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Cincinnati: Over-the-Rhine: School for the Creative & Performing Arts

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I think people are getting too caught up in the design of this and missing the real impact that this will have on the Washington Park are of OTR.  Yes the building design/look are important...but good grief.  It is not the bricks and mortar that make a building special...it is the people and functions that make it special.  This will be the first and only K-12 public arts school in the nation!  The school had an option I'm sure to locate elsewhere in the city, but they are in OTR for long-haul.  It is not fair to lambaste CPS for not orienting a building the way you may wish it to be oriented...when they are really here to educate.

 

As for the orientation, there are some things to take note.  The buildings on the east and west of Washington Park face the park because that is the primary street that gives access to these structures.  Central Parkway (where it runs parallel to Race/Elm) does not factor into the equation, because at the time when many of these buildings were built...it was not the primary street that was to serve the structures (remember those streetcar lines still visible in front of Music Hall).

 

Flash forward now to the SCPA building and you notice the same orientation scheme.  The building shows primary orientation to the major street that will either serve it or provide its access (Central Parkway).  Now I agree full heartedly that they could have done a better job at creating a dual side look to the structure...but I certainly don't think that they choose the incorrect orientation though if you HAD to choose just one.

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>I think people are getting too caught up in the design of this and missing the real impact that this will have on the Washington Park are of OTR.  Yes the building design/look are important...but good grief.  It is not the bricks and mortar that make a building special...it is the people and functions that make it special.

 

Well the problem is that all the original people and nearly all of the institutions that date from the 1800's are long gone.  Over-the-Rhine today has no more in common with the people who built it than if it had been demolished for public housing.  All that is left is the buildings themselves and the streetscapes they collectively form.  Buildings continue to be demolished at a rapid rate, often dozens per year.  SCPA will demolish another 7 or so.  Today's buildings almost always benefit from an irregular site since at the very least contemporary architects seem to be allergic to the symmetry that allowed countless large buildings to succeed in the past (court house, Applied Sciences Building, Music Hall, etc.).  Nothing's tougher from a design standpoint than to start from a blank canvass, which is what a 400X400 cleared blocks is, especially since any nod to classicism has been considered heresy for the past 60 or 70 years.  The Aronoff Center is overall a successful design because it managed to have the 400ft. north side of the building along 7th St. compliment the main Walnut St. entrance without looking like the back.  The small theater entrance at 7th & Main is not quite as successful, but not a pompous affront to the 100 year-old buildings it shares a block with.               

 

To recap, what makes Over-the-Rhine sure as hell isn't a good chunk of the people who currently leach on taxpayers and do their illegal business there.  It's the buildngs, the narrow streets, its proximity to downtown, and its place in the 19th century American immigration and urbanization story. 

 

 

 

 

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I came into this topic a little late, but does anybody have a link back to the original plans?  I've never seen them, and it seems like the majority of you are fond of them.

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Nearby Music Hall faces Elm St., not Central Parkway,

I would think the canal that is now Central, may have played a role in that decision in 1878.

 

Irregardless, we have such a reputation for being a difficult neighborhood to deal with.  A well deserved reputation at that.  I would for once like something other than bickering to define us.  But if nothing makes you happy, then that is exactly what we will get.

 

Buildings continue to be demolished at a rapid rate, often dozens per year.

And do you know why?  It isn't development that is causing these buildings to be razed, it is neglect.  No one says anything about them, no one sues them, no one goes to channel 9 about them, yet it is these people who are responsible for the demo's you are speaking of.

 

All that is left is the buildings themselves and the streetscapes they collectively form.

I think you missed Rando's point entirely.  Those buildings were here last year, 5 years ago, 10 years ago and what? Nothing.  Now that something is happening everyone is up in arms.  What he means is a neighborhood is more than its buildings, it is its people.  Todays people who are moving into the Q, into Main, into Mulberry, that is the true strength of the neighborhood otherwise OTR would have been boomtown USA all along.  The building is the body, but these people are the soul.  So if tearing down 7 means 20 or 30 may get new life, then so be it.  Many here in OTR want to save every building at the expense of every other building, but many others take a much broader, more realistic view.

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I wouldn't be so opposed to the demolition of individual buildings for the greater good if it weren't for what seems to be the complete inability of new structures to convincingly blend in with existing buildings.  In Hollywood they seem to be able to create convincing European and traditional American streetscapes for movies but when it comes to people building them for the actual world they come up short almost every time.  Look at the replacement row buildings on the east side of Walnut that were built about ten or fifteen years ago, they are needlessly placed four or five feet back from the sidewalk and don't quite match surrounding buildings in materials or proportions.  Again what I admire so much about the Italianate stye is that a particular formula was achieved that allowed buildings of various sizes, purposes, and quality of materials to create streetscapes that have a dignity and presence lacking in so many other styles. 

 

Obviously the many people who have invested in the neighborhood in recent years are the neighborhood's strength since the general population has at best remained indifferent.  Every time I hear one of those obnoxious ads on the radio for Grand Victoria Casino I think of all the people with disposable income throwing it away at casinos and all of this world's pointless diversions instead of investing it in their own communities, let alone Over-the-Rhine.  The recent improvements to Vine & 12th have opened a lot of people's eyes, probably even more than Main St., to the potential of the tyipcal areas of this neighborhood. 

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I to want to see what is best for OTR and work hard every day to see it progress a little further.  But here is the rub.  I have been down here for years, in the trenches just like you, I have seen the demonization of any group who tries to do anything down here, and not just CPS, but 3CDC, the "greedy landlords on Main" and even the OTR Chamber.  Why? because it is some group or organization who feels that someone else is about to come in and all the sudden change things and the people who were here for years are not going to get an ounce of credit for it.  Yet this "infighting" is one thing that has helped stop any real change from occurring here.

 

Michael, I’m not trying to demonize anyone (well maybe CPS a bit).  I agree wholeheartedly with you about the infighting and lack of cooperation in the past and present with this neighborhood.  I too agree that sometimes selective demolition and new construction is a better route to a final product.  I also know that I am guilty of focusing on the smaller negative aspects of projects instead of the overall positives at times.

 

But part of any effort must involve looking at both what went right and what went wrong, so you can improve the next time.  Focusing on the positive is very important, especially with the negative perceptions that OTR is constantly fighting.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t try to force the best projects that we can.  I don’t see that forestalling development, as long as we know when to step back and put our efforts behind it.  I do wish I knew how to get all the players in OTR on that mindset as well.

 

I think people are getting too caught up in the design of this and missing the real impact that this will have on the Washington Park are of OTR.  Yes the building design/look are important...but good grief.  It is not the bricks and mortar that make a building special...it is the people and functions that make it special

 

Buildings ARE important, especially in in this neighborhood.  I’m not putting them above people and institutions, but to ignore buildings and urban context when dealing with OTR is to ignore an important component of its character.

 

The projects that frustrate me are the ones that could have been easily solved with minor accessions on each side.  CPS could have done a lot to respect Washington Park with some very simple changes, but it’s a fact that they didn’t.  Especially since are an institution for and funded by the community, they should respect the community that they sit in.

 

On a side note, my discussions on this forum are generally not indicative of my discussions about OTR with the general public.  I put my criticisms out here to have a fuller discussion about the good and the bad.  A negative comment does not mean I do not support the particular project in its entirety.

 

 

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This is slightly off-topic but drive through Corryville to witness a historic neighborhood being trashed by hodge-podge redevelopment.  Rehabs and new construction in OTR need to be first-rate to avoid the bizarre collision of ideas and automobile concessions that have befell its contemporary to the north.  As I mentioned in a previous post a lot of what has happened recently has been exactly what needs to be happening, that's why elements of the school's design are so frustrating.  I am not even opposed to non-native architectural styles, but it needs to be quality and fit the context.  For example recent construction on Mulberry looks good on Mulberry but that same style probably won't look good in OTR proper.     

 

 

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When I was in college, I remember that the head of the architecture school, John Munier ran a fifth year studio for many years on this particular block.  He felt it was such a critical block in the city, and such an interesting design problem, fronting Central Parkway, and being on the southern edge of such a dense 4-story neighborhood, and the relationships to the park and to Music Hall.  And they designed a myriad of good solutions (not necessarily schools) to these problems.   

 

The most obvious solution is to make two grand entrances, one for the public theater, and one for the daily school entrance.  The current design has both on the south.

 

At this point I only hope they have a good landscaping budget. 

 

MR;  this neighborhood has a difficult reputation you say, but CPS came in with this design 18 months ago, was rejected by the Historic Conservation Board, and denounced by the Foundation.  But somehow it is now getting built with no/little changes.  You say this makes Centennial Row possible, but how many sales will be lost when the buyers (who are hoping to live in a historic neighborhood) realize their view is a blank wall and a parking lot?  And, admit it, how many sales of condos are lost on Gateway I because of poor design?  Lots of people conducting business makes for a good neighborhood, but that alone will not save OTR.  Design must be part of the solution, and the successful developers here know that and have succeded because of it.  To ignore the mistakes here is to invite replication of them at other sites.

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I think the interplay of old and new is a positive in any urban area, especially considering what it can do for otr. some people on here have commented on the back of the building facing washington park so I ask would you rather it face central parkway like music hall does?! central parkway has a profound impact on bridging the business gap between downtown and otr and I like the design alot.

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I get that most people (including me) like to talk about what <em>should be</em> rather than what <em>is</em>. It is easy to change the <em>should be</em>, and very hard to change what <em>is</em>.  However, the only options that impact the real world are:

1. Call for a halt in construction and have a hole there for ten years until agreement can be reached (think The Banks).

2. Acknowledge the design is subpar and should have had split focus to both Central Parkway and Washington Park, but move on, working to prevent future developments from making the same mistake.

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My points about people and the buildings they occupy are this:

 

While this building may not be perfect...it is not horrendous either.  I think that the people that occupy a building can make it a better place and might actually make that place the 'place.'  Meaning...when a building is built it may be horrendous...but if the people that occupy it do something special there, the building can easily become a place that is revered instead of the opposite.

 

I think that the students/teachers/professionals that will be using this building will help and possibly even overcome the perceived design shortcomings for the building.  Sure, it would have been great to have gotten that beautiful looking brick structure that really paid tribute to Music Hall and the surrounding structures...but it is what it is.  I just think its a little overboard to start throwing out CPS conspiracies and BOLD quotes that lambaste this building.

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Unfortunately, CPS deserves little more than the presumption of dark conspiracies and perhaps even bold quotes. Big blank walls and even worse parking lots or the weird amphitheater thing are just asking for being used in the old OTR way. When the graffiti comes in or a couple kids get mugged then CPS will have to get all defensive and watch the cameras and big fences make it even less welcoming than it already is. This needs two real access points for safety and to actually fill the urban space in a respectable way.

 

What can we do? Well I voted against the school levy over this (and many other issues). 

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For example recent construction on Mulberry looks good on Mulberry but that same style probably won't look good in OTR proper. 
   

 

Yet there was a huge fight over that construction as well, and the new const. by the Fielers on Milton and on and on.  We have every right to give our opinions on projects, and to some degree they are encouraged however read through the history of this thread at the headlines we generate over what is supposed to be a positive project.  In many cases it is the same people who pay lip service to an era of cooperation who throw the first stones (not speaking of anyone on here).  If we are indeed looking to bring up points on this particular project so that we may avoid similar mistakes in the future, then make CPS an ally so that they will want our input instead of creating an environment that not just they, but no one will want to listen to the OTR public.

 

When the graffiti comes in or a couple kids get mugged then CPS will have to get all defensive and watch the cameras and big fences make it even less welcoming than it already is.

What can we do?

 

First step is to stop teaching graffiti classes every Wed on the corner of Central and Liberty.

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From the updated article, it said another crane was constructing the new tower crane, with the blue tower in the background. The crane was lifting the horizontal piece, then failed and dropped it. How tall is the new school supposed to be?

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How tall is the new school supposed to be?

 

I don't know specifically, but judging from the renderings I would guess somewhere around 50ft tall.  There are roughly 4-4.5 stories on this (as per the rendering) and a typical floor height for this would be most likely like 12 ft.

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I posed this question before, but I'm not sure anyone responded directly to it. 

 

How do you think the new k-12 school at race and central will impact the area?  Will it clean up the park at all?  Increase police visibility?

 

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It may increase policy visibility, but the most important impact it will have is that it will clean up an entire block that was otherwise a dump before.  Washington Park will be significantly cleaned up through the expansion/renovation process that it is about to go through...and ultimately the success (or lack there of) of the area will hinge upon filling up the many vacant structures that are havens for crime now along Elm and Race.  If 3CDC is successful in their next phase in this area, and the streetcar comes to fruition...then you will see a complete success story.  SCPA can't do it alone, 3CDC can't do it alone, and the park plans can't do it alone.  They all need each other...and they especially need the streetcar for this whole thing to work.

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The fact that it will be the elementry school for downtown and OTR residents will be a big incentive for parents to come downtown or for YPs to not leave once they have a kid.

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The fact that it will be the elementry school for downtown and OTR residents will be a big incentive for parents to come downtown or for YPs to not leave once they have a kid.

 

SCPA/Schiel is not the neighborhood elementary/middle school, Rothenberg is.  SCPA/Schiel is a magnet school.

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Right now CPS has three options:  1.  renovate rothenberg 2. tear it down and build a new building in its place 3. build a new school somewhere else in OTR.

 

Its not a done deal, but I'm feeling more optimistic Rothenberg will be renovated as a school, as Westwood just got their elementary school project changed from a teardown/rebuild back to a renovation of the existing building.

 

One important issue in this is the capacity of the neighborhood schools, of which there is only 1 planned.  A few years ago we had 3 neighborhood schools serving downtown/OTR/Pendleton.  We're down to one based on the huge enrollment of the charter schools and the general decline in CPS attendance.  If one of the charter schools fail (VLT, I'm looking in your direction) and the neighborhood's population increases with new development, we won't have a place for all the kids.

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I think there is the possibility that downtowner parents will treat SCPA as a defacto neighborhood school, especially since it will now be K-12, and their scores are pretty good.  It would really be nice if they added preschool, like the montessori programs have.  There is a great benefit of being able to walk to school, as opposed to signing up for a magnet school in North Avondale or Mt. Washington.

 

 

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I snapped a few pictures today of the construction of the School for the Creative and Performing Arts and the work being done on Central Parkway.  I was kind of surprised that they have made so much progress on the SPCA.

 

 

Central1.jpg

central2.jpg

scpa.jpg

scpa2.jpg

 

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Does anyone know when they are supposed to be finished, or when the first classes there will be?!  How about Washington Park, where does that project stand? Are there any final plans or ongoing discussions?

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This pictures remind me, any word on what sort of usage is being looked at for YMCA next door? I know the sports club part is still operational but they shut down the "hotel" part.

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This will also compliment the Art Academy of Cincinnati and the new developments along Republic. I can't wait for this to be complete, along with the Washington Park redesign!

 

Work moving ahead on performing arts school

By Denise Smith Amos, Cincinnati Enquirer, October 19, 2008

 

As construction workers erect the walls and enclose the three theaters at the new School for Creative and Performing Arts, supporters are working behind the scenes to finish private financing of the $72 million complex.

 

They’re still about $6 million short of their target. And the $25 million they’ve raised is a combination of cash and commitments.

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The schools have a combined enrollment of about 1,400 students.

 

The new building is designed for 1,350 students but can probably accommodate more, said Jan Leslie, a director of the arts group and Petersen’s daughter.

 

So let me get this straight...they built the new school already over capacity for what the enrollment is now.  I was just commenting on how it looked kind of small the other day for the full 1,400 students.  This is one of the premier schools in CPS, they should be trying to grow the enrollment there and attract new people into the district.  Outside of funding I just don't understand.

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Well, the building is pretty much built to the lot line in some respects, but I find the pleasing curvatures of the building better than a solid wall in this instance. It is an art school, and it needs to have some variations in design.

 

In reply to Greg: What surface lot? Along 12th? I wondered what they would be doing with that space... I hope that it is at least concealed.

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Well, the building is pretty much built to the lot line in some respects, but I find the pleasing curvatures of the building better than a solid wall in this instance. It is an art school, and it needs to have some variations in design
 

 

I agree about the variations, but the bigger footprint of building closer to the sidewalk would give more room for current and future enrollment.

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