Everybodys Records and Gaslight are safe for the moment

Jun 20, 2012 by

everybodysgaslightThis will come as something of a relief to just about everyone that’s been following the story. Everybodys Records and Gaslight are safe, at least for the time being. According to Citybeat, City Council’s Livable Communities Committee has voted to recommend the establishment of an Interim Development Control (IDC) in Pleasant Ridge. From the article:

[The IDC] will essentially act as a temporary order of protection on the Pleasant Ridge business district, according to Chamlee. City Council was to take the final vote on the IDC’s establishment Wednesday, June 20.

 

An IDC is a tool city council can use while a study is going on — in this case, the city’s study on form-based code — that helps to protect changes to a geographic area such as the Walgreens undertaking, explains Alex Peppers, Cincinnati city planner. Implementing an IDC in Pleasant Ridge would temporarily regulate the establishment of uses, construction of new buildings and any demolition plans, effectively requiring any of Walgreens’ requests to go before the city planning commission in a public hearing, rather than just requiring a simple building permits approval.

 

The establishment of an IDC in the Pleasant Ridge Community Business District would last 90 days, with the potential for a nine-month extension once that time is up. According to [Pleasant Ridge Development Corporation President Jason] Chamlee, an IDC would allow the Pleasant Ridge community and other advocates more time to mobilize and work with Anchor Properties representatives in hopes of finding a mutually beneficial solution for both parties — possibly a less controversial spot for relocation.

That’s great news, but what’s just as good (or perhaps even better), is that since the last time I posted about this , Bill DeJonckheere, the owner of the lot that Everybody’s occupies, has apparently received “several increasing offers” from Anchor (the development corporation that Walgreens is using) and has told Citybeat that he’s “just not interested at this point”.

Those two factors combined improve Everybody’s chances pretty drastically. City Council is apparently prepared to make Walgreens jump through some hoops, and the trouble of that combined with at least one holdout landowner may make it more trouble than it’s worth for Walgreens to (quite literally) move down the block. It’s a temporary victory, but it would appear that the sudden groundswell of support for the affected area caught the attention of everyone involved, and I think that probably bodes well for the cause.

On a personal note, this has been pretty inspiring to watch. Seeing a community rally around a cause like this one says quite a bit about that community, to say nothing of the speed with which they were able to do it. Support went from Zero to Effective in the span of a weekend; that doesn’t happen often. I hope that other neighborhoods in the Tri-state are able to see what a determined group of neighbors can do, and learn from it.

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City Council ignores their experts, backs residents

Jun 13, 2012 by

Sorry, I couldn't help itI came across this story on FOX 19 last night, and it caught my eye because it’s not every day that you see figures in local government ignore their own experts in the interest of a small group of concerned citizens. Council wound up supporting a motion that would see a four-way stop installed at the corner of LaFeuille and Westbrook, where 9 year-old Tyala Frazier was tragically struck and killed in March, despite a report from their own Department of Transportation and Engineering that recommended only radar-equipped speed-limit signs.

I have to admit that I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, I’m pretty thrilled to see council take the concerns of a small group of people that live on a single street seriously, and even more thrilled to see them take action that they certainly didn’t need to take from a purely political point of view. That kind of responsiveness is fairly rare, even at the local level of government.

On the other hand, if you read the report, I wonder if this action will wind up being as helpful as it was intended to be. The DOTE seems to think that installing a stop sign could be both illegal

Many people feel that multi-way stop signs should be used as traffic calming devices. However this practice is specifically prohibited in OMUTCD Section 2B.04 Right-of-Way at Intersections, paragraph 5, “YIELD or STOP signs should not be used for speed control.”

and a detriment to safety rather than a boon:

Reccomendation: Stop signs on Lafeuille at the side street intersections are not warranted and not reccomended. Stop signs are not effective as traffic calming countermeasures. Published studies (See Appendix D) report that drivers tend to speed up between the stops to “make up lost time” or ignore and “run” or roll through the stop signs where cross traffic seldom is observed. These behaviors create a greater hazard to pedestrians, who should be given the right-of-way, and to cross traffic.

I’ve driven up Lafeuille more than a few times, and I can confirm that it can be pretty hairy, but I’m pretty much the opposite of a traffic engineer, so I don’t have any answers to question of “What’s the best way to make this street safer?” At the very least, though, people that analyze traffic for a living don’t think that a stop sign is the way to go, so I wonder if this gesture this will actually wind up being a positive one.

I’m glad that these people received at least some of what they wanted, and I’m glad that Council listened to them, but I hope that the action that they took winds up helping to solve the problem rather than making it worse. I’m not entirely confident that it will.

Image Credit: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by cjdc

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More on the Everybody’s Records Problem [updated 6/7]

Jun 5, 2012 by


Evb2

There’s been a minor flurry of activity regarding the possible sale of the lots that Everybody’s Records and the Gaslight Café sit on (If you’re not yet up to speed, you can start here).  The city still can’t affect the sale itself in any way that I’m aware of, but since the new Walgreens would almost certainly want to construct a drive-thru at the new location, and because that drive-thru would violate existing zoning regulations, a new Walgreens would have to apply for a zoning change, which would have to be approved by the city’s Planning Commission. It would appear that such approval may not be forthcoming. At the very least, the situation appears marginally better than it did five or so days ago.

There is one point that I should probably clarify. The question that I’ve been asked the most about this is “Why doesn’t Everybody’s just refuse to sell?”. The answer is that they lease the lot that they operate on; they don’t own it. The sale would be taking place between Walgreens and the landlord(s).

What’s new?

  • The newly coined Pleasant Ridge Preservation Society assembled almost 1200 signatures in a petition/request for a moratorium in just a little more than 24 hours, and delivered it to City Hall, along with a letter from the Pastor of the church that’s a block away. The society was apparently subsequently contacted by an assistant to Vice Mayor Qualls and asked to stop sending that petition. The message had apparently been received (although I suspect that this may also have to do with the fact that there isn’t a great deal council can do to stop the sale itself).
  • Chris Seelbach, Laure Quinlivan, P.G. Sittenfeld, and Vice Mayor Qualls have all issued individual responses to constituents that emailed them. Seelbach and Quinlivan both stated flat out that they were opposed to the plan, and Quinlivan went so far as to say that approval for the zoning change that would be required for a drive-thru to be built “will not be given”. Qualls was careful not to make any such assurances, and Sittenfeld’s response was, well, lukewarm but essentially positive none the less.

In all honesty, I sort of felt like this was a losing battle at the start; I just didn’t think that there was much that a City Council, a community council, and roughly 1200 neighbors could do to affect a private sale between two parties. Recent developments, however, have given me at least a little bit of hope that this will turn out the way that the vast majority of involved parties want it to. I still feel that Walgreens has the clout to hammer this through if they really want to spend the resources to do so, but hopefully they’re seeing all the negative publicity this plan is getting them, and how important those establishments are to the people that live in that neighborhood (not to mention the city at large), and hopefully that realization is giving them some pause. I still think that the best hope for a positive outcome is for Walgreens to simply decide that they don’t want to do it anymore, and while I’d hesitate to attach a specific probability to that happening, I think it’s safe to say that there’s a better chance of it ending that way than there was when this issue first came to light. Hopefully they’ll view Council’s current unwillingness to approve a zoning change as a hurdle that they’d prefer not to jump over.

I know, I know, there’s a lot of “hope” and “hopefully” in that last paragraph, but I think that’s where just about every effort like this one starts. Again, if you don’t want to see Everybody’s and their neighbors move or close, and you haven’t done so already, please email city council and Walgreens, and let them know how you feel.

Image Credit: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by Koocheekoo

Also, many thanks to Cincy Notebook for helping me to stay abreast of what’s happening, and for consolidating all of the Councilpersons’ responses into one convenient place.

UPDATE 6/7: The Enquirer is reporting that the owner of the lot the Everybody’s sits on has not received an offer from Walgreens up to this point, and that he would even be open to selling to Everybody’s.

The owner of the Everybody’s building, Bill DeJonckheere, said Thursday there’s no pending offer from Walgreens. What he’s trying to do, he said, is sign Everybody’s to a new, longer-term lease, or sell the building to the store owner. He’s getting older, he said, and would prefer to sell it.

 

“If there’s a price that we can’t refuse (from Walgreens), we’d have to consider it,” he said. “But there’s nothing like that right now. (Everybody’s) lease is expiring soon.”

 

And so far, the city has received no request to demolish, build or change the zoning there, said Charles Graves, planning director. Because Pleasant Ridge’s business district sits in an urban design district, Graves has the authority over any such request there.

 

No one at Anchor Properties in Covington is talking about the project, but cafe owner Gary Schlegel says that’s the company proposing to bring the drug store to the Montgomery Road spot where the two long-time businesses stand.

 

Messages left at the company, which has developed other Walgreens in the area, were not returned. Schlegel says his landlady told him the deal might just be too good to pass up.

The biggest and best bit of news here is that this rumor was apparently started while Walgreens was apparently still in the early planning phases. To me, the silence from Anchor indicates that there’s some truth to the story; there’s no reason that I can see that they wouldn’t have piped up and denied it if it were actually false. That said, this is clearly much further off in the future than supporters initially feared, and that works to the advantage of those who oppose it. The infrastructure to fight such a plan is already in place, (relatively) well organized, and motivated. We’ll keep an eye on this moving forward, but it appears, happily, that these establishments are in no immediate danger of closing or moving.

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Everybody’s Records and Gaslight Café in jeopardy [updated 6/3]

Jun 1, 2012 by

everybodysgaslightAccording to WCPO, Walgreens is trying to buy the strip that both businesses reside on, and move the store that currently sits about a tenth of a mile down the road into the new location. Unsurprisingly, neither the businesses that would be displaced nor their neighbors are big fans of this plan. This would be a giant loss to that community. I don’t live in the neighborhood, and I never have, but I spent a LOT of time at Everybody’s growing up, and a trip to Everybody’s would just as often as not be followed by lunch or dinner at Gaslight. I don’t feel like it would be a stretch to call Everybody’s Records a Cincinnati institution, and it is inarguably a Pleasant Ridge institution. Apparently Walgreens is willing to trample that, along with the other Mom & Pop businesses along that corner, for marginally improved real-estate in a neighborhood where they already have a strong presence. Even if you ignore the store that currently exists roughly two football fields from the corner, there’s also another Walgreens less than five minutes away in Norwood. In fact, at least as the crow flies, there are no less than five Walgreens within three miles.

To their credit, the businesses and the people that support them have been quick to react. The Facebook page devoted to saving the location crossed 800 “likes” within 12 hours of being created, and is currently climbing steadily. According to that page, City Council will soon be holding a hearing to allow or deny the sale of the buildings in question, so they are asking those concerned to send this letter (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) on to the city:

Dear Coucilperson,

 

As a member of the Pleasant Ridge Community, I am writing you concerning a problem that has come about in Pleasant Ridge.

 

The word is out that Walgreens/Anchor Management is attempting to purchase the Southeast corner of Ridge and Montgomery Roads. Their intent is to tear down existing buildings and locate a new Walgreens there (one block from their existing store)

 

The first and biggest concern would be increased vehicle traffic. This intersection is used constantly by child pedestrians on the way to and from the three elementary schools within one or two blocks of the intersection. Many children walk this route to and from the local swimming pool and other events at the Pleasant Ridge community center.

 

Secondly, Pleasant Ridge would lose nine businesses that have over 150 years in business between them in the community. Up to 100 jobs would be lost. I am also concerned about the impact on the remaining businesses (i.e. Mullaney’s Pharmacy, which may be the oldest existing business in Pleasant Ridge).

 

A third concern would be the existing building abandoned by Walgreens. In College Hill, The Wigwam Restaurant was bought and razed. Many years later, there still sits an empty lot. College Hill lost it’s cornerstone business, and is still trying to recover.

 

The Pleasant Ridge Community has worked long and hard to have a pedestrian friendly, diversified business district, as outlined in the 2000 Urban Design Study. This would set back the business, as well as the overall community, greatly.

If you’re sympathetic to the cause, either as a fan of Everybody’s or one of the other businesses, or you simply don’t want to see a bunch of Mom & Pop’s forced to move and/or close, I would ask you to write City Council, as well as Walgreens, and express that sentiment. It’s not yet clear when the hearing in question might be, and I don’t yet know how likely it is that Council will be willing or able to stop the sale, but I will update here when I have more info.

#saveEverybodys

 

UPDATE 6/3: According to the Facebook page, the group’s plan is to attempt to convince City Council to commission a study of the impact that the sale and it’s proposed goals would have, apparently by invoking an Interim Development Control Overlay District (IDC) which “temporarily regulate the establishment of uses, construction of new buildings and demolition or alteration of existing structures in areas where the adoption of amendments to the Cincinnati Zoning Code have been proposed in a comprehensive plan (or) community plan…” (Zoning code 1431-01 if you want to read it). Pleasant Ridge qualifies for that, as council adopted the Pleasant Ridge Urban Design Plan in 2000. Obviously, there’s nothing there that would block a sale in and of itself, but I’d wager that the idea is that Walgreens may not buy it at all if they know the city’s going to fight them on demolition, new construction, and the presence of drive-thrus. I’ll post more as I find it, and a deep hat-tip to Cincinnati Notebook for this one.

 

UPDATE #2 6/3: The Pleasant Ridge Council has released the following statement (via the effort’s Facebook page):

Our Position on Walgreens

We are sending you this update in response to rumors surrounding a potential Walgreens relocation.

 

 

We have confirmed that Walgreens is interested in relocating to the corner of Ridge and Montgomery – SW of Burger King – and is pursuing property for demolition and construction of a new facility. We are all in agreement that this action would be detrimental to our community and the businesses and buildings that are critical to our business district’s character, and is, therefore, unacceptable.

 

 

We appreciate the concern that has been strongly expressed by residents and business owners. This update is meant to share with you our efforts to date and our plan of action going forward.

 

 

We have already set up a meeting with representatives from Walgreens to discuss their plans and objectives. They have expressed a willingness to work with us to figure out a win-win for Walgreens as well as the community. Walgreens is an anchor business and we wish to support them in their efforts to reinvest in the community. We will work with them to figure out a way to meet their needs without compromising the integrity of our community business district. In addition, we are in the process of reaching out to the current property owners on that corner to understand their needs, as well.

 

 

Finally, before Walgreens will be able to move forward with any plan involving demolition and new construction, they will have to seek special zoning and permitting approvals from the City. This process will include public hearings where our community will have the opportunity to influence the outcome.

 

 

Although there are still far more questions than answers, rest assured that community leadership is unified and working diligently to find solutions that satisfy all interests without sacrificing the quality, character, and businesses of Pleasant Ridge. We will use our web site, email and social media to keep everyone updated on new developments and we will hold public meetings as necessary.

 

 

Again, thank you for your love and dedication to our community. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us; we will answer them as best we can. We ask that you help us by sharing this update with friends and neighbors so that everyone can keep a healthy conversation growing.

 

Sincerely,

Wendell Robinson, President
Pleasant Ridge Community Council
president@pleasantridge.org

 

Jason Chamlee, President
Pleasant Ridge Development Corporation
[email protected]

 

Maria Kreppel, Board Chair
District A –
where arts+community meet
in Kennedy Heights/Pleasant Ridge
[email protected]

This is likely good news; at the very least, Walgreens is giving the appearance of being willing to talk about it, and frankly, Walgreens backing off of the idea on their own is far and away the best chance these businesses have being able to remain in their current locations. I’ll have more as I come across it.

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Northside Community Entertainment District Approved, City Awards Creative Tools to Grow

Mar 10, 2012 by

Northside at night (photo courtesy Adam Nelson)

With its eclectic mix of locally-owned businesses, the Northside neighborhood is already known as a prime Cincinnati food, retail, and arts destination in the region. But empty storefronts that would also make great restaurants have remained largely empty because of the lack of liquor licenses. Last week, all that changed. On Wednesday, February 29th, the full Cincinnati City Council voted to give Northside its “Community Entertainment District” status after a unanimous vote the day before by the City Council’s Livability Committee.

This is a huge win for Northside. Why? For at least the last couple of years, Northside’s business district, while hanging in there in the midst of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, has had to turn away small businesses wanting to open in the neighborhood, merely because of the lack of liquor licenses available and the premium $30,000+ cost of the very few licenses that were available on the open market.

The new designation changes that game. The Northside Community Entertainment District designation gives creative tools to the Northside neighborhood to enable new growth. Rather than a business having to reach out to a broker to maybe, just maybe, find a license at a relatively huge cost, a process that often takes years, they can now call the state of Ohio directly. In our new Community Entertainment District, up to 15 additional liquor licenses are immediately available to food establishments, all at a dramatically reduced cost of $1500, all directly available from the state, and with no outside brokers involved. These licenses are not transferable. If the business with the new license were to move out of the Northside district, they would forfeit that license. Note again that these licenses are not available to a business that only wants to open a bar, these are licenses that are available only to food establishments. This is a major win for Northside and small businesses.

The original 2005 Community Entertainment District legislation was initially not really geared for anything but for-profit developers to obtain. Last year, the not-for-profit Pleasant Ridge Development Corporation couldn’t afford the Community Entertainment District’s original application fee of $15,000. Many thanks need to go to Cincinnati City Council Member Laure Quinlivan, who worked hard to change the Cincinnati municipal code to make the fee downwardly flexible, thus opening the possibility of designation to not-for-profits. This change to the fee structure allowed Pleasant Ridge to apply for the status without outside funding, making Pleasant Ridge the first Cincinnati neighborhood to apply for and win the designation.

Already, Pleasant Ridge has new businesses that wouldn’t be there if not for that designation. As well, the neighborhood of Price Hill recently won Community Entertainment District status, and several new businesses have either already opened or they are about to open. So far, the two neighborhoods that have won the designations have benefited immensely. Over-the-Rhine, Madisonville and Westwood have also applied for Community Entertainment District status but have not yet received it.

Northside's new Community Entertainment District covers not just the traditional business district, it also targets a wide area south of Blue Rock Street.

The Northside Business Association first started working with Laure Quinlivan’s city council office early last year after hearing of the possibility of Northside applying for and winning this important designation; the designation wouldn’t have been possible without Laure and her staff’s efforts. Also, Berding Surveying needs to be thanked, as they donated their services to the effort to produce the required survey and map. Once Northside’s required application package was completed, as a matter of transparency, the plan was presented at open Northside Community Council and Northside Business Association public meetings for comment. Community support was widespread, and the package was sent along to the city council’s Livability Committee for consideration.

Northside Business Association President Isaac Heintz has this to say about the designation: “The Northside Business Association pursued the entertainment district designation to provide Northside with another tool to help retain existing businesses and to attract new ones.  I believe that the designation of the entertainment district can only help to continue the positive trajectory of the neighborhood and the growth of the Northside community.”

Northside's "South Block", along Spring Grove Avenue, is ripe for redevelopment. The Landman Building, right, was recently stabilized and environmentally remediated and is ready for build-out. The building just to the left is now a LEED Silver building with several newly-occupied residential and business condos.

The new district covers much of the existing Northside business district along Hamilton Avenue from the Ludlow Viaduct in the south to just below the Northside Library in the north. In the southern end of the district, Blue Rock Street and Spring Grove Avenue are both included, roughly from Colerain Avenue on the west side, to Crawford Avenue on the east.

As you’re aware, there are currently a lot of existing empty storefronts and industrial spaces in the new entertainment district’s map. We’d love to see that change. Can’t you imagine once-forlorn Northside blocks now teeming with urban life? By enabling these new licenses, we hope to see more development in the district. This new development would include not only the new food establishments benefiting from the designation, but additional retail, arts, office and residential spaces , all serving to increase the vibrancy, diversity, and uniqueness of all that is Northside.

(Full disclosure: GeekJames, a.k.a. James Heller-Jackson, is a certifiable Northside resident shill as a member of the board for both the Northside Business Association and the Northside Community Council.)

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COASTing Over The Line

Sep 11, 2011 by

(note: since the time that I originally assembled this post, COAST has apparently apologized for their “stupid” and “insensitive” tweet, but have stuck to their guns on their lies regarding the funding, without citing evidence, of course. Vice Mayor Qualls reiterates (again) that the money has all come out of the Capital Improvements budget. Frankly, the apology doesn’t really change my take on things)

Update 14 Sept: Mark Miller has essentially admitted that his tweets were misleading in an interview with Channel 12. “Yea, they can’t take fire department salaries and go out and buy rails with it. I admit that. That’s exactly right, but that’s not what they’re doing. They’re taking money that should be spent on salaries and buying a study.” That’s not what you’ve been saying though, Mark. Hat tip to 5chw4r7z for pointing this out.

 

I’ve seen my share of offensive things on Twitter. It’s likely that I’ve posted a few things myself that people found distasteful. That being said, yesterday I saw something that seriously boiled my blood. Honestly, I waffled on writing about it at all. I’d hate to contribute to getting them any publicity, but I think it’s important for everyone to see exactly what lengths COAST will go to in their attempt to win fraudulently sway hearts and minds to their side.

I understand that the streetcar is a contentious issue. I happen to support it, but I’ll also be the first to admit that it’s possible for a rational person to oppose the idea, and that’s fine. That’s what debates and public forums are for. However, COAST has dedicated itself to flat-out spreading lies regarding how the project has been funded up to this point. Funds for construction come of out of a fund that cannot legally be used to to fund firefighting (or police, etc and so on). Fire companies are not being browned-out to support streetcar construction. It’s simply not true. This is, quite simply, a step too far in the debate (if it even continues to be a “debate” once you’ve lied as much as these guys have). Having an opinion and spreading lies about it is one thing. Co-opting a national tragedy and diminishing it by dishonoring it’s memory through associating your lies with it is quite another.

It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any fallout for them from this, particularly among the politicians they endorse. I suppose it all depends on whether or not the media picks up on it, and I doubt that a lone Twitter shenanigan, no matter how vile, will hit the radar. If it does though, I wonder if the council-people they back will start jumping ship, or at the very least ask them to keep their endorsement to themselves. Personally, I’d have a pretty tough time voting for anyone who knowingly associated themselves with this garbage, but maybe that’s just me. I hope that it isn’t.

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