Innovations in Uptown That Will Make You Sweat

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.”


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

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 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)


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.

Uptown's Projects to Watch: It's All in the Details

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.

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

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 Lofgre, President and CEO of UC Health, at the Avondale Town Center Groundbreaking. 

Beth Robinson, President and CEO of Uptown Consortium, and Rick Lofgre, 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:  

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


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

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
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


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


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


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.

NIOSH Chooses Uptown Innovation Corridor

Hundreds of scientists including chemists, biologists, engineers and toxicologists will join the region's largest contingent of advanced researchers who call Uptown their professional home, as yesterday the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced it has chosen 14 acres at Martin Luther King Drive and Reading Road for its new site.

Thursday’s announcement about the new facility to be built in the Uptown Innovation Corridor came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will invest $110 million to create an ultra modern research facility for NIOSH’s occupational safety and health research.

NIOSH’s site selection process began 11 years ago, and became active again in 2014 following the economic recovery. NIOSH Director John Howard, MD, said the new location will expand opportunities for collaboration and partnership with the Cincinnati scientific research community. 

NIOSH’s economic impact on Greater Cincinnati is forecast to be $291.7 million along with $1.2 million in earnings tax revenues for the City of Cincinnati. Much of this economic impact is experienced by local workers and the communities around NIOSH’s locations. All 550 employees at the three existing NIOSH locations will be relocated to the new site in Uptown.

The University of Cincinnati led the process for presenting the Uptown site, with the UC Department of Planning + Design + Construction managing all application, compliance and presentation activities. 

“Investing in research and innovation are key operating principles for the University of Cincinnati. Leading the work to recruit NIOSH to the Uptown Innovation Corridor aligns our commitment to advancing this urban institution and our local community with tomorrow’s global solutions in mind,” said Neville Pinto, President of University of Cincinnati and Chairman of the Board for Uptown Consortium.

Design and construction for the new NIOSH campus is scheduled to begin in summer 2018, with a completion date of early 2021. This development joins the Terrex/Messer Uptown Gateway, the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute and 1819 Innovation & Research Accelerator as part of the Uptown Innovation Corridor. 

The new site will combine three Cincinnati NIOSH locations with aging facilities.  CDC and GDA representatives are hosting a community meeting on August 1, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Walnut Hills High School for community feedback on issues to be addressed in the environmental impact statement required by federal law.

Neville Pinto named chair of the Uptown Consortium board

UC President Neville Pinto brings his record of innovation and collaboration to his new role as chairman of the UCI board, and he does so at a time when Uptown is poised for unprecedented growth. As Pinto notes, “we stand at an important threshold.”

University of Cincinnati President Neville Pinto, Ph.D., was named chairman of the Uptown Consortium Inc. (UCI)  through April, 2019.

“As UCI prepares to launch the new Innovation Corridor, Uptown Cincinnati is poised to become the Midwest’s research and innovation engine,” said Pinto, who will serve a two-year term. “I am honored to serve as the Consortium’s incoming chair during this important threshold.”

Since its creation in 2004, the Uptown Consortium has spearheaded more than $1 billion in redevelopment, new construction and neighborhood improvements in Avondale, CUF, Clifton, Corryville and Mt. Auburn neighborhoods.

“The Uptown Consortium has been a catalyst for positive change in its five neighborhoods. The area has an $11.5 billion annual economic impact that promises to grow with current projects that are focused on fueling the future,” Pinto said, pointing to UC's 1819 Innovation Hub, the recently announced Cincinnati Children's patient tower, construction of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute and the new Uptown Innovation Corridor with the Uptown Gateway flagship as examples.

Pinto, who was elected to the National Academy of Inventors in 2010, brings expertise and a background in engineering to his role as chairman. He is well-known for a longstanding commitment to research and collaborative partnerships.  

Pinto, who was a faculty member in chemical engineering at the University of Cincinnati from 1985 until 2011, returned to the UC as president in February of this year from the University of Louisville. 

During his 26-years as a member of the UC Department of Chemical Engineering, Pinto helped foster the University’s academic research agenda. He established the Adsorption and Ion Exchange Laboratory, which resulted in over $6 million in external funding for study in biochemical and environmental engineering. As vice provost and dean of the Graduate School, he helped attract external awards of more than $10 million to support graduate and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.

Pinto, replaces Beverly Davenport as chair of the UCI board. Davenport left her position as UC president in January to become chancellor of the University of Tennessee.

Q&A with Uptown Rental Properties President Dan Schimberg

Dan Schimberg

Recently named Cincinnatian of the Year at the JDRF Southwest Ohio Super Gala, Dan Schimberg, Uptown Rental Properties President, is establishing a legacy in Uptown Cincinnati. Now with over 2,500 units, Uptown Rentals have developed new and historic housing options near the University of Cincinnati for more than 25 years. We caught up with Dan in his newly renovated offices on Short Vine.   

Q: How did your start your business?

A: Uptown Rental Properties was founded about 30 years old, when I left the University of Cincinnati in the mid-80s. I rehabbed my first house on Victor Street, and I rented it to six people in the marching band. I saw a hole in the market, and I thought to myself I could be a great, considerate property manager in the Uptown area.

Q: Why did you choose to invest in Uptown? 

A: I’ve always been interested in Cincinnati’s Urban Core and interested in urban architecture, urban infrastructure and helping to provide housing, good quality infill housing and housing solutions in the Urban Core.

Q: Uptown has five neighborhoods, or some say “burroughs.” What’s your favorite area?

A: I would say that Short Vine is my favorite part of Uptown Cincinnati. When I went to college here, I lived on Short Vine for three years. Uptown Rentals started to buy properties here in the early 2000s. It has become a passion of mine to rent properties on Short Vine.

Q: What about Uptown keeps you as an investor?

A: It is very rewarding to work in the Uptown real estate market. We can look around at the success of the university, the surrounding institutions and the success of our own company to see our hard work accumulate in the Uptown area. Uptown Rentals enjoys being a major stakeholder in a region that is seeing so many successes and has experienced so many great milestones.   

Q: How do you hope your residents describe your approach?

Uptown Cincinnati

A: We want them to see us as the best in class and also feel comfortable with us to have open communication and transparency. I tell all of our employees that when they enter one of our apartments, you are walking into someone’s home. Uptown Rentals strives to be the best for our clients.

Q: Why do you champion Uptown as unlike any other regional district?

A: There is a certain amount of energy in Uptown, that really isn’t found in any other community around the city. Uptown has a daytime population that is diverse and spirited. It is filled with energized youthful people and an eclectic mixed of residents and visitors. We thrive on the energy and diversity in Uptown, and that is what I find so rewarding to work here. Uptown Rentals loves being a part of Uptown because it is a great neighborhood. To sit here with all these wonderful employers, one of the best children’s hospitals in the country, a university that includes world-renowned colleges, Christ Hospital having one of the best regional cardiac and Nero centers around… it’s really rewarding to play a role in this area.

Q: What is next for Uptown Rental Properties?

A: As a whole, Uptown Rental Properties has room for growth. We recently conducted a five-year vision plan. We have room in our new Short Vine office to double the size of our company. Currently, we own a significant amount of property in Mount Auburn. We are going to be working hard there, but we have several other great developments in Corryville and CUF. We have ramped up our rehab capabilities, are working closely with some community groups, developers and the university officials to solve a senior housing need in the area, and with nonprofits to try to solve some housing needs temporary transplants who come to Cincinnati for medical care. Our goal is to service everyone that needs to live in Uptown for either the short or long term. To reach this goal, we are venturing into different areas to make sure Uptown can be a home to everyone who wants to live here.

With new MLK interchange, studies predict changes

Last month the first ramp of the I-71 interchange at Martin Luther King Drive opened to traffic. The interchange, which is slated for completion later this summer, is forecast to have a state-wide economic impact of more than $1 billion and is already propelling massive development in the adjacent Innovation Corridor.

Uptown’s new front door is swinging open, positioning the area for unprecedented economic development and innovation.

In April, the northbound ramp from Martin Luther King Drive (MLK) onto I-71 opened to traffic. The remaining ramps of the new I-71/MLK interchange are slated to open this summer. Although the new interchange – the first in Cincinnati’s urban core since the freeway system was completed in the early 1970s – will dramatically improve the entrance to Uptown, it likewise poses a chance for economic growth.

“Uptown is has begun another level of transformative change,” Uptown Consortium President and CEO Beth Robinson said. “The new MLK interchange presents an opportunity for positive economic change in the area directly off of the interstate and gives residents, employees and visitors direct access to some of Cincinnati’s largest institutions.”

The University of Cincinnati Economics Center forecasts the economic impact of the MLK interchange and potential projects in its May 2012 report.

“The proposed interchange, coupled with the redevelopment that is a likely consequence, makes Uptown much more competitive as a location for spinoff technology and research commercialization businesses, and it reduces the likelihood that new high‐tech firms will move to competing university/technology research districts in other cities,” the report noted.
Among the interchange’s myriad benefits the report cites:

  • Economic impact. The project is expected to have more than $1 billion in total economic impact. That figure can be traced to an initial $325 million of anticipated private investment that will likely produce a change inthe economy of more than $460 million in Hamilton County and $290 million in other parts of Ohio, in addition to more than $100 million in construction.
  • Job creation and retention. Construction of the interchange and development of the surrounding area are expected to create 2,950 short‐term jobs. However, the projects will likewise promote permanent job growth. Major Uptown institutions are expected to add as many as 3,000 permanent positions, and new businesses will contribute up to 2,000 more jobs. The interchange is also critical to retaining businesses that might otherwise leave the district taking between 1,900 and 2,300 jobs with them.
  • Additional tax revenue. New business is expected to contribute more than $200 million in sales, earnings and property taxes to city, county and state coffers.
  • Improved quality of life. When the interchange is completed it will alleviate congestion on neighborhood streets. New growth will bring additional amenities to the area, including retail and dining options.
  • Access to care.  Even more significantly, the new ramps will dramatically improve access to emergency care for people throughout the region. Some 17,000 patients are expected to use the interchange to access trauma and emergency care at Children’s and University hospitals, enabling them to receive potentially life-saving care faster. In addition, the new interchange will enable more efficient disaster response in the event of a major emergency.

Is the Corridor unfolding as predicted?

The interchange has already spurred several important ancillary projects in the area, including Children’s Hospital’s $41 million Vernon Manor II office complex and the University of Cincinnati’s $50 million Neuroscience Institute. But the interchange’s greatest and most immediate influence will be on the nascent Uptown Innovation Corridor.

Since construction began, the Uptown Consortium has invested $25 million in more than 100 properties to support its vision of a mixed-use venture spanning the intersection at MLK and Reading Road. The proposed pedestrian-friendly, live-work-play environment will extend north and south to encompass major Uptown research institutions. 

The Corridor features 44 acres capable of supporting 4 million square feet of commercial development. It will be home to NIOSH, UC’s 1819 Innovation Hub, a $16 million research accelerator which is located in the former Sears Building at the southeast corner of Reading Road and Lincoln Avenue. The 133,000-square-foot accelerator will provide space for start-up companies born from UC led projects and technologies.

In addition NIOSH announcing their new 14-acre site selection, later this year Terrex Development & Construction and Messer Construction Co. will begin construction on a six-acre site on the southeast corner of the Reading Road and MLK intersection. The pedestrian-friendly project will include three office buildings, providing approximately 450,000 square feet of Class A office, a 200-room hotel, offering both limited- and extended-stay rooms, ground floor retail space and an underground parking structure for 1,800 cars topped by a park.

“All of this builds on Uptown’s existing strengths,” Robinson said. “The new MLK interchange is just the beginning for our vision for Uptown. We plan to create a district that will incubate talent and attract innovative businesses.”

Annual Uptown Business Celebration Honors Local Businesses and Community Members

Beth Robinson, President and CEO, Uptown Consortium, discussing the Uptown Innovation Corridor.

Beth Robinson, President and CEO, Uptown Consortium, discussing the Uptown Innovation Corridor.

A sold-out crowd enjoyed stories from innovation to celebration as the Uptown Consortium presented the sixth annual Uptown Business Celebration recognizing business excellence and commitment to the Uptown community. Local businesses and community members from the five Uptown neighborhoods and beyond gathered at the Kingsgate Marriott to celebrate the growth and success of Uptown over the past year. 

“This past year, the continued work of the Uptown Consortium, local businesses and the community has further established Uptown Cincinnati as a hub of innovation,” said Beth Robinson, President and CEO of Uptown Consortium. “As we continue to shape Uptown and the Innovation Corridor, collaboration with our partners and the community will be the key to our future success.”

Uptown Consortium also debuted a video featuring the Uptown Innovation Corridor near the new MLK I-71 interchange. Robinson and Peter Horton, principal and co-founder of Terrex Development & Construction, introduced the video speaking to the importance of inclusion for the Corridor’s success. 

During the keynote address, Thane Maynard, executive director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, highlighted the value of partnership in Uptown Cincinnati. He shared how Fiona, Cincinnati’s new baby hippo, survived against all odds with the help of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, unprecedented community support and the extraordinary experts on Fiona’s care team, Team Fiona. Through collaboration, the Cincinnati Zoo became the first team in the world to care for a premature hippo that survived.   

After the address, the Consortium distributed awards to nominees that shared a strong commitment to the Uptown community, success in meeting the organization’s mission and a demonstration of sustainable business practices in the five Uptown neighborhoods: Avondale, Clifton, Corryville, CUF and Mt. Auburn. The following were named winners:

Joyce Powdrill, Thane Maynard, Sandra Jones Mitchell and Beth Robinson (left to right) pose for the Avondale Community Champion Award.

Joyce Powdrill, Thane Maynard, Sandra Jones Mitchell and Beth Robinson (left to right) pose for the Avondale Community Champion Award.

  • Uptown Community Champions (one from each neighborhood)
    • Avondale Community Champion: Sandra Jones Mitchell 
    • Clifton Community Champion: Eric Urbas 
    • Clifton Heights Community Champion: Jack Martin 
    • Corryville Community Champion: Dan Luther 
    • Mount Auburn Community Champion: Carol Gibbs   
  • Uptown Small Business – Conscious Living Center
  • Uptown New Business – Gaslight Gourmet Cookies
  • Uptown Nonprofit – Crossroads Uptown Church
  • Uptown Large Business – Kroger, University Plaza

The May 31st event’s premier sponsors were Terrex Development & Construction and Messer Construction, while Neyer Properties, Ross, Sinclair & Associates, LLC, University of Cincinnati, UC Health, TriHealth and Uptown Rental Properties served as silver sponsors.

Joyce Powdrill, Ron Esposito, Thane Maynard and Beth Robinson (left to right) pose for the Uptown Small Business Award.

Joyce Powdrill, Ron Esposito, Thane Maynard and Beth Robinson (left to right) pose for the Uptown Small Business Award.


Joyce Powdrill, Thane Maynard, Lena Schuler and Beth Robinson (left to right) pose for the Uptown Nonprofit Award.