SOAPBOX CINCINNATI By Kevin LeMaster
January 20, 2009
On Saturday, nearly 120 Over-the-Rhine residents and business owners, architects, developers, civic-minded Cincinnatians and students from the University of Cincinnati and Miami University spent their day at the Art Academy of Cincinnati hammering out plans for improving the Brewery District sub-neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine.
Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (BDCURC) executive director Steven Hampton says that, while some of the ideas may have been a little far-fetched, the process served its purpose as an "idea generator".
"It's always great to see people who aren't as familiar with the neighborhood bring in a new enthusiasm, and a fresh approach," he says.
While many of the ideas generated at the charrette revolved around the historic Findlay Market, attention was also paid to developing infill housing on a number of vacant lots, improving an under-used Findlay Park, improving transportation circulation and visibility, and making the neighborhood more family-friendly.
A streetcar loop was taken as a given for all of the proposals.
"The mix of ideas was fantastic," Hampton says. "There were things I had never thought of. But I was most struck by the commonalities that most of the groups shared."
The most common idea, which was shared by most of the participants, was the use of Pleasant Street as a central pedestrian spine, connecting Washington Park with a northern terminus on McMicken Street, a.k.a. "Brewer's Boulevard".
That terminus might include such features as a transit station, park, amphitheatre, an iconic building or sculpture, brewery museum, or a rebuilt incline or tram to reconnect the district with the hilltop.
Notes and drawings from the charrette will result in a document that will be forwarded to city officials, architects and developers for further consideration.
Hampton says that the exercise helps further one of the BDCURC's two-pronged approaches to development – awareness.
"We're constantly trying to promote the history and awareness of the Brewery District," he says. "There has been an awakening of awareness of Over-the-Rhine as a whole, but, within that, the Brewery District is a section that is often ignored."