Cincinnati’s Transit Revolution

Today’s post is by guest blogger Christine Celsor

One very important element of a world-class city is an effective transit system. Tourists and residents alike need to get around the city without a car. Transit reduces the amount of energy expended on transportation and reduces pollution emissions. The more efficient and effective the transit system is, the better it improves environmental quality, and the better it contributes to Cincinnati’s urban vitality.

The streetcar is an amazing opportunity for Cincinnati. Urbanists who have great visions for the future of the City have won the political battle. The streetcar is a symbol for those who believe that Cincinnati can be one of the best cities in the country. We can attract and retain new talent, by serving the needs of residents of all kinds – including those who can’t or don’t drive.

The streetcar is just the beginning. Its design might be the beginning of a light rail system that provides fast and efficient connections along heavily traveled routes. Imagine being able to hop on a train downtown and get to UC in about ten minutes, without having to worry about parking. The more the rail network expands, the more useful it will be. The streetcar is also re-defining Cincinnati Metro. Cincinnati Metro plans to redesign the exterior of buses to match the streetcar colors to capitalize on the energy from the streetcar.

Cincinnati Metro has great potential to expand its bus system as well. In most areas, bus service provides good coverage. Currently, however, even when people have access to a bus route, the bus does not come very often and does not efficiently connect origins and destinations. People are not very likely to choose the bus if the trip takes two or three times longer to get to their destination than if they would drive. When there is an extensive network of buses that come frequently, people have many options to transfer and get to many different destinations quickly.

The map below shows existing Cincinnati Metro bus service identified by frequency. Red lines represent bus service every 15 minutes; orange every 20-30 minutes; blue every 45 minutes to 1 hour; and yellow is express bus service. This map is not meant to show every route individually, though it could be made into a map that shows both frequency and individual routes. The intent of this map is to give a big picture of Cincinnati Metro’s strengths and weaknesses. Bus service from many neighborhoods to downtown is very good. What is sorely lacking is at least one frequent crosstown route, ideally more than one. Frequent crosstown routes could turn Metro’s system into a much more usable network.

unnamed

The next two maps show existing employment and existing population density. Employment density is very important in determining where bus routes will be successful in attracting riders. The minimum employment density to support good levels of transit service is about 10 employees per acre (shown in the lightest purple). The medium purple represents 20-30 employees per acre, and the darkest purple represents 30 or more employees per acre.

unnamed-1

unnamed-2Population density is also important. Ten-to-twenty persons per acre can support good levels of transit ridership (shown in the lightest yellow), and above twenty persons per acre can support very good levels of transit ridership. The darkest yellow-brown represents 30 or more persons per acre. When areas have high employment and population densities combined, they are very likely to support very good levels of transit.

When a city is designed only for cars, it fails both people and their cars. When a city is designed for people, it ends up working for everyone, including drivers who benefit from reduced traffic and parking congestion. Part of Cincinnati’s transit revolution should include improving bus service. Improving bus service is a cost-effective way to make a big impact on the city’s transit system.

The maps provide some useful big-picture information to start thinking about how we can improve Cincinnati’s bus system. How can we connect our neighborhoods better? How can we connect employment centers with residential neighborhoods? How do we make Metro more user friendly? Coming up with answers to these questions and implementing the solutions will make Cincinnati even better.

 

 

Advertisements

Yours and MyCincinnati

Today’s guest blogger is Eddy Kwon, director of MYCincinnati (Music for Youth in Cincinnati)

MYC 1

MYCincinnati is a free, daily, youth orchestra program for children in Price Hill. The program was founded in 2011 on the idea that personal transformation can be achieved through the pursuit of musical excellence. That personal transformation has the potential to uplift families and to change the social fabric of a community. Every student in MYCincinnati has the opportunity to study violin, viola, cello, or double bass and play in an orchestra. Now in its fifth year, MYCincinnati has over eighty young musicians that meet for two hours every weekday in an historic firehouse in East Price Hill. The program consists of orchestra rehearsals, sectionals, private lessons, advanced chamber music, secondary instrument classes, social awareness training, and academic tutoring. MYCincinnati is a program of Price Hill Will, a non-profit comprehensive community development organization.

MYC 2

History

In the beginning, we had just 11 students, two teachers, a borrowed space, borrowed instruments, and very little money. By necessity, we started small. But that smallness allowed us to dedicate ourselves fully to each of the students and their families, facilitating the growth of a positive, family-oriented culture. When a child missed several days in a row, we called home. When they didn’t answer, we sent Facebook messages. When we didn’t hear from them, we visited their homes. Through persistence and consistency, we developed strong bonds of trust with each of our families. From the beginning, we wanted to make clear that this was about more than learning music. It was about building and strengthening community.

*Video ~ After 5 Weeks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_nzAveh6H8

MYC 3

Music as a Vehicle

MYCincinnati’s approach to music education and youth development is unorthodox and informed by its commitment to community building. First, a vast majority of a student’s musical learning happens in a group setting. From day one, a child is embedded within a group of peers, learning as part of a team. If one student is distracting or disrupting the rehearsal, the entire group waits patiently. Instead of emphasizing punishment, teachers are encouraged to reinforce the positive behavior of students who are excelling in the hope of inspiring surrounding students who may be struggling. It is a long road, but the result – a supportive, positive culture focused on group success – is well worth the daily struggle.

*Video ~ After 1 Year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmrdHZnulCw

MYC 4

Accomplishments

I’m so proud of how much we’ve been able to accomplish together over the past four-and-a-half years. MYCincinnati’s students – now numbering over eighty – have performed with the Cincinnati Opera, Maestro John Morris Russell, pianist Awadagin Pratt, Swedish Grammy-nominated songwriter Jens Lekman, and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, among others. We’ve collaborated and partnered with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Contemporary Arts Center, the Cincinnati Symphony, and other diverse cultural institutions. We’ve secured grant funding from major organizations and foundations, including Impact 100, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, ArtsWave, and the L&L Nippert Charitable Foundation, among others. And, of course, we’ve moved into our own space – a beautiful, historic firehouse in the heart of East Price Hill.

*Video ~ After 4 Years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYkhhG8KUu8

Teachers as Community-Embedded Artists

At the core of MYCincinnati’s success is the dedication and drive of its teaching artists. Each teacher brings much more than technical knowledge to the rehearsal – they bring a complete commitment to the growth of each child, immense creativity in pedagogical approach, and a deep love for the neighborhood. It is worth noting that all of MYCincinnati’s staff members live in Price Hill, within walking distance of the program building. We shop at the same Kroger as our students and families, walk to the same parks, and go to the same coffee shop. I can’t run errands in the neighborhood without stopping and chatting with at least one MYCincinnati family. And when I drive down my street to go home, I see MYCincinnati students playing in their yards and sitting on their porches.

MYC 5

Parents as Community Builders

As of now, there are five mothers in the orchestra, attending program daily to learn violin and cello alongside their children. Parents frequently help transport other children to and from the program, and many parents consistently donate snacks. One grandmother has joined the Price Hill Arts Council and is now publishing a book that features Price Hill artists. Almost all parents attend every single concert, connecting with other MYCincinnati parents across traditional barriers of language, race, and class.

MYCincinnati as a Model for Community Building

There is a community building and thriving in Price Hill. This community is diverse, it is connected through music, and it is deeply invested in the health of the neighborhood. Slowly but surely, MYCincinnati’s musicians will become the city’s arts leaders, and their families will be the drivers of growth in Price Hill. It is with their vision and imagination that Price Hill will develop into a strong and vibrant community.

MYC 6

Connect with MYCincinnati online at www.mycincinnatiorchestra.org

or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mycincinnatiorchestra

Contact Eddy at eddy@pricehillwill.org

 

 

Price Hill Will Did – And So Can You!

Today’s post is the second in a series by Ken Smith, Executive Director of Price Hill Will

Residents of other communities often ask me about how Price Hill Will was created and how we’ve managed to accomplish as much as we have in a relatively short period of time.  I am always happy to share our story in the hope that it could be beneficial to others.  If we are to succeed at the herculean task of improving neglected neighborhoods, we have to learn from the mistakes and successes of others.  Of course, we are certainly more likely to send out press releases about the latter and hope no one notices the former.

At Price Hill Will, many elements played a role in our success to date.  I will share the ones I think helped us the most.

Community-Engaged Planning

First and foremost, I credit our success with the multi-year process that engaged thousands of residents and led to a comprehensive, asset-based, community-driven plan for Price Hill.  Without that foundation of engagement, we would not have had the needed buy-in from residents, the city, or funders.

Leadership

The original planning initiative had an amazing steering committee composed of key stakeholders, neighborhood leaders, and concerned residents.  This committee brought their wide range of talents, experience and knowledge to the effort.  They gave the work credibility, both inside and outside the community, and they were able to transcend (or at least hold at bay) much of the neighborhood politics which can quickly doom an idea.  The importance of having key people involved in community efforts cannot be understated.  When Price Hill Will incorporated as an independent organization we were lucky than many members of the steering committee agreed to continue their efforts as our first board of directors.  Over the last 11 years we have been able to recruit dedicated leaders from our neighborhood when we’ve had a board vacancy.

Timing & Funding

Price Hill was chosen to be one of the three original neighborhoods to receive focused, place-based support from a Cincinnati funding initiative called Place Matters, which serendipitously coincided with our founding.  The community already had a strong human services organization, Santa Maria Community Services, but Price Hill Will was in its infancy with minimal staff and no full-time executive director.  In order to be selected as a lead agency for Place Matters, Price Hill Will had to agree to add capacity and expertise, which was exactly what the Place Matters funding allowed us to do!  Price Hill Will was also extremely lucky to receive a significant grant from the city of Cincinnati to begin work on our single-family rehab program called Buy-Improve-Sell.  Those two funding sources, along with support from SC Ministry Foundation, allowed us to get our feet underneath us.  As a result of early and continued successes, we have been rewarded with continued and increased funding opportunities.

Staff

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the staff at Price Hill Will.  We began with just two contracted staff and a few AmeriCorps members.  Today, we have nine full-time and four part-time employees working on housing, economic development, business support, real estate development, community gardening, neighborhood promotion, creative placemaking, and youth development.  We have been very fortunate to attract talented folks who are committed to the mission of the organization. Eight of the 13 employees live in the neighborhood.  Without these dedicated staff members, Price Hill Will could not achieve it mission.

Many communities are seeing similar problems with general disinvestment, crime, social ills and a deteriorating built-environment (public and private).  This commonality presents a tremendous opportunity to learn from our peers and implement best practices.  My fellow community development professionals have been more than willing to share their knowledge with me, and in return, I am happy to assist where I can.  I believe the Cincinnati region could benefit from more interactions amongst the neighborhood leaders, both volunteer and professional.  If you are interested in making your neighborhood (and ultimately the city) a better place, I encourage you to reach out to other people inside and outside your community.  Have a beer, talk about what each of you is doing, find ways to collaborate, and most importantly, build relationships.

Where's the [insert amenity here]?

By Guest Blogger Zachary Schunn

“Why is there no ____ in my neighborhood?”

As a commercial real estate advisor, I hear this question all the time – from friends, family, community members, and property owners. Unfortunately, it’s a question that typically sets up a negative answer. There is always a reason there is not a grocery store, laundromat, restaurant, etc. in a neighborhood, and sometimes that answer is as simple as, “No one has thought of it yet.”

More often, there are three main reasons a certain business has yet to open in a neighborhood – money, people, and time. And thankfully, all three items are fixable.

Of course, businesses cost money to start. For entrepreneurs wanting to open, say, a restaurant, it can often come as a surprise that 200 or 300 thousand dollars in cash is seen as a small amount to start with. I often talk to entrepreneurs who are surprised to learn just how much rent costs, that landlords typically expect tenants to build out their own space, that so much in working capital is expected by landlords and banks, that loan officers have such strict lending and business plan requirements, etc. Can a savvy entrepreneur start a retail shop on as little as $10,000 in donations and friends/family money? Sure – I’ve seen it done. But if a business is to get off the ground running and stay afloat, $100,000 is a more common minimum.

So, it takes someone with capital to come along and want to open a business in a neighborhood. But to survive, they need people to come. Most experienced retailers have checklists they use to evaluate locations—things like: number of residents within a three-mile radius, day-time population, age and income demographics, traffic volume, etc. Currently, this is what hinders a lot of urban neighborhoods from attracting certain retailers. If a business is accustomed to certain road/highway presence in suburban locations, convincing the owners to consider an urban area can be tough. While “walkable neighborhoods” are gaining popularity in development and planning circles, many retailers still take a car-oriented approach, since higher population figures are seen in a fifteen-minute drive-time radius than within fifteen- minute walking distance.

The last “hurdle” is both an obstacle and a solution, and that is time. Opening a business (whether a start-up, re-location, or chain) takes a lot of advance planning and work. It is not uncommon for a retailer to take years scouting an area before opening a location. Just take Kroger as an example—people often ask why downtown-Cincinnati-based Kroger does not have a downtown store. Well, few realize that they have been scouting sites for years, trying to find one that fits their size, population, traffic, parking, and other requirements. Now that they are rumored to have agreed to a location on Central Parkway, there are still a lot of zoning, code, and other requirements that need to be met before it can even become official; then, of course, a lengthy construction period before finally opening. And during that process, there are a number of issues that could arise threatening the deal.

While time can be a detriment, it can also solve a lot of hurdles with a neighborhood attracting a certain type of business. Even if the money and the people do not seem to be there at first, a neighborhood can work to build the demand, attract investors, and convince a business to open. Sometimes this requires dramatic changes in a neighborhood (for example, who would have expected a store like “Kit and Ace” in Over-the-Rhine five or ten years ago?), but sometimes it just requires a neighborhood marketing itself well enough to attract these new businesses. And whether it is a pizza place in Walnut Hills, a grocery store in Avondale, or new restaurants on the west side, they all can and will happen given the effort and time.

So what will I say the next time you ask me, “Why isn’t there a ___ in my neighborhood?”

I’ll just smile back and respond, “Well, there isn’t one… yet.”

About the author

Zachary Schunn is a resident of Mt. Auburn and a commercial real estate advisor for SVN. He has two degrees from the University of Cincinnati (Architecture, 2010 and MBA, 2011) and has served on a number of non-profit boards and committees within the city. Zachary spends his spare time playing tennis, hiking Cincinnati’s many urban trails, and restaurant- and bar-hopping in Over-the-Rhine with friends. He has lived in Cincinnati since 2006 and is still working to learn all its unique nooks and crannies.

Where’s the [insert amenity here]?

By Guest Blogger Zachary Schunn

“Why is there no ____ in my neighborhood?”

As a commercial real estate advisor, I hear this question all the time – from friends, family, community members, and property owners. Unfortunately, it’s a question that typically sets up a negative answer. There is always a reason there is not a grocery store, laundromat, restaurant, etc. in a neighborhood, and sometimes that answer is as simple as, “No one has thought of it yet.”

More often, there are three main reasons a certain business has yet to open in a neighborhood – money, people, and time. And thankfully, all three items are fixable.

Of course, businesses cost money to start. For entrepreneurs wanting to open, say, a restaurant, it can often come as a surprise that 200 or 300 thousand dollars in cash is seen as a small amount to start with. I often talk to entrepreneurs who are surprised to learn just how much rent costs, that landlords typically expect tenants to build out their own space, that so much in working capital is expected by landlords and banks, that loan officers have such strict lending and business plan requirements, etc. Can a savvy entrepreneur start a retail shop on as little as $10,000 in donations and friends/family money? Sure – I’ve seen it done. But if a business is to get off the ground running and stay afloat, $100,000 is a more common minimum.

So, it takes someone with capital to come along and want to open a business in a neighborhood. But to survive, they need people to come. Most experienced retailers have checklists they use to evaluate locations—things like: number of residents within a three-mile radius, day-time population, age and income demographics, traffic volume, etc. Currently, this is what hinders a lot of urban neighborhoods from attracting certain retailers. If a business is accustomed to certain road/highway presence in suburban locations, convincing the owners to consider an urban area can be tough. While “walkable neighborhoods” are gaining popularity in development and planning circles, many retailers still take a car-oriented approach, since higher population figures are seen in a fifteen-minute drive-time radius than within fifteen- minute walking distance.

The last “hurdle” is both an obstacle and a solution, and that is time. Opening a business (whether a start-up, re-location, or chain) takes a lot of advance planning and work. It is not uncommon for a retailer to take years scouting an area before opening a location. Just take Kroger as an example—people often ask why downtown-Cincinnati-based Kroger does not have a downtown store. Well, few realize that they have been scouting sites for years, trying to find one that fits their size, population, traffic, parking, and other requirements. Now that they are rumored to have agreed to a location on Central Parkway, there are still a lot of zoning, code, and other requirements that need to be met before it can even become official; then, of course, a lengthy construction period before finally opening. And during that process, there are a number of issues that could arise threatening the deal.

While time can be a detriment, it can also solve a lot of hurdles with a neighborhood attracting a certain type of business. Even if the money and the people do not seem to be there at first, a neighborhood can work to build the demand, attract investors, and convince a business to open. Sometimes this requires dramatic changes in a neighborhood (for example, who would have expected a store like “Kit and Ace” in Over-the-Rhine five or ten years ago?), but sometimes it just requires a neighborhood marketing itself well enough to attract these new businesses. And whether it is a pizza place in Walnut Hills, a grocery store in Avondale, or new restaurants on the west side, they all can and will happen given the effort and time.

So what will I say the next time you ask me, “Why isn’t there a ___ in my neighborhood?”

I’ll just smile back and respond, “Well, there isn’t one… yet.”

About the author

Zachary Schunn is a resident of Mt. Auburn and a commercial real estate advisor for SVN. He has two degrees from the University of Cincinnati (Architecture, 2010 and MBA, 2011) and has served on a number of non-profit boards and committees within the city. Zachary spends his spare time playing tennis, hiking Cincinnati’s many urban trails, and restaurant- and bar-hopping in Over-the-Rhine with friends. He has lived in Cincinnati since 2006 and is still working to learn all its unique nooks and crannies.

Our "Moment of Leverage" is tonight at 6 pm.

Tonight the Over-the-Rhine Community Council will vote on whether or not to sign a letter of support for a proposed development at Elm and Liberty.

According to a post written by community activist, Margy Waller, on sway.com,  this is a large, prominent piece of land  with a massive development that will include 15,500 square feet of commercial space and almost 100 small apartments, plus a huge garage.  Margy thinks the Community Council should withhold their support.

AZCui4qsaFpkJU

An image from the marketing materials of the proposed development at Liberty & Elm

Not that she’s against the development of the property. Or this particular developer. Nobody is.  Her point is that the community hasn’t been given enough information to make an intelligent decision on whether or not this plan works for the people who actually live here and know each other by name, homeowners and renters and business owners who believe in their little place on the planet more than any other and are intimately familiar with its challenges.

Why the rush?  Why tonight?  Why no time for questions or discussion?  This is a decision Over-the-Rhine will live with for decades to come, an important conversation that deserves to be treated with respect.  Quicky votes that limit input are the norm in publicly subsidized commercial real estate development.

The logic is always the same:  If support isn’t given this minute, the whole deal could fall apart.  The neighborhood is lucky anybody wants to risk private capital to build anything, with the ubiquitous “job creation” carrot dangled liberally throughout the argument – because “job creation” is accepted on such faith within the political community, it’s almost a religion.   As long as a development is legal and can be financed, ALL development is always assumed to be good.

Baloney.

This deal is not going to fall apart if there’s more conversation.  Big developments like this take decades to acquire properties, work with architects and lobby elected representatives.  A few more months is not going to dampen the enthusiasm of the for-profit developer who has been dreaming this dream morning, noon, and night for years.  They’re not going to walk away from what they’e already invested.

As population precipitously drained from our cities, municipalities had to do whatever they could to stabilize the tax base.  Thank goodness the factors that required such desperate government intervention have finally reversed.  Buyers now want what we’ve got- an affordable, walk-able, urban experience with unique historic building stock and non-chain everything on a sweet little bend in the river .

Citizens, it’s time we learned how to negotiate better deals.  Which means we need to organize, show up for meetings, lobby politicians, and demand transparency.  The point is not to stop development.  But we absolutely have to get more for our money and lower the public risk, the exact same thing any smart for-profit investor tries to do.

This vote tonight is very, very important.  Not just for the future of Liberty and Elm.  It’s important for every neighborhood that wants a say in  the investments taxpayers make for the Greater Good in whatever part of town has captured their heart.  This vote is an important lesson in power to every Community Council in Cincinnati.

As Margy so astutely points out:

When developers seek our support—especially when they are hoping to get city investment, zoning and other land use changes, or other public benefits—it’s our moment of leverage.

Our “Moment of Leverage” is tonight at 6 pm.

Tonight the Over-the-Rhine Community Council will vote on whether or not to sign a letter of support for a proposed development at Elm and Liberty.

According to a post written by community activist, Margy Waller, on sway.com,  this is a large, prominent piece of land  with a massive development that will include 15,500 square feet of commercial space and almost 100 small apartments, plus a huge garage.  Margy thinks the Community Council should withhold their support.

AZCui4qsaFpkJU

An image from the marketing materials of the proposed development at Liberty & Elm

Not that she’s against the development of the property. Or this particular developer. Nobody is.  Her point is that the community hasn’t been given enough information to make an intelligent decision on whether or not this plan works for the people who actually live here and know each other by name, homeowners and renters and business owners who believe in their little place on the planet more than any other and are intimately familiar with its challenges.

Why the rush?  Why tonight?  Why no time for questions or discussion?  This is a decision Over-the-Rhine will live with for decades to come, an important conversation that deserves to be treated with respect.  Quicky votes that limit input are the norm in publicly subsidized commercial real estate development.

The logic is always the same:  If support isn’t given this minute, the whole deal could fall apart.  The neighborhood is lucky anybody wants to risk private capital to build anything, with the ubiquitous “job creation” carrot dangled liberally throughout the argument – because “job creation” is accepted on such faith within the political community, it’s almost a religion.   As long as a development is legal and can be financed, ALL development is always assumed to be good.

Baloney.

This deal is not going to fall apart if there’s more conversation.  Big developments like this take decades to acquire properties, work with architects and lobby elected representatives.  A few more months is not going to dampen the enthusiasm of the for-profit developer who has been dreaming this dream morning, noon, and night for years.  They’re not going to walk away from what they’e already invested.

As population precipitously drained from our cities, municipalities had to do whatever they could to stabilize the tax base.  Thank goodness the factors that required such desperate government intervention have finally reversed.  Buyers now want what we’ve got- an affordable, walk-able, urban experience with unique historic building stock and non-chain everything on a sweet little bend in the river .

Citizens, it’s time we learned how to negotiate better deals.  Which means we need to organize, show up for meetings, lobby politicians, and demand transparency.  The point is not to stop development.  But we absolutely have to get more for our money and lower the public risk, the exact same thing any smart for-profit investor tries to do.

This vote tonight is very, very important.  Not just for the future of Liberty and Elm.  It’s important for every neighborhood that wants a say in  the investments taxpayers make for the Greater Good in whatever part of town has captured their heart.  This vote is an important lesson in power to every Community Council in Cincinnati.

As Margy so astutely points out:

When developers seek our support—especially when they are hoping to get city investment, zoning and other land use changes, or other public benefits—it’s our moment of leverage.