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Ludlow May Tap Cincinnati Talent for Ambitious Sesquicentennial Lagoon Project

"I believe it will get national, international coverage. I think there is a ton of publications and media that would jump all over that."

The City of Ludlow may make a splash where some of its most cherished splashes were made. The site of the former Ludlow Lagoon Amusement Park, now a vacant swath of eighty acres could become the temporary home of a sprawling piece of art celebrating the city's 150th anniversary.

City administrator Brian Richmond brought in some top-notch talent from across the river in Cincinnati for Thursday's city council meeting to make a presentation on the plans. Josh Heuser of AGAR, an Over-the-Rhine-based promotional firm, was heavily involved in the social media presence of that Cincinnati neighborhood's wildly successful Lumenocity event, a dazzling light and music display at historic Music Hall.

On Thursday, Heuser was joined by a pair of mural and sign specialists from Cincinnati-based Higher Level Art to present their ambitious plans for "Scratch the Surface", an enormous mural that instead of a wall would be etched in the dirt where the Lagoon once bustled in the early Twentieth Century.

"We want this to show up on Google maps when they take pictures (from space), we want (WCPO's) Chopper 9 to fly over and take pics," Heuser said. "This space is as big as Paul Brown Stadium. The magnitude of the space is what will ultimately sell the PR."

Heuser called the former Lagoon site the largest piece of undeveloped land near Downtown Cincinnati and said something as high-reaching as Scratch the Surface would not only create widespread buzz but could also generate interest in future development opportunities.

"This is really shedding light on your anniversary of the City of Ludlow and how to scratch the surface of what could be with new developments in the city," Heuser told the city council. "When I walked the streets with (Mayor) Ken (Wynn) and Brian (Richmond), it showed me a lot of properties that could be potentially developed. There is a lot of history within Ludlow that maybe outsiders are unaware of so we wanted to create a concept that both celebrated the anniversary but also shed light on potential developments."

Richmond was attracted to AGAR after seeing the buzz created around Lumenocity. "It was such an amazing thing," Richmond said. "I was out of town the first night but came back the next day and my Facebook feed was covered with pics of it. There was an expectation for 'x' amount of crowd and it was exponentially higher."

While some members of council expressed interest in the project, there were concerns about the cost. AGAR's proposal would cost $30,000 with an additional $10,000 estimated for maintenance.

"I think it's a cool idea. It is a little bit expensive," said Council member Joyce McMullin. "I guess my thinking is more along the line of something that would be more permanent, not just for a piece of land that is going to be developed and this artwork will be torn up. I guess I'm looking at a symbol that will bring people here that would stay."

Richmond said that the costs would not be covered by general fund monies, but instead through federally allocated community development block grant (CDBG) funds and privately raised dollars. Heuser said that volunteers and donated materials from city businesses would also help cut down on the cost. The materials to be used include truckloads of white stone.

Mayor Wynn said a special meeting would be called at a later date in the near future to take a formal vote on the proposal.

Heuser asked that the image that would be used in the project not be made public yet and The River City News is honoring that request.

If approved, the property would be surveyed in May, the mural would be mapped out in late July, build out would begin in August and volunteers would be tapped for help soon after. Mid-August is the target completion date with a reveal planned shortly after.

Weather will play a role in the plans and the project could trickle into the fall as the sesquicentennial year nears its end.

Another issue raised by council members, however, is that the artwork would be somewhat difficult to view from ground-level. It would only be able to be taken in fully from the sky. Heuser said the local experience would be attained through public participation and the economic benefits he expects to be reaped by Ludlow upon the mural's reveal.

"Lumenocity, they called that the tipping point of OTR because all these people came down there to experience the event," Heuser said. "This could be the tipping point of development in Ludlow. You're using this almost as the beacon, the Batman signal of 'look at us, come into our neighborhood'."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
 
Photo: Aerial view of Ludlow Lagoon site via Google maps