Nearly two years after acquisition, Kim Starbuck and Charles Erickson revealed their newly revived property across the street from Findlay Market. The Crown Building, which was scooped up by the pair in 2011, revealed itself to the community just days after construction resumed along the streetcar route. Track welding had ceased directly in front of the building, leaving a giant hole and makeshift footbridge along Elm Street.
A mixed-use development, The Crown will have a restaurant on the ground floor, commercial space on the second floor, and four residential apartments above. The storefront uses an innovative operable window system, the first of its kind certified by an Historic Tax Credit project.The project has also achieved LEED Silver Certification. This landmark building with a breathtaking view of Findlay Market is still looking for tenants who want to take advantage of the benefits of living near a prime streetcar stop. With the route underway, this will be the first of many new renovations of abandoned buildings north of Liberty Street.
Some Cincinnatians argue for buses instead of streetcars. Buses have no effect on development.
Because a bus route can disappear overnight. Buses also seldom attract “riders from choice” with significant disposable incomes, which is what cities need economically. Rail transportation appeals to middle-class and upper-middle-class people, who have money to spend in stores, restaurants, and theatres. Streetcars, with their investments in tracks and wires, represent a commitment from the city to lasting, high-quality transit service, that developers can count on in the years to come.
While buses usually carry only the transit dependent, rail service can appeal to riders from choice – people who have cars and can drive, but who choose to ride transit instead. Most riders from choice represent a car removed from traffic, which benefits everyone, including the person who still drives.
In terms of economic development, streetcars are silk purses and buses are sows’ ears. You can’t make one into the other, not even through an unfunded federal mandate.
We’ll take the silk, thank you.
Research by Paul Weyrich and William Lind, Free Congress Foundation
Cincinnati may have 300 feet of rail already laid in the ground for our streetcar project, yet some continue to question, “Why not build light rail or add more buses instead?”
Shelley Poticha and Gloria Ohland of Reconnecting America researched this inquiry, offering evidence contrasting streetcars from other forms of transportation:
WHY STREETCARS, WHY NOW?
Streetcar systems are uniquely suited to serve all the high density development underway in downtowns across the United States. They’re much cheaper than light rail, are hugely successful in promoting development and street life, and fit easily into built environments with little disruption to existing business, residents, and traffic.
They can provide high-quality transit service to support compact, walkable, higher-density development in small and mid-size cities that cannot afford bigger rail systems, offering the potential to significantly increase the constituency for transit in the United States.
Demographics are changing. American households are older and smaller. Singles, not families, are becoming the new majority. Combined with the problem of traffic, these changes are having a dramatic impact on the housing market, as evidenced by the renewed popularity of loft and condo projects in urban neighborhoods, many of them early streetcar suburbs such as the Central West End in St. Louis or Midtown Sacramento.
Almost every American city once had an extensive streetcar system which extended the pedestrian environment out into neighborhoods, served as collector for intercity rail systems, and stopped at every street corner to stimulate a density and intensity of uses that made for exemplary and engaging downtowns. If the high cost of providing parking drives development today, streetcars make it possible for developers to provide less parking and put their money into high quality design, building materials, and community benefits such as affordable housing and parks. Streetcars also enable more residents to give up a car, freeing up a substantial amount of money for other household expenses.
BUT…WHY NOT A BUS?
Fixed guideway transit, such as streetcars, attract more riders and serves as a greater catalyst to development than buses. Developers need the permanence of the rail investment to help reduce risk.
Fixed rail is easier to understand because potential riders see the rails in the street and know a streetcar will come by, whereas bus riders need a schedule and route map, and routes are often changed.
Streetcars and the higher quality service they provide appeal to a wider demographic range of riders, which translates into greater support and ridership.
Streetcars signify the local government’s interest in a long-term commitment to a neighborhood, which helps stimulate and enhance development and redevelopment.
- Car owners spend $9,000 a year on gas, insurance, and car maintenance.
- Streetcars are not like buses. they are easier to enter and exit from, don’t lurch in and out of traffic because they run on fixed guideways, they are quieter, less threatening to pedestrians, and don’t smell of exhaust.
- Streetcars are one-third the per-mile less cost to build than light rail; $12 million per mile compared to $30 million per mile for light rail.
- The permanence of the fixed rails, developers and investors say, helps reduce the risk and the higher density and lower parking ratios typically permitted in downtowns make projects more profitable.
- Streetcars will increase property values and stimulate business because more customers will be walking down the street. The streetcar operations will be funded by revenue raised through business-improvement districts.
- Streetcars have been proven to increase tax revenue sand sales revenues.
Messer, Prus, Delta (MPD), constructor of the Cincinnati Streetcar, today reported they have met their inclusion goal of the project, awarding 18% of construction contracts to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs). A DBE is defined as a small business owned and operated by minorities or women. recognized as socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
The contracts total more than $12.5 million to nine companies with DBE certification. MPD is building the 3.6-mile streetcar loop with total construction costs estimated at $70 million.
The streetcar project receives money from the federal government as well as local sources, and therefore, the project must use a DBE goal rather than a Small Business Enterprise (SBE) goal as seen in other locally-funded building projects.
The DBE goal for the civil construction contract for the streetcar project is 18%. The goal was based on an analysis of the highly-specialized scopes of work outlined in the construction contract, and available registered DBEs in the area. Disadvantaged businesses are involved in many areas of the construction, including: preparing streets for rail, building the Maintenance & Operations Facility, installing the street signalization and poles, and the station stops.
“MPD is committed to inclusion and we are pleased to have met the 18% DBE goal for construction contracts,” said Mark Luegering, senior vice president of Messer Construction Co. “We sought-out disadvantaged businesses during the bid period and award of contracts to play a significant role in construction and are pleased with the quality of our subcontractors.”
DBE Firms awarded contracts include:
- ABEL (Louisville, KY)
- Bansal (Fairfield, OH)
- Bowman (Marion, IN)
- Cannon (Lincoln Heights)
- Ezzie Trucking (Loveland)
- Firstar (Cincinnati)
- Jostin Construction (Walnut Hills)
- Rod Tech (North College Hill)
- TriState Construction (East Price Hill)
Construction work is on schedule to be completed fall 2016.