One of Cincinnati's great rock rooms is plotting its revival.
An expansion of the Bogart's club is among a half-dozen projects being pursued by the Uptown Consortium, a development agency that has been working on the revitalization of Corryville's Short Vine business district since 2004.
"Short Vine used to be a regional draw for live entertainment and retail. We'd like to bring back the good old days," said Tony Brown, CEO of the nonprofit group, funded by Clifton-area hospitals and the University of Cincinnati .
Bogart's owner Al Porkolab said he is "cautiously optimistic" that an expansion will work. It involves construction of a parking deck behind Bogart's, facilitating its expansion from its current capacity of 1,500 to 2,000. The deck would include a "punch through" to let pedestrians walk from the park deck to Vine Street, near the entrance to Bogart's.
The larger venue, Porkolab said, would let Bogart's offer bigger booking guarantees to touring bands. Its design would allow downsizing the room for smaller shows.
"It's a great rock room. There's a lot of history there. It would just help the room if we had a little more space," said Kevin Blum, market manager for concert promoter Live Nation, which books shows at Bogart's.
The expansion likely would cost several million dollars, Brown said, and would greatly expand the drawing power of Bogart's, which began as a 250-seat venue in the 1970s and now draws 80,000 people to an estimated 180 events per year.
New parking decks are key
The expansion is one of several projects the Uptown Consortium hopes to jump-start with a cluster of new garages on Short Vine. It is seeking $2 million in state capital toward an estimated $20 million in costs for the facilities, which are predicted to fuel more than $100 million in private development.
The strategy comes from the group's new development consultant for Short Vine. Towne Properties LLC leads a team that was hired in December and will be paid just under $1 million. The team includes Cole + Russell Architects, Turner Construction, engineering firm Bayer Becker and retail leasing specialist Transformance Realty.
Towne Principal Arn Bortz said construction of parking facilities is a no-brainer for Short Vine, thanks to topographical features that reduce the cost of garages and the ability of parking decks to draw patrons from events at the University of Cincinnati.
Reconnecting to campus
"We're hoping to visually and physically reconnect the campus to Short Vine," Bortz said. "You want to be able to look eastward to Bogart's and see maybe an LED screen telling you who's entertaining there."
A new garage also is contemplated as part of a $24 million hotel project on the north end of Short Vine. Developer Burgess Doan and Kenwood's JFP Group recently announced plans to build a Hampton Inn & Suites on the site, along with an IHOP restaurant and Starbucks. Nearby, Bortz would like a 90-car parking deck on the east side of Vine Street, near University Avenue and Seminole Street. That garage could support private development. Neighborhood leaders have touted a movie theater as a top tenant they'd like to attract.
"I'm hoping it's like a college version of Rookwood Commons," said Clyde Nowlin, president of the Corryville Community Council. "In the '70s, when Bogart's was thriving, we had Dollar Bills, In Cahoots and Zino's. A lot of restaurant spaces have been turned into wireless stores and tattoo parlors."
The largest garage would hold 454 cars at East Corry and Vine. It would be capped by up to 110 apartments and 30,000 square feet of street-level retail, Bortz said. Towne would partner with land owners to redevelop the site.
Such a project would improve chances for a redevelopment of University Plaza. Covington-based Anchor Properties has been studying the idea since it agreed last year to buy 1960s-vintage shopping center. Anchor is said to be considering a reconfiguration that allows Short Vine to be reconnected to the rest of Vine Street.
Brown hopes all the efforts bring back pedestrian traffic and a sense of safety.
"As our retail consultant said, what we've got to do is put co-eds on the streets," he said. "When young women feel safe to walk on Vine Street, you know you've got that pedestrian vitality. We have a chance to bring the whole corridor back to life."