Mayor Unveils Revitalization Budget Proposal

At a press conference today at Westwood Town Hall, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley announced his plans for a budget proposal for neighborhood revitalization, noting that public safety is enhanced by robust economic development. Among the $10M in projects the Mayor announced this morning are significant enhancements to Westwood’s Town Hall Park and the expansion of Gaines Memorial Triangle at the intersection of Harrison, Epworth, and Urwiler Aves, an allocation of $4M.  This project is part of the Westwood Coalition’s recommendations for the revitalization of the historic neighborhood business district and supported by Westwood Civic Association, Westwood Historical Society, WestCURC, and Westwood Works.

Joining Mayor Cranley at the press conference were Vice Mayor David Mann and Councilmember P. G. Sittenfeld who both spoke in favor of the budget proposal. Mayor Cranley commented on the deep community engagement in Westwood, led by the Coalition, and similar efforts in West Price Hill and College Hill. He noted that councilmembers campaigned on the notion of putting money back into and strengthening neighborhoods and that this commitment will make good on those promises. The revitalization planning process in Westwood started in earnest more than five years ago, on the shoulders of years of work by individual organizations. In fact, Councilmember Christopher Smitherman urged community organizations to work cooperatively on redevelopment initiatives, resulting in formation of the Coalition. Calling attention to the deep, sustained neighborhood efforts, Mayor Cranley commented today that,

“The vast majority of these projects have been on the planning table for a long time, but they lacked resources to get them done.”

The Westwood Coalition recently hosted a session with Parks officials and MKSK, the landscape architecture firm developing the plans. Conceptual drawings and notes are posted here. Public comments are welcome and another public session will be offered as plans continue to take shape.

For more on today’s announcements, see coverage in the media, including Cranley calls for $10 million in neighborhood boosts (Fox 19), Morning news and stuff (City Beat), Mayor Rolls Out First Of Several Changes To Proposed Cincinnati Budget (WVXU), and Some Cincinnati neighborhoods could get big boost under mayor’s budget plan (WCPO).


Town Hall Park Design: Input Requested

On Monday, May 9th, the Westwood Coalition hosted a community meeting to provide an update on revitalization progress and to welcome a presentation from MKSK and Cincinnati Parks about preliminary design plans for the Westwood Town Hall park. Approximately fifty residents attended and had the opportunity to ask questions and offer input. This post serves as a summary and an invitation to comment. Here are the slides that were presented at the session.

Once you’ve looked over the notes and the slides, your comments are most welcome. Send your comments and include your name (optional) and your overall impressions, preferred comments and features, and ideas that you would like to see explored further. You are also welcome to contact the Westwood Coalition with your suggestions and comments.

Mary Jenkins, Coalition facilitator, kicked off the meeting by introducing Coalition representatives and identifying some of the tangible signs of development in the historic neighborhood business district, including announced new businesses with a retail presence in the district: Necessities Market, Muse Cafe’, the firehouse restaurant, Carriage House Press, and a brewery in the works. She also noted that the focus tonight on the park is done in the context of the community-driven revitalization effort that includes the length of the business district from the Cheviot-Westwood line to Kling Ave. She then introduced Elizabeth Bartley, executive director of WestCURC who noted the importance of marrying the park design to the rest of the business district. She welcomed presenters from MKSK Design, Darren Meyer and Clete Benken and, from Cincinnati Parks, Steve Shuckman.

Mr. Meyer presented initial design parameters for the park at Westwood Town Hall. He noted core park features like landscaping, including particular memorials and trees, and the history and heritage of the area. He commented on the importance of the park offering features to support programming on the site like community events, recreation center programs, and casual or passive use. Mr. Meyer also cited the need for the park to help to calm traffic around it and integrate with the adjacent properties for flow and design.

Next, the speaker identified a number of core features and amenities of the park, including:

  • community events
  • outdoor dining
  • family events
  • a complementary relationship to the wider area
  • opportunities for play and the availability of playscapes
  • water
  • artistic elements
  • gardens and trees
  • lighting
  • streetscaping
  • parking
  • reasonable maintenance and operations
  • fluid movement through the space

Mr. Meyer commented on the bowtie, that tip of the park at Harrison and Epworth and the triangle that faces it at Harrison, Epworth, and Urwiler, pointing to the opportunities for tying the spaces together cohesively as recommended by the Coalition, thus creating a series of public spaces and opportunities for people to come together in both areas. He mentioned an urban games area (think cornhole), seating, and performance space. (Again, see the presentation for the accompanying detail and designs.)

Next, Mr. Meyer highlighted best practices and examples of park space like Washington Park in Cincinnati, Schenley Plaza in Pittsburgh. and Bryant Park in New York, noting some of the good design principles and features in those parks.  He commented on the Town Hall park as the front lawn to the business district and noted that the intersection at Harrison and Epworth could include specialty paving to help with flow, a cue to motorists, and to create visual connectedness of the two spaces.

Mr. Meyer then walked attendees through three concepts for the design (see the presentation for specifics). He remarked that all three concepts contain similar approaches to parking on-site, relocated to the Epworth side of the building and treating parking as a multi-function space that could be used for other purposes, too. There would be 10-15 parking spaces, acknowledging the need for accessibility, drop off, and deliveries.  Each concept shows a creative play area for children on the Epworth Ave side as that has the least traffic. The property includes a 10-12 foot drop, creating a slope that would probably be flattened for better use.  With Concept A, you will note event space and playspace, recreation programming areas, seating, and a games area. In Concept B, we can see an arcing walkway that serves as a promenade and a place for food trucks and vendors. The corners feature signage and public art. It also features a sidewalk that enters the park instead of the traditional treelawn and sidewalk design. There is the possibility of a small urban dog park on the site. In Concept C, note the arcing, terraced ampitheater, movable tables and chairs, space for recreation programming, and games.

The speakers then took a number of questions and comments from attendees before inviting one-on-one discussion and use of comment cards. Asked about property acquisition for the bowtie at Harrison and Epworth, Ms. Jenkins and Ms. Bartley noted that the acquisition of private property was not proposed or recommended by the Coalition and is not part of the design for the space. In response to a question about process for design selection, Mr. Shuckman and Ms. Bartley responded that it would involve community input, Department of Traffic and Engineering input, and a review of budget, functional, and technical elements. All of this will be synthesized and then come back to the Coalition and the community for feedback. The intent is to have  the plan developed within a few months.

Regarding parking, there are currently 14 spots. The preliminary plans call for approximately the same number, moved to the side and supplemented with on-street parking  as well.  Several people commented positively and negatively about a dog park, some noting that it would require a barrier or fenced off area and other commenting that it would bring people together and make better use of the back of the property. There was a positive comment about the green space and valuing the plantings but a corresponding question about maintenance. The speakers noted that the design was taking into account existing plantings that are assets as well as maintenance, including irrigation, but that this remains a matter for possible private-public partnership. Asked about child play spaces, the speakers noted that they are leaning towards playscapes and creative play and away from traditional playground equipment and barriers. The speakers remarked that a cafe’ or concession space, possibly operating out of the lower level kitchen, is an option. An attendee noted that Mr. LaRosa made the Broadbeck performance area possible and might be involved in planning for a new performance area or for performance series sponsorship.

A comment was made about the value of walkability and the connections between spaces in the business district, including the transition from the park to Madcap Puppets to the triangle. The speakers noted that the intent is a visual connection and the drawing shows a concept as an option to tie Madcap to the park and connect it. One attendee commented on this park’s value as an urban park in the heart of the business district and encouraged people to embrace that concept, welcome the blending of urban and park spaces, and hope for increased pedestrian traffic in the area.

Additional comments are most welcome. Thank you to all who attended and to all of the residents who will review the concepts and analysis that we have posted. Again, please send your comments to the MKSK representative and speak with any member of the Westwood Coalition. Please include your name (optional) and your overall impressions, preferred comments and features, and ideas that you would like to see explored further. It is the Westwood Coalition’s goal to see this park design evolve in harmony with and in support of the community’s vision for the business district.

Lastly, Coalition representatives noted that it has several groups of well-qualified residents working on placemaking, infrastructure, positioning, and networking for the whole of this neighborhood business district. More about that in a post this coming week.


Community Input on Town Hall Park Design Ideas

The Westwood Coalition for the Revitalization of the Historic Business District cordially invites you to a community meeting on Monday, May 9, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. in the parlor of Westwood Town Hall so we can learn more from Cincinnati Parks about initial design ideas for the Westwood Town Hall park grounds and offer input. We will also briefly address plans for the intersection of Harrison, Epworth, and Urwiler, infrastructure, generally, and the evolving work of branding and positioning the historic neighborhood business district. If you cannot attend, you will find a summary and images on this website next week.