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  • Cincinnati main street

    Opticos-Led Charrette Succeeds in Cincinnati City Council Adoption of New Form-Based Code

    A powerful new Form-Based Code for Cincinnati, unanimously adopted on May 8 by the city council, will spur neighborhood development and preserve character in the city, putting physical form and how buildings should relate to each other and surrounding streets ahead of land use. The code, part of Cincinnati’s Plan Build Live Cincinnati initiative, will also speed up development by streamlining the permit and approval process. The effort was led by Opticos and included several years of education and community engagement, which culminated in a four-and-a-half-day citywide charrette and another four-and-a-half-day focus neighborhoods charrette.

    “We have piles and piles of vision documents, but we haven’t had a mechanism to make them reality through policy change until now, and that’s exciting,” said Kevin Wright, executive director of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, “We’re already seeing developers getting interested solely based on the idea of Form-Based Code.”

    Vice-Mayor Roxanne Qualls was the champion of the project. Qualls states, “Cincinnati now joins hundreds of cities that are using Form-Based Code to build and reinforce walkable places that create value, preserve character, and are the bedrock of Cincinnati neighborhoods’ competitive advantage,” Qualls said in a prepared release. “Cincinnati’s great neighborhoods originally were developed so that residents could walk to restaurants, groceries, retail, and meet their daily needs in their vibrant neighborhood business districts.”

    The citywide charrette was held in April and May 2012 to include the public and all Cincinnati neighborhoods in the process. City planning staff received a public review draft of the document in September of 2012. A special public hearing before the City Planning Commission was held in mid-October 2012 to explain the document and what it meant for the city.

    The neighborhood charrette, held in October and November 2012, focused on the four neighborhoods—College Hill, Madisonville, Walnut Hills, and Westwood—that stepped up to volunteer (and help finance) the implementation of the Form-Based Code in their neighborhood. Visions for these neighborhoods, along with draft regulating plans, were developed and can move forward at each neighborhood’s pace now that the text amendment of the Cincinnati Form-Based Code was approved by city council.

    Cincinnati’s Form-Based Code is one of several Cincinnati planning projects funded through a $2.4 million Community Challenge Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    Opticos worked closely with Hall Planning and Engineering, Glaserworks, and Cincinnati city staff to complete the FBC, and collaborated with UDA on the design charrettes.

    Read more about it on the Building Cincinnati website, or check out this article from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

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