Westwood Revitalization on WVXU Today

WVXU 91.7’s Cincinnati Edition will feature a conversation today about Westwood’s revitalization and, specifically, Polk Laffoon IV’s Cincinnati Magazine March 2015 article, “Cracking the Code.” The 1:30 pm interview and call-in show will feature Mr. Laffoon and WestCURC board president John Lewandowski discussing the article and the recent efforts in Westwood to redevelop the historic business district based on residents’ input.

Listen to the recorded program at http://wvxu.org/post/revitalization-westwood-under-way-our-guests-share-how-happening

From WVXU’s website:

The revitalization of Westwood is under way & our guests show how that is happening.

Cracking the Code: Cincinnati Magazine, March 2015

Cracking the Code: Cincinnati Magazine, March 2015

Notes from Feb 18, 2015 Coalition Community Meeting

The Westwood Coalition hosted a community meeting on February 18th to share Coalition work of the past few months and to invite perspectives from Westwood Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation’s (WestCURC) executive director Elizabeth Bartley on the work ahead related to the redevelopment of the neighborhood business district (NBD). After welcoming 40+ attendees on a cold night with plenty of competition for their time, Mary Jenkins, the Coalition’s facilitator, reviewed the recommendations that the Coalition made in October, including the adoption of the Triangle/Bowtie option, corollary improvements on Town Hall grounds and throughout the historic business district, and a planning process for the implementation of the improvements. She also highlighted the foundation upon which those recommendations were made: the community process that identified the NBD’s strengths and opportunities, challenges and threats, as well as residents’ goals, such as a walkable, attractive business district, retail shops, a civic or green space, nearby parking, and options for gathering and dining.

Next, Ms. Jenkins described an asset mapping process that the Coalition has been conducting, to identify each Coalition member organization’s and businesses’ assets, including personnel, expertise, materials, facilities, constituents, networks, and economic power, all with the intent of connected these assets well to the projects that lie ahead to redevelop the NBD effectively. She described the asset identification as preparatory for achieving the goals set by the community which are big and complex.

Then Elizabeth Bartley, WestCURC’s executive director, the chair of this year’s Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit, and a cofounder of a research group on Sustainability, Culture & Place, spoke about the multifaceted, complex process before the Westwood Coalition and WestCURC now. She also noted that the city has held up Westwood’s community engagement process as an excellent example. Ms. Bartley spoke to a number of positive developments in the NBD including businesses at the Ruehlman building as newer anchors, the Line 21 brewery planned for part of the KS Designs building, the WestCURC acquisition of the historic firehouse, Madcap Puppets’ theater plans for the Bell Building, and forward movement on a proposal for a community arts & entertainment district. She also highlighted Westwood Town Hall and its grounds as a locus of activity and a desirable ongoing center of civic and community life, despite recent stints on the chopping block, as evidenced by Mayor Cranley’s suggestions for the grounds during his State of the City address in the fall and by recent programming on the property. She described Town Hall as a destination and part of the vision, not just the backdrop on a postcard of Westwood.

Ms. Bartley referred to her effort to understand the means by which to effect change in a NBD, including city processes and engagement with a coalition of city representatives to negotiate and plan. She also mentioned other prospective partnerships and resources like the Port Authority, the Community Building Institute (CBI), the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and others, as we seek to grow our expertise and insight. WestCURC is working with CBI to map out steps and identify opportunities as both WestCURC and, more broadly, the Coalition, line up the work plan for the months to come, to tie WestCURC’s work into Coalition plans, and to engage community assets.

Next, attendees asked questions and made comments. One attendee mentioned newer businesses as assets, in addition to the landmark buildings and businesses identified by the community earlier. Another person asked about a market study. Ms. Bartley described that as a critical next step to collect data to inform and support development that meshes with community desires and that will be successful and sustainable. An attendee spoke to the value of community education in a civic space. A question was asked about the community entertainment district footprint. The speakers noted that it is proposed as the same as the form based code area in the NBD. Another attendee asked for information about the status of Bridgetown Brewing’s building project. The speakers commented that they seem to be in the building permit phase and directed people to the Facebook page for updates.

A participant commented on the perceived need for more parking. Ms. Jenkins noted that current NBD parking lots are generally underused but said that attention to evolving parking needs is necessary and will be addressed, in part, by the traffic flow changes associated with the triangle. An attendee asked about WestCURC’s access to developers. Ms. Bartley and Ms. Jenkins commented on the ways that development will occur: planned development that we would market and recruit, development that happens organically through the interest of property owners and developers, and the development that happens when unexpected opportunities surface.

An attendee asked about market constraints or capacity for businesses. Ms. Bartley commented that there is ample room for and interest in business development in the NBD and noted that the market study would help with a more concrete sense of the particular needs and capacity. Lastly, another participant remarked on the changes in progress already, calling it an improvement to the quality of life in Westwood. She asked about the business owners’ perspective on the revitalization plans. Tom Bonhaus, a Coalition member and business owner in the NBD, remarked that the energy is very positive, that there are a few detractors, but that generally, business owners are eager to have more eyes on the street and to see these possibilities and community wishes come to fruition.

In closing, Ms. Jenkins and Ms. Bartley described the work phase now as complex, dependent on connections and expertise, and not likely to result in immediate tangible, physical evidence of development. They asked attendees to be encouraged by the work in progress and to offer their expertise, ideas, and contacts to the Coalition and its member organizations.

Business District Developments: February 18

The Westwood Coalition invites you to a community meeting on February 18.  We’ll share an update on developments since our report and recommendations in the fall and take a look ahead — what we and our represented organizations are working on now and what our next steps are for the business district revitalization.  Curious?  Want this update?  We’ve had many people asking us what’s next.  This will be a great chance to hear from Coalition representatives and special guest Elizabeth Bartley, Executive Director of the Westwood Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 from 7:00-8:00 pm

Westwood Town Hall, lower level, at 3017 Harrison Avenue, Cincinnati, OH

Street parking is available nearby, as are lots on Harrison at Urwiler and on Montana at Harrison.

Westwood Recommends a Triangle and Related Improvements

The Westwood Coalition submitted its approved recommendations to city officials today, including the adoption of the Triangle option, pictured here, corollary improvements on Town Hall grounds and throughout the historic business district, and a planning process for the implementation of the improvements.  As we wrote in the transmittal letter to the Mayor, City Council, and department heads, we “…highlight the deep and wide participation of Westwood residents who have engaged richly in discourse about place making and the economic vitality of our neighborhood.  We look forward to working with [the city] over the coming years as we bring these recommendations to life.”  We also benefited from expert opinion that reinforced community insights and offered important perspective.  After months of research and community input, the Coalition is very pleased to have the approval of community groups and residents.

Now, our participating groups are rolling up sleeves to move from vision to planning to reality.  The Triangle, and other improvements along Harrison Avenue between Kling and the Cheviot line, will take more planning, public-private partnership, funding, and time, but we are well on our way.

The Triangle at the Intersection of Harrison, Epworth, and Urwiler Avenues

Westwood Triangle

Westwood Triangle

 

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!

IMG_1300869410917484

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.