Monday, May 14, 2012

Hartwell has new plan for Vine Street

Cincinnati's Hartwell neighborhood now has the first vision plan for its business district in more than 30 years.

In late April, City Council approved adoption of the Hartwell Neighborhood Business District (NBD) Plan, an action-based plan guiding the future of the neighborhood's 30-acre Vine Street business district.

The plan envisions the future Hartwell NBD as "a unique, vibrant, regional-serving business district. It features clean, attractive, safe and walkable streets; strong, vital and active local and national businesses; historic and renowned local and regional institutions; and is a hub of neighborhood activity for residents of Hartwell, and also serves Wyoming and Springfield Township, Arlington Heights, Carthage, and Roselawn."

As it stands now, the NBD is largely auto-oriented and is not friendly to pedestrians. Its pattern of building setbacks can best be described as "incoherent", and it lacks unifying elements of any kind.

However, it does enjoy high visibility and a solid business and residential base. Fifteen thousand people live within one mile of the NBD, and within just five miles are 13 of Cincinnati's neighborhoods, 15 other NBDs, and 17 other municipalities and townships in Hamilton County.

A eight-year process

The Hartwell NBD Plan had its genesis in a 2004 visioning and design process conducted by consultant GroundWork Design Collaborative LLC for an enhanced neighborhood gateway at Vine Street and Galbraith Road, a project which failed to receive City funding.

In January 2008, at the request of the City of Wyoming and Springfield Township, the Hamilton County Development Corporation released its Vine Street Commercial Corridor Study, a look at the corridor between the Vine Street-Galbraith Road intersection and the City of Wyoming border.

Alarmed by the study, the Hartwell Improvement Association (HIA) requested a study of its own portion of the corridor, and a series of workshops began in the fall of 2008.

Following more than two years of workshops and open houses, the HIA unanimously approved the completed plan in May 2011.

Focus on capacity, then redevelopment

The NBD plan puts a heavy focus on building organizational capacity. Although the community council, the Hartwell Improvement Association, is quite active, its membership is quite small and its board is incomplete. Until recently, the neighborhood had no business association.

This put the neighborhood near the back of the line when pursuing City funding for community improvement projects.

One such project is the previously mentioned northwest corner of Vine Street and Galbraith Road, a "fractured" corner consisting of a parking lot, a traffic island, and a landscaping bed – none of which function well.

Another, more high-profile project is the redevelopment of the vacant, 7.5-acre Hartwell Armory site, just west of the Kroger store on Shadybrook Drive.

A request for proposals (RFP) and preferred developer agreement process in 2009 yielded two proposals. In October 2010, the HIA determined that the winning bid, a medical office complex, was not feasible on the site and entered into a preferred developer agreement with Episcopal Retirement Homes for the Windsor on the Creek independent and assisted senior living complex.

Specific action

Short- and long-term actions identified by the NBD plan include:
  • Within six months: Fill the HIA Board and Committees and build the Business Association;
  • Within one year: Work with the City on redevelopment of the Armory site, apply for funding for a fa├žade program, and build relationships with surrounding neighborhoods that utilize the NBD;
  • Within two to five years: Work with the City on zoning and land use issues – including the consideration of form-based codes and the strengthening of Urban Design Overlay District guidelines, and apply for funding for design and construction work for streetscaping and intersection improvements;
  • Within six to ten years: Tend to the new Hartwell NBD and guide future development.

Previous reading on BC:
Two Hamilton Co projects win affordable housing tax credits (4/12/12)
College Hill residents reject senior housing (9/30/09)
A 'good day' for Hartwell as new rec center opens (6/8/09)
New Hartwell calendar features historic images (12/29/08)
Hartwell Armory site chained off (5/19/08)