The State of the Uptown Consortium from Dr. Neville Pinto, UCI Chairman

This article was written by Uptown Consortium Chairman and University of Cincinnati President Neville G. Pinto, PhD.

0617_Pinto (2).jpg

It’s been fourteen years since the leaders of the University of Cincinnati, UC Health, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, TriHealth and the Cincinnati Zoo came together as the Uptown Consortium to collaborate to improve the lives of all of those who live and work in the Uptown neighborhoods. The Uptown Consortium (UCI) continues to achieve that mission by growing our neighborhoods through the power of collaboration and leading the way for economic development and community advancement in the Uptown region.

UCI has accomplished a lot in fourteen years, including developing U Square at the Loop, renovating old St. George Church with Crossroads, and advancing several residential and commercial developments that changed the landscape of our neighborhoods. We accomplished this while prioritizing partnerships with the community and the City of Cincinnati to ensure new developments were in the best interest of the Uptown Community.

While we have reached many milestones in our time, we’re showing no signs of slowing down. We won’t slow down because we believe that we can continue to improve and achieve great things for our region’s 51,000 residents and 43,000 students. The work of the Uptown Consortium continues because we truly believe that our unique mix of established neighborhoods, new construction, anchor institutions and diverse businesses add up to a region with the most dynamic potential in the entire Midwest.

This has been proven over the past year alone. After nearly a decade of advocacy and planning, the I-71 Interchange opened in August, creating a world of possibilities for development, project investments or catalytic development in Uptown. This $80 million infrastructure project dramatically improves connectivity between Uptown Cincinnati and the rest of the Greater Cincinnati area. With the completion of the interchange, Uptown Consortium started executing plans for a world-class Innovation Corridor. To be filled with pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use developments, the Uptown Innovation Corridor will leverage the core strengths of Uptown anchor institutions—medicine, research and innovative advancements—to attract high-growth, tech and creative companies and the people they employ.

We saw this idea come to life in 2017. In January, Terrex Development & Construction and Messer Construction announced their intentions to build a $200 million mixed-use development located at the I-71 Interchange, Uptown Gateway. The University of Cincinnati started construction on two developments in the Innovation Corridor—the 1819 Innovation Hub, a $38 million renovation of the former Sears department store into a research accelerator, and the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, which will be the leading regional treatment center for complex neurological conditions.

In July, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced their intention to consolidate their three Cincinnati facilities into one $110 million facility in the Uptown Innovation Corridor. And in the fall of 2017, MLK Investor I LLC, a partnership between Neyer Properties and Kulkarni Properties, unveiled plans to develop a $250 million mixed-use development in the Corridor.

In the Uptown Innovation Corridor alone, we have the opportunity to create and retain more than 6,000 jobs and more than $600 million in project investment.

While there were plenty of successes around the Uptown Innovation Corridor, the Uptown Consortium also achieved several milestones in other Uptown areas:

  • The long-awaited Corryville Kroger opened last spring bringing fresh groceries and a fun urban design to the residents and employees of Uptown.
  • We announced our new partnership with MORTAR, an acclaimed urban entrepreneurship program, to bring their business training classes to the Uptown neighborhoods. In August, MORTAR graduated 20 entrepreneurs from their classes in Uptown and in the West End.
  • We continued our partnership with WEB Ventures, our diversity and inclusion consultants, to advance our mission to prioritize jobs and economic opportunities for minorities and Uptown residents.

In 2018, we look forward to keeping our momentum. We hope to see new developments and tenants announced around the Uptown Innovation Corridor as well as in other areas of Uptown. The Uptown Consortium and our development partners will continue to prioritize job opportunities for Uptown residents with more training and job placement programs, so that as developments grow, so does the prosperity of our neighbors. We will strengthen our partnerships with the community councils and the City of Cincinnati, so that all stakeholders are included in every step of the planning process. Above all, we will continue to work towards a common goal: developing a healthier, innovative ecosystem in Uptown Cincinnati.  

Q&A with Chad Yelton, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Vice President of Marketing and Communications

Chad Fiona.jpg

When and how did you first get involved with the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden?

My first official day at the Zoo was August 27, 1997. When I graduated college, I had this plan to move back home to Northern Kentucky, call my girlfriend and get married—which I did. But I also needed a job.

What I wanted was the opportunity to be actively engaged in making a difference—whether that be with a nonprofit or with a sports team. Shortly after I moved back, I found out about an open “Media Specialist” position at the Cincinnati Zoo and applied. I didn’t have a big zoo background, but I had the PR and advertising experience.

Twenty years later, and it's been—and still is—an amazing ride. The work that we do here—it gets in your blood.

One of the reasons the Cincinnati Zoo performs well is because it’s a zoo of “firsts” and “mosts.” Is there any surprising Zoo trivia that people might not know about? 

Years ago, we noticed that our annual water consumption—used for the Zoo’s irrigation, animal pools and indoor habitat cleaning—had reached a staggering amount. Knowing that Cincinnati's sewer system is the oldest in the country, and heavy rains mixed with daily water consumption can cause sewage to overflow into the Ohio River, we wanted to find a solution.

So, we fixed leaks, upgraded our filtration system and installed underground storm tanks—the largest of which live under the Africa exhibit. The tanks, alone, keep 15 million gallons of water out of the sewer system annually. They not only help reduce issues of flooding, but also help taxpayers save money. If we're able to keep money in our neighbors’ pockets and water and sewage out of their basements, that's a plus for all of us.

The Zoo is a great Uptown example of conservation—both conserving our resources and our communities. How have some of the Zoo’s efforts helped lead broader efforts in the surrounding Avondale neighborhood?

Over 10 years ago, we converted all the lights used during the PNC Festival of Lights to LEDs, which conserves energy and saves us about $50,000 a year. Recently, with local groups, homeowners and organizations in mind, we began expanding LED efforts beyond the Zoo to help them do the same.

The Zoo’s Light Up Avondale project started with seven recipients, including nonprofits and churches, such as Gabriel’s Place, Urban League, Cincinnati Christian College, Wesley Education Center, Greater New Light Baptist Church, Greater New Hope Baptist Church and Zion Church.

It’s such a simple change, but one with a huge impact. We've received a great response from the community about how the switch has helped them move funds to initiatives closer to their cause.

What long-term impact does the Zoo anticipate this Avondale lighting initiative will have?

I think the long-term effects are endless, really. And these are very small things that anybody can do. They don't require a ton of money and it can be a gradual approach. You're doing everything from improving air quality to creating safer, cooler, brighter spaces.

The seven recipients that I just named—they're collectively saving about $63,000 per year and reducing energy by about 473,000 kilowatt hours— equal to powering the average US household for 44 years. In aggregate, these seven non-profits will save over $470,000 on their electricity bills over the next 10 years by going all-LED. They’ve also made a significant environmental impact by saving 731,000 pounds of carbon, which is the equivalent of taking 70 cars off the road or planting 8,500 trees.

So, I think any neighborhood would say "I'm in." It definitely brings our neighborhood together.

Those are great examples of how the Zoo has impacted the community, but in what ways has the surrounding community helped the Zoo get to where it is today?

The Zoo is 143 years old, but our job is to not look our age. Although our conservation efforts have helped us save and reallocate funds, we still rely on the community for about 17 percent of our annual budget. Every five years, the Zoo’s operating tax levy is placed on the ballot—and every five years, passing the levy becomes more crucial. The tax levy supports the basic needs of the Zoo, including animal care, horticulture and maintenance.

We have 80 buildings at the Zoo and 40 percent of them are 75 years or older. Three of them are over 100 years old. So, as you can imagine, 80 historical buildings require a lot of upkeep. For example, the cost to replace the historic elephant house roof is over $2 million.

Over the years, the expenses that go along with our levy have gone up 54 percent, but our levy dollars have decreased by 10 percent. So, you know we'll be out here in full force when May comes around to try and pass our levy.

We can’t talk without mentioning the breakout star Fiona! Since she came on the scene, how has that changed the composition of or the work within your department?

I can absolutely say that it completely flipped our marketing and communications department upside down—we’re talking about an international event that has lasted well over a year. The entire experience has been unbelievable. I've been here for 20 years and have never experienced anything quite like this.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Department made her an honorary deputy, she received her own library card, she's witnessed a marriage proposal and she’s received thousands of messages from over 90 countries. I kind of feel like I'm an agent for Beyoncé. And it's accurate too; like Beyoncé, she only has one name.

At this moment, I’d say that about half of my day includes Fiona-related tasks. Six months ago, it was probably closer to 75 percent. Fiona has four books out and two still to come, and each of those comes with a lot of conversation. Consider each of the other companies we're working with—from Listermann beer to Cincy Shirts to Rookwood Pottery—and the list of work writes itself.

It's a hefty job, and those are just the things that come to fruition. There are still things that I'm pitched every day.

Beyond the increased positive attention the Zoo has received, how has Fiona’s arrival changed the Zoo?

We're seeing more people from out-of-town come to the Zoo than ever before, which is great because they're staying at our hotels and they're going to our local restaurants—they’re boosting our local economy. It's also helped bring an amazing awareness to our care team. Millions of people are now inspired by the work that our staff does every day, which is really important to me.

Fiona has this amazing ability to connect with her fans. We get letters and emails from people that have said, "Fiona has saved my life; Fiona has given me inspiration; Fiona has gotten me through this terrible disease; I relate to Fiona because I was preemie, myself."

To some people it's just another hippo, but to others, she's this huge source of inspiration. And it’s really neat to be a part of that.

And finally, are you allowed to admit who your top three favorite animals are at the Zoo?

I've been here for 20 years, so names have gone up and down over the years. Fiona, of course, makes the top three. Additionally, I’d have to say Winsol the aardvark—who doesn’t love something that’s ugly and cute at the same time—and Micu the red panda. I’ve had the opportunity to experience a personal encounter with each of these animals, which has grown my appreciation for them.

I think that’s just what we do at the Zoo, and why we do it. We have this mantra, "Close enough to care." So, that's why you'll see a lot of habitats at the Zoo that allow visitors to get nose-to-nose with the animals with a wall of glass in-between. If you can get this close and appreciate that animal, then you’re naturally going to care about them.

We can bring people to the Zoo and they can see these animals, which act as ambassadors for their wild counterpart. In doing so, we hope they walk away with a new fondness for wildlife.

Uptown Partnership Helps Residents Land Construction Jobs

Uptown Consortium is dedicated to ensuring that Uptown residents benefit from new development happening in their neighborhoods, and Uptown organizations are answering the call. Partnerships prove that economic inclusion is more than possible in construction and development projects—more and more companies are stepping up to help Uptown residents play an active role in the changes in their community.

“Inclusion isn’t about following a prescribed process just to be compliant. It’s about leaning in, being creative and being accountable to a vision of the future,” said Beth Robinson, Uptown Consortium President and CEO. “As with any of our partnerships, the goal is to build and execute sustainable strategies around wealth-building for Uptown residents.”

A recent partnership between WEB Ventures, an inclusion consulting firm hired by Uptown Consortium, and RWB Construction serves as an example of how developers can include Uptown residents throughout their process.

 Photo courtesy of 2017 Scripps Media, Inc.

Photo courtesy of 2017 Scripps Media, Inc.

RWB Construction established a 12-week carpentry training program with $20,000 in funding from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Avondale Community Capacity Building grant. WEB Ventures vetted candidates and helped applicants enroll in the program. A class of 27 individuals was selected, with the promise of employment upon successful completion of the program. Participants met three times weekly to learn carpentry skills that would make them more competitive for future higher-paying jobs on local construction projects.

Seven of the 20 new apprentices who graduated from the construction program this past December are current Uptown residents. All 20 graduates were hired full time by RWB Construction, Model Group or HGC Construction. The program’s success has RWB Construction considering a second class in the spring of 2018.

Terrex Development and Construction participated in the collaboration by providing a site for the construction classes. Terrex, who is developing the Uptown Gateway in the Uptown Innovation Corridor in partnership with Messer, has invested significant time and resources into its economic inclusion efforts because it understands that developments have a real opportunity to positively affect the neighborhoods and existing residents.

“A lot of people look at minority inclusion as a way to check a box,” said Peter Horton, Principal at Terrex. “They just need to hit that number and move on. But if you really think about what the impact of the development could be to the community and how you can change lives, it’s just an awesome way to consider the impact of a real estate development.”

Uptown Partnership Helps Residents Land Construction Jobs

Uptown Consortium is dedicated to ensuring that Uptown residents benefit from new development happening in their neighborhoods, and Uptown organizations are answering the call. Partnerships prove that economic inclusion is more than possible in construction and development projects—more and more companies are stepping up to help Uptown residents play an active role in the changes in their community.

“Inclusion isn’t about following a prescribed process just to be compliant. It’s about leaning in, being creative and being accountable to a vision of the future,” said Beth Robinson, Uptown Consortium President and CEO. “As with any of our partnerships, the goal is to build and execute sustainable strategies around wealth-building for Uptown residents.”

A recent partnership between WEB Ventures, an inclusion consulting firm hired by Uptown Consortium, and RWB Construction serves as an example of how developers can include Uptown residents throughout their process.

 Photo courtesy of 2017 Scripps Media, Inc.

Photo courtesy of 2017 Scripps Media, Inc.

RWB Construction established a 12-week carpentry training program with $20,000 in funding from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Avondale Community Capacity Building grant. WEB Ventures vetted candidates and helped applicants enroll in the program. A class of 27 individuals was selected, with the promise of employment upon successful completion of the program. Participants met three times weekly to learn carpentry skills that would make them more competitive for future higher-paying jobs on local construction projects.

Seven of the 20 new apprentices who graduated from the construction program this past December are current Uptown residents. All 20 graduates were hired full time by RWB Construction, Model Group or HGC Construction. The program’s success has RWB Construction considering a second class in the spring of 2018.

Terrex Development and Construction participated in the collaboration by providing a site for the construction classes. Terrex, who is developing the Uptown Gateway in the Uptown Innovation Corridor in partnership with Messer, has invested significant time and resources into its economic inclusion efforts because it understands that developments have a real opportunity to positively affect the neighborhoods and existing residents.

“A lot of people look at minority inclusion as a way to check a box,” said Peter Horton, Principal at Terrex. “They just need to hit that number and move on. But if you really think about what the impact of the development could be to the community and how you can change lives, it’s just an awesome way to consider the impact of a real estate development.”

 

ICYMI: Innovations in Uptown That Will Make You Sweat

Reprinted from February 9, 2018

Story courtesy of UC Magazine.

When it comes to biometric sensors, human skin isn’t an ally. It's an obstacle.

The University of Cincinnati is developing cutting-edge methods to overcome this barrier without compromising the skin and its ability to prevent infection and dehydration. By making better noninvasive tests, researchers can open up enormous opportunities in medicine and the fitness industry.

“You think of the skin as an opportunity because you can measure things through it optically, chemically, electrically and mechanically,” said Jason Heikenfeld, assistant vice president in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. “But it’s actually the opposite. The body has evolved to preserve all of these chemical analytes, so the skin actually isn’t very good at giving them up.”

Heikenfeld, director of UC’s Novel Devices Lab, co-authored a critical review of sensor research in January with his students and colleagues for the nanotechnology journal Lab on a Chip, outlining both scientific accomplishments to date and challenges ahead.

“We wanted to have all of the current progress and future directions and needs consolidated in one article,” said Andrew Jajack, co-author and a UC engineering student.

  UC student Andrew Jajack designed the graphic depicting the four ways that sensors can record biometric data for athletes for the latest cover of the nanotechnology journal Lab on a Chip.

UC student Andrew Jajack designed the graphic depicting the four ways that sensors can record biometric data for athletes for the latest cover of the nanotechnology journal Lab on a Chip.

Jajack designed the image and graphic that appear on the journal’s cover depicting the four ways that sensors can read biometrics in a track athlete.

The article, co-authored by international leaders in biosensors, discussed the growing popularity of wearable devices such as Fitbit and explored the limitations of current technology.

The skin can provide misleading data to biosensors because it harbors bacteria and tends to collect salt and other minerals from dried sweat. An effective sensor has to bend and stretch like human skin, even as it adheres to the surface when the subject is moving. Electrical sensors that track your heartbeat have to account for noise both from within the body or the environment, such as from nearby electronics.

Heikenfeld said biosensors in most wearable devices use technology that has been available for years.

“The latest trend has not been driven by technological breakthroughs,” he said. “When you think of Fitbit, these capabilities have been around a long time. What’s driven it is the proliferation of smartphones, miniaturization of electronics and a growing desire for health awareness.”

UC has a long history with biosensors. The late Leland Clark Jr., sometimes called “the father of biosensors,” conducted research at the UC College of Medicine and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Research Foundation. Among his many feats, he developed the modern blood glucose monitor that diabetics use today and the first sensors to measure a patient’s blood oxygen levels.

Sensors are a big deal here. It’s something we’ve had historical strength in with pioneers in the field.
— Jason Heikenfeld, director of UC's Novel Devices Lab

UC’s research in sensors continues to be a pipeline for industry. Heikenfeld is co-founder and chief science officer for Eccrine Systems Inc., a Cincinnati company that specializes in sweat biosensors.

Eccrine Systems announced this month that it won a $750,000 contract with the U.S. Air Force to study biomarkers from human sweat in real time. It marks the second phase of an initial research contract with the military.

“We try to know other people’s business better than they do. You can’t innovate unless you are willing to dig way deeper than the competition,” he said.

Eccrine Systems Inc. is working on new ways to track biometric information continuously over time.

“A lot of the ways we diagnose disease is based on single-moment-in-time markers. But the promise of wearable sensors is real-time health monitoring,” Jajack said. “You can see a more complex picture of what’s going on in the body. That alone will lead to more diagnostic techniques across a spectrum of diseases.”

Students in UC’s Novel Devices Lab, located in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, are coming up with innovative ways to glean information from human sweat. These devices are the size of a Band-Aid and are worn on the skin like one, too.

Students Adam Hauke and Phillip Simmers are working on UC’s next generation of sweat-stimulating sensors. These devices generate sweat on a tiny patch of skin — even when the subject is resting and comfortable — and wick it away to sensors that measure substances like glucose. The biosensors collect and concentrate the faintest amounts of sweat into samples that sensors can read.

  UC student Adam Hauke holds up the latest generation of sweat sensor in the Novel Devices Lab.

UC student Adam Hauke holds up the latest generation of sweat sensor in the Novel Devices Lab.

“We’ll stimulate sweating in this area and then this will start to pick up sweat off the skin, pulling it from the pores and moving it up across these electrodes here,” Hauke said. “That’s where we do the sensing.”

Among its other capabilities, the device measures the galvanic skin response, an indication of how much someone is sweating, he said.

“The more you sweat, the wetter your skin is and the electrical resistance goes down,” he said.

The Society for Chemistry and Micro-Nano Systems recognized Hauke and Simmers with its Young Researcher Award last year for their collaborative study in continuous sweat sampling and sensing.

In a different part of the Novel Devices Lab, engineering student Laura Stegner worked with a milling machine to customize flow-rate sensors. Across from her, classmate Amy Drexelius worked on the part of the device that can separate and concentrate the analytes they want to test in sweat or blood.

“We want to concentrate the sample. So you can stick this on the front of your sensor and it does a lot of previously hard chemistry lab work for you,” she said.

This technique could apply to other trace chemicals scientists want to measure, Jajack said.

“A big issue today is the amount of pharmaceuticals found in our drinking water,” Jajack said. “They’re hard to measure because they’re so diluted. Even at diluted concentrations, they might be having an effect on us.”

Heikenfeld said his lab’s success stems from its talented students, who apply their diverse interests and experiences to their lab work. Developing new sensors and applications takes problem solving that draws from many academic disciplines.

“How often are you going to find someone who’s deep into biology and chemistry who also does hack-athons and is a big maker, too?” Heikenfeld said of Jajack. “But that’s what it’s going to take. We need to innovate in disciplines that are not our traditional areas of expertise so we’re not relying on others to move at speeds at which our own creative minds want to sprint. We’re doing that now because of the quality of people we have here.”

Moving sensor applications from the lab bench to the store shelf remains a big challenge, UC chemistry professor William Connick said. He serves as director of UC’s Center for Biosensors & Chemical Sensors.

“Groups like Dr. Heikenfeld’s are making remarkable strides in developing technologies that provide information on biomarkers at exceedingly low levels from very small quantities of fluid like sweat,” Connick said.

“To go from the lab to a practical device is a challenge when you’re working with real-world samples. Every person is a little different. Every circumstance is a little different,” he said. “Making something that’s robust enough to accurately perform under a wide variety of conditions is challenging.”

Connick said demand for biosensors is only going to grow as labs like UC’s develop better ways to collect information. And home testing and continuous monitoring of drugs over time could lead to better health outcomes, he said.

“The market is wide open now. The potential is gigantic, just in cost savings and being able to provide rapid screening without taking blood and having to send samples off to a laboratory,” Connick said.

Heikenfeld’s journal article noted that biosensors of the future will measure multiple aspects of a person’s physiology. And new wearable sensors will need a mix of disposable and reusable parts to address the wear and tear that come with daily life.

Now UC’s Novel Devices Lab is developing a new noninvasive technique to make sweat glands more permeable so sensors can record even more detailed data. Heikenfeld and Jajack are not ready to talk about how it works, but they are very excited about the possibilities.

“Let’s just say it’s safe and super awesome,” Heikenfeld said. “There are a lot of great things coming up.”

 

The State of the Uptown Consortium from Dr. Neville Pinto, UCI Chairman

This article was written by Uptown Consortium Chairman and University of Cincinnati President Neville G. Pinto, PhD.

0617_Pinto (2).jpg

It’s been fourteen years since the leaders of the University of Cincinnati, UC Health, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, TriHealth and the Cincinnati Zoo came together as the Uptown Consortium to collaborate to improve the lives of all of those who live and work in the Uptown neighborhoods. The Uptown Consortium (UCI) continues to achieve that mission by growing our neighborhoods through the power of collaboration and leading the way for economic development and community advancement in the Uptown region.

UCI has accomplished a lot in fourteen years, including developing U Square at the Loop, renovating old St. George Church with Crossroads, and advancing several residential and commercial developments that changed the landscape of our neighborhoods. We accomplished this while prioritizing partnerships with the community and the City of Cincinnati to ensure new developments were in the best interest of the Uptown Community.

While we have reached many milestones in our time, we’re showing no signs of slowing down. We won’t slow down because we believe that we can continue to improve and achieve great things for our region’s 51,000 residents and 43,000 students. The work of the Uptown Consortium continues because we truly believe that our unique mix of established neighborhoods, new construction, anchor institutions and diverse businesses add up to a region with the most dynamic potential in the entire Midwest.

This has been proven over the past year alone. After nearly a decade of advocacy and planning, the I-71 Interchange opened in August, creating a world of possibilities for development, project investments or catalytic development in Uptown. This $80 million infrastructure project dramatically improves connectivity between Uptown Cincinnati and the rest of the Greater Cincinnati area. With the completion of the interchange, Uptown Consortium started executing plans for a world-class Innovation Corridor. To be filled with pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use developments, the Uptown Innovation Corridor will leverage the core strengths of Uptown anchor institutions—medicine, research and innovative advancements—to attract high-growth, tech and creative companies and the people they employ.

We saw this idea come to life in 2017. In January, Terrex Development & Construction and Messer Construction announced their intentions to build a $200 million mixed-use development located at the I-71 Interchange, Uptown Gateway. The University of Cincinnati started construction on two developments in the Innovation Corridor—the 1819 Innovation Hub, a $38 million renovation of the former Sears department store into a research accelerator, and the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, which will be the leading regional treatment center for complex neurological conditions.

In July, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced their intention to consolidate their three Cincinnati facilities into one $110 million facility in the Uptown Innovation Corridor. And in the fall of 2017, MLK Investor I LLC, a partnership between Neyer Properties and Kulkarni Properties, unveiled plans to develop a $250 million mixed-use development in the Corridor.

In the Uptown Innovation Corridor alone, we have the opportunity to create and retain more than 6,000 jobs and more than $600 million in project investment.

While there were plenty of successes around the Uptown Innovation Corridor, the Uptown Consortium also achieved several milestones in other Uptown areas:

  • The long-awaited Corryville Kroger opened last spring bringing fresh groceries and a fun urban design to the residents and employees of Uptown.
  • We announced our new partnership with MORTAR, an acclaimed urban entrepreneurship program, to bring their business training classes to the Uptown neighborhoods. In August, MORTAR graduated 20 entrepreneurs from their classes in Uptown and in the West End.
  • We continued our partnership with WEB Ventures, our diversity and inclusion consultants, to advance our mission to prioritize jobs and economic opportunities for minorities and Uptown residents.

In 2018, we look forward to keeping our momentum. We hope to see new developments and tenants announced around the Uptown Innovation Corridor as well as in other areas of Uptown. The Uptown Consortium and our development partners will continue to prioritize job opportunities for Uptown residents with more training and job placement programs, so that as developments grow, so does the prosperity of our neighbors. We will strengthen our partnerships with the community councils and the City of Cincinnati, so that all stakeholders are included in every step of the planning process. Above all, we will continue to work towards a common goal: developing a healthier, innovative ecosystem in Uptown Cincinnati.  

 

Evaluating the Economic Impact of the Uptown Innovation Corridor's Five Newest Developments

Interested in learning how the Uptown Innovation Corridor’s five newest developments are positively impacting our economy? Check out the infographic below.

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ICYMI: Uptown's Projects to Watch

Reprinted from February 9, 2018

Few areas experienced the type of milestone moments like Uptown did this past year. From the opening of the new MLK interchange to the unveiling of the unprecedented Uptown Innovation Corridor, the five neighborhoods of Uptown created transformative events.

It’s no surprise that our development partners are working their site plan strategies, while around Uptown, 2018 is already marking more ground-breaking research, job creation, inclusion initiatives and collaborations. Those who follow activity in Uptown are interested in both economic potential and the historic importance of the area. Check out both types of details through behind-the-scenes information about these efforts to watch throughout this year:

Terrex/Messer’s Uptown Gateway at Southwest Quad of Reading and Martin Luther King:

Uptown Gateway is the first large-scale joint venture between Terrex and Messer. Aligned with Uptown Consortium’s vision, the Terrex/Messer team has integrated into their planning inclusion and minority-driven results. Throughout Uptown Gateway’s development process, Terrex/Messer is designing opportunities for minority-owned businesses and contractors, sharing ownership in everything from engineering and construction services, to investment and workforce opportunities.

  Photo courtesy of Terrex/Messer.

Photo courtesy of Terrex/Messer.

MLK Investors I mix-used development at Northeast Quad of Reading and Martin Luther King:

This planned development will include a mix of commercial, hospitality and residential uses. Site planning and design work is underway on the first phase of this multi-phased development. The site is advantageously situated with visibility and access from the new ramp. The development team plans to use the site’s unique (or challenging) elevation grade changes to their advantage.

University of Cincinnati’s Gardner Neuroscience Institute (UCGNI):

On Martin Luther King Jr. Drive East between Eden and Bellevue avenues, the $60.5 million project is underway, and based in part on some unique research. UC leadership and architects from Perkins+Will met numerous times with patients and their families to gather insight to create a patient-focused facility that aids in the [JH1] healing process. While it’s not unusual to gather patient research, meeting with families is an enviable strategy for healthcare facility design, and likely a model for similar projects.

North American Properties’ (NAP) One41:

This $35 million, 60-unit apartment building renovation at 2309 Auburn Ave will rent from between $1.70 and $1.80/square foot. Before purchasing the property, NAP learned that the site held an orphanage from the 1800s through the 1920s. Specialists will be brought in to clean and restore the original iron fence, stone wall and stone entrance pillars. Many of the natural elements and colors that embody the stone quarry adjacent to Inwood Park will be reflected in the building’s interior design.

North American Properties’ Highland Park:

Within the One41 development (see above) Highland Park will feature ten single-family units and a house with garages (which are unique in a dense urban environment). Additionally, rooftop decks will add to the properties’ value with views to the east and the south. Each home will sell for between $325,000 and $400,000.

Avondale Town Center:

This long-awaited redevelopment of the Town Center at 3635 Reading Road is part of Reading Road Corridor’s multiphase transformation. More than 30 percent of the 80,000 square foot, $50+ million construction spend will be invested with minority-owned businesses.

1819 Innovation Hub:

Originally opened in 1929 at 2900 Reading Road, this 133,000 square foot building was home to Cincinnati’s first Sears, Roebuck and Co. store, and was the first large department store outside the downtown area. It was among the initial wave of Sears stores after the Chicago-based company opened its first large retail site in 1925 and was designed by Chicago architectural firm Nimmons, Carr & Wright. Many of the original architectural elements are being maintained while marrying futuristic elements that will house UC Research Institutes’ rigorous R&D.

Avondale Community Council Building:

The Avondale Community Council rescued this former Golden Age Nursing home building at 3635 Reading Road, which stood empty in blight and disrepair for several years. The $1.6 million building renovation was completed in October 2017. This year, the second phase of the renovation will include completion of the commercial kitchen for food entrepreneurs.

University of Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena:

More than 40 subcontractors are involved throughout the $87 million Fifth Third Arena renovation, and the project hosts an average of 150+ workers on site daily. More than 1,500 square feet of the original wood floor has been salvaged for reuse in the project, and 450 tons of existing stone roof ballast was removed and recycled to make way for the new roof.

Walnut Hills The Central Trust Bank Building:

While not technically a member neighborhood of the Uptown Consortium, we applaud our neighbors at the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and their work at DeSales Corner in East Walnut Hills. The Central Trust Bank Building transformation at 1535 Madison Road employs a Walnut Hills-based company, Valley Interiors, LLC, to restore the building’s historic plaster art deco ceiling and light fixtures. Experts have built replica molds to cast new plaster ceiling tiles and wall sconces to restore the interior plaster components to the original style and condition. The building was built in the 1920s, but hasn’t been occupied since the 1960s, so the restoration is time, material and labor intensive, but certainly worth the investment.

Q&A with Chad Yelton, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Vice President of Marketing and Communications

Chad Fiona.jpg

When and how did you first get involved with the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden?

My first official day at the Zoo was August 27, 1997. When I graduated college, I had this plan to move back home to Northern Kentucky, call my girlfriend and get married—which I did. But I also needed a job.

What I wanted was the opportunity to be actively engaged in making a difference—whether that be with a nonprofit or with a sports team. Shortly after I moved back, I found out about an open “Media Specialist” position at the Cincinnati Zoo and applied. I didn’t have a big zoo background, but I had the PR and advertising experience.

Twenty years later, and it's been—and still is—an amazing ride. The work that we do here—it gets in your blood.

One of the reasons the Cincinnati Zoo performs well is because it’s a zoo of “firsts” and “mosts.” Is there any surprising Zoo trivia that people might not know about? 

Years ago, we noticed that our annual water consumption—used for the Zoo’s irrigation, animal pools and indoor habitat cleaning—had reached a staggering amount. Knowing that Cincinnati's sewer system is the oldest in the country, and heavy rains mixed with daily water consumption can cause sewage to overflow into the Ohio River, we wanted to find a solution.

So, we fixed leaks, upgraded our filtration system and installed underground storm tanks—the largest of which live under the Africa exhibit. The tanks, alone, keep 15 million gallons of water out of the sewer system annually. They not only help reduce issues of flooding, but also help taxpayers save money. If we're able to keep money in our neighbors’ pockets and water and sewage out of their basements, that's a plus for all of us.

The Zoo is a great Uptown example of conservation—both conserving our resources and our communities. How have some of the Zoo’s efforts helped lead broader efforts in the surrounding Avondale neighborhood?

Over 10 years ago, we converted all the lights used during the PNC Festival of Lights to LEDs, which conserves energy and saves us about $50,000 a year. Recently, with local groups, homeowners and organizations in mind, we began expanding LED efforts beyond the Zoo to help them do the same.

The Zoo’s Light Up Avondale project started with seven recipients, including nonprofits and churches, such as Gabriel’s Place, Urban League, Cincinnati Christian College, Wesley Education Center, Greater New Light Baptist Church, Greater New Hope Baptist Church and Zion Church.

It’s such a simple change, but one with a huge impact. We've received a great response from the community about how the switch has helped them move funds to initiatives closer to their cause.

What long-term impact does the Zoo anticipate this Avondale lighting initiative will have?

I think the long-term effects are endless, really. And these are very small things that anybody can do. They don't require a ton of money and it can be a gradual approach. You're doing everything from improving air quality to creating safer, cooler, brighter spaces.

The seven recipients that I just named—they're collectively saving about $63,000 per year and reducing energy by about 473,000 kilowatt hours— equal to powering the average US household for 44 years. In aggregate, these seven non-profits will save over $470,000 on their electricity bills over the next 10 years by going all-LED. They’ve also made a significant environmental impact by saving 731,000 pounds of carbon, which is the equivalent of taking 70 cars off the road or planting 8,500 trees.

So, I think any neighborhood would say "I'm in." It definitely brings our neighborhood together.

Those are great examples of how the Zoo has impacted the community, but in what ways has the surrounding community helped the Zoo get to where it is today?

The Zoo is 143 years old, but our job is to not look our age. Although our conservation efforts have helped us save and reallocate funds, we still rely on the community for about 17 percent of our annual budget. Every five years, the Zoo’s operating tax levy is placed on the ballot—and every five years, passing the levy becomes more crucial. The tax levy supports the basic needs of the Zoo, including animal care, horticulture and maintenance.

We have 80 buildings at the Zoo and 40 percent of them are 75 years or older. Three of them are over 100 years old. So, as you can imagine, 80 historical buildings require a lot of upkeep. For example, the cost to replace the historic elephant house roof is over $2 million.

Over the years, the expenses that go along with our levy have gone up 54 percent, but our levy dollars have decreased by 10 percent. So, you know we'll be out here in full force when May comes around to try and pass our levy.

We can’t talk without mentioning the breakout star Fiona! Since she came on the scene, how has that changed the composition of or the work within your department?

I can absolutely say that it completely flipped our marketing and communications department upside down—we’re talking about an international event that has lasted well over a year. The entire experience has been unbelievable. I've been here for 20 years and have never experienced anything quite like this.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Department made her an honorary deputy, she received her own library card, she's witnessed a marriage proposal and she’s received thousands of messages from over 90 countries. I kind of feel like I'm an agent for Beyoncé. And it's accurate too; like Beyoncé, she only has one name.

At this moment, I’d say that about half of my day includes Fiona-related tasks. Six months ago, it was probably closer to 75 percent. Fiona has four books out and two still to come, and each of those comes with a lot of conversation. Consider each of the other companies we're working with—from Listermann beer to Cincy Shirts to Rookwood Pottery—and the list of work writes itself.

It's a hefty job, and those are just the things that come to fruition. There are still things that I'm pitched every day.

Beyond the increased positive attention the Zoo has received, how has Fiona’s arrival changed the Zoo?

We're seeing more people from out-of-town come to the Zoo than ever before, which is great because they're staying at our hotels and they're going to our local restaurants—they’re boosting our local economy. It's also helped bring an amazing awareness to our care team. Millions of people are now inspired by the work that our staff does every day, which is really important to me.

Fiona has this amazing ability to connect with her fans. We get letters and emails from people that have said, "Fiona has saved my life; Fiona has given me inspiration; Fiona has gotten me through this terrible disease; I relate to Fiona because I was preemie, myself."

To some people it's just another hippo, but to others, she's this huge source of inspiration. And it’s really neat to be a part of that.

And finally, are you allowed to admit who your top three favorite animals are at the Zoo?

I've been here for 20 years, so names have gone up and down over the years. Fiona, of course, makes the top three. Additionally, I’d have to say Winsol the aardvark—who doesn’t love something that’s ugly and cute at the same time—and Micu the red panda. I’ve had the opportunity to experience a personal encounter with each of these animals, which has grown my appreciation for them.

I think that’s just what we do at the Zoo, and why we do it. We have this mantra, "Close enough to care." So, that's why you'll see a lot of habitats at the Zoo that allow visitors to get nose-to-nose with the animals with a wall of glass in-between. If you can get this close and appreciate that animal, then you’re naturally going to care about them.

We can bring people to the Zoo and they can see these animals, which act as ambassadors for their wild counterpart. In doing so, we hope they walk away with a new fondness for wildlife.

ICYMI: Q&A with Chris Dobrozsi, Neyer Vice President of Real Estate Development

Reprinted from February 9, 2018

2017 Chris Dobrozsi - cropped.jpg

Cincinnati’s Uptown Innovation Corridor is bustling with future-focused development plans. That’s why we asked Chris Dobrozsi, Neyer Properties VP of Real Estate Development, to discuss the formation of MLK Investors I LLC—the partnership of Neyer Properties, Inc. and Kulkarni Properties—and what the Uptown Innovation Corridor means to them.

MLK Investors I will oversee development on the northeast quadrant of the Uptown Innovation Corridor, at MLK and Reading.

Q: How did MLK Investors I first form? Had Neyer Properties and Kulkarni Properties worked together previously?

A: We had not worked together prior, no. It all came about in the fall of 2015 when [Kulkarni Properties President & CEO] Shree Kulkarni acquired over twenty parcels surrounding the planned interchange. He had a good vision, but realized that a project of this scale required a partnership with a developer who had experience in large mixed-use projects. That’s where Neyer Properties came in.

Q: What drew you to the Uptown Innovation Corridor?

A: Uptown is the front door to roughly 50,000 daily jobs and its location is near the University of Cincinnati medical campus. That's a no-brainer. We looked at the opportunity beyond the development footprint-- we looked at this as the future of the Greater Cincinnati region from an economic development perspective. Kulkarni Properties clearly embraced the vision from day one of what the Uptown Innovation Corridor is to become, and we saw the opportunity and wanted in.

Q: What do you believe is the key to the success of the corridor’s development?

A: Think big, no bigger and act boldly. This corridor has the foundation in place for the creation of over 10,000 new jobs bringing in $2 billion in investment. To capitalize on this opportunity, we must collaborate at the regional level to attract the most innovative companies, not only to the Uptown Innovation Corridor, but to the entire Greater Cincinnati area. That’s why Uptown Consortium’s community research, economic development studies and visioning work have been so important. The results to date are that each developer at the table is equipped to do what's best for all locations—and the dynamic between all developments is what makes this such a nationally-unique opportunity. Another key is that the Uptown Consortium, the developers and the corridor’s surrounding neighborhood leaders gather regularly to discuss how our work aligns with the communities’ long term goals. That last piece is probably most important, because we all know that for the corridor to be successful long-term, the neighborhood has to be successful long-term. We want this to be successful for 50-years plus, right? By collaborating and working together, we’re planting the foundation for long-term success.

Q: What does community engagement mean to MLK Investors I?

A: Any development starts with community engagement in a collaborative environment, working in a true partnership. The surrounding community is a vital partner in the vision and long-term success of the corridor which requires this true partnership.. They're the ones that live there day-in and day-out. We must understand what's important to them, and they must know what's important to us as developers, that’s what a partnership is all about.. We all have to work together to create something in everyone’s best interest. Again, if it's not done with the best interest of the community, then it won't be successful long-term. So, we start with community engagement.

Q: Will minority and neighborhood jobs be a part of MLK Investors I’s economic inclusion process in the northeast quadrant?

A: Amen. That will be a major piece of it. Again, getting community buy-in from two fronts. We have to understand what is important to the neighborhoods--what's going to lead to their long-term success, and the neighborhoods have to understand what the market means to us. Unless we work together, these things won't be successful long-term. We're advocating for one another. We’re proud to be long-term holders of real estate. We don't develop and sell, we’re in it for the long haul. We're invested in this community now and we'll be even more invested in the future. With that attitude going in, we ensure that it’s going to be a win-win. Additionally, Uptown Consortium’s partners at WEB Ventures--Henry Brown, Bill Witten and Howard Elliott--are a critical partner ensuring inclusion evert step of the way.

Q: Is the current development plan still to create a mixed-use space for research and innovative companies?

A: Yes—it's going to have residential; it's going to have retail; it’s going to have hotels; it's going to have innovative office; and it's going to have research. That's the kind of mix it takes to encourage collaboration and innovation.

We plan on having what I’ll call an 18-hour, live-work-play mixed-use development. What you'll see with many innovative companies is the desire to work in a centered community; they talk about collision points. So, it’s up to us to determine how we bring people from different innovative companies together—where they can collide with one another and build relationships. We plan to design central gathering areas, both inside and outside of the buildings, with these collision points in mind. We want to give them a reason to connect.

Q: What is MLK Investors I’s current development timeline?

A: Now that we have a preliminary site plan approved by the surrounding Uptown neighborhoods, we are going to move forward with design development. What that means, is that we’ll start to determine what exactly phase one of this development will look like. The first phase is positioned at the corner of MLK and Reading and will include a hotel, an office building and office amenities. We have the end—the big picture—in mind for the whole quadrant, but for now, we're just focusing on the first phase. Our goal is to break ground by January 1, 2019.

Q: Speaking of breaking ground, are there any specific milestones to look forward to in 2018?

A: There's about a thousand of them—between zoning, financing, securing tenants, deciding on final design—but they all end with breaking ground on phase one.

Uptown Consortium, MORTAR Partner to Grow Urban Entrepreneurs

The entrepreneurial fever across Greater Cincinnati is continuing to grow.

The Uptown Consortium, master developer of the Uptown Innovation Corridor, will welcome MORTAR to recruit, host and train a new pool of promising entrepreneurs in the Avondale, Clifton, Corryville, CUF and Mt. Auburn neighborhoods.

MORTAR, a resource hub for urban entrepreneurs across Cincinnati, works to empower budding business owners to use their imagination and creativity to not just earn money, but to make a difference in their community.

This is the second year for MORTAR to look to the Uptown district to host a nine-week accelerator program. The partnership between the Uptown Consortium and MORTAR builds on the organizations’ shared belief that community development should grow neighborhoods in harmony with its residents.

MORTAR Cincinnati graduated its 10th and 11th classes of new entrepreneurs in 2017. 

Beth Robinson, Uptown Consortium president and CEO recruited MORTAR to Uptown last year and knew that it was a priority to continue to support and welcome MORTAR’s ability to attract a non-traditional, urban population.

“Inclusion isn’t a one-and-done activity. It’s a continuous, proactive mindset that ensures we’re being accountable to a vision of the future,” said Robinson.

The MORTAR partnership adds to a portfolio of inclusion resources, including the Avondale Community Development Corporation, the Greater Cincinnati Urban League, WEB Ventures and HCDC. “As with any of our partnerships, the goal is to build and execute sustainable strategies around wealth-building for Uptown residents,” said Robinson.

Application deadline for the Uptown class is March 4. The class will begin the week of May 21 and conclude with a pitch-night and graduation event in August. Uptown residents and business owners interested in the program can get more information and apply today at http://wearemortar.com/program-application/.

Uptown Headlining in the National News

Over the past few months, Uptown Cincinnati and the many businesses and organizations who call the neighborhoods home have garnered significant national media attention. Check out the stories below to see the world-class medicine, innovation, entrepreneurship and partnerships happening in Uptown.

MORTAR in Forbes

Cincinnati nonprofit MORTAR was recently featured in Forbes for its work in Uptown, Over-the-Rhine and Walnut Hills. MORTAR supports entrepreneurs in redeveloping communities to help residents participate in the neighborhoods’ growth. The Forbes article and accompanying video feature MORTAR founders Derrick Braziel, William Thomas II and Allen Woods discussing their work, motivations and vision for the future.

Fiona the Hippo in The New York Times (And Several Other Outlets)

Fiona.jpg

It’s no secret that Fiona the hippo is an international social media phenomenon. In the past few months alone, Fiona has been featured in tens, if not hundreds, of publications, including major national names like The New York Times, The Washington Post, HuffPost, People, U.S. News & World Report, CBS News and USA Today. The world can’t get enough of Fiona, and neither can we! We’re proud to have Fiona and her amazing caretakers at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden right here in Uptown.

Cincinnati Children's in People

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center made national news in People when it welcomed a new facility dog to the medical center. Idina is the third full-time facility dog at Cincinnati Children’s, joining Chevy and Leica in providing comfort to the hospital’s patients. Learn more on the Cincinnati Children’s blog.

Cincinnati Children’s and UC College of Medicine in USA Today

 Kim Dietrich, PhD

Kim Dietrich, PhD

 Nicholas Newman, DO, MS, FAAP

Nicholas Newman, DO, MS, FAAP

Nicholas Newman, DO, MS, FAAP, Medical Director of the Environmental Health and Lead Clinic at Cincinnati Children's, and Kim Dietrich, Ph.D., Professor and Director of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the UC College of Medicine, contributed to a USA Today story about lead and a lead diagnostic test recall. As lead experts, Newman and Dietrich were quoted in the story discussing the importance of lead testing.

University of Cincinnati in U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report ranked eight University of Cincinnati bachelor’s and graduate-level online programs among the best in the nation. The Cincinnati Business Courier summarized the different rankings, which includes the Criminal Justice graduate program in the top 10.

U.S. News & World Report ranked eight University of Cincinnati bachelor’s and graduate-level online programs among the best in the nation. The Cincinnati Business Courier summarized the different rankings, which includes the Criminal Justice graduate program in the top 10.

Key Innovation Corridor Developments receive city land sale approval

Recently the Cincinnati City Council approved the land sale for two significant developments coming to the Uptown Innovation Corridor: The Uptown Gateway project by Terrex Development and Messer Construction, and the MLK Investors I development by Neyer Properties and Kulkarni Properties. This is one of the last land consolidation steps the developments will need before beginning construction.

Uptown Innovation Corridor logo

“We’re pleased that City Council approved the land sale for two threshold projects in the Uptown Innovation Corridor,” said Beth Robinson, president and CEO of Uptown Consortium. “Since the emerging Corridor is shaping Uptown Cincinnati’s preeminence as a Midwest hub for research and innovation, it’s no surprise the City wants to champion that. Equally noteworthy are the developers’ commitments to equitable growth and economic opportunity within and around these ventures.”

The Economic Growth & Infrastructure Committee, praised the developers for their work with the Avondale community so far. City councilmember Chris Smitherman said, “I feel very confident that the developers have been working with the community leaders in Avondale, and I certainly appreciate that.” 

Developers will continue working with the communities as they look forward to beginning construction in their quadrants. As stated in their preferred development agreements, developments in the Uptown Innovation Corridor have predetermined goals for economic inclusion initiatives, including hiring minority and women-owned business, retaining a diverse workforce and employing Uptown residents. The developers will meet with WEB Ventures, the economic inclusion consultants hired by the Uptown Consortium, to ensure job programs and pipelines are in place before construction begins. 

Uptown Gateway, a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development in the southeast quadrant of the Uptown Innovation Corridor, will include office space, a hotel and an underground parking garage in it’s first phase. Neyer Properties and Kulkharni Properties’ development in the Corridor’s northeast quadrant is still in the planning stages. However, both the Uptown Gateway and MLK Investors I development hope to find tenants to support Uptown’s medical, research and innovation industries. 

Other projects making up the Uptown Innovation Corridor include the UC Garner Neuroscience Institute and 1819 Innovation Hub. 

“There’s a lot of great things happening in Avondale,” Smitherman stated. 

Cincinnati Children’s new center furthers Innovative research in Uptown

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center recently launched the Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine (CuSTOM), a multidisciplinary center dedicated to the advancement of stem cell-organoid technology. It is believed to be the first facility at a pediatric medical center focused on this type of research. 

Scientists in the center use pluripotent stems cells to bioengineer human tissue that mimics natural human development, known as organoids. The tissue can be used to study how diseases are caused and progress, to test drugs before clinical trials, and ultimately to address the shortage of organs available for transplant. 

“Today in the lab, we’re using organoids from patients that are actually in the hospital to discover unknown disease pathologies. And then we’re working with the clinicians to try to improve the patient care,” said James Wells, PhD, CuSTOM Chief Scientific Officer and Director of Research in the Division of Endocrinology at Cincinnati Children’s. 

The use of patients’ own stem cells to generate the organoid tissue creates a new platform for personalized medicine. For example, according to Cincinnati Children’s, liver organoids hold the nearest-term clinical potential as a personalized platform to test toxicity and efficacy for new drugs.   

 Bioengineered human intestine with working nerves.

Bioengineered human intestine with working nerves.

Currently, most of the center focuses on gastrointestinal tissue like the small intestine, colon, liver and stomach, but Cincinnati Children’s researchers are working on developing esophageal, kidney and lung tissue as well. 

While this research has been happening at Cincinnati Children’s for years, forming the center will help accelerate the technology from bench to bedside. 

“We have this convergence of transformative breakthroughs in organ-generation technology at Cincinnati Children’s, and it’s critical that we speed up the translation cycle so patients can benefit more quickly,” said Aaron Zorn, PhD, CuSTOM Director and Associate Director of the Digestive Health Center at Cincinnati Children’s. 

The overall effort to study translatable applications for the center’s technology is led by Michael Helmrath, MD, CuSTOM associate director of clinical translation and surgical director of intestinal research and rehabilitation. Helmrath and Takanori Takebe, MD, CuSTOM Associate Director of Commercial Innovation, help identify technology within the center with potential to transition to clinical practice and coordinate with Cincinnati Children’s Center for Technology Commercialization to find industry collaborators. 

Many of the organoid technologies at CuSTOM are already close to being useable in clinical settings, but the timeline for translating the technology to patient care hinges on final technological developments and industry partnerships. 

“The key to success is going to be getting help from industry, philanthropy and the medical center’s technology transfer team, so that we can transfer this organoid technology to the patient care pipeline as quickly as possible,” said Zorn. 

Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s hope to see more potential industry partners coming to the Uptown area in the Uptown Innovation Corridor to increase opportunities for collaboration, investment and development. 

For more information on Cincinnati Children’s Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine, visit www.cincinnatichildrens.org/custom

Uptown Consortium pleased to support new Avondale business and housing development with New Markets Tax Credits

Avondale Town Center groundbreaking

The regular cadence of new real estate and economic development continues in Avondale, with this week’s groundbreaking of a $43 million Avondale Town Center.  

To make way for the project, a majority of an existing strip mall at the corner of Reading Road and Forest Avenue will be demolished for the new two-building center, which is slated to include 80,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and 119 units of mixed income housing on the upper floors. UC Health and the Cincinnati Health Department have already signed agreements to open a jointly-operated medical clinic and dentist office anchoring the north building. The Community Builders and the Avondale Community Council are working to identify a grocery tenant and a pharmacy.  

 Beth Robinson, President and CEO of Uptown Consortium, and Rick Lofgren, President and CEO of UC Health, at the Avondale Town Center Groundbreaking. 

Beth Robinson, President and CEO of Uptown Consortium, and Rick Lofgren, President and CEO of UC Health, at the Avondale Town Center Groundbreaking. 

Uptown Consortium granted $2.08 million in New Markets Tax Credits (NMTCs) to the project. NMTCs increase community development and economic growth by private investors. As a certified NMTCs “allocation authority,” Uptown Consortium uses NMTCs to invest in projects in underdeveloped neighborhoods. To date, Uptown Consortium has invested more than $600 million in the community through the program. 

The Uptown Consortium is the master planner of the Uptown Innovation Corridor, emerging from the new I-71 MLK Interchange. The goal is to create pedestrian-friendly mixed-use developments that build on the regions existing research and innovation institutions. Other developments in Uptown that incorporate retail, office, and residential space, like the Avondale Town Center, contribute to the Consortium’s larger vision for the area’s renaissance. 

The Avondale Town Center is the third phase of development funded by Community Builders’ $29.5 million Choice Neighborhoods grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Earlier projects funded by the grant include 319 units of new or refurbished housing, including 140 units of affordable housing. 

For more information on Uptown Consortium New Market Tax Credits, click here.  
 

Uptown Consortium, MLK Investors I, City kick off northeast quadrant planning

Uptown Innovation Corridor

After negotiating a preferred developer agreement, this week the Uptown Consortium (UCI), MLK Investors I, Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation (ACDC),  and the City of Cincinnati began planning the development for the northeast quadrant of the Uptown Innovation Corridor. The process began over a year ago when the City and UCI issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the quadrant, a 17-acre site adjacent to the new MLK interchange. MLK Investors I LLC were selected through the RFP process. The organization is made up of Neyer Properties and Kulkarni Properties. 

UCI kicked off a project team meeting to begin planning for the northeast quadrant. UCI led a discussion regarding the grand vision for the Uptown Innovation Corridor and UCI’s implementation strategy to date. The group had a positive discussion on strategic next steps and aligned on the vision for the quadrant, which is to create a world-class, mixed-use development for future-facing research and innovative companies. 

The project development team for the NE quadrant includes: representatives from Uptown Consortium: Beth Robinson, president and CEO of UCI, Franz Stansbury, UCI’s director of real estate development and Brooke Duncan, UCI’s community development manager; representatives from MLK Investors I: Dan Neyer, president and CEO of Neyer Properties, Chris Dobrozsi, vice president of real estate development for Neyer Properties and Shree Kulkarni, CEO of Kulkarni Enterprises; Russell Hairston, Executive Director of ACDC, and Brandon Holmes, Operations Manager for ACDC, and, the City of Cincinnati was represented by Bob Bertsch, development manager.

Next, UCI will convene the project team, including Patricia Milton, President of the Avondale Community Council, to lay the foundation for community input and participation in development planning. UCI is taking intentional steps to ensure all developments in the Innovation Corridor are models for equitable growth and economic opportunity. As a part of the preferred developer agreement, the group will need to have a robust community engagement and economic inclusion plan both during construction and for future tenants in the building. 

Including the Neyer and MLK Investors I’s proposed development, three quadrants in the Uptown Innovation Corridor have development plans in process: 

  • The northwest quadrant was named the preferred site for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) development by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in July of this year (the CDC is NIOSH’s parent organization). 
  • The Uptown Gateway project led by Terrex Development and Construction and Messer Construction will be located in the southeast quadrant of the Corridor. The $150 million project is a mixed-use development that will include a hotel, office space, a park and a parking garage. Planning for this section of the interchange started earlier this year.

Walk the walk: Developers and Uptown demanding jobs for minority and female workers

Uptown Gateway Terrex development Cincinnati

Making a commitment to expand economic inclusion beyond legal requirements can be challenging for some developers. Without proper framework, planning and partnerships, it can be difficult to implement and achieve inclusion goals for a project. This is why the Uptown Consortium (UCI) has made inclusion a priority before buildings come out of the ground. UCI’s approach to inclusion can best be shared through its partnership with Terrex Development and Construction and Messer Construction. 

The Uptown Gateway project led by Terrex and Messer will be a mixed-use development that offers office, retail, residential and parking space. As the flagship development for the Uptown Innovation Corridor, it was important to the developers and UCI that the economic inclusion planning was done correctly. In the project agreement, UCI and the Gateway developers committed to 25 percent women and minority hiring for contractors, suppliers, constructions workers, tenants and future employees in the development. For most developers, this is an ambitious task. 

“It’s really easy in the development world to go back to your tried and true, tested partners,” said Peter Horton, Terrex principal and owner. “They’re big shops that you know what they’re capable of. It’s uncharted to know what to expect from smaller shops.” 

However, Horton is excited to see the impact this agreement will have on the local community. UCI and their developer partners are not alone in their inclusion efforts. UCI hired WEB Ventures to help the groups identify minority and women-owned businesses and develop job training programs for the project. 

Led by three former P&G executives, WEB Ventures is leading the charge to find people ready to work on the Gateway project. WEB takes a bottom up approach to economic inclusion, working with each person or company individually to identify the opportunities for them in the project. WEB accompanies people to interviews, helps identify job training programs and vouches for the individuals or companies that pass muster.  

More than just minority and women inclusion, UCI wants to include their Uptown neighbors in the project by providing job opportunities. Patricia Milton, Avondale Community Council president, is fully behind the inclusion efforts in the Uptown Innovation Corridor. 

“A lot of intentional effort is going forth,” Milton said. “Uptown Consortium has made the commitment. They do think a little differently on how they identify inclusion.” 

Do things differently indeed, but while it is hard work, it is important that the community grows with the developments and receives economic benefits from new projects in their neighborhood. 

This is the new way to design economic inclusion in commercial development, and UCI hopes it will continue inspiring the development community with its efforts. The Uptown Gateway project is just the beginning for these efforts in the Uptown Innovation Corridor, but it is the model for how UCI’s economic inclusion efforts can work. As the City of Cincinnati Planning Commission President Daniel Driehaus said, the developers for the Uptown Gateway project are “doing things right” in economic inclusion. 

This is a recap of Bob Driehaus’ WCPO Insider article, “Way beyond happy talk: Developers and Uptown demanding jobs for minority and female workers”. To read his full article, visit: wcpo.com.  
 

Successful Cincinnati Children’s residential improvement programs expand in Avondale

To help preserve homes in the neighborhood—and to address housing issues, a leading social determinant of health—Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is expanding the popular Avondale Home Improvement Program (AHIP). This expansion furthers Cincinnati Children’s mission of improving the lives of children, in partnership with the Uptown Consortium and the Avondale Community Development Corporation.

AHIP provides interest-free home improvement loans up to $35,000. The loans are designed to help home owners improve living conditions by fixing critical exterior home repairs that often contribute to safety and health concerns. If recipients stay in their home for more than five years, the loan is forgiven. 

By investing in AHIP, Cincinnati Children’s is able to continue its commitment to the community by making a difference in the area of housing and community development, which has a direct relationship to overall community health. AHIP contributes to Cincinnati Children’s larger efforts to prevent health and safety issues and improve residents’ well-being in the surrounding communities. 

“AHIP is improving the housing conditions and overall quality of life in the community,” said John Scott, Community Relations Program Manager, Cincinnati Children’s. “It supports the availability of a mix of housing products in the area and complements other housing initiatives.”

When AHIP launched in 2014 with a $250,000 contribution from Cincinnati Children’s, the program was only available to home owners in certain parts of Avondale. But based on the program’s success, Cincinnati Children’s agreed to invest another $244,000 to expand AHIP to two new sections of the Avondale neighborhood. Moving forward, it’s possible that the program will continue and expand to even more parts of Avondale.  

Combination of old and new

Along with helping repair existing homes, Cincinnati Children’s is helping build new homes in Avondale to attract more residents. Uptown Consortium and Cincinnati Children’s Hickory Place Townhomes project originally consisted of eight newly-built townhomes on Northern Avenue, but demand was so high for the first phase in 2015 that they quickly started plans to build eight more. 

Hickory Place Townhomes Uptown Cincinnati

The townhomes are different than many of the current housing options in Avondale with new amenities to attract working professionals. They range in price from $185,000 to $229,000 even though each townhome costs roughly $300,000 to build. They’re sold significantly below market value because Cincinnati Children’s donated $1.1 million to offset construction costs and keep prices more affordable.

Now, the Hickory Place Townhomes are the largest new housing development to be constructed in Avondale in at least 25 years. 

Part of a larger effort

From refurbishing old homes to building new ones, Cincinnati Children’s is dedicated to creating a safer, healthier and more vibrant community in Avondale. 

But community development and residential housing is just one piece of Cincinnati Children’s involvement in the community. The hospital pledged to invest $11.5 million in Avondale to improve child and community health, encourage development, strengthen local nonprofits and support workforce development.
 

New Film Festival Concept Debuts in Clifton

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An innovative film festival concept debuts in Clifton on Saturday, September 30. Quiet on the Set, Cincinnati’s first live film festival, brings audiences and filmmakers together outside of the theater. The festival features three professionally lit and decorated film sets in the Ludlow Avenue Business District, where the community can watch films being made, combining live theater, film production and community interaction.

Anyone in the community is welcome to attend the free, family friendly event to watch filmmakers’ rehearsals and “quiet on the set” times. The first rehearsal will begin at 10 a.m., and the festival will wrap at 8 p.m.  

“The burgeoning film industry in Cincinnati has peaked many people’s interests. However, the public rarely has access to these sets to see filmmaking in action” said Kip Eagen, Quiet on the Set Project Manager. “Through this festival, we hope to bring together the community and the film industry.”

One of the festival’s other goals is to celebrate the Clifton neighborhood’s creativity and diversity while benefitting local businesses by attracting people to the Ludlow Avenue Business District. In the event of inclement weather, the festival will move to the Clifton Cultural Arts Center.

“It’s exciting because the Quiet on the Set film festival is a completely original concept,” said Eagen. “People are energized because they’ve never heard of an event like this before.”

Quiet on the Set offers a unique opportunity to bring the arts to the Uptown community and to attract patrons from other areas of the city to experience a one-of-a-kind event.

“Uptown Cincinnati has a long legacy of innovation across all disciplines, including the arts,” said Beth Robinson, President and CEO of Uptown Consortium. “The Consortium is proud to see this new, unique film festival come to life in Uptown.”

The film festival is presented by Clifton Town Meeting, The Clifton Business and Professional Association and Uptown Consortium with production sponsors Lightbourn Communications, The Midwestern Grip and Lighting Company, and Cincinnati State. Other funding organizations include ArtsWave and individual merchants.

For more information, visit www.quietonthesetfestival.com.

Look Who’s Talking: the Voices of Local Leaders

Under the leadership of Mary Beth McGrew, University of Cincinnati architect and senior associate vice president of planning, design and construction, Uptown recently won the bid for NIOSH site selection. 

Occasionally we ask local influencers their thoughts on issues affecting Uptown and the region. We asked David Adams, William Ball, M.D., Jill Meyer and Patricia Milton to send us their thoughts on the NIOSH decision to locate in the Uptown Innovation Corridor.                    And they said...

From: David J Adams
Chief Innovation Officer
CEO, UC Research Institute

"UC's role in attracting NIOSH to Uptown is yet another example of how the Innovation Corridor fits perfectly in our region’s only anchor district.  
My work at UCRI links the world’s leading companies with our world-class students and forward-thinking, specialized experts of more than 100 University of Cincinnati labs, colleges and clusters. From here in the 1819 Innovation Hub, the future looks even brighter knowing NIOSH is joining the Corridor’s solutions community.” 

 

From: William S. Ball, M.D.
Senior Vice-President for Health Affairs
Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean of Medicine
Professor Radiology, Biomedical Engineering and Pediatrics

“Scientists at NIOSH want to be near advanced collaborating scientists at the University of Cincinnati. A majority of the region’s most sophisticated, pioneering research takes place in Uptown, and NIOSH is making the efficient choice—the advantage of being within walking distance of the people with whom they collaborate. I believe  that contributed substantially to their decision. And, of course, now this makes the Uptown Innovation Corridor all the more attractive to future collaborators in forward-thinking companies who want the same advantage.”

 

From: Jill P. Meyer
President and CEO  
Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber

“The Cincinnati Chamber applauds the Government Services Administration’s decision to strategically position NIOSH in Cincinnati's Innovation Corridor and thank our regional congressional delegation for its work to make it reality. As global companies support research and investigative work in Uptown Cincinnati, they will appreciate the growth in bright and diverse talent accessible near the 1-71 and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive crossroads. Our businesses and their employees realize the importance of working where inclusion is a neighborhood principle.”

 

From: Patricia Milton
President
Avondale Community Council

“Avondale is a legacy community with a rich history of working families. NIOSH has a legacy and mandate to provide excellent research and the promotion of safe and healthy workers and working conditions. We look forward to getting to know more about the development project as it comes to fruition.  We encourage NIOSH workers to live, work, and volunteer in Avondale as integral neighbors working to make Avondale a neighborhood of choice.”

City Planning Commission on Development Done Right

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High praise from city officials greeted Terrex Development and Messer Construction as they presented a thoughtful, economically inclusive plan to develop the southeast quadrant of Reading Road and East Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, a project they’ve planned in close collaboration with the Uptown Consortium. As a result, at the August 18 planning commission meeting, commissioners approved a measure to rezone the area of land for use as a planned development.

Developers Terrex and Messer presented to the commission their preferred developer agreement (PDA), which is a cornerstone of corridor planning and an essential step in strategically planning a city’s limited space. As part of the presentation, developers additionally shared their economic inclusion plans which outlined strategies to ensure the new development works for the community, not against it.

Messer and Terrex shared their goal to have at least 25 percent minority-owned businesses and six percent women-owned businesses in the corridor, along with a workforce of at least 12 percent minority groups and at least three percent women. 

The developers plan to use the land, which the city agreed to sell earlier in the summer, for a mixed-use project that will include a hotel with ground-floor retail and three office buildings with a combined 450,000 square feet of office space.

A city only has so much space, and good city planning helps make the best use of the space within a city’s limits while respecting the growing needs of a diverse population. The Messer and Terrex project is an example of responsible development, a sentiment echoed by City of Cincinnati Planning Commission President Daniel Driehaus who, in addition to praising the developers for “doing things right,” said that he looked forward to seeing the project completed. 

Uptown Consortium and HOC Drive Up Down Payment Incentive

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Uptown Consortium and the Homeownership Center of Greater Cincinnati’s (HOC) Down Payment Assistance Program is receiving a facelift entering its second year. The new “2to4K Uptown Incentive” program launches Monday, October 2, and offers $2,000 to $4,000 forgivable loans to first-time homebuyers purchasing a home in the five Uptown Cincinnati neighborhoods—Avondale, Clifton, Corryville, Clifton Heights/University Heights/Fairview Heights (CUF) and Mt. Auburn.

Based on homebuyer trends and feedback from the real estate community during the pilot program, Uptown Consortium and HOC adjusted the grants to meet the needs of homebuyers of varying income levels. The program is designed to encourage homeownership in the Uptown neighborhoods and create opportunities for first-time homebuyers to explore each of the amenities and resources that Uptown has to offer.

How it works: Turnkey process

For individuals and families to access the “2to4k Uptown Incentive” program, a real estate professional must apply in their name. Uptown Consortium is raising awareness of the program among local real estate professionals, so they can offer information to – and potentially apply for – their clients considering an Uptown home.

The previous program launched in late 2016 and provided 50 fixed $1,500 forgivable loans to first-time homebuyers. Although applicant income did not limit incentive eligibility, Uptown Consortium and HOC learned that the $1,500 fixed rate lessened its attractiveness among lower-income prospects. The new “2to4k Uptown Incentive” program offers larger loans on a sliding scale, with dollar amount determined on a case-by-case basis.

Who qualifies: High income, low income and everyone in-between

All first-time homebuyers and buyers who have not owned a house in Cincinnati in the past three years qualify for the “2to4k Uptown Incentive” program. To be eligible for the program, there are two other qualifications—buyers must complete HOC’s homebuying training session online or in person and they must owner-occupy the house for at least five years. 

Income is not a qualification—any home buyer can participate, whether they’re purchasing the most expensive or the most affordable home in Uptown. The grant can be applied to down payments, closing costs and out-of-pocket costs.

For more information on the “2to4k Uptown Incentive” program, click here.

 

Another Research Rockstar Comes to Uptown

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Joseph Cheng, MD, professor and vice chair of neurosurgery at the Yale School of Medicine recently joined the University of Cincinnati as  professor and chair of the UC College of Medicine Department of Neurosurgery. Dr. Cheng leads all neurosurgery activities in the College of Medicine and at UC Health.

"We are thrilled to be able to attract a surgeon of the caliber and national reputation of Dr. Cheng. He is an extraordinary neurosurgical clinician and researcher, respected educator and a true leader in his field,” says William Ball, MD, UC senior vice president for health affairs and dean of the UC College of Medicine.

Cheng is working to grow an academic neurosurgery program that is fully integrated within the UC College of Medicine and UC Health. He also leads efforts to enhance postgraduate education, is exploring the future of neurosurgery through research and as a clinical department of the College of Medicine, is growing clinical interactions between neurosurgery and other neuroscience-related departments, including neurology and rehabilitation medicine, otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience, emergency medicine and internal medicine. His programmatic priorities for the Department of Neurosurgery are built around five key areas: neurotrauma, cerebrovascular neurosurgery, adult brain tumor surgery, functional neurosurgery and complex spinal disease.

"Dr. Cheng is an extremely important addition to the team that will lead the growth and continued maturation of our neurosciences programs,” adds Richard Lofgren, MD, president and chief executive officer at UC Health. "He has built a great reputation as an expert in complex spinal surgery, and he is recognized nationally for his neurosurgery outcomes research which has led to improved patient care. He also has played an important role in guiding national health policy. We are very fortunate to have him here in the greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region.”

"Neurosurgery at the University of Cincinnati and the city began in 1920 with the appointment of Dr. George Heuer, student of Drs. Harvey Cushing and William Halsted of Johns Hopkins. A general surgeon, Dr. Heuer initiated a tradition of education, scholarship and practice of neurosurgery that was continued, in 1937, at UC by Drs. Joe Evans of Montreal and in the community by Dr. Frank Mayfield of Virginia. Both leaders were dedicated to the collaborative practice of healing, education and research that was focused on the community and university,” says John Tew Jr., MD, professor and former chair of the UC Department of Neurosurgery and co-founder and former director of the then UC Neuroscience Institute, a forerunner of the now UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute. "Now in 2017, nearly 100 years later, the tradition of integration and collaboration will continue and be nurtured with the appointment of Dr. Joseph Cheng, a teacher, healer and researcher who will join the UC Department of Neurosurgery as the Frank H. Mayfield Chair of Neurological Surgery. Dr. Cheng is cut from the molds of Drs. Heuer, Evans and Mayfield, and will, I am convinced, continue to lead the advance of neurological care, education and research in this university and community."

Cheng joins a UC College of Medicine and UC Health neuroscience program that will soon see the construction on a new facility housing the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, 223 Piedmont Ave., which is scheduled to open in 2019.

This story originally appeared in UC Academic Health Center: Health News.