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Cincinnati: CUF / Corryville: Development and News

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I'm surprised how much construction is wood framed today. I almost bought into a condo project down here when I was in college - it was all wood framed. It looked great from the outside and it was nice inside, but the building was also pretty empty. I have a few friends who live in it today, and although it's just 10 years old, it is showing its age considerably. There are parts of the floor that have a pretty good bounce when you walk on it, the insulation between floors is horrid (you can make out other conversations pretty easily) and it doesn't feel nearly as rigid.

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^That has less to do with wood framed vs. other construction techniques and just a general "whatever is least required by code" mentality. Wood framed, when done correctly, is just fine for buildings of this scale. But it's not done correctly. They size all members the minimum allowed by load requirements.

 

That bounce you feel can happen in a steel framed building or a concrete building. Newport on the Levee is a perfect example of this. You can feel the whole building moving. Or South Park Mall outside of Cleveland (or many other malls I've been in). The key is to oversize certain members to remove this bounce.

 

As for noise transmission, they probably went with spray foam between floors which is awful at stopping sound transmission. You need to insulate between units for fire purposes but sound batt insulation for the ceilings probably weren't used. That would solve that issue. But it's another step and another contractor and another employee's time so it was cheaper to just not care.

 

Code stops things from falling down but it doesn't stop things from being bad unfortunately.

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^ Cheap construction would never use spray foam for anything unless absolutely necessary, just fiberglass batts.  Cellulose insulation is generally best for noise dampening, but it's going to be difficult with any sort of wood framing because the wall studs and floor joists themselves allow the sound to bridge across.  It's not as bad in older buildings even though they almost all have wood floor framing, because the joists are larger and the subfloor and finished floor is a bit thicker, but the real differentiator is the old plaster, which is roughly a inch thick and so heavy that it dampens out sound while drywall is light enough that it acts more like a speaker diaphragm.  Carpet can be surprisingly helpful too, especially with the clip-clopping of shoes of course.  Masonry walls are also very good at dampening sound.  I lived in one of the 1960s/1970s shoebox apartments that you see all over the city, and while I could hear people above and below through the wood floors, I never once heard anything from the next door neighbors because the walls between apartments were concrete block with drywall over it. 

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Bouncy floors are either a design problem or a "cost savings" measure. The same goes for sound insulation, though wood studs are noticeably worse than metal (even with correct insulation) because they couple the two hard surfaces on either side of the wall/floor. I'd imagine it doesn't matter much for a college apartment, but I'd factor that in if I were buying.

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^ Cheap construction would never use spray foam for anything unless absolutely necessary, just fiberglass batts.  Cellulose insulation is generally best for noise dampening, but it's going to be difficult with any sort of wood framing because the wall studs and floor joists themselves allow the sound to bridge across.  It's not as bad in older buildings even though they almost all have wood floor framing, because the joists are larger and the subfloor and finished floor is a bit thicker, but the real differentiator is the old plaster, which is roughly a inch thick and so heavy that it dampens out sound while drywall is light enough that it acts more like a speaker diaphragm.  Carpet can be surprisingly helpful too, especially with the clip-clopping of shoes of course.  Masonry walls are also very good at dampening sound.  I lived in one of the 1960s/1970s shoebox apartments that you see all over the city, and while I could hear people above and below through the wood floors, I never once heard anything from the next door neighbors because the walls between apartments were concrete block with drywall over it. 

 

I only mentioned spray foam because I noticed a handful of projects using it even though they were cheap projects. I'm not sure what the reasoning was for going for quality on only one aspect of a project but I've seen it happening. I questioned the point if if they were then using 3/8" drywall which basically negates any sound dampening but whatever.

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You know what's really frustrating about all of this crap-artictecture going up around town?  People don't care anymore...

 

I was walking around Over-the-Rhine with a friend from Chicago about two months ago.  We walked past Music Hall, down Orchard St, through Prospect Hill, past the Germania building, etc.  Then we got to Vine St between Central and 12th.  My friend turned to to the Gateway Building and said, "Ooh! That's looks nice!"  SMH...nice of course meant new to him.  People want new, not nice.  In order for developers to offers nothing but new stuff, they have to build crap that can be torn down easily.

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Trouble is, trying to decouple the ceiling and floor means you almost have to double the amount of material because the floor structure doesn't change, and you're adding a separate ceiling below that needs to be mostly self-supporting.  Even in the "good old days" that wasn't really done, and it's why the suspended ceiling came into fashion for commercial work.  There isn't really an equivalent system for residential.  The same is true for walls too.  For proper sound dampening you basically have to build two separate walls so that the studs don't touch, then fill the whole thing with insulation.  That basically doubles the cost. 

 

There might be some economies of scale happening with spray foam on these large projects, especially since the energy codes are getting more and more strict to the point that you might not be able to get the code-required R-value with conventional cheap insulation systems like fiberglass unless the walls are made with deeper studs.  There's probably an inflection point where the cost of going to 2x6 framing with fiberglass is higher than the cost of 2x4 framing with spray foam, or something along those lines.

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Thankfully there are still some of us who care. The suburban movement of the last 60 years really killed our understanding of good architecture. When you've been taught your whole life that a vinyl sided, brick fronted box with a 3 car garage protruding towards the street is the height of architecture, I can't blame you for having a skewed (read: wrong) opinion of architecture and construction. The back-to-the-cities movement seems to be igniting the general public's passion for architecture though. Maybe not quite in Cincinnati yet, but residential architecture in a lot of places is changing very much for the better because people are calling into question the desires of the general public over the last 6 decades.

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Thankfully there are still some of us who care. The suburban movement of the last 60 years really killed our understanding of good architecture. When you've been taught your whole life that a vinyl sided, brick fronted box with a 3 car garage protruding towards the street is the height of architecture, I can't blame you for having a skewed (read: wrong) opinion of architecture and construction. The back-to-the-cities movement seems to be igniting the general public's passion for architecture though. Maybe not quite in Cincinnati yet, but residential architecture in a lot of places is changing very much for the better because people are calling into question the desires of the general public over the last 6 decades.

 

Not to go too far off topic, but I think this what you are describing is part of a larger cultural trend taking place in the U.S. right now. Since roughly WWII, we have been moving in the direction of more homogenized, bland, mass-produced, convenient, "efficient" stuff in almost every aspect of American culture. Much of what has been happening over the past ~5 years in Cincinnati (and maybe ~15 years in the big cities) that would be dismissed as "hipster" or "yuppie" by a lot of people is actually about Americans rediscovering that things can actually be, well, good. And in a lot of cases, we have to completely re-learn it all from scratch. We completely forgot what good architecture looks like (and how to build it). We will have to relearn it.

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Exactly. And there is definitely a learning curve which is why I try not to get too upset when projects go up that aren't that great. Because it seems like every city goes through this learning curve period before coming into its own and building truly good things again. We're still in the early stages of our urban movement so time still needs to pass before we learn as a region how to build properly again. It'll happen, we just have to be patient and continue the commentary on what is bad and wrong with what we are doing so people learn.

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Exactly. And there is definitely a learning curve which is why I try not to get too upset when projects go up that aren't that great. Because it seems like every city goes through this learning curve period before coming into its own and building truly good things again. We're still in the early stages of our urban movement so time still needs to pass before we learn as a region how to build properly again. It'll happen, we just have to be patient and continue the commentary on what is bad and wrong with what we are doing so people learn.

 

Well, the good thing about these CR Architecture-esque projects is that they're not built to last. Maybe in 30 years when all of this wood-framed low-quality construction needs to be replaced, we'll have our act together and will be able to put up some meaningful architecture. That almost hurts to say as someone who cares about the environment and hates to see buildings end up in landfills...but it's true.

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Not to go too far off topic, but I think this what you are describing is part of a larger cultural trend taking place in the U.S. right now. Since roughly WWII, we have been moving in the direction of more homogenized, bland, mass-produced, convenient, "efficient" stuff in almost every aspect of American culture. Much of what has been happening over the past ~5 years in Cincinnati (and maybe ~15 years in the big cities) that would be dismissed as "hipster" or "yuppie" by a lot of people is actually about Americans rediscovering that things can actually be, well, good. And in a lot of cases, we have to completely re-learn it all from scratch. We completely forgot what good architecture looks like (and how to build it). We will have to relearn it.

 

Even in the larger cities where urban culture / new architecture is better as a whole there are still junk projects, take for instance this one in my neighborhood, looks like something out of the 1970s, though at the very least its more substantial looking than much of the junk by the  University in Cincinnati:

 

https://ssl.cdn-redfin.com/photo/68/bigphoto/832/08635832_0.jpg

 

The learning curve is pretty darn steep which is so strange, I don't understand it.

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Remember also that the crap buildings tend to go away over time while the good ones stay.  So today we mostly see just the well-built buildings remaining, as the jerry-built shacks have all fallen down, burned down, or otherwise been replaced. 

 

Historically wood buildings weren't meant to be long-lasting, not just because of durability but because all the painting and other maintenance is so time consuming and difficult.  They're the 19th and early 20th century equivalent of cheap consumer goods from China.  Yes they're nice and shiny when new, especially with so many pre-assembled parts and off-the-shelf components.  All the gingerbread mouldings and cornices and windows and tin ceilings and such came out of factories and catalogs.  Cheap to buy, easy to assemble, and pretty good looking.  As time goes on however, those profiles and parts and pieces aren't made anymore so they have to be custom made to replace, and equivalent replacements just don't exist.  So just like it's cheaper to throw out the broken washing machine and buy a new one, because fixing it would require hours of expensive service tech labor and retail parts compared to the hyper efficient assembly line labor and volume-purchased parts for a new one, wood buildings were expected to be disassembled or demolished because maintaining them was just too much work. 

 

It takes kind of an odd set of circumstances to preserve all these wood buildings that we have, imposed in no small part due to zoning restrictions which forbid densification.  Historically, either a neighborhood of wood (first generation) buildings would grow up and mature into brick and stone structures, or it would decline and go away (think abandoned mining towns and western ghost towns).  Where these buildings stick around is in an environment of stasis, which is what zoning promotes.  The problem is that these buildings don't function well under stasis because they're so difficult to maintain. 

 

Also, the wood construction represents a shifting of cost and quality from the building for people to the building for cars.  If so much parking, especially structured parking, wasn't required, then more resources could be allocated to the building itself.  Maybe, hopefully, as time goes on the buildings will get upgraded or rebuilt in a more substantial manner as time goes on, especially if the parking doesn't deteriorate at the same rate. 

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Exactly. And there is definitely a learning curve which is why I try not to get too upset when projects go up that aren't that great. Because it seems like every city goes through this learning curve period before coming into its own and building truly good things again. We're still in the early stages of our urban movement so time still needs to pass before we learn as a region how to build properly again. It'll happen, we just have to be patient and continue the commentary on what is bad and wrong with what we are doing so people learn.

 

Well, the good thing about these CR Architecture-esque projects is that they're not built to last. Maybe in 30 years when all of this wood-framed low-quality construction needs to be replaced, we'll have our act together and will be able to put up some meaningful architecture. That almost hurts to say as someone who cares about the environment and hates to see buildings end up in landfills...but it's true.

 

What's happening uptown is a housing bubble.  All this madness can be put to an end if the city were to zone out multi-family properties larger than four units.  We wouldn't see historic homes torn down for suburban-style apartment buildings because building apartments would become illegal. 

 

All of this new construction is discouraging property owners from reinvesting in existing buildings.  Instead people are letting their properties deteriorate in areas where they believe developers will buy them out. 

 

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Some shots from Short Vine in late November:

 

16064212862_93d15d909f_c.jpg

 

15877600440_a3c041a63b_c.jpg

 

16064206212_b3d11b4a27_c.jpg

 

16064892465_1654445331_c.jpg

 

15423548893_0044225bd3_c.jpg

 

15428037274_fa03d23a37_c.jpg

 

As you can see, it's still a bit of a mess with all the old telephone poles, cobrahead lighting, and suspended stop signs. The red concrete crosswalks are a nice touch.

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I think the chages made to short vine make the area look worse.  I can't explainn it...it just looks half done.  Somehow it's just suburban homogenized nothingness to me.  Its hideous.  I'd rather have the more run down, but authentic feel, of the 1980's.

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The concrete sidewalk pads were not finished around the telephone poles as smoothly as the sidewalk itself, like the concrete they poured around the old poles is just a placeholder or something.  It definitely doesn't appear that this concrete is permanent around the old poles.  It's kind of hard to explain, I'll try to get over there to take a picture this week.  Maybe they'll be torn out at a later date?  I know the Consortium was looking for funding to streetscape the rest of Short Vine. 

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The concrete sidewalk pads were not finished around the telephone poles as smoothly as the sidewalk itself, like the concrete they poured around the old poles is just a placeholder or something.  It definitely doesn't appear that this concrete is permanent around the old poles.  It's kind of hard to explain, I'll try to get over there to take a picture this week.  Maybe they'll be torn out at a later date?  I know the Consortium was looking for funding to streetscape the rest of Short Vine. 

 

The city has been very good as using this technique in recent years. They did the same thing in Pendleton. Earlier this summer, they buried the utilities on 12th Street in Pendleton and just patched those squares of sidewalk that had previously been roughed-in.

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The reason the concrete isn't poured around the utility poles is that they DID bury all the lines, and the utility poles will be coming down.  The issue is, utilities TAKE FOREVER to switch the service and take the poles down.  The lines on 13th street were buried two years ago, and they still haven't come down.

 

so in a year or so(hopefully) we will see a clear, clean Short Vine.

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I thought they were going to make the street level with the sidewalk? Did that plan get scrapped?

 

The sidewalk slopes down to the street. However it rises up at intersections as you can see from my photos. Kinda hard to explain, you should check it out in person if you get the chance.

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...utilities TAKE FOREVER to switch the service and take the poles down.  The lines on 13th street were buried two years ago, and they still haven't come down.

 

Sometimes they never finish.  There's still 3 or 4 poles on Woodburn Avenue that have had their tops lopped off but still have one secondary distribution feed to a few buildings.  http://goo.gl/maps/Ttqgd

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I assume Deaconess Hospital is going to eventually sell to UC. It would work out for UC who already owns Stratford Heights down the street. Anyone know what the long term plan is for Deaconess? They already downsized a lot of their operations over the years and I think UC Health already rents offices in there.

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Council OKs tax breaks for major Uptown apartment project

Feb 19, 2015, 3:05pm EST Updated: Feb 19, 2015, 3:07pm EST

Chris Wetterich Staff reporter and columnist- Cincinnati Business Courier

 

The Cincinnati City Council unanimously approved a property tax break on Thursday for a 108-unit apartment project set to be built in Corryville.

 

Under the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design tax credit, Uptown Rentals will save nearly $8 million in property taxes on improvements it makes to eight properties at William Howard Taft Road and Eden Avenue.

 

http://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2015/02/19/council-oks-tax-breaks-for-major-uptown-apartment.html

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Some of these tax incentives are getting to be a bit much, in my opinion, especially for a conglomerate like Uptown Rentals. Many smaller, independent landlords will get dinged with thousands in additional taxes for fixing up old bathrooms and kitchens, while Uptown gets to save $8,000,000 by tearing down historic buildings and putting up cheap EIFS clad superblocks.

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Council OKs tax breaks for major Uptown apartment project

Feb 19, 2015, 3:05pm EST Updated: Feb 19, 2015, 3:07pm EST

Chris Wetterich Staff reporter and columnist- Cincinnati Business Courier

 

The Cincinnati City Council unanimously approved a property tax break on Thursday for a 108-unit apartment project set to be built in Corryville.

 

Under the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design tax credit, Uptown Rentals will save nearly $8 million in property taxes on improvements it makes to eight properties at William Howard Taft Road and Eden Avenue.

 

http://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2015/02/19/council-oks-tax-breaks-for-major-uptown-apartment.html

 

They should be forced to spend some of that $8mil on historic preservation endevors in this city.  We keep paying people to destroy our history.

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Has Kroger announced timing for when the University Plaza store will close and how long it'll be closed during renovation?

 

I don't think so.  Meanwhile construction activity has picked up in the lot.  Maybe they are simply fixing up the lot with new light poles.  They have what looks like a pile driver parked in the lot. 

 

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There was a demo permit pulled at the end of January for "DEMO EXITING COMMERCIAL BLDG (KROGER/WALGREENS/RETAIL CTR)" (sic) and a permit for a new building, as well. I've worked on similar projects, and I'd say Kroger will probably have to be closed for 9 months to a year, unless they somehow revised the plan in such a way that they can build the new building without demolishing the old one.

 

Here's a link to all the permits (I'm not positive this will work, if not just go to Cagis EZTrak and search for 1 W. Corry).

 

Personally, this will be a sad project for me. That Kroger is basically the only place I've bought groceries for the last 10 years, aside from a handful of co-ops and that brief moment I could afford rent in OTR.

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That Kroger does have a good bit of nostalgia attached to it but we shouldn't kid ourselves.  It's a piece of crap.  It's not welcoming on any side and is surrounded by stores that nobody really cares about other than that Walgreens.  It'll be nice to see it go.  Such an eyesore for that entire intersection.

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Gilbane Development Company Begins Construction on New Housing for University of Cincinnati Students

http://www.azobuild.com/news.aspx?newsID=19827

Gilbane Development Company is excited to bring our trademarked "Next Level of Student Housing®" program to Cincinnati

I laughed out loud when I saw that registered trademark.

 

Here are some of the other "Next Level of Student Housing®" projects done by Gilbane: http://www.gilbaneco.com/development/work/#student-housing

 

The rendering in the press release is super disappointing. Looks totally crummy. I seriously hope they get push back from the community. I hope its not too late to upgrade the materials and design of this project.

 

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It's funny (and sad) how urban architectural design has basically polarized into two main trends.  First there's the cheap shlocky stuff like the rendering above, The Banks, Columbia Square, Oakley Station, etc. which look like several already uninspired buildings smashed into each other.  Then you have the "trendy" modernist boxes with randomly placed vertical windows creating sort of a shattered skin effect, like Dunnhumby and Mercer Commons.  Both types are so "me-too" that they're already completely dated. 

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