(Courtesy Kennedy Heights Arts Center -

On June 14, about 150 residents, City Council members, City staff, business partners, non-profit partners and news crews gathered at the site of a vacant store building on the corner of Kennedy and Montgomery Road to celebrate momentous news: the future development of the Kennedy Heights Cultural Center.

The site of this long-vacant, former Kroger store will soon be home to a new cultural center providing a wealth of arts, cultural and educational resources for area residents and the region.

The property is less than a block from the Kennedy Heights Arts Center. It includes 4.1 acres with a 32,000 square feet, one-story building. The building features flexible, high-bay commercial space and a loading dock. The Kennedy Heights Development Corporation purchased the building in April, 2012.

The Cultural Center will include three occupant organizations:

• 14,000sf for Cincinnati Art Museum's first off-campus Outreach Center to house archived collection of art which can be viewed by the public;

• 9,000sf for the Kennedy Heights Montessori Center to re-locate their award-winning preschool program; and

• 9,000sf for Kennedy Heights Arts Center for a satellite location for expanded services.

Kennedy Heights Arts Center will develop approximately 10 artist studios in the building. The studios will be rented to individual artists and a lobby gallery will provide space for the artists to display their work.

In addition, the facility will contain a multi-purpose event center. The 2,500 sq. ft. room will support expanded arts programming. Our current facility, while a beautiful place for displaying and making visual arts, lacks appropriate space for performing arts classes and activities, thus limiting the kinds of programs we have been able to offer. This new facility will enable KHAC to expand our arts education programs to include theatre, music and dance, as well as allowing us to host small concerts, performances and other types of events. The event center will also be a place that other arts organizations can use to present programming such as art shows, performances and workshops, as well as a place for community meeetings.

The Cultural Center will be a “social enterprise” for Kennedy Heights Arts Center; that is, it will create a stream of earned revenue to support our mission-focused activities. With professional assistance from business and marketing consultants, Kennedy Heights Arts Center has developed a business plan for this new venture. Financial projections from studio and event center rental indicate that the income will cover the operating costs of the facility, as well as contribute funds to support programming costs. Thus, after the initial capital investments, the project will be self-sustaining.

Overall, the Kennedy Heights Cultural Center is a $3 million project and approximately $1.8 million has been committed to date. The partners are in the final stages of approving a design and construction schedule for Phase I of the project which will include stabilization of the building (“white box”) and site improvements. We anticipate beginning construction in early Fall, 2012. Phase II, which will include each of the partner organizations’ build out of their interior spaces, is projected to begin in early 2013 as funds are available.

The Cultural Center will not only enable Kennedy Heights Arts Center to expand its programming, it will attract individual artists and arts organizations to locate, work and offer programming in Kennedy Heights. This artist community will provide increased access to arts and cultural resources for area residents, as well as attract visitors from outside the area - creating a more vibrant, thriving neighborhood.

The redevelopment of the corner of Montgomery and Kennedy Ave. has been a top priority of the Kennedy Heights Community Council for many years. The site is the cornerstone of the neighborhood business district and has been empty and neglected for many years. The Cultural Center project is critical to the neighborhood's success in repositioning the business district from one characterized by vacant properties and check cashing places into a thriving center of business, arts and cultural diversity.

A very special thanks to the project funders to date: the City of Cincinnati; P&G Fund; John A. Schroth Family Trust, PNC Bank, Trustee; Jergens Foundation; Greater Cincinnati Foundation; Thomas Emery Memorial; Schmidlapp Foundation; Ohio Arts Council; and Kennedy Heights Community Council.

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