by German Lopez
Funding for development at Fourth, Race streets also gets approval
City Council today approved funding and accountability measures for the Cincinnati streetcar project, allowing the project to move forward.On Monday, the Budget and Finance Committee approved the measures, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. The funding ordinance closes the streetcar project's $17.4 million budget gap by issuing more debt and pulling funding from various capital projects, including infrastructure improvements around the Horseshoe Casino. The accountability motion will require the city manager to update City Council with a timeline of key milestones, performance measures, an operating plan, staffing assessments and monthly progress reports.Council members Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Chris
Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young voted for the measures.
Council members P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn
voted against both. Councilwoman Pam Thomas voted against the funding
ordinance, but she voted for the accountability motion.City Council also unanimously approved funding for a development project on Fourth and Race streets, which includes a downtown grocery store, luxury apartment tower and parking garage to replace Pogue's Garage. CityBeat covered that project in further detail here.
Remedial efforts to combat and understand local food deserts strive to improve public health
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 12, 2013
When grocery store chain Aldi shuttered
the doors of its Avondale location in 2008, the neighborhood didn’t just
lose a community business. It lost a slice of its livelihood.
by German Lopez
Food deserts plague city, court reverses parking ruling, downtown grocery store coming
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.For many neighborhoods, the lack of access to fresh,
healthy fruits, vegetables and foods is a big problem, but Councilwoman
Laure Quinlivan is helping address the problem,
at least in the short term, through mobile produce zones that will be
placed in eight neighborhoods generally considered “food deserts.”
Quinlivan acknowledges the solution is a stopgap, but Michael Widener,
assistant professor in University of Cincinnati’s Geography Department,
says it’s a start that could help many local residents as a better solution is worked on.
In a 2-1 ruling yesterday, the Hamilton County Court of
Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision and said the city’s plan to
semi-privatize its parking assets is not subject to a referendum and may move forward.
Parking opponents are appealing the decision and pushing for a stay.
For the city, the parking plan will potentially unlock millions of
dollars over 30 years, including a $92 million upfront payment. But
opponents argue the terms of the deal, which include increased parking
meter rates and operation hours, will hurt downtown business. The ruling
also returned the city’s emergency clause powers, which the city
says allow it to bypass a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws and
make laws insusceptible to referendum.
City Council unanimously approved
a development deal for Fourth and Race streets downtown to build a
grocery store, luxury apartment tower and garage to replace Pogue’s
Garage. With council approval, construction could begin late this year,
with developers hoping to finish in 2015. The deal will be headed by
Indianapolis-based development company Flaherty and Collins. The city’s
share of the $80 million deal will be $12 million, paid for with a
five-year forgivable loan financed by urban renewal funds, which are
generated through downtown taxes and can only be used for downtown
Commentary: “‘Jobs’ Budget Attacks Women’s Health Options”
The first mayoral candidate forum is tonight at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital MERC Auditorium at 620 Oak Street from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Candidates Roxanne Qualls, John Cranley, Jim Berns and Stacy Smith are scheduled to participate.After nearly six years of no pay increases for non-union workers, Hamilton County commissioners approved raises for some county employees yesterday. The raises will be merit-based, but they will not exceed 3 percent of what the county pays in wages each year.
Few owners actually register their exotic animals.
The state began requiring exotic animal registration after a man in
Zanesville, Ohio, released 56 exotic animals and committed suicide.
Pending approval from the board of trustees, the University of Cincinnati is hiring Beverly Davenport Sypher as senior vice president for academic affairs. Previously, Davenport Sypher was the vice provost for faculty affairs at Purdue University.
An ongoing study found women who are denied abortions have poorer health and are more likely to live in poverty two years on.
In Japan, cyclists can now store their bikes in underground robot caverns.Updated at 11:10 a.m.: Added information about first mayoral candidate forum.
by German Lopez
Court OKs parking plan, council to vote on grocery, Kasich unclear on abortion restrictions
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.In a 2-1 ruling announced today, the Hamilton County Court
of Appeals reversed an injunction holding up the city’s plan to
semi-privatize its parking assets, allowing the city to move on with the
plan and continue the use of emergency clauses. The plan, which CityBeat covered in further detail here,
will raise $92 million in upfront money and at least $3 million in
annual increments for the city, which the city planned to use to help
balance the city budget and pursue a slate of development projects,
including a downtown grocery store. But critics argue the plan will lead
to a spike in parking rates and goes too far in expanding operating hours
for parking meters, which they say could hurt downtown business. CityBeat will have more on this story later today.
City Council will vote today on whether it will move on
with using $12 million in urban renewal funds to build a downtown
grocery store, luxury apartment tower and parking garage to replace
Pogue’s Garage. The Budget and Finance Committee already approved the project
in a 7-0 vote Monday. If the full session of City Council approves the
project, construction could begin late this year or early 2014, which
means likely completion in 2015 or 2016.
Gov. John Kasich was unclear on whether he’ll support anti-abortion measures
passed by the Ohio House and Senate in their budget bills. The governor
reiterated that he’s “pro-life,” but he said he’s not sure if the
measures go too far. The budget bills would effectively defund Planned
Parenthood, use federal funds for pro-abstinence, anti-abortion crisis
pregnancy centers and allow the state health director to shut down
abortion clinics by making it more difficult for them to get required
transfer agreements with hospitals.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital ranked No. 3 in a new U.S. News and World Report for pediatric hospitals. The hospital also ranked No. 1 for pediatric cancer care.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Columbus won’t reinstate a fired gay teacher. But while Catholic institutions continue pursuing conservative social policies, some groups are pushing for the Church to reform.
New research found hands-free technology doesn’t make driving safer.
A study from Duke University found video gamers really do see more and better.
by German Lopez
Plan includes luxury apartment tower, garage
City Council unanimously approved a development deal today to
build a grocery store, luxury apartment tower and garage at Fourth and
Race streets downtown. With council approval, construction could begin later this year, with developers hoping to finish the project in 2015.
The $80 million deal with Indianapolis-based development company
Flaherty and Collins was approved following City Manager Milton Dohoney’s
urging earlier today.
“If we wait any longer on the parking deal, we put this
deal at risk. With the housing capacity issue downtown and decade-long
cry for a grocery store, we must move forward,” Dohoney said in a
The city’s share of the project will cost $12 million. As part of the deal, the city will provide the money through a five-year forgivable loan financed by urban renewal funds, which are
generated through downtown taxes and can only be used for capital
projects downtown. The funds can’t be used for operating
budget expenses such as police and fire.
For more information on the project, read CityBeat’s original story on the Budget and Finance Committee hearing here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 12, 2013
City Council’s Budget and Finance
Committee on June 10 approved development plans for Fourth and Race
streets to build a downtown grocery store, a luxury apartment tower and a
parking garage to replace Pogue’s Garage.
by German Lopez
Plan also includes parking garage, luxury apartments
In a 7-0 vote today, City Council’s Budget and Finance
Committee approved development plans for Fourth and Race streets to
build a downtown grocery store, 300 luxury apartments and a parking
garage to replace Pogue’s Garage.
Following the city’s $8.5 million purchase of the
property, the project will cost $80 million. The city
will provide $12 million through a five-year forgivable loan, and the
rest — $68 million — will come from private financing.
The committee hearing largely focused on the downtown
grocery store, which Odis Jones, the city’s economic development
director, called the “next step” of the city’s overall plans to
invigorate residential space and drive down office vacancy downtown.
Development company Flaherty and Collins will oversee the grocery store project, which was originally attached to the city’s plans to semi-privatize its parking assets.
The grocery store will be 15,000 square feet — slightly smaller than the Kroger store on Vine Street, which is about 17,000 square
feet — and open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. It will be run by an
independent operator, which is so far unnamed.
Flaherty and Collins CEO David Flaherty acknowledged it’s
“a compact space,” but he said it will be enough space for a
“full-service grocery store” with all the essentials, including fresh
The grocery store will be at the base of a new, 30-story residential tower, which will include 300 luxury apartments and a pool.
Across the street, the city will replace Pogue’s Garage, which city officials have long called an “eyesore,” with a new garage.
The seven Democrats on City Council voted in favor of the
plan, with Independent Councilman Chris Smitherman and Republican
Councilman Charlie Winburn abstaining.
Democratic Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld questioned the
funding sources for the project. City officials explained the $12
million loan will come through urban renewal bonds, which were
previously set aside in an urban revival plan that encompasses all of
Jones said the money was going to a hotel-convention
center deal when the city originally pitched the parking plan, but that
deal has since collapsed.
City officials also noted the urban renewal fund, which is generated through downtown taxes, can
only be used on capital improvement projects that support development
and redevelopment downtown. Although the fund could be modified by
City Council, it could never go to operating budget expenses such as police
Public dollars will go to the public garage, while private funds will carry the rest of the project.
The city’s $12 million investment comes through a
five-year forgivable loan, which means the city will get its money back
if parts of the project, including the privately funded grocery store,
fail to meet standards within five years. After the five years are over,
the loan is forgiven and any failure would result in a total loss on
Smitherman, who opposed the city’s parking plan,
criticized the city administration for not presenting the current
funding plan as an alternative to the parking plan: “What I’d like as a
public policymaker is to see all of the options in front of me so that I
can choose not just one option but maybe three options.”
Sittenfeld also questioned Flaherty about two previous projects Flaherty and Collins undertook that went bankrupt. Flaherty said the bankruptcies were mostly related to the economic downturn of 2008, but admitted the bankruptcies forced the company to make changes.
The city estimates the project will produce 650
construction jobs and 35 permanent, full-time jobs.
For the city, the project is part of a much bigger plan
that includes getting 3,000-5,000 new residential units built
downtown in the next five years to meet rising demand.“It’s hot to be downtown right now,”
Jones explained the property would have cost Cincinnati millions of dollars regardless of the city’s buyout and development plans because of a liability agreement the city made in the 1980s.“When you start from
there and you gradually come up and look holistically at the project,
taking action was not only necessary, it was prudent,” he said.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Food deserts are a big problem for many
of Hamilton County’s impoverished families, but University of Cincinnati
professor Michael Widener is heading research that looks into how
mobility can alter perceptions about neighborhoods that lack access to
by German Lopez
Paper looks into commuting patterns, mobility to identify access to food
Food deserts are a big problem for many of Hamilton
County’s impoverished families, but ongoing research suggests officials may
be overlooking mobility when attempting to pinpoint neighborhoods that lack access to healthy foods.
University of Cincinnati professor Michael Widener is
heading research that looks into how mobility can alter perceptions
about food deserts. So far, his findings have suggested that some people
may have access to healthy foods throughout their daily commute despite
being classified as living in a food desert.
Widener explains the research is necessary to make
identifying food deserts more accurate. “In previous work and when I was
doing my dissertation, I was noticing how a lot of food desert research
failed to take into account the dynamics of everyday urban life,” he
says. The observation led Widener to incorporate those dynamics,
particularly people’s movements throughout the day, to see how they
impact people’s access to food.
Still, Widener cautions that his findings
don’t dismiss the problems caused by food deserts: “Of
course, there are a lot of assumptions being made, like are (these
commuters) totally drained after work? The biggest (assumption) is of course that
(someone has) a car.”
Widener says his findings could impact how public
officials approach food desert policies. He points to potential stopgap
measures, such as better access to public transportation, that could
alleviate the pains of living in a food desert while a more permanent
solution is put in place. Widener argues these policies could make financial sense: Considering
how many potential costs a food desert can bring on a community, it
might be cheaper for a city to build a bus route and encourage better
ways to load groceries into buses. Widener knows these aren’t perfect
solutions, but he thinks they could provide some aid in a bogged-down
political climate that often results in sluggish policy changes.
There is a caveat: Widener acknowledges research
has so far been inconsistent as to whether access to healthier food
actually leads to healthier results. Eventually, he wants to research
what actually causes healthier results and whether broader economic
factors, such as poverty, play a more important role. That could give officials a clearer picture on which policies work and which don’t.
The first part of Widener’s research came out in a January paper that looked at auto
commuters’ access to food, and the next part will look at public transportation’s impact. The research project is using local transportation data from The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana
Regional Council of Governments.
Food deserts are neighborhoods that
lack access to fresh, healthy foods. In Hamilton County, many of the
identified food deserts are in neighborhoods on the city’s west side,
including Price Hill and Queensgate. Cincinnati’s food deserts are just
one problem being addressed by Plan Cincinnati, the city’s first master
plan in more than 20 years (“Core Future,” issue of Sept. 5).
Part of the parking plan proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. on Feb. 19 (“City Manager Proposes Parking, Economic Development Plan,” issue of Feb. 20) would also build a modern grocery store with access to fresh fruits and vegetables in Downtown.
by German Lopez
State budget cuts hit counties, food deserts in Cincinnati, area's nuclear weapons legacy
A new report
from left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio shows the impact of state budget
cuts on individual counties. Statewide, more than $1 billion in tax
reimbursements and the Local Government Fund was cut between the
2010-2011 budget, which was passed by Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland,
and the 2012-2013 budget, which was passed by Republican Gov. John
Kasich. Additionally, Ohio’s estate tax — a tax that affected only 8
percent of Ohioans, largely those at top income levels — was eliminated,
killing off a crucial source of funding. Hamilton County, its
jurisdiction, schools, services and levies lost $222.1 million.
Health and human services lost $23.2 million. Children’s services lost
$4.6 million, and the county children’s agency services “was sent into
financial crisis.” In total, more than 5,000 local government jobs were lost in the
The Center for Closing the Health Gap is launching a campaign to raise awareness about food deserts in Cincinnati.
Food deserts are areas, particularly neighborhoods, where full-service
grocery stores aren’t readily available to residents. The campaign hopes
to raise awareness and funding to combat the food deserts in the
Cincinnati area. With a funding target of $15 million, the organization
plans to help build smaller stores with close ties to the local
A new study from
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital resurfaced Greater Cincinnati’s nuclear
weapons legacy. Between the 1950s and 1980s, residents of nearby farm
communities were unaware they were being exposed to radioactive
materials in the air, water and soil from a Cold War era nuclear weapons
plant, located 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati. Apparently, the
exposure has led to higher rates of systemic lupus in the area.
Greater Cincinnati’s economic recovery could be slowed or boosted by policy, but it will outpace the nation’s economic recovery,
according to local economists. Still, the economists caution that there
is a lot of uncertainty due to oil prices, the fiscal cliff — a series
of tax hikes and budget cuts scheduled to be made at the start of 2013
if U.S. Congress doesn’t act — and the fiscal crisis in Europe.Cincinnati’s small businesses are more upbeat about the economy.
Eleven percent of local family firms expect the economy to improve, but
whether that translates to business expansions remains to be seen.
CityLink Center is scheduled to open today.
The initial plans for the facility sought to help the homeless with
health services, overnight shelter, food, temporary housing and child
care. At one point, the center’s opening was threatened due to legal
challenges regarding zoning.
Hostess, maker of Twinkies, says it will close down three bakeries,
including one in Cincinnati, due to a national strike. According to
reports, union workers walked off the job after a new contract cut their
wages and benefits. Hostess insists the factory shutdowns will not
Top Cincinnati mortgage lenders saw double-digit increases between Sept. 1, 2011 and Aug. 30, 2012.
The rise is yet another positive sign for the housing market, which
collapsed during the latest financial crisis and recession.
The state agency in charge of higher education released a report
highlighting 20 recommendations to improve degree completion in Ohio.
Some of the recommendations from the Board of Regents: Adopt more
uniform statewide rules regarding college completion and career
readiness, push stronger collaboration and alignment in education from preschool through senior year in college, establish a new system
of high school assessment to improve readiness for college, and improve
flexibility. The board will attempt to turn the report into reality in
cooperation with university and state officials.
Too much school choice may be a bad thing. A new study
found Ohio’s varied education system, which offers vouchers for private
schools and charter schools as alternatives to a traditional public
school, may have passed “a point where choice actually becomes
detrimental to overall academic performance.”
The Ohio Farm Bureau (OFB) issued an action alert
on Saturday telling members to oppose privatizing the Ohio Turnpike.
The Ohio state government, led by Kasich, is currently
studying possible plans to privatize the turnpike. In a video, an OFB
member argues the current turnpike management is fine.
There are still some undecided seats in the Ohio legislature from the Nov. 6 election.
Once again, a reminder not to drive on a sidewalk to avoid a school bus.
Former George W. Bush adviser Karen Hughes says she will “cut out” the tongue of Republican men making “Neanderthal comments” about rape.A new way to fight bacteria: coat it with a thin layer of mucus.