Coast cities. They have grown used to the fact that restaurants empty out by 9 p.m., and they now enjoy a life filled with trivia nights, friendly neighbors, short commutes, and convenient parking. “We usually eat dinner about 5:15, and by 9 o’clock I’m getting ready for bed,” she writes.

But what Sittenfeld is actually describing is a combination of suburban life, which could be experienced in any region of the country, and her own personal lifestyle choices. She has done a disservice by equating Midwestern life with the particular way that she has chosen to live.

As a resident of Cincinnati, a city similar to St. Louis in many ways, my life doesn’t have much in common with Sittenfeld’s. Maybe that’s because I live downtown, not in an outer suburb. (To be fair, I don’t know what type of neighborhood Sittenfeld calls home, but the lifestyle she describes sounds more like the suburbs than the urban core.)

The restaurants near me aren’t empty by 9 p.m.; in fact, they’re full on most weeknights. And if I want to stay out late, there are lots of things to do. (There’s nothing wrong with going to bed early, either, but that doesn’t have much to do with the neighborhood or part of the country where you live.)

I’m not trying to claim that Midwestern cities are exactly like Philadelphia or Washington, D.C., two of Sittenfeld’s former homes. We don’t have as many trendy restaurants, music venues, bars, and other late-night activities. And as the author points outs, there are many differences politically and in the way people behave. But that doesn’t mean that the Midwest is a boring, sleepy place where everything shuts down at dusk.

Choosing to live a slower-paced lifestyle is fine. But don’t try to portray the Midwest as a place to retire when you’re done with fast-paced, exciting city life. Because we have that in the Midwest, too.


Ex-SCPA site lands new Marriott brand

Coming soon to the Pendleton sub-neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine:

The new boutique hotel headed to the former [School for the Creative and Performing Arts] building in Pendleton won’t be a first only for Cincinnati – it may be the first in the United States.

Marriott International announced Monday that it’s bringing its European boutique brand AC to the United States, and The Enquirer has learned that the old SCPA site is among the locations in the pipeline to get one.

Tom Luken on Union Terminal

Former Cincinnati Mayor Tom Luken, now a member of anti-city group COAST, wrote an absolutely unbelievable letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Union Terminal was a “gift” to the city in the 1970′s, from the railroad barons who had been trying for a decade to get the city to accept this decaying “white elephant” (“Pledge broken: Museum wants tax” June 20).

During the sixties, Council colleagues Mayor Gene Ruehlman, Councilman Charlie Taft, and I – who didn’t always agree, to put it mildly – were united in not taking the already crumbling edifice off their hands. We agreed that there was not “enough money in the world to save it structurally,” and the city couldn’t afford it. Only the federal government can afford the Smithsonian.

Union Terminal is perhaps the most recognizable icon of the City of Cincinnati and one of the best examples of Art Deco architecture anywhere. It’s now home to the Cincinnati Museum Center, one of our region’s most important assets.

But Tom Luken says the city shouldn’t have taken it over. I guess he believes we should have let it decay and eventually meet the wrecking ball.

Even the conservative Enquirer announced their support of a levy to fund the maintenance of the iconic building:

The Museum Center levy could be taken off the books and taxpayers wouldn’t even know the difference. But if Union Terminal was damaged beyond repair, Cincinnati and Hamilton County would never be the same.

Tom Luken is frequently quoted as an opposing voice to the City of Cincinnati’s current leadership. But why should we listen to Luken? It’s clear that he doesn’t have the city’s best interests in mind.

Holtman’s Donuts to open location in Over-the-Rhine

It’s kind-of old news at this point, but it’s still awesome.

Holtman’s original location is near my hometown of Goshen, Ohio, on Cincinnati’s far east side. Now they’re opening a location in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, around the corner from where I live now.

It’s a sign of how far the city has come when local businesses that started in the outer-ring suburbs are excited to move into the urban core.

Don’t let politics muddle parking

There’s been a lot of misinformation circulating about Cincinnati’s parking modernization plan. But even the Cincinnati Enquirer realizes that the plan is a win for citizens. In short:

  • A private company, Xerox, will spend the money up-front to upgrade all of the city’s parking meters. The new meters will accept credit cards, and you’ll also be able to pay via your smartphone.
  • Xerox will not be allowed to raise parking rates until they’ve upgraded every meter in the city. Rates can only raise by a quarter every three years downtown, and a quarter every six years in other neighborhoods.
  • Xerox will be responsible for maintaining the meters and garages during the duration of the lease. This is a huge weight off the city’s back, as many of the garages will be in need of expensive repairs over the next few years.
  • The city will receive an up-front payment that will be used to fund investments across the city, such as the next phase of the Smale Riverfront Park, a new I-71 interchange that will serve the University of Cincinnati and uptown neighborhoods, and the Wasson Way Bike Trail.
  • The city will also receive annual payments for the entire duration of the lease. (Opponents of the plan often leave out this fact, implying that the city is only getting one lump sum.)
  • The plan gets the government out of the parking business and puts a private company in control — that should make the conservatives happy, right?

What’s not to like about this plan?