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The WVXU News Department presents a special series on the opening of the new Horseshoe Casino, exploring issues like security, parking, development around the area, gambling addiction, and much more.

New Cincinnati casino leads to neighborhood improvements

Many people have watched as the Broadway Commons was transformed from a parking lot into a $400 million casino complex that is planning to open its doors to the public next Monday.

What they may not have noticed is that the casino project has transformed the long-neglected neighborhood of Pendleton, just across Reading Road from Horseshoe Casino.

Community Council President David White said before the recent improvements streets and sidewalks in the historic area were crumbling. 

“These spots are all new street trees, where we did not have the ability to add street trees before because the sidewalks were to narrow,” said White, standing at the corner of Pendleton and East 12th.  “And you’ll see that not only the sidewalks were expanded, but also all of these overhead wires will go underground, as soon as, that’ll be the last thing that they do, they’ll cut the poles off and run everything underground.”

And there were some little touches that brought back history.

“These are the old granite curbs, a lot of them were ripped out over the years.  And they were able to replace these for us.  So that was one big thing that the community wanted,” White said.  “Before we had all of these overhead, typical overhead street lights off the utility poles, and now we have these beautiful street lights, which are ten times brighter.”

The city budgeted about $6 million for the neighborhood work.  The funds come from Tax Increment Financing or TIF. 

White said an upcoming project will remake a plaza in front of the Verdin Bell Event Center at Spring Street and East 12th.

“You can see the playground equipment, but you can’t see all of it,” White said.  “About half of it is hidden below a wall there and so we’re looking to kind of take out some of the grade change and make this area a little safer, a little greener, a little nicer for everyone.”

White said in the future he would like to have more businesses in the neighborhood.

“Like restaurants, services, dry cleaners, those sorts of things we don’t have,” White said.  “There’s no Laundromat in the neighborhood currently and I think that’s not good.  And so I would love to have with a greater amount of people, I hope that we can bring more services, more businesses into the neighborhood.”

Most of the city's focus so far has been on the Pendleton improvements.  But projects are also planned for the Downtown Central Business District and Over-the-Rhine. 

One OTR plan involves 13th Street between Main and Vine.  It would include new sidewalks, trees and signs plus converting 13th to two-way traffic in that area. 

OTR Community Council President Peter Hames said an upcoming focus could be on re-making Liberty Street.

“Looking at how to change Liberty to more reflect its current use and then eliminate it as a barrier between north and south in Over-the-Rhine,” Hames said.  “I think there’s some psychological barrier there.  I think we are going to work on that.”

Hames credited city officials and casino representatives for reaching out to the communities near the new facility. 

Pendleton’s David White said it’s about connectivity.

“The connection, especially from the casino up Pendleton Street to the Pendleton Arts Center is something that’s very important to all of us in the community as well as the artist there,” White said.  “That’s one of our greatest assets here in the neighborhood.  And being able to pull casino goers from the casino up to the Pendleton Arts Center on a 'Final Friday' would be huge.”

That was one of the city's goals for the projects too.  Michael Moore is the city's Transportation and Engineering Director.

“We not only wanted to put sort of the best foot forward around the area, but we also wanted to like I said create a way that we could extend a visitor’s experience beyond just the casino,” Moore said.

Moore said that includes using public art to guide people.

“Probably the biggest component of that is we’ve partnered with ArtWorks, who went out and successfully got an “Our Town” grant in from the National Endowment for the Arts to do some placed based art there,” Moore said.  “So the bump-outs that you see right at the corners, will be a place where we can get art that’ll help sort of be the beacons to kind of draw people up and into the neighborhoods from the casino.”

The city also redid Reading Road to handle the increased traffic near the casino.  It's now wider with more lanes, islands, turn lanes, upgraded signals and wider sidewalks. 

There's also $2 million on hold to address any neighborhood problems that may arise after the casino opens.

Casino Area Infrastructure Plan as of October 25, 2011

Updated Infrastructure Plan as of February 2013

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.