Best Of 2022

A changing of the guard has arrived. By defeating opponent and longtime politician David Mann in November’s election, the 39-year-old Aftab Pureval cemented two important firsts: the first new mayor since former mayor John Cranley took office two terms ago, and Cincinnati’s first Asian American mayor. City Council member and Cincinnati Herald publisher Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney joined Pureval’s administration as vice mayor, and both have promised — and shown — an understanding of Cincinnati’s inequities as well as a commitment to alleviating them. Likewise, six of Cincinnati’s nine City Council seats were taken by newcomers, introducing fresh perspectives for tackling Cincinnati’s issues.
Brent Spence Bridge
Photo: Creative Commons
Brent Spence Bridge

We all know the Brent Spence Bridge, which carries the freight equivalent of 3% of the nation’s gross domestic product according to the National Association of Manufacturers, is in dire need of improvements and repair after seven decades in existence. Opened in 1963, the bridge moves traffic north and south on I-71 and I-75 across the Ohio River. For decades, it has been a source of daily traffic jams, extended safety and maintenance projects, and efficiency failures. In February, the American Transportation Research Institute named the I-71 and I-75 confluence at the Brent Spence Bridge the second-worst truck bottleneck in the entire country — the same ranking as in 2021 and three spots higher than in 2020. For about eight months beginning last March, the Brent Spence Bridge closed half its lanes for maintenance, and finally reopened to regular traffic on Nov. 8. And last April, CNN even explored the history of politicians failing for decades to address the Brent Spence Bridge’s long-standing issues. But the trouble spot may finally get its glow-up, thanks to heavy alignment from Ohio and Kentucky leaders. In February, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a memorandum of understanding outlining plans to jointly apply for and use federal dollars to revamp Greater Cincinnati’s longtime traffic nuisance. Plans from the Ohio and Kentucky transportation teams call for the Brent Spence Bridge to be repaired while a toll-free companion bridge is erected nearby to help alleviate traffic. Beshear said that he and DeWine would jointly request a total of about $2 billion for the project. “There is no bridge in this country that is as necessary and needing of a change,” DeWine said. Yeah, you’re telling us.
Oh, Ohio, we sure do love your nerve. Every year, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles releases its list of vanity-plate applications that it rejects for being too suggestive, hostile, racist or violent. The 827 application dismissals in 2021 were as laugh-inducing as ever, with many focused on bodily parts and functions. Last year, the BMV did not permit references to butts (IATEASS, AXEHOLE), breasts (TITSOUT, B00B33S), penises (NCE COK, SMOLL PP) or sexytime (MLF LVR, BND OVR). Our personal favorite? PORK N IT, which is gently crude enough to fit in at a high school locker room while also giving a nice nod to Cincinnati’s obsession with pigs.
Where would we be during this pandemic without the many hillside steps that let us get some fresh air and exercise without having to be in extended proximity to big crowds? Cincinnati Art Museum’s nicely landscaped Art Climb, which debuted in 2020, got most of the attention, but it’s hard to beat the Main Street Steps, all 354 of them, for best overall stair-stepping experience. Connecting Mulberry Street in Over-the-Rhine with Jackson Hill Park in Mount Auburn, it’s quite a scenic trip up, cutting through thickets of green foliage and across narrow, hillside-clinging residential streets where homes have backyards full of all sorts of funky, colorful adornments. You’re not isolated either — people use the stairway for exercise and pedestrian commuting. But they keep moving.
After a developer proposed demolishing a portion of Glendale’s historic Eckstein School in order to adapt what remained into senior housing, Cincinnati Preservation Association stepped in to save the whole structure by committing to purchase the building. The school educated the village’s Black children during the segregation years of 1915-1958 and also served as an activity center for all of the village’s Black residents. There have long been efforts to convert the Eckstein to a cultural arts center that would tell the history of Glendale’s Black residents, and the preservation association’s action now gives those seeking that time to finalize their plans. The save merited national attention when Brent Leggs, executive director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Culture Heritage Action Fund, labeled Eckstein School a “cultural asset important in Black American history.”
After Gertie the dog went missing in her Northside neighborhood in July, her guardian’s neighbor heard a whimpering sound coming from behind the wall of a garage. Apparently Gertie had somehow become trapped between the cinder-block wall and the original wall of the garage — an area so tight that the dog could not move laterally. The Cincinnati Fire Department was called, but they initially were unable to lift the 35-pound white terrier mix due to the size of the space. The squad then beat the cinder-block wall with a sledgehammer until they broke all the way through. Jenn Adkins, a Cincinnati firefighter, was finally able to get through to Gertie, reaching in and pulling her to safety.
Any beer is really the best beer at The Banks after the development of the area’s DORA district. The 85-acre “Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area” officially opened last March and allows those of legal drinking age to wander around a specific space with an open container. The Banks’ DORA spans from Paul Brown Stadium to Heritage Bank Center and to the south sidewalk of Second Street and north sidewalk of Mehring Way. It is open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily, meaning you can grab a beer, wine or cocktail from participating businesses in a branded DORA cup and have a picnic or take a walk while you imbibe. The new boozy rules came in especially handy during this year’s Bengals pep rallies. The Banks isn’t the only DORA in town, either. Neighborhoods like Cheviot, Milford, Bellevue and more also have areas where you can grab an alcoholic beverage to sip while you stroll.
This fall saw the groundbreaking for a statue of Cincinnati hero and world heavyweight boxing champion Ezzard Charles. The 13-foot-tall statue will honor Charles’ legacy and should be fully in place at its home Laurel Park in the West End in 2022. John Hebenstreit, who also designed the Black Brigade monument in Smale Riverfront Park, began sculpting the statue in 2017, the Cincinnati Parks Foundation says. The plaza surrounding it will be designed by CHAATRIK Architecture & Urban Design.
Can you imagine Shamu the killer whale owning the Beast? It could have happened, had Cedar Fair — the company that owns Kings Island and other amusement parks — accepted SeaWorld’s offer to buy its whole portfolio. But in February, Cedar Fair turned down the reported $3.4 billion cash offer to be acquired, keeping Kings Island’s ownership right here in Ohio (Cedar Fair is based in Sandusky). That’s a win for Cincinnati, because who knows what SeaWorld might have done to our beloved park in Mason. Besides, SeaWorld already had its chance in the Buckeye State when the Florida-based company ran — and later closed — a mind-boggling location in Cleveland decades ago.
It was a ready-made joke just begging for a punchline. In November, two officers from the Cincinnati Police Department responded to a call to help capture a skittish runaway pig in Bond Hill. A Facebook video shows the officers following the piggy around some apartment buildings on Yarmouth Avenue, chuckling as they tried to complete their latest assignment; the only thing missing was “Yakety Sax” as the soundtrack. CPD eventually captured the pig with a leash and wrestled him into their cruiser. And why was a pig wandering in an urban neighborhood in the first place? We’re still not sure, but folks at the Cincinnati Animal CARE Humane Society, where CPD brought the little guy, said that “Oinker” was a frequent visitor.
There aren’t enough fully fenced playgrounds in the world. But, in Hamilton County, we’re lucky to have a few. West Fork Park Playground is one option. With swings and zipline-like features, plus tunnels and slides built into hills, the park offers up a full afternoon of fun. The best part? The colorful “glass” maze with rainbow panels low enough for parents to see and steer their kiddos without taking away the mystery and fun for littles.
Street safety has been a growing concern in Cincinnati neighborhoods in recent years, with the number of automobile-pedestrian crashes, injuries and deaths rising. Speeding vehicles typically are the culprits, and local leaders are enacting measures to try to curb the practice. A speed-reduction pilot program in Winton Hills has proven effective, with average vehicle speeds dropping from 37 mph to 20 mph on Winneste Avenue thanks to a trial run of temporary speed cushions. Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation and Engineering will make the program permanent in Winton Hills and then expand the practice to other neighborhoods.
It’s kind of nuts that it needs to be said, but here we go: Urine isn’t a magical COVID-19 cure. Unfortunately, Dr. Jon Klein — the vice dean for research at University of Louisville Medical School and an expert in kidneys — had to spell this out in what became a viral tweet in January, as anti-vaxxers vehemently claimed that drinking pee was “the antidote to COVID.” We could picture Klein rolling his eyes as he watched the “urine therapy” movement build before finally sighing and tweeting, “I’m a kidney doctor. I’ve studied how the kidneys make urine for 39 years. Do not, I repeat do not, drink urine to treat COVID. That is all.” That’s the Lord’s work.
Cincy Shirt's Beshear design
Cincy Shirt's Beshear design

We’ve made no bones about our crush on Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. Honestly, doyou blame us? He’s one of the few state leaders in the country under age 50, his decisions are based on actual data and science, and he’s cute as hell. Our love for the Commonwealth’s hottest man only grew when Cincy Shirts debuted its latest creation last year: a photoshopped, shirtless pic of a ripped Beshear with the words “Kentucky’s Governing Body” plastered onto the bottom. Yes, we know the local company took liberties with Beshear’s image, but we’d be lying if it didn’t make us want to admit the governor into our own statehood.
Anyone else feel like playgrounds are terrifying? The parking lot. The strangers. The strange way playground equipment just ends in midair, with drop-offs above your head, as if most 5-year-olds can totally handle a fire pole. Enter Makino Park. Not only is it entirely fenced in and surrounded by soft rubber, but much of the equipment is totally accessible. That means your child who uses a wheelchair can roll onto a cool glider. It also means a babysitting grandma can maneuver her electric scooter onto the jungle gym when chasing a defiant 3-year-old. Makino Park is fun and colorful, with multiple play areas geared toward various ages and abilities. It’s practically in Never Never Land, all the way up in Mason, but absolutely worth the drive.
Cincy PHLUSH wants to see more public restrooms in Cincinnati, such as this one in Smale Riverfront Park.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Cincy PHLUSH wants to see more public restrooms in Cincinnati, such as this one in Smale Riverfront Park.

Everybody pees. Everybody poops. Why, then, aren’t there enough public restrooms in which to take care of business? PHLUSH — or Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human — is looking to change that. The organization, helmed regionally by Jason Haap and Justin Jeffre, advocates for equitable public toilet availability in an effort to change the way Cincinnati looks at one of our most basic needs. From unhoused community members to pregnant people to folks with health issues, many Cincinnati residents and visitors need quick access to facilities without being forced to buy items in a shop or deal with limited hours. Pointing to the success of the free Portland Loo public toilet in Smale Riverfront Park, Haap and Jeffre have been getting endorsements from government leaders and civic organizations to improve restroom accessibility. We’re looking forward to the day when everyone in Cincinnati can find sweet relief.
The year 2020 was a dark one, as the onset of the coronavirus pandemic claimed hundreds of thousands of lives with few remedies in sight. But 2021 brought hope with the release of three FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. Later, there was even more good news as booster shots became available. Scientific trials and data models showed that these boosters could be administered about six months after the initial vaccination, and they provided even more protection against severe illness, hospitalization and even death from COVID. And even though vaccinated people still may get COVID, their cases are much more manageable, health experts say. Data shows that the majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths since the vaccines and boosters became available have been in people who have not been vaccinated.
3CDC unveiled its $5.5 million Court Street Plaza revitalization project in 2021. The plaza — located on Court Street between Vine and Walnut streets — is a pedestrian-friendly urban promenade with enough space to accommodate outdoor dining, events and pop-ups. With wide sidewalks and a “festival-style street,” the area can easily be closed to cars and vehicle traffic as needed. Court Street Plaza also features public art, like a mural by local artist Gee Horton, two illuminated geometric sculptures by artists Yelena Filipchuk and Serge Beaulieu, and an old cast-iron flower cart that originally stood on Fountain Square in the 1800s. The redevelopment has also welcomed a slew of bars and restaurants, including the tropical Pilar, cozy Mid-City and a revamped storefront for the historic Avril-Bleh Meat Market.
Cherry trees in bloom at Ault Park
Photo: Cincinnati Parks
Cherry trees in bloom at Ault Park

There’s no better way to say goodbye to winter than by welcoming spring under Ault Park’s cherry blossom trees. According to Cincinnati Parks’ website, 1,000 Japanese cherry blossom trees were gifted to the city in the 1930s; and in 2008, 121 Somei Yoshino trees were planted by the Japan America Society. Come March and April, park-goers are now greeted by the beautiful weeping, pale pink wonders in multiple of the park’s groves. If you pack a picnic, be prepared to stake out a spot, as Ault Park’s blooms attract crowds of onlookers, painters and photographers.
Look up the next time you walk by Music Hall to see 10 sandstone finials newly restored by the Friends of Music Hall. Built in 1878, the decorative ornamentations were damaged or went missing from their perch on the roof. Also restored was a sandstone lyre, an ancient symbol of music, fittingly placed in the center of the façade. Music Hall soars over the row houses in Over-the-Rhine and now its distinctive silhouette, restored to its original design, makes this National Historic Landmark once again an exceptional example of High Victorian Gothic architecture. Architect Samuel Hannaford would be pleased to know we still admire and respect his architectural masterpiece. The project was spearheaded by Thea Tjepkema, a historic preservationist and board member of the Friends of Music Hall, a nonprofit with a mission to promote and preserve Music Hall.