Enhancing community connections in Cincinnati, by reclaiming alleys, sidewalks, and steps for the pedestrian.
It’s amazing how much that previously (largely) unknown public alleys in Cincinnati have gained prominence in the local media, over the past few years. Since Spring in Our Steps began in 2012, depictions of alleys have found themselves in the media with regularly. Prior to our engagement, microfilm archives turned up very few samples of alley coverage, mainly as the seldom focus of preservation losses or concerns for public safety. Fortunately, the dedication of our volunteers has made waves in the community, attracting new attention to spaces that now include groups of children walking to wedding photos.
Here are a few of the walkable public corridors that made it to press:
2015: Eton Place
Our final event of the year featured a celebration in this granite paved alley, at the 1900 block of Elm Street, south of Rhinegeist Brewery. The Eton Place Alley Festival was preceded by the Street Haunts and Alley Jaunts tour, a walk through lesser known streets, tucked away public stairs, and abandoned paths. It was fortunately highlighted as one of Cincinnati CityBeat’s Recommendations/To-do, including an outdoor art installation from artist-in-residence and DAAP graduate Mary Baxter.
As an ominous vision, the feature’s tagline read, “In a rapidly transforming neighborhood like Over-the-Rhine, advocacy for historically overlooked public spaces is often left out of strategic development efforts.” The neighboring space to the south of Rhinegeist has since become home of Sartre, a wine bar and French restaurant that included rehabilitation of alley facing window openings. Just south of Eton Place, Cincinnati Brewery District LLC purchased 1906-1908 Elm with plans to develop into apartment units and a first-floor restaurant.
2016: Adrian Alley
This alley made the news in an unexpected way, with work crews excavating the brick pavement with front loaders and alarming Over-the-Rhine resident Margy Waller. Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) workers were working to remove a lead pipe for a nearby home construction. In protest, Waller stood in the way of the work crew, stopping work on Adrian Alley and prompting two supervisors to investigate. A worker allegedly claimed the hole would be filled with concrete, to which she cited the importance of the historic nature of the brick alley. The reaction was fresh off destruction of the Dennison Hotel building. [At the end of the 2015, Local 12 reported on residents of Camp Washington in protest of a sudden asphalt upgrade to Holder Alley.]
Whether repair of the alley surface was intended or not, we’ll never know. But Department of Transportation & Engineering staff informed us that a member of GCWW might have been simply misinformed, as their department reviews claims to review all digging permits involving historic pavement. They require in-kind replacement of brick and stone paving materials. Nonetheless, the spectacle brought important focus the historic attributes in our public corridors, one that continues to gain mention in preservation circles in historic neighborhoods.
2017: Drum Alley
This was a big year for Spring in Our Steps. Coming back to us from a feature he did on us in 2012, for a Sunday feature in the Enquirer’s Home and Garden section, journalist Steven Rosen reached out to feature us in a July issue of CityBeat. Our partnership project with the City of Cincinnati, the Stairway & Alley Signage Project, was finally nearing the installation stage. Good energy had been built from several events in Over-the-Rhine’s Coral and Drum Alleys, from Kleingassefest to Dead End Film Fest. The timing felt right.
The cover features Drum Alley in all its gritty glory. Other depictions include samples from the signage project, Pope Alley in Northside, and a sweeping view from atop the Frintz Street Steps. Check out the story for a list of ten alleys you should know about.
2018: Bolivar Alley
In response to the aforementioned CityBeat feature story, Blink Cincinnati partner and Pendleton Neighborhood Council vice-president Andrew Salzbrun reached out to us about a vision he had for a neighborhood alley. Bolivar Alley was overgrown, trashed, and difficult to navigate on foot. Keep Cincinnati Beautiful previously hosted a cleanup event at the alley in 2013, but the space had regressed back to an unfriendly state. Spring in Our Steps board members met with Salzbrun, during late 2017, then with ArtWorks Cincinnati in early 2018. The collective vision was a cavernous corridor of dozens of street art murals.
Spring in Our Steps volunteers and over a dozen Pendleton community partners are to thank for the rapid cleanup and support of Bolivar Alley, from March to July 2018. Subsequently, ArtWorks apprentices and Oakland-based Graffiti Camp for Girls infiltrated the space with Phase II of the New Lines project. By the end of August, Bolivar Alley took on a new life in print and online media, including a full section feature in the Sunday Enquirer in early October.