Report and Recommendations Regarding a Westwood Square

The Westwood Coalition has issued its report and recommendations regarding a Westwood square. As the report notes, “[t]his report summarizes the Coalition’s community-focused review process and feasibility study devoted to the concept of a “Westwood Square” and makes recommendations based on input received. The Coalition, as part of its outreach, worked closely with representatives of the City’s Transportation and Engineering Department to examine a number of potential options for a Westwood Square for presentation to neighborhood organizations, businesses, and residents. Options in conceptual form were developed by City staff, with consideration for traffic, safety, function, and general feasibility. The Coalition then coordinated a series of public meetings in Westwood, with representatives of the City’s Transportation and Engineering Department in attendance, along with other City staff and outside development experts. The purpose of the meetings in Westwood was to gain insight into residents’ opinions, on which this report’s recommendations are based.”

The recommendations are made to the four organizations that have representatives to the Coalition. Once those organizations respond, the Coalition will share the responses and next steps, which will include a formal set of recommendations to City officials.

Which option or variation is recommended, you ask? It’s the Triangle option, for a number of reasons, detailed in the Coalition’s report and recommendations. It’s important to emphasize, though, that the recommendations include corollary and complimentary development along Harrison Avenue throughout the neighborhood’s historic business district and on the grounds of Westwood Town Hall. We hope that you will read the full report for the context and the details. (It’s only four pages long.) Please offer any comments here or via revitalizewestwood@gmail.com or to any of the four organizations.

Westwood Square in Mayor’s State of City Address

In his State of the City address on September 18, 2014, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley remarked on the advantages of public-private enterprise at Smale Riverfront Park downtown, and its success, and offered a vision for a beer pavilion on the grounds of Westwood Town Hall facing the Westwood Square that is currently being considered.

Residents of Westwood who’ve engaged in deliberation about the revitalization of the historic business district know well that (1) places to socialize with neighbors are high on the list of desirables, (2) the Westwood Square will mark our center and encourage people to see what Westwood’s neighborhood business district has to offer, and (3) Town Hall and the businesses and organizations it faces are landmarks and treasures. As residents have been discussing in Westwood, we want a plan for the Square that has Harrison-Epworth-Urwiler as its focal point, our Main+Main, and that anchors this area surrounded by neighborhood assets like Town Hall, Madcap Puppets, Henke Winery, and area churches. We want something that is reflective of Westwood’s history and style. The Mayor’s proposal, pictured here, will certainly be explored. Comments? Post here!

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Coalition Gathering Development Perspective

The Coalition has used its last two steering meetings to invite input from experts familiar with neighborhood revitalization and with development. Guests were asked to comment on the options under consideration for a Westwood Square. They shared perspectives and insights into the economic development opportunities afforded by each option. They also commented more generally on what prospective developers look for in a business district. These discussions, in concert with the comments from residents following each recent community meeting, provide invaluable input into the Westwood Coalition’s decision-making process as it formulates its Westwood Square recommendations over the coming month. Remarks from the Aug 28 2014 meeting are available and will be followed shortly by those of the September 18, 2014 meeting.

The speakers emphasized the importance of community engagement and vision, of site control, and of a planning process. Several highlighted the value that the form-based code brings to a neighborhood business district. The Coalition asked them to offer perspective on the revitalization value that each option would bring to the community. Uniformly, Coalition members heard that the successful plan will be Westwood-specific, it will be community-anchored, realistic, and will build on the assets of the community. It will be successful when we find the right mix of public-private support and of local and regional business talent and commitment. The guests underscored the importance of business district as destination with a mix of businesses and programmed activity. They all congratulated the Westwood Coalition on the quality of the planning and input to date and then offered specific remarks on the options.

The community can expect the Coalition to make a report and recommendations in late October.

More on a Square at Westwood Civic Aug 19 Meeting

Westwood Civic Association has invited the Westwood Coalition to its meeting on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 to present the options under consideration for a Westwood Square, to answer questions, and to invite input. The meeting begins at 7 pm and will be held at Westwood Town Hall, 3017 Harrison Ave.

WCA has other items on the agenda so the Westwood Square portion won’t last all evening. Even if you’ve read all about this on http://revitalizewestwood.com or have attended other meetings, this will be a good session to attend because it’s a chance to hear more about the benefits and challenges of each option and a few ideas that have been suggested by residents. It’s also an opportunity to jump right into this community-led process of neighborhood revitalization.

Hope to see you on Aug 19. In the meantime, read over the presentation materials from an earlier community meeting. As always, please feel welcome to send comments to revitalizewestwood@gmail.com or via the revitalizewestwood.com website.

Facilitator and Ground Rules

At a steering meeting of the Westwood Coalition tonight, Westwood Works announced Mary Jenkins as its new representative, replacing John Eby who will serve in an alternate role.  The Coalition approved Mary Jenkins to continue in the role of facilitator, to set and facilitate meetings, to serve as the Coalition’s spokesperson, and to assign committee members and tasks.  The Coalition also adopted a set of ground rules, echoing its stated commitment in community meetings, to respect, support, participation.  Members of the Westwood Coalition committed to modeling mutual respect.  

In a related move, recent disparaging and personal comments, naming individuals, have been removed from this site, as the Coalition seeks to encourage respectful language, while acknowledging that some dissent is healthy to community deliberation.  See the comment on the last post for a more expansive explanation.

Westwood Civic Appoints New Coalition Reps, Removes Jenkins

The current president of Westwood Civic Association, Jim McNulty, has appointed Mary Kuhl and Becky Weber as WCA representatives to the Westwood Coalition. He also removed Mary Jenkins as a WCA representative to the Coalition, saying, “I don’t think the coalition process has been working to the benefit of Westwood. I believe in following our plan, which calls for A) Decreasing housing density, and B) That WCA is to be the entity that represents our neighborhood in all business with the city…”

WCA has asked the Westwood Coalition to present the current six design options for a Westwood Square (the designs that evolved through a recent feasibility study) to attendees at WCA’s mid-August meeting. While these are the same designs reviewed at June meetings of the Coalition and Westwood Works, this will provide another opportunity for public input to the Coalition and to guide WCA on its deliberations on the Square in anticipation of a Coalition recommendation.

Connecting Dots and Comments

Over 110 people attended the Westwood Coalition’s June 12, 2014 community meeting. Some attendees left after the presentation portion and only fifteen people handed in comment sheets that night. However, more responses have come in via email and the website. An accompanying document provides more detail.

A preliminary glance at the comments and the dots demonstrates that Option 1, No Build, is undesirable. Options 3 and 5 got high marks. Option 3 has a low number of negative votes*, as indicated by the 0-1 and 1-2 columns. Option 5 has more negative votes than Option 3 but not by many. Both Options 3 and 5 have comparable numbers of positive votes, as suggested by the 3-4 and 4-5 columns. While we will continue to assess this input, it seems to indicate the compelling vision expressed by these options and attendees’ interest in significant change in the business district.

Note that Options 1 and 6 received twice as many negative votes as any other option (as defined by the two left hand columns, 0-1 and 1-2). Option 6 has 100 more votes than any other option, suggesting voting anomalies. The exceptionally high number of positive votes, completely out of line with the total possible votes that option could have received, supports this judgment even if exaggerated to some extent as others were. Voting irregularities, as witnessed by a number of people, included pooling stickers amongst attendees, putting multiple stickers in a section, and ignoring the criteria. Any reasonable person would point to this as a bold and crude attempt to sway the vote.

Setting aside Option 6 for a moment, given the voting anomalies, and averaging Options 1-5, there was an average of 330 votes per board. Each person was given six dots per board (36 in all), suggesting that 55 people cast votes. We understand that this is not accurate but it provides a baseline. Now consider Option 6: 436 votes were cast, a 31% increase over the other options, suggesting that 72 people voted. There are 272 votes on Option 6 just for columns 0-4. Remaining consistent with the experience of the other boards (330 votes each), the column labeled 4-5 would have gotten only 58 votes, not the actual 164 dots. Suffice to say, the voting irregularities on Option 6 must be considered in context and with the narrative remarks that are submitted.

Further, an analysis of all comments received to date demonstrates strong interest in Options 4, 3, and 5, in descending order, and limited support for Options 6, 1, and 2, in descending order, when considering respondents’ stated preferences in emails, on comment sheets, and via the website.

What remains is very significant community interest in a Westwood Square and a dramatic change at that. The Coalition will need to review this report and the community comments before making a recommendation, but shortening the list to two or three options is fairly straightforward and the subject of discussion at an upcoming Coalition meeting. Please see the accompanying document for more detail.

*“Votes” is used in this document to indicate meeting attendees’ assessment via dots on a criteria chart but should not be construed as a firm vote since the Coalition continues to receive comments and gather analysis. Also, “voting” irregularities skewed this process and, thus, it must be taken with a grain of salt.