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Union Terminal Repairs Scheduled For June Start

Tana Weingartner

Renovations and repairs to Union Terminal are expected to start next June.  The work will start after Hamilton County Commissioners approve a development agreement.

Museum Center CEO Elizabeth Pierce spoke Monday morning about the public-private partnership that will govern the work that will bring the 82-year-old building into the 21st century. She says the museums will stay open during the renovation.

“There may be parts of the building that will not be accessible.  So we anticipate that (the) history museum and natural history museum will both be offline at certain points as we go through that mechanical system replacement,” Pierce says.

Last November, Hamilton County voters approved a five-year, quarter-cent sales tax to help pay for the renovation and preservation of Union Terminal.  The tax is expected to raise $175 million. Pierce says if it doesn't collect that much, the Museum Center will have to come up with the balance.

"...if there are proceeds that exceed the anticipated $175 million dollars, that will be held by the county for the purpose of a future maintenance fund."

  “The ballot language that was voted on in November gives very clear definition of what those sales tax proceeds can be used for.  It’s for the restoration and renovation of Union Terminal.  And if there are proceeds that exceed the anticipated $175 million dollars, that will be held by the county for the purpose of a future maintenance fund,” she says.

The rest of the money comes from several different sources.  A capital grant from the state of Ohio provides $5 million.  Federal and state historic tax credits account for another $24.5 million.  $7.5 million has been pledged by private donors.

Construction on the $212 million project is expected to start next June and last two years.

Leaders at the Cincinnati Museum Center are already thinking about what they'll be able to do with a renovated facility.  Pierce says the renovations will not only improve existing operations but will allow expansion for new exhibits and programs.

“This is kind of a one-two combination.  We’re going to need to do some private fundraising around special exhibitions or new exhibitions that we would put in.  But we anticipate that we will begin to be bringing in new content as well.”

Pierce says exhibitions and programs are not covered by the sales tax. It only covers repairs and renovations which will open up space that wasn't usable before.

She says there's been a lot of talk about more exhibits on modern and applied sciences and reaching out to local companies for their input.  “We have an incredibly long history of innovation and a very diverse economy for many, many years,” she says.  “We can tell that story in the history museum side, we can tell it on the science side.  We can tell the history of the science of it.”

Hamilton County Commissioners are expected to approve a funding and development agreement on Wednesday. Pierce says the next step is hiring a project manager along with an architect and contractors.