Mmmm, I love the smell of project renderings in the morning. And there sure are a lot of them floating around the Cincinnati development ether, including highway caps, sky rises, a street narrowing, a soccer stadium, and not one but two bridges that are redefining functional obsolescence (for the worse).
We won't get all of 'em. But if the city and county can bring even half to fruition in the next 10 years, it’ll count among the most productive decades in Cincinnati history.
1. FORT WASHINGTON WAY HIGHWAY CAPS
The riverfront redevelopment project that would become The Banks began in 1998 by reconstructing Fort Washington Way into a below-grade trench. At the time, $8 million was expended on support tiles of such strength that the highway could eventually be covered by 600-feet concrete caps, yielding nine acres of new land north of Second Street. What could go there? More green space. Or buildings fewer than five stories. But the most popular recent answer has been… Amazon.
Will it happen? Yes, just not in 2018. A $25 million DOT TIGER grant was the capping’s best chance of success. But the city and county appear to have collaborated on a different proposal instead. Namely...
2. THE WESTERN HILLS VIADUCT
Built in 1932 as part of the Union Terminal Project, the Western Hills Viaduct is critically important to 50,000 daily commutes. It’s also the more dire of two Cincinnati bridges in need of replacement or repair. The choice here is replacement because, to put it mildly, ODOT isn’t wild about what's already there. For our purposes, a new viaduct with bike paths would catalyze development in South Fairmont (where MSD’s already making waves) and the West End’s Brighton area.
Will it happen? Depends. That TIGER proposal faces stiff competition, but the city’s D.C. lobbyist has signaled it will be positively received. At least the county’s matching fund source has been identified in a $5 car registration fee.
3. KROGER AND SKYHOUSE
Why lump these seemingly unrelated projects together? Because they’ll both dramatically improve Cincinnati’s skyline. Because, by happenstance, they were approved by city council on the same day, June 28. And because, well, they’re happening! That is, the 18-story Kroger/garage/apartment tower smack dab in the center of Downtown already has a crane up. Meanwhile, groundbreaking on the 25-story Skyhouse riverfront apartment tower is slated for December.
Will it happen? Yes!
4. FOURTH AND RACE
…in other news, the Pogue Garage was torn down last year. This summer, construction was supposed to have begun on its replacement, a 14-story parking-centric, mixed-use development. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Then, it was reported groundbreaking won't occur at all this year... So now it's just an unsightly vacant lot. But let’s focus on the potential: A revitalized Fourth Street, hundreds more Downtown residents, and a slight change in the city’s skyline.
Will it happen? Yes, because it sort of has to at this point. But not until 2018, at the earliest. And maybe not with the same design as presently exists.
5. UPTOWN INNOVATION CORRIDOR, ET AL
The I-71/MLK interchange just opened. Now, as expected, development is descending. Uptown Consortium’s Innovation Corridor leads the way with its promise of groundbreaking research and innovation alongside retail, housing, and walkable neighborhoods. Private developers are snatching up land, too, with developments on the north and south sides of MLK, hinting at hotels, mixed-use buildings, and just under 11 billion square feet of office space.
Will it happen? UC is already underway with a new neuroscience institute and a new innovation hub. Expect other projects to be announced next year.
6. THE NEWPORT SKYWHEEL
If ever there was a project that spoke for itself… Newport’s proposed $10 million SkyWheel will sit on the riverfront flood wall between Mitchell’s Fish Market and Newport Aquarium. It’ll be 250 feet tall with 30 gondolas, and it’s expected to take 500,000 riders on its wild ride every year.
Will it happen? Seems like it. The city of Newport is just waiting on approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Maybe it gets up and spinning end of next year.
7. LIBERTY STREET NARROWING
OTR is split by a massive Liberty Street. But what if we could narrow it? Luckily, such a plan is already in the works. (Call it a "road diet" and earn five urbanist cool points, to be redeemed at participating Downtown bodegas.) The plan would increase developable land as well as create pedestrian-friendly curb bump-outs. It would also create a seamless walkable environment from Central Avenue to McMicken.
Will it happen? Sort-of, maybe. Seems like Casino tax proceeds are earmarked for it, seems like 3CDC is acquiring the relevant parcels, but it doesn't come up much in reporting or council committee agenda. Probably indicates there are significant engineering hurdles.
8. LYTLE PARK
Lytle Park’s corporate stewards don't suffer from a lack of vision. On the contrary, Western & Southern has called the area home since 1901, and it sees bigger and better things ahead. What those things are, we don’t know. But until we find out, why not hop on CAGIS and count up the area's many, diverse property owners? (Hint: You won't need two hands.)
Will it happen? Will what happen, is the question... A new headquarters for Western & Southern? A few residential towers? Perhaps. But if not, someone went to an awful lot of trouble altering a historic district for nothing.
9. THE IRS SITE
Talk about inefficient land use. Covington’s IRS site is a whopping 23 acres of newly developable space—or, at least, it will be when the IRS vacates the premises in 2019. By then, Covington’s mixed-use River Haus will be complete, as will a few other large renovations, meaning whatever comes of the IRS site will likely settle into an already growing area.
Will it happen? Yes, but barring an Amazonian miracle, it’ll be a while.
10. THE DUKE ENERGY CONVENTION CENTER/MILLENIUM HOTEL
Criticism abounds for the city’s largest convention space and its accompanying Millennium Hotel. Doesn’t mean business is bad. But the facilities are aging, and they’re smaller than those of our peer cities. Well, renderings leaked to the Business Courier in February 2017 depicting a remodeled hotel, so that’s something. And county commissioner Todd Portune has listed the convention center/hotel renovation among the county’s “big box” projects, so that’s something too.
Will it happen? Yes, but it's hard to say when.
11. MLS STADIUM
Jolly if FC Cincinnati’s stadium ends up on this side of the Mason-Dixon Line, but odds are it slides into the Ovation site instead. What’s the Ovation site? It’s the large fallow stretch of land on the eastern banks of the Licking River. A large mixed-use residential project was teased around 2008, but the recession hit and it's been advertisement-by-press release ever since. That is, until FC Cincinnati started doin’ its thing. Now it seems likely the stadium goes there with a residential development to round out the TIF revenue. (Condolences to the Build It Here crew.)
Will it happen? We’ll find out in November and December when the stadium location is finalized, when the MLS expansion bid is decided, and when we can all stop being so bumfuzzled.
12. BRENT SPENCE
Hello, darkness my old friend... Yes, we come to it at last. Though there's not much to do here but gawk at the amount of land we could get back from the I-75 spaghetti monster.
Will it happen? Lol, you must be new here.