CINCINNATI — Mayor John Cranley and Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) want to make permanent some of the temporary measures the city took last spring to foster more outdoor dining options during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The $2 million plan -- intended to "support local restaurants and increase outdoor dining options when warmer weather arrives in the spring" -- will establish "streateries" at various locations throughout the urban core where restaurants could benefit from expanded patio seating. The spaces will consist of constructing concrete curb bump-outs, expanding sidewalks and repurposing on-street parking spaces into elevated parklets.
"We are going to build between now and the springtime the most pedestrian-friendly, outdoor dining-friendly, walkable downtown in the Midwest by far," Cranley said during a news conference Friday afternoon. "My goal is, when people come back down here...people won't even recognize how much the streetscape, the walkability, has improved, and not just improved in the abstract, but adjacent to and supporting these wonderful restaurants."
Kathy Kline of Montgomery was visiting Over-the-Rhine Friday and said she was pleased to hear the news.
"I think it's a great idea. I think you'll draw a lot of people, especially with the nice weather," she told WCPO. "Since the pandemic started, we prefer to be outdoors actually. So we've been doing that quite a bit. That's our first preference."
Cranley said 25 bars and restaurants throughout the districts already qualify for curb extensions or parklets; although, other establishments that currently do not have outdoor seating can also apply for funding through 3CDC.
View a diagram of the proposed locations here or in the viewer below:
In addition to installing parklets and expanded curbside, Cranley and 3CDC's plan calls for permanently closing portions of these OTR and Pendleton streets:
- 15th Street between Vine Street and Parvis Alley
- 15th Street between Race Street and Goose Alley
- 14th Street between Race and Republic streets
- Broadway Street between 12th and 13th streets
The city primarily would finance the "streateries" with additional funding coming from nonprofit organizations, the Devou Good Foundation, the Duke Energy Foundation and the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation.
Cranley said he hopes to have the necessary legislation before City Council before January.
In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cranley spearheaded the city's Outdoor Street Dining program, which included closing some OTR streets to vehicle traffic and repurposing some on-street parking spaces in order to expand restaurants' patio seating accommodations.
The 25 establishments already approved for streetscape improvements are the same who applied for these previous, temporary measures.
At the time, as restaurants prepared to reopen to dine-in business, the outdoor seating expansions allowed some of the neighborhoods' smaller restaurants to accommodate enough customers to justify reopening while also observing social distancing guidelines.
Some OTR residents, however, said the outdoor seating expansion cut into valuable parking and made it difficult or impossible for some to benefit from the neighborhood's residential parking permit program.
Cranley addressed the issue of parking Friday: "No one likes to deal with parking annoyances. At the same time, if you've got a parking problem that's usually a good sign. It means that people are trying to get downtown."
Cranley then elaborated saying residents have "no entitlement to parking on city-owned streets."
"There are plenty of garages, especially for people who live down here. We will certainly work with them as they come down here, but people who have bought into and rent in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine were essentially moving into an urban environment that's not about having a car in a garage right next to your home," he said. "So it's a different lifestyle choice, and if people want to have their car in a garage or in a driveway, they'll probably pick a different neighborhood."
Watch Friday's full news conference here: