Brewery District to envision future

OVER-THE-RHINE - Eroding breweries and aging historic buildings in Over-the-Rhine could get new life through a plan presented Tuesday by the Brewery District Community Urban Development Corp.
By July, planners at downtown-based Glaserworks, an architecture and urban design firm, hope to have identified key projects to help resurrect the city's historic Brewery District, loosely defined as the northern half of Over-the-Rhine, north of Liberty Street and parts of the West End.
Since its founding in 2003, the Brewery District has worked to rally support for new investment, including hosting Prohibition Resistance Tours, Bockfest and the OTR Biergarten at Findlay Market.
The non-profit development corporation, funded largely by private donations and membership fees, also is working with the city of Cincinnati on a pilot program to redevelop several buildings near Findlay Market.
"All of these things both bring in business to the neighborhood and raise awareness to the history that we have here," said Steve Hampton, the district's executive director. "We're ready to continue to the next step and create actionable development projects."
The group has contracted with Glaserworks - a $20,000 commitment - to craft a master plan for the Brewery District, identify signature projects and home in on potential financing sources. Any potential plan to improve the district will be considered, said Jeffrey C. Raser, a principal at Glaserworks.
"I'm a big believer in the idea that communities that know what they want, stand a better chance at getting what they want," Raser said.
On April 9, Glaserworks will host a public input meeting at Venue 222 to get feedback from neighborhood property owners, stakeholders and other planners, Raser said.
Aside from the public input, the master plan process will consider previous neighborhood plans crafted in 2006 and 2002. While the plan will lay out long-range development opportunities and goals, it also will provide a list of two to three projects - and potential funding sources - that could be tackled more immediately.
For each project, Glaserworks will craft a "pre-development" plan that will be floated to interested developers.
Among the prospective groups the district may target is Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) - which has lured more than $162 million in private investment in the southern half of Over-the-Rhine in recent year.s
"At some point in time (3CDC) may look beyond Liberty Street, and my hope is that with a well-prepared plan with some real vistion to it, that they'll look north to Liberty and seek developments that dovetail with what the community wants," Raser said.
Long range, a thriving Brewery District in Over-the-Rhine could be a critical link between Cincinnati's two largest employer sectors, said Greg Hardman, newly elected president of the Brewery District and CEO of Christian Moerlien Brewery Co. In January, Hardman's firm opened a brewery in Over-the-Rhine and plans to open an 1,100-seat restaurant and microbrewery at Cincinnati Riverfront Park this fall.
"We're like the 'can-do' team, and we're going to make things happen," Hardman said. "We're going to return Cincinnati's grand brewing tradition and make a thriving Brewery District -- linking Cincinnati Riverfront Park all the way up to Uptown."
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