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Archives for July 5, 2016

Bradenton officials look at refreshing Old Main Street

With the likelihood of a new city parking garage in Bradenton’s future, city officials are turning their attention to improving the walkability of Old Main Street and the surrounding downtown streets.

Possibilities so far include widening Old Main Street’s sidewalks and reducing the number of parking spaces to provide more walking room and space for business owners. Other suggestions include a new landscaping plan and better overhead lighting.

Downtown business owner Mike Carter said maintenance of Old Main Street has fallen off in recent years.

“Old Main Street was the recipient of substantial improvements years ago and it had a huge impact,” said Carter. “We have an opportunity with all this new construction about to take place to look at a street-scape plan. We always talk about how to connect downtown to the Village of the Arts. We should look at a firm that specializes in urban street-scape design and get a new master plan for those improvements because Old Main Street is looking old and tired.”

City administrator Carl Callahan said it’s “easily doable,” noting there has been a lot of turnover in public works as of late and his first priority is to get the maintenance crews responsible for downtown and Riverwalk “to up their game. There are things we need to be doing and should expect for a manicured look even before we consider changing things.”

We have to ask if we want to condense parking downtown to give more space to businesses by widening the sidewalks.

City administrator Carl Callahan

Callahan said the city will likely go forward with a request for qualification,s inviting those interested to present ideas on how to improve the area. He said he would first like to hold public meetings to garner public input.

“We want to have landscape architects look at it because it’s been a lot of years,” he said. “There is a lot to consider other than just landscaping. If we do get a garage, then we have to ask if we want to condense parking downtown to give more space to businesses by widening the sidewalks.”

Callahan said some of those improvement should extend to the bordering streets, particularly 13th Street West.

“That street is one of our widest streets and there are opportunities there,” said Callahan.

Riverwalk concerns

The concern that Old Main Street is looking “old and tired,” were also raised about Riverwalk. Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff said the park was planned for a certain amount of use, “and we’ve found that the use exceeds anything we imagined. It just doesn’t slow down.”

Callahan said it’s another area where maintenance crews and third-party contractors need to be “stepping that up a notch. We don’t want it to get tired before its time and it needs to be looked at with a more critical eye. There’s the little stuff that you expect to get done.”

Callahan said the city needs to take a closer look at whether it’s best to have random crews taking care of Riverwalk or whether the city needs to devote a full-time crew.

“This is one of those rare cases where you may not want to look at how much money you want to spend rather than ask what it is you want to do,” he said. “But we also have to look at scheduling more down time between events and give the park a chance to recover from those events.”

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Torchbearers take on Cincinnati and return inspired

Editor’s Note: Michael Evans is a member of Torchbearers Class of 2015 and employee at Cleveland Clinic Akron General

Torchbearers toured the Findlay Market to learn more about the revitalization efforts in that neighborhood as well as the plans to bring streetcars back and the implications of that work. (Photo: Tim Fitzwater)


As a bus full of 35 Akronites rolled into the Over-the-Rhine district of Cincinnati on June 5, smart phones began taking pictures and tagging social media posts with the hashtag “#TB2Cincy.”

There was no question that the working minds of Torchbearers of Akron had arrived, and they were eager to learn about the southwest Ohio city nearly four hours away from home. Creative juices were flowing, and notepads were at the ready to catch inspiration during the group’s two-day excursion to the Queen City.

In early 2015, Torchbearers received its largest single grant ($65,000) from the John S. and James L Knight Foundation. This grant sponsored two trips, the first being to Detroit in May 2015, and the second being the most recent trip to Cincinnati on June 5 and 6 of this year.

It was the goal of Torchbearers to travel to Cincinnati in order to learn about the city’s efforts in arts and culture, neighborhood revitalization and economic development, with the hopes of bringing back these ideas for programs in Akron. In addition, the trip was an opportunity for Torchbearers to share with those in Cincinnati all the innovative things Akron is doing to revitalize and grow.

Lessons from Ohio’s oldest public market
Despite being found within the same state, it was clear to Torchbearers that Akron and Cincinnati are incredibly different cities with much to learn from one another. This was evident when the group first disembarked at the bustling Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest public market, dating back to 1852.

Even on a Sunday afternoon, the Findlay Market was booming with activity. Red picnic tables were overflowing with folks eating lunch, drinking local craft brews and enjoying live music in the beer garden. Hundreds of people were perusing food and retail vendors located in both indoor and outdoor booths.

There are over 40 full-time vendors, and an additional 50 pop-up vendors on the weekends, offering a mix of grocery, prepared foods and related goods. This is where local restaurants come to get their meats, local breweries come to get their spices and the general public come to stock their pantries.

With 1.2 million visitors a year, the Findlay Market is the fifth most visited place in Cincinnati. It is also known to be the most diverse spot in the city as far as careers, income and background of vendors and patrons alike.

The Findlay Market has served as the launching pad for larger success stories, including Taste of Belgium, an eatery offering waffles and other Belgian inspired dishes that started at Findlay Market in 2007, and has since expanded to four additional locations (including one in Columbus). Urbana Coffee is another example of a business that began in Findlay Market and has grown over the years.

To coincide with touring the Findlay Market, the Torchbearers were also given a tour of the nearby Findlay Kitchen, an innovative food business incubator that opened its doors just two months ago, directly down the street from the Market. The building includes 8,000 square feet of shared-use kitchen space, complete with commercial grade equipment, storage and smaller kitchen areas available for rent hourly or monthly.

This $2 million project was an idea conceptualized over 30 years ago, but was only recently made possible by a feasibility study, adequate donations and robust fundraising efforts.

“The Findlay Kitchen is a place people were looking for whether or not they knew it,” said Kelly Lanser, Promotion and Events Manager at Findlay Market. She said that the idea was to bring new businesses to the Findlay Market by providing resources that help to increase their production, enable growth and create jobs, all while bringing healthy, locally grown and produced foods to the region.

A place like Findlay Kitchen helps to alleviate the burden of expensive brick-and-mortars small businesses would encounter on their own. Since its inception, there are approximately 36 members of the Kitchen, including various startups specializing in things like cupcakes and hot sauce.

Landbanks and streetcars
Not only is the area known for being progressive and foodie-friendly, but Over-the-Rhine is a neighborhood growing in virtually all areas. Since 2006, more than 100 new businesses have opened in the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood through the Main Street, Central Vine Street and Findlay Market business districts. Part of this is due to the reintroduction of the streetcar to the area, as well as the landbanking concept, which helps with the purchasing and maintaining of vacant buildings and properties to prevent future deterioration.

The Torchbearers were given a comprehensive walking tour of OTR, starting with Washington Park, a civic green space that has seen recent improvements thanks to a partnership with the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC).

The initiative brought forth incredible revitalization to the area, complete with new landscaping, parking, a performance stage, fountains (which were ideal on a hot June day), playgrounds and dog park, all of which opened to the public in 2011.

Across from the music hall, Washington Park is a gorgeous space in the Over the Rhine district. In line with city planning, it’s also functional. The park has built over 450 public parking spaces, alleviating a parking problem while adding to the quality of life. (Photo: Tim Fitzwater)

“The key to successfully revitalizing Over-the-Rhine is making it more approachable,” said Kevin Jackson, Development Officer at 3CDC, and our tour guide for the afternoon.

Jackson mentioned that the $49 million Washington Park project was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to what 3CDC is doing in Cincinnati. Thanks primarily to an influx of private investment funds, the organization has also been able to improve downtown’s Fountain Square, Vine Street (known as the “spine of downtown”) and other areas by bringing in a series of commercial tenants. They like to avoid using too many large chain stores, adding to the eclectic and local vibe of the area.

Torchbearers’ second day of exploring Cincinnati began with a visit to Union Hall, which serves as an accelerator for startup businesses, housing The Brandery, CincyTech, Cintrifuse and Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub. Combining the forces of these companies helps facilitate rapid growth for businesses while remaining hyper-focused on creating entrepreneurial success in Southwest Ohio.

(Photo: Tim Fitzwater)

“#StartupCincy began as a hashtag and has become a movement,” said Christina Misali of Cintrifuse, who acted as a moderator for a panel of speakers from each of the organizations at Union Hall. “We want our companies to feel like they can grow here,” she said.

The panel said that being collaborative and creating cross-sector connections is the key to their success. They leverage the assets of Cincinnati in order to attract new entrepreneurs. This includes the fact that the cost of living is better in Cincinnati than it is in many other metropolitan areas. They also mentioned that the state of Ohio has innovative programs, such as Third Frontier, which helps to provide funding to small businesses.

Union Hall itself had been renovated to suit its new tenants, and includes several elements that add to a stress-free and friendlier work environment. This includes a rooftop work area (with morning yoga sessions and a great view), inspirational quotes on the wall and the ability to bring your dog to the workplace.

The remainder of the trip primarily consisted of a series of “Do-It-Yourself” visits to various organizations throughout the city. These locations included People’s Liberty, Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, Local Initiatives Support Coalition, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, REDI Cincinnati and STRIVE Partnership.

Members of Torchbearers chose which of the breakaway sessions they wanted to partake in, and shared takeaways with the entire group at dinner that evening.

Many takeaways came from Peoples Liberty, where they introduce experimental grant-making to the community, awarding individuals with ideas rather than organizations or entities. This led the Torchbearers to ponder what it would be like if Akron was more experimental with its own grant-making. Also emphasized was the importance of being willing to work with anyone, and again the significance of collaboration – large, small, profit, non-profit, private, public.

When time came to depart Cincinnati and head back to Akron, Torchbearers were energized and exhausted, but ultimately inspired to take what they learned in Cincinnati and share it with the greater Akron community, and hope that those within Cincinnati can do the same with what they learned about progress in Akron. The trip provided renewed energy to not only see the possibilities of what could come to Akron, but also to appreciate all the great things we already have here in Akron.

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Spend a Saturday in seven local gardens

Kathy and Mitch Hallgren, Sycamore

The Hallgrens’ garden can be described as an ornamental shade garden. They are fortunate to live on a property boasting more than an acre of oak, hickory, hawthorn and prairie crab trees. The front of the property is landscaped in a rustic style with native plants. Closer to the house is a memory garden, taking advantage of one of the few partly sunny areas of the property. Created in the cottage style, it contains annuals and perennials that remind Kathy of her mother’s garden.

Continuing to the south side of the house is a garden inspired by Charleston, South Carolina. This area is very shady and includes boxwoods and shade perennials along with a path and hardscape. A sunny “South Border” has hydrangea, peonies, clematis and other shrubs.

The rear of the property contains a small wild area with a path and many spring ephemerals, as well as a small azalea and rhododendron bed. The newest addition is a recently planted “Oak Bed” which holds many perennials and shrubs and small trees that thrive in an understory setting.

Karen Lund, Genoa

Karen Lund has been gardening for 25 years, 10 of them at her current residence. She has created a large butterfly area in the backyard, along with several fruit-bearing trees and bushes for the birds. Karen has planted berry-producing plants such as Washington hawthorn, porcelain vine and viburnum to keep cedar waxwings, catbirds and thrushes happy. Cannas, mainly red, cardinal flowers, phlox, penstemon, honeysuckle and trumpet vines attract the hummingbirds. The sphinx moths also like the phlox. Butterfly bushes, coneflowers, coreopsis, and indigo (caterpillar host plant) attract butterflies. Karen also has several varieties of coral bells since hummingbirds feed on the flowers.

The shade garden, which occupies the side of the house, has wild ginger, trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, solomon’s seal, arum, cranesbill, evening primrose, astilbe and meadow rue.

Walter and Sharon Barnes, Genoa

Sharon Barnes became interested in daylilies about 35 years ago when she saw actual daylilies, not roadside or “ditch lilies” on the farm. She began hybridizing daylilies 23 years ago and has passionately continued her work, even taking daylily seedlings with her to Florida during the winter.

Sharon and Walter married two years ago, so Sharon and her daylilies moved to a midcentury modern-design home, where Walter has lived for decades. Sharon brought many other plants and a few trees from her former home in Roscoe. A berm was constructed last summer where the Barnes have planted service berry, cardinal flowers, butterfly bush, and of course, milkweed for the monarch butterflies. All flowers and shrubs have been chosen to attract birds and butterflies.

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Poor people left out of Tucson water harvesting rebates

Oscar Carrillo shows off some of the new landscaping at his South Tucson home, part of a passive rainwater harvesting system that utilizes rain runoff from the roof on June 20, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. Carrillo, 59, received financial help from a program that helps outfit low-income families with rainwater harvesting equipment.

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