University of Cincinnati faculty and students will soon serve up the results from a year’s worth of designs and research focusing on food retail as the basic ingredient to build better, more livable, urban neighborhoods.
Teams of UC students and faculty have worked throughout this academic year, focusing their strongest efforts on Uptown and Over-the-Rhine in the effort to assure that low-income areas receive the goods and services they need. Now, the UC team will present the best of those ideas in their Over-the-Rhine studio on Central Parkway during a two-day open house that coincides with the Taste of Cincinnati. The open house is set for noon-6 p.m. Saturday, May 24, and Sunday, May 25, to coincide with Taste of Cincinnati right outside the studio's front doors.
Frank Russell, director of UC’s Community Design Center and co-leader of the team effort which is known as The Niehoff Studio, said, “In all, The Niehoff Studio will last at least six years. In the first two years, we’ll continuously look at food in some way. Can we attract new residents to rundown areas with the power of vibrant food retail? Can suburban superstores be adapted to the inner city with its dense urban context?”
Ideas to answer these questions will be unveiled on May 24 and 25 in the students’ work space located on the ground floor of the Emery Center, 110 East Central Parkway at Walnut Street. Included will be:
• Design plans to transform the Corryville Kroger and the plaza where it stands into a mixed-use development of entertainment and food retail. The plans call for a 65,000-square-foot Kroger (actually larger than the current one) along with high-tech businesses and offices, residential development, European-style cafes, a movie theater, bank, drug store and even a bowling alley. The students were able to fit this “community center destination” on the current lot by simply moving almost all parking either underground or above the development.
• An alternative plan calls for transforming an empty 11.5-acre site at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Reading Road into an 80,000-square-feet Kroger along with retail, shops, restaurants, a stage theater and high-end, loft-space housing. The new development would benefit from a new I-71 interchange planned 700 feet away. Explained student Chris Schadler, “We also envision a plaza with water elements and sculptures. The idea is that this space would serve as a town center for all the high-density industries, hospitals and offices within a five-minute walk. The primary objective of drawing people in from the region is attempted via entertainment [bowling alley, theater, etc.]…and the super-Kroger.”
• A third group of students looked at a variety of groceries in Corryville, Clifton, Walnut Hills, Mt. Washington, Hyde Park, College Hill and Mt. Auburn and conducted interviews to find out how these stores contributed to quality of life in their communities, especially in terms of economic stability, physical environment and social support. The group interviewed adjacent business owners, store managers, employees, shoppers, local consumers and community leaders.
• Other students visited about 30 inner-city and suburban groceries to research pricing and quality equity in Cincinnati. Students shopped for store-brand staples of comparable size to determine if inner-city residents paid more for such stables as milk, break and eggs.
• The final group of students is examining ways to make food retail a community-focused activity. Their ideas focus on groceries with space for activities other than straightforward food: childcare facilities, dining facilities, classrooms and computers, or reading space.
Helping Russell to lead the 45 students currently working in The Niehoff Studio are Menelaos Triantafillou, visiting associate professor of planning; Andrew Jacobs, assistant professor of planning; Colleen McTague, assistant professor of geography; and Gil Born, professor emeritus of design.
The Niehoff Studio is named for UC Board of Trustees member H.C. Buck Niehoff who helped to make this long-term effort possible with a $150,000 gift. Additional support came from Kroger, UC’s Community Design Center, UC’s Institute for Community Partnerships, UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, UC’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, and UC’s College of Education.