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$120,000 Awarded to Covington, Dayton, Newport Businesses

Duke Energy's Urban Revitalization Grants infused more than $120,000 into three River City projects.

In an announcement held at Hotel Covington, a previous recipient of such grant funding, Duke Energy Ohio/Kentucky president Jim Henning announced this year's recipients.

“Our urban cores are the hearts of our communities,” said Henning. “Today, they present opportunities for positive change and prosperity. These important collaborations will create jobs, spur additional commercial activity, and serve as hubs for these communities and their residents for generations to come.”

The funds boost projects across the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati region. This year, ten projects received a total of $307,352.

One project is in Dayton.

$51,300 was awarded for the redevelopment of a building at Sixth and Vine Streets. It will be changed from residential back to mixed-use. "This is an old building that has suffered fifty or sixty years of neglect," said Brian Boland, who plans to restore the building with his wife, Elizabeth Boland. The couple worked with the City of Dayton to change the zoning so that a mixed use purpose could be restored.

The end result will be a new coffee shop and expanded space for artists from The Lodge, which operates across the street.

"I'm very interested to bring Honduran coffee to Dayton," said Alejandra Flores, a Honduran native, who will operate the coffee shop on the first floor. "Hopefully, with all the new things coming, we will have a coffee shop next year."

For Scott Beseler, who owns and operates The Lodge, an artists' collective that provides space for musicians, photographers, painters, and more, the project means more room to fulfill his mission.

There will be a fire escape added to the first floor, which would allow for the occupancy to be upped from 150 to 250 in the ball room.

From left to right: Brian and Elizabeth Boland, Scott Beseler, and Alejandra Flores (RCN)

"I'd really like for people not to confuse us with Dayton, Ohio," Beseler said. "We'd like to shine a nice spotlight. As Bellevue has progressed, we want to keep that moving that down the line."

The project will serve as a sort of renewed gateway into Dayton from Bellevue.

In addition to repurposing the property, the Catalytic Fund, which secured the grant for the applicants, hopes the work encourages surrounding property owners to invest in their own properties, too.

The Catalytic Fund also worked with Newport's Incubator Kitchen Collective for its Newport Food Port. That project received $18,200.


Incubator Kitchen Collective (IKC) is a nonprofit in Newport that helps Greater Cincinnati food entrepreneurs and startups overcome barriers that can prevent local food businesses from getting off the ground. IKC, at its warehouse space located at 517 West 7th Street in Newport, has helped more than 50 small businesses grow and realize their potential. The Catalytic Fund is working with IKC to expand its kitchen facility so the group can increase occupancy and output, and create direct and indirect jobs.

"The space is so big and we know we can do better," said founder Rachel DesRochers. "We will be able to help more food entrepreneurs start their own businesses and grow their own businesses."

Road ID was awarded $50,000 for its new headquarters in Covington, which will be located inside a newly renovated 1894 industrial building that was previously the primary home for H. Johnson Moving & Storage. CEO Edward Wimmer said that his grandfather, who owned a commercial building on the Covington riverfront where the RiverCenter towers now stand, was instrumental in restoring and lighting the Roebling Suspension Bridge, while his father founded the first "malon", or "male salon" in the city. In other words, fixing up old Covington properties is a family thing.

Edward Wimmer accepts his grant award (RCN)

"It's so much fun to be able to bring our company here," he said. Road ID creates identifying bracelets and other items, used by runners and cyclists in case of an accident. 

When completed, the renovated building may also house a retail storefront on the first floor, Wimmer said. 

Since 2011, Duke Energy has provided $1.88 million in Urban Revitalization funding to 58 projects in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky. Projects include Braxton Brewing Company, Madcap Puppet Theater, Carabello Coffee, Cincinnati State’s Middletown campus, and Gateway Community & Technical College’s Urban Metro campus. 

Today’s grant announcement was held at Hotel Covington, which received an Urban Revitalization grant in 2013. The event featured each grant recipient, as well as Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, Covington Mayor Joe Meyer, Hotel Covington developer Guy van Rooyen, Jim Henning and Duke Energy Executive Vice President Julie Janson. Janson previously served as president of Duke Energy Ohio/Kentucky from 2008 to 2012.

Guy van Rooyen welcomes guests to Hotel Covington (RCN)

The Ohio winners, with summaries by Duke Energy, include:

Community Improvement Corporation of Silverton
$35,000 for Silverton Brewing Company

The Community Improvement Corporation of Silverton’s grant will actually facilitate two redevelopment projects along Montgomery and Plainfield roads in the village’s central business district. First, it will help the Silverton Brewing Company repurpose the historic Silverton Memorial Municipal Building into a craft brewery, restaurant and taproom. Second, the grant will contribute toward the Village of Silverton’s plans to repurpose a former funeral home into a new village administration building.

Downtown Middletown Inc.
$15,400 for Snider Building

Downtown Middletown’s Snider Building – also known as the Sunshine Building – is a critical component of the rebirth of the city’s urban core. Once renovated, the building will house a microbrewery and taproom, anchor the revitalization of the downtown business district and lead to more than 40 new jobs. Also, the microbrewery will give students in Cincinnati State’s new brewery program critical hands-on experience.

Downtown Middletown Inc.
$18,700 for Manchester Building

The reincarnation of the Manchester Hotel in downtown Middletown will serve as an anchor and catalyst in the redevelopment of the city’s urban core. The 70-room, full-service boutique hotel and conference center will lead to 70 new jobs. The hotel will also partner with Cincinnati State so students studying culinary arts and hospitality will be able to get hands-on experience unavailable at any other college in the area.

Hamilton County Development Corp.
$20,000 for small business coaching in Reading

Hamilton County Development Corp. will match business experts with local business owners for one-on-one coaching. The goal is to help businesses refine their business plans, sharpen marketing, improve operations and grow. Reading is home to one of the largest wedding districts in the United States, hosting 54 wedding merchants serving a full range of bridal needs.

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful
$30,000 for community resources to revamp vacant lots

Vacant lots are at the forefront of the discussion on development and will continue to play a vital role in the long-term vision and planning of Cincinnati’s communities. Keep Cincinnati Beautiful will use its grant money to create the Duke Energy Learning Lot (DELL) program, which will be a comprehensive community-based workshop series and toolkit designed to help neighborhoods strategically restore and enhance vacant lots into socially, culturally and environmentally responsible assets. Keep Cincinnati Beautiful will also engage local schools to get students outside, learning about environmental issues and STEM-related studies on green infrastructure – exposing students to issues surrounding the environment through curriculum-based environmental classroom education, field trips and service learning projects.

Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation Inc.
$35,000 for pre-development of former grocery store property

Walnut Hills became a food desert earlier this year when the local grocery store closed its doors after 30 years. Now, the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation is partnering with the community to determine how to best use the property moving forward. The Urban Revitalization grant will be put toward community engagement, architectural design and an RFP process that will be informed by the community.

Westwood Community Urban Redevelopment Corp.
$33,752 for redevelopment of Firehouse No. 35

Historic Firehouse No. 35 building is a mainstay in the Westwood Historic Business District. The community’s urban redevelopment group has targeted the site for a new family-friendly restaurant that will serve as a destination anchor – alongside the Madcap Center and West Side Brewing. Such a restaurant will fill an unmet need for community members, create jobs and attract additional visitors and businesses.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Top photo: New Road ID headquarters under construction at right, across from construction of Duveneck Square apartment project on left (RCN)