28 February 2010

Bockfest Approaches

The Enquirer has a video tour with neighbor Steve Hampton through some old brewery building tunnels.

Sunday Inspiration

A blind painter:

The Documentary from John Bramblitt on Vimeo.

via Psychology Today

26 February 2010

Bikes on Streetcar

Random photo find. Some Portlander photographs his trip back from an orchestra performance:

25 February 2010

Downtown as a Shopping Mall

Via a Fresno Downtown Association, here is a video that was produced by shopping mall architect Victor Gruen. He starts by reviewing the decline of the city from prewar to 1960 via the automobile and freeway development. He then offers a solution of separating cars and people by building more parking garages and making a car-free pedestrian mall of a big chunk of downtown. It is 20 minutes, so you may not want to watch it, but I found it a fascinating look back on the prevailing thought pattern of the time (which was that cities needed to become more like the suburbs):

Fulton Street, pre-plan, crowded but "declining":

Fulton today 

I found it interesting that a commenter on the video stated that today Fresno is often dissed as being the most midwestern-like city in California.

24 February 2010

Jeb Bush on Palin

"I mean, I don't know what her deal is, but my belief is in 2010 and 2012, public leaders need to have intellectual curiosity." -Jebediah Bush on Sarah Palin

23 February 2010

Krohn Junior Gardeners

New at the Krohn Conservatory

The Junior Master Gardener program ... engages children in novel, "hands-on" group and individual learning experiences that provide a love of gardening, develop an appreciation for the environment, and cultivate the mind.

Call 513-421-5707 to reserve a free space.
Appropriate for grades 3 through 5.
Held Saturdays 9:30-11:30

April 24th, INSECTS

330 Square Foot Apt

..In Hong Kong... See Treehugger video here.

In the 1970s, 6 people were living in this apartment! Now the son has inherited it and made it a "luxury" pad for one person. Not sure I would classify this as green, but kinda reminds me of living on a boat (aka Harlan Hubbard, Ralph Nader or Stewart Brand).

22 February 2010

Dirty Road Snow

Snow melt is a great time to visualize the pollution caused by cars. When you see the filthy slush on the sides of the roads, do you ever stop to think, what is all that black stuff? Is it just dirt and sand? Well, the sidewalks don't ever get so disgusting from the bottoms of shoes, not even close. Seems the filth must be a combination of engine oil and gasoline droplets combined with rubbings from tires maybe mixed portions of the asphalt that are continually breaking up. And what kinds of chemical additives and heavy metals are in all these pollutants?

I don't know how hazardous all this is in the snow to us who walk and play in it, but when you realize that this stuff is all normally stirred-up and mixed in the air around roadways and in our lungs and then it is later washed into our storm sewer system and into the Mill Creek River, then you can start to see the real environmental damage done by car traffic.

Apartment Posters

These things are posted all over OTR now. I know $85/week is cheap, but sharing your kitchen and bath with two strangers???

19 February 2010

Urban Hawk Attack

A few days ago, I was walking down Race Street with my son, when we saw a commotion that knocked a bunch of snow off the tree just in front of us. Then we heard a squeal as we saw a very large bird fly away and perch at the very top of a 60' tall tree in Washington Park. The bird was clearly a large hawk, but he had missed his meal. We knew this, because there was nothing in his beak, and the frightened squirrel was clinging to the side of the tree in front of us, continuing to make crying noises. Over the years I have seen the following wild animals in OTR: squirrels, rats, opossum, raccoons, locusts, praying mantis, and walking stick among the many interesting insects, a dozen bird species, and on one occasion, a deer. We don't live in the woods but still there is nature to see as long as you spend time outdoors and keep observant.

18 February 2010

Ecopragmatist for a Nuclear Urban Future

Related to the recent Obama endorsement of two new nuclear power plants, here is an interview with Stewart Brand on KQED

..Brand helped define the 1960s counterculture with his "Whole Earth Catalog." Now he's angered some on the left with a new book, "Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto," which endorses nuclear power and genetic engineering:
"Urbanization has defused the population bomb"
...his new book Whole Earth Discipline presents four heresies: Cities are Green! Nukes are Green! Gene modification is Green! Geoengineering is Probably Necessary!

...“energy efficiency and conservation come first, last, and always.” He just doesn’t believe that clean, non-nuclear power sources can scale fast enough to meet the baseload demand of growing megacities or shut down coal fast enough to avoid climate disaster....

Brand attempts to push “ecopragmatism” on a green movement he considers overly prone to sentiment and ideology...

... "frankly, now I've gotten to the point now that even if carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases, and climate change were not significant issues, I would still probably be pro-nuclear. Because coal is so awful."

...We are doing what ecologists call ecosystem engineering. That's what beavers do─they make dams, and then you get a much richer environment. Earthworms do it, too. So we need to be as productive, ecologically, as earthworms and beavers.

...My wife and I have lived for 25 years in 450 square feet. It's easy to cool, because we are on the water. It's easy to heat, because there's not much space. We do use biodiesel. There's a solar panel on the flybridge that brings a little juice down into the battery bank. But mainly it's living small...

-more here

16 February 2010

Idle Parenting = Happy Childhood

Refreshing article that may become a movement:
We reject the idea that parenting requires hard work
We pledge to leave our children alone
That should mean that they leave us alone, too
We reject the rampant consumerism that invades children from the moment they are born
We read them poetry and fantastic stories without morals
We drink alcohol without guilt
We reject the inner Puritan
We fill the house with music and laughter
We don't waste money on family days out and holidays
We lie in bed for as long as possible
We try not to interfere
We push them into the garden and shut the door so that we can clean the house
We both work as little as possible, particularly when the kids are small
Time is more important than money
Happy mess is better than miserable tidiness
Down with school
We fill the house with music and merriment

Igloo in Over the Rhine


A 12 foot wide sidewalk is sometimes big enough for a playground.

15 February 2010

Beyond Motor City

In a comment post a few days ago, Quim posted a link to the PBS show "Beyond Motor City" I just watched it and found it some of it fascinating. For example, these quotes from the segment about Spain's infrastructure improvements:

These trains travel at 200-300km/hr. What we have found out in Spain is that distances of 400-700 km which can be travelled in about 2.5 hrs are faster than a plane.
-tour guide at train factory

The National Govt should be worrying about arms control, not potholes...
-Ronald Reagan, 1982 State of the Union Address

In 1980, we spent 3% of GDP on infrastructure. Today it is 1.3%
- Norman Anderson transportation consultant CG/LA Infrastructure

Through the eyes of a Spaniard, the (US) Interstate Highway system was a wonder. You were our example in the last century ....Begining in he 1980s in the US it was perceptible that things had begun to deteriorate, that the maintenance of those infrastructures was getting worse, and that the networks didn't evolve in any way to keep pace with the country. And in the 1990s in terms of infrastructure it was a country that had fallen behind the standards of any European country....

I would say that not only is the Spanish citizen content with how our country has been transformed (by the transit infrastructure) but I would say it has been incorporated into their basic outlook and they demand from their polititians the improvement of their infrastructure."
- Pedro Perez, Secretary of the Economy, Spain 1988-1993

(They key to maintaining public support, has been to create a system that works.) "The great majority of our riders use at least two types of transportation. Because of this, it is absolutely necessary that the points of transfer are very easy for the clients and that the path they follow and the amount of time invested be minimal."
-Ildefenso de Matias, Director of the Madrid Metro".
(In Madrid, a single ticket pays for parking, commuter rail, and subway).

If you go to the website, they also have a strange 70s interview with Robert Moses and other interesting clips like one of Mitch and Gina (former OTR resident)and their $1,000 house.

Somewhere in the video, when talking about 19th century investments, they talk about the Tehachapi Loop. Here in Google maps you can clearly see that trains are still using this infrastructure.

Snowy Walk to Krogers

Son and I had fun walk to get butter and sugar this morning:

13 February 2010

Heading to the Hills Again




Hot Cocoa, Coffee and Air: 

UPDATE: A couple from today. Bright sun, blue sky and about as warm as it can be when sledding:



11 February 2010

Conservative Advocate for Transit

Q and A with Bill Lind, the conservative author of Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transportation:
...With government involvement in canals and railroads and highways, the federal government has been involved in infrastructure from the beginning. This is consistent with a free market economy, because the markets only work if there is adequate infrastructure.

...most conservatives own cars...which means that if they ride transit they ride from choice, not necessity. Which means they want high quality transit, not just something to get around. So the transit that is relative to conservatives is that which is relevant to people with cars ...

...But high speed is a chimera. ...We want to make trains that are time competitive with the automobile - we’re not interested in competing with air travel. Our fuel dependence is seated on cars, not planes. So we want trains running at speeds of up to 110 miles an hour...

...there should definitely be bipartisan support for bringing back streetcars...And we would like to see an expansion of light rail. We think all of these should be electrified and this is an important part of energy security. We would like to see a national consensus going across left and right. It’s simply a matter of bringing back what we had. We threw it away – we subsidized national highways and taxed electric railways...

10 February 2010

Families Move Here for the (Public) Schools

Yes, believe it or not. Over the past two weeks I have talked with or heard about several families that have specifically moved back into the city so that their children can attend one of Cincinnati Public Schools' Magnet programs. A sampling:

1. I met a former co-worker at the art museum. When I worked with him 15 years ago, he had just married, and was living in Batavia and commuting in to the city. When his kids reached school age, they moved to Mt Washington, specifically so their children could attend Sands Montessori. I know many families who live in Mt Washington for this exact same reason. My old coworker grew up in Clermont County and he always said his primary education was very poor. Also his children are biracial and I assume he didn't feel the diversity would be sufficient in Batavia. They love Sands, and that feeling seems universal with families there.

2. I just found out that a young family from Seattle, in which the mother has some Cincinnati roots, is buying a vacant building on Elm Street. They have a 12 year old child that has auditioned for SCPA and has also interviewed for a possible Walnut Hills admission. They are selling their expensive house in Seattle and settling in OTR to be "where the action is".!!??

3. OTRCH (OTR Community Housing) just sold a townhouse on Pleasant Street to a young family that already attends SCPA. They are very excited about the proposed changes to Washington Park and the new SCPA building.

4. We have become friends with a new neighbor with a little girl. They moved from White Oak (a Northwest suburb) to Over-the-Rhine specifically to attend SCPA kindergarten in the Fall. They are very excited to be able to walk to school to such a wonderful new facility.

There are dozens more families that I know personally that have bought homes close to the CPS school of their choice. There are probably hundreds more that are buying homes close to schools such as Dater Montessori, North Avondale Montessori, Kilgour, Covedale, SCPA, Walnut Hills, Clark Montessori etc.. And think about this. Where else do you have such choice? If you live in Mason, you have no choice about which public school you attend. CPS has many city-wide magnet programs for elementary school, and ALL of the high schools now enroll district-wide and are effectively magnet schools. I know a family with many children and some are attending Walnut Hills, some are attending Clark and some are attending Mercy Montessori and other Catholic schools. In fact I think they have one attending Covington Latin. The choices here are amazing and I really cannot imaging having it any other way.

Snow People

Pirate snow boy:

princess snow girl:

09 February 2010

Donna's Stop and Shop

This post is triggered by an online discussion at Victorian Antiquities about the nearest building in the photo below. It is 24 West Elder Street, and the City recently added it to a list of building's that they propose to demolish:

My earlier post on 1974 Findlay Market included this photo of these buildings:

A map of the area, there once was a school in the north half of the Findlay Playground:

Following are some photos from this weekend:

The owners of this building are completely unreachable or maybe even deceased. The tax mailing address is a housing project in the West End that was demolished years ago. The OTR Foundation included this building in a proposed receivership proposal to the City in 2008. As far as I know the receivership plan has not progressed beyond talk. The side, front:

Alianthus tree growing out of window:

Rear of the building, where two alleys meet, and across the street from the Findlay Baseball field:

Deteriorated side porches:

This corner of OTR is interesting. It is more abandoned than the rest, and many of these buildings have unreachable or stubborn owners who do nothing. These two buildings are just north of the Findlay Playground on a stub of Republic Street, near Schwarz's Point. Seems like this owner was in the news for criminal resale of baby formula or some such scandal:

More vacancy along Goose Alley. The other side of these buildings face Race Street:

Republic Street, just south of the park. The pink building on the left is a really cool lot with buildings that face both Republic and Vine Street. Not surprisingly, this is another vacant building owned by longtime slumlord Sondra Walls:

The north wall of the Sondra Wall's buildings:

08 February 2010

Northgate 40% Vacant and Bankrupt

I was just on the Enquirer website and made the mistake of reading the comments on a few stories and was (again) completely blown away by the ignorance and hatred of both our city and of our fellow citizens.

Someday, and it won't be long, those people who think the city is a sewer and that Northgate Mall is is going bankrupt because it went "ghetto" will wake up and realize that the world has changed, and doesn't revolve around their old high school rivalries. While scrounging their next meal out of a cheeze doodle bag in their mold-infested "finished" basement they'll get their fat ass out from behind their TV screen and car windshield, and maybe actually walk on a sidewalk and interact with strangers.

Look, malls are history. A new mall has not been built in this country for years. Northgate is not vacant because black people started shopping there. It is vacant because we have too much ugly sprawling crap-selling retail stores, and you keep building more.

Wake up! This is a wide, diverse and beautiful city, and everyday downtown is getting better.

Time to decide: join the crowd and move further out ...or beat the crowd and return to the city.

07 February 2010

The Snowy Hillsides



trail to Art Museum 

city from mt adams 

mt adams 

Haste Makes Waste

For every hour spent in a car you will, on average, decrease your life by 20 minutes.

05 February 2010

NAHB Changing Course

The National Association of Home Builders is a trade organization that for 68 years has advocated for sprawl. Since the 1940s they have lobbied local and our national government for more roads, less zoning and cheaper vinyl siding.

A few weeks ago they held their convention, and an associate noticed an interesting trend in the program topics:
-Back to Smaller, Better Floorplans
- Transit-Oriented Development: The New Wave of Site Selection..
- Making Workforce Housing Work! Examples from around the country
- ASLA/NAHB Land Planning Workshop
- High Density-50 Units per Acre and More
- Attainable Housing-Designing for the Workforce
- Rethinking Density: Maximizing Infill Development Opportunities
- Boomers in the City: Designing for an Urban Lifestyle

The members in the NAHB are very traditional in their thinking, and seeing some of these topics in their agenda is very surprising.

04 February 2010

Urban Farming Program

Urban Farm Program Seeks Urban Farmers
Ready to make that career transition and jump into work you love? Are you a great gardener seeking to make your avocation your vocation? Or, maybe you are farming in the hinterlands of metro Cincinnati (or beyond) and want to establish market production plots just blocks from Findlay Market. Or, perhaps you have friends, family, neighbors, church members, or others who you know would be great urban farmers if only they had the land and the opportunity. The key variable is the willingness to earn significant income through the long hours and hard work of commercial vegetable production farming. This will be long-term, ongoing work.
Findlay Market seeks both apprentice and experienced farmers. We will train apprentice farmers (having less than two years experience) and support skilled farmers (at least two years growing and commercial selling of produce, dairy, or meats). Working together, we will take vacant lots and develop them into lush, green, productive, and income producing farm plots. Farmers will be responsible for all aspects of growing food in the urban core: clearing ground; preparing raised beds; tilling; adding organic soil amendments; irrigating; and planting, cultivating and harvesting vegetables. Participants will write business plans; plan their plots; market and sell their harvest; keep expense and incomes records; analyze and evaluate all aspects of their work; and strive to make a living.
Interested in applying? Know someone who needs to apply? Contact Urban Farm Manager Ken Stern at the Corporation for Findlay Market, 513-665-4839, x14 or kstern at findlaymarket dot org. Interviews will be in February and chosen participants will jump into planning their 2010 farm plots in March.

03 February 2010

Great Transit Articles

This was the set of links in the weekly email from Protransit. If you're not on their email list and are supportive, send your contact info here.

Investment, Not Spending
Every High-Speed Rail system around the world generates operating surpluses (including Amtrak’s Acela) and are highly popular with riders.

Can high-speed rail succeed in America?
High-speed rail represents the kind of long-term infrastructure investment that will pay back for decades, just as the interstate highway system of the 1950s has.

Accessibility, mobility and automobile dependency
During the last century, faster and cheaper automobile transport significantly increased accessibility, but those improvements essentially peaked about 1980.

The Architecture of Healthiness
“It’s not necessary for us to go to the gym.”

Magic Highway Predicting Today

I've been thinking a lot about predicting the near future, and watching a video like this from 1958 shows the weaknesses starkly.

This is not to say that much of what is predicted didn't come true. Unfortunately much of it did. See for example at 2:44:
..The shape of our cities will change as expanded highway transportation decentralizes our population centers into vast urban areas. The commuter's radius will be expanded many miles...
All of which has certainly happened. And I can appreciate and maybe be nostalgic for the optimism shown in the video, however a more realistic predictor would have seen the negative consequences of 62 million cars on congestion and energy demand.

02 February 2010

Dreaming of Summer

You may have noticed that this blog has slowed quite a lot lately. This is not because I have run out of things to say, not at all. I have a backlog of stuff I want to blog about, from Greg Harris's recent Enquirer editorial, to new designs and schedule of Washington Park redesign, to the search for a pool club that suits downtowners. But I have been happily implementing some of my New Year resolutions from last year. Hey, better late than never. Anyway, there are lots of posts coming soon, ....or not so soon, but maybe after karate, piano, cub scouts, wrestling and my freelance work and some home improvement projects etc etc... after all that I'll get a blog post out now and then, I promise.