To grow office space for creative and tech companies in OTR to a critical mass, create a new street at the site of the OTR Kroger and put the parking underground.
Construction continues on the new downtown Cincinnati Kroger store, parking garage, and residential tower mixed-use development at Walnut and Court streets. With a large store in Corryville and this future one downtown, it looks like the small OTR Kroger will be closed when the downtown project is completed. This presents a huge redevelopment opportunity in Over-the-Rhine, as the Kroger store is a non-historically contributing building sitting on a big parcel of land that is contiguous to other pieces of open land as well.
Some context: The block that the OTR Kroger sits on is quite large by Over-the-Rhine standards, about 350′ north-south by 400′ east-west. It is bound by Vine Street to the west, 14th Street to the south, Walnut Street to the east and 15th Street to the north. Historically, it was home to Wielert’s Beer Garden, a cultural hub in the neighborhood’s 19th century heyday, where Cincinnati’s political bosses conducted business. This building is still standing to the south of the Kroger on Vine Street. On the Walnut Street side stood Turner Hall, the headquarters of the Turners. The Turners were a German society that emphasized gymnastics and physical fitness, which had many members immigrate to America after failed revolutions in Germany in 1848 that sought to liberalize autocratic rule. This building was unfortunately razed in 1974.
Recently, 3CDC has been transforming the immediate area into a hub for creative and tech companies, adding office space with several projects. Union Hall, a co-working space for start ups, was the first on the 1300 block of Vine Street. An office building on 14th Street came next followed by a large project at 15th and Vine that is completing construction now. In the works projects include the Behlen and Meiners buildings to the north of the Kroger store.
To keep the momentum going, a project at the Kroger site will most likely include more office with a parking garage in the interior of the block. But, an above ground garage would not make the best use of the finite space available. Instead, bisecting the block with a 40′ wide cross east-west cross street (enough for two directional travel with parking on one side and 6′ sidewalks) would unlock the space in the interior of the block. It would create more of the public street and sidewalk interface that is attracting companies to OTR in the first place. It would, in essence, create “more” Over-the-Rhine.
Adding a street here would create a 150’x 400′ block on the south side of the street and a 160’x 400′ block on the north side of the street. These sizes are comparable to other blocks in Over-the-Rhine (the block bounded by 14th, 15th, Republic and Vine is about 175′ x 380′, oriented in the other direction.) Blocks of this size keep things interesting by giving pedestrians many different routes to traverse the neighborhood.
A three bay, 180’x200′ underground garage could fit in the middle of the block under the new street and two new office infill buildings. A new alley to 15th street could provide access from the garage to the new 3CDC office development on the corner (Behlen and Meiners buildings) and future redevelopment on 15th and Moore streets.
This plan would aid the rehabilitation of abandoned historic buildings on the block and even leave some outdoor space for a revival of Weilert’s Beer Garden.
Another advantage of this configuration is that it would be good for maintaining fine granularity, an essential component of a dynamic and interesting neighborhood. Some of the infill structures on the block would not be physically attached to parking garage, meaning they could be developed, owned, and managed separately.
This street could be named “Turner Street” in honor of the old Turner Hall. This would give a certain rhythm to the street names in the area (13th, Mercer, 14th, Turner, 15th.) Alternatively, the new street could be named “14.5 Street” which may help brand the area as a place for tech and creative companies.