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Making Over-the-Rhine a little more "pleasant"

by User Not Found | Sep 24, 2015

At UCRI, we thrive on powering and inspiring innovation. Our various centers help businesses tap into the world-class expertise found around virtually every corner at the University of Cincinnati.

One of the latest examples of this innovation recently came to life through MetroLAB in one of Cincinnati’s fastest growing communities: Over-the-Rhine (OTR).

For the uninitiated, the goal of MetroLAB is to design, construct, research and evaluate innovative projects that support the infrastructure and development of the built environment. It combines students and faculty from the UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) and across the University with local, national and international communities, developers and stakeholders

In their latest venture, MetroLAB partnered with several groups including the Corporation for Findlay MarketPeoples Liberty (the outreach arm of the Haile Foundation), and the OTR Community Council to explore how Pleasant Street could become a more pedestrian-friendly experience.

The design process emerged from collaborative conversations with long-time Pleasant Street residents, the Corporation for Findlay Market, faculty and students from the School of Planning, School of Art and many others. This summer, MetroLAB hosted three public community engagement events to help properly shape the project.

The first event was designed to give students direct contact with community members using interactive stations to find out three important things:

- Who is Pleasant?
- What’s pleasant about Pleasant?
- What would make Pleasant more pleasant in the future?

Residents said they don’t want more murals. They want permanent, functional elements on the street with safe, well-lit areas that are enjoyable to walk down. From these interactions came four primary elements that led to further discussion and additional brainstorming:

- Expanded seating
- Lighting/security
- Cooking/dining
- Play spaces for the kids

For their second event, MetroLAB students then began building full-scale prototype elements such as interactive cooking stations, playgrounds, and Parklets to implement and test. If you’re wondering what a Parklet is – it is, in effect, an extension of the sidewalk into the street, exchanging a private auto space for additional public gathering space.

These various concepts were tested in four different places on Pleasant Street during a third and final event on July 11, receiving rave reviews. Hundreds of people flocked to participate and offered extremely helpful feedback. Out of these summer events emerged a final Parklet design that MetroLAB hopes to construct and implement in the spring of 2016. It is, indeed, very exciting progress for a rapidly budding urban living environment and we’re excited to be a part of its evolution.

Not surprisingly, this project is garnering attention from more than just the Pleasant Street community. Both the Cincinnati Business Courier and Urban Cincy have reported on MetroLAB’s efforts.

To learn more about MetroLAB – or to see how UCRI can help spark innovation with your business – visit their website or contact us at connect@ucri.org.

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