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Environment

Banks stakeholders are proposing a new park

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Phil Castellini
An artist's rendition of what the center of Gateway to Freedom Park could look like, as presented to city council.

The Banks could get new park space. A consortium of Banks stakeholders is proposing closing off the street in front of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and creating the Gateway to Freedom Park.

Reds Chief Operating Officer Phil Castellini says the idea is to create a pedestrian-friendly plaza that will draw more people to the neighborhood.

"The bars and restaurants have continued to struggle through the off-sports season, and so a lot of this vision is about how to keep this ecosystem healthy," Castellini told Cincinnati Council's Budget and Finance Committee. "The understanding here is the more that we invest in this platform of a center rallying point, the easier it would be for people to do pop-up events."

Castellini says stakeholders at the Banks envision a pedestrian mall and a gathering place.

"This project is an expansion of the Riverfront Park up into the Banks development. It creates a central meeting point for the Banks, something we think should have been there all along. Most importantly, it creates an opportunity for an exhibit space outside the Freedom Center, bringing the experience out to the public," he says.

Castellini says the plan is to split the $13 to 15 million cost between the city, Hamilton County, and private donors.

"I think this is a game-changing, ecosystem-changing, breath-life-into-a-development that is still not yet completed. I think it's a really important vision for the city, but it also comes with a big price tag."

Annual operational expenses have not been estimated but would fall to Cincinnati Parks.

Castellini says the plan has input from the Freedom Center and the backing of outgoing Mayor John Cranley. City Council is expected to discuss it Wednesday.