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The Banks Music Venue Has Cleared A Major Hurdle

banks music venue
Bill Rinehart
An aerial view of the construction at The Banks.

Updated: Wednesday, 3:40 p.m.

A prickly back-and-forth between the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County over the construction of a music venue at The Banks seems to have softened. Tuesday night Mayor John Cranley and Commissioner Todd Portune released a joint statement saying they "have worked together to come to an understanding that will advance future development at the The Banks." 

Last month, commissioners pledged to move forward with the music venue despite action at City Hall that threatened the plan. The crux of the issue was moving the concrete plant Hilltop Basic Resources, which needed to relocate from the riverfront in order to provide parking for the Cincinnati Bengals, so that the music venue could be built on the east side of Paul Brown Stadium. 

The agreement states that: 

  • The city will agree to not pursue development of the Crossett/Central lot and will make the Crossett/Central lot available through 2026 to allow the county to fulfill its surface lot number requirements committed to by the county in the County-Bengals MOU (memorandum of understanding).
  • The city will drop its proposal to exclude residential from the zoning uses on Lot 24 and will give independent exclusive development rights to the county for the county-owned Lots 24 and 25.
  • The county will give the city independent exclusive development rights on the city-owned land of Lots 1 and 13 (pursuant to the TIF waterfall/priority agreement outlined below), which is the only way to guarantee that Lots 1 & 13 will be exempt from any surface parking lot requirements committed to by the county in the county-Bengals MOU.
  • During the time period before and during the urban planning review outlined in the county-Bengals MOU, the city retains the right to develop Lots 1 and 13 within the current height restrictions and design guidelines. The county agrees that any revised height restrictions or design guidelines affecting lots at The Banks that come as a result of the urban planning review will be less restrictive or, at minimum, the same as they are today (pre-Bengals-county MOU).
  • The city agrees, to the extent it is involved in the urban planning review, to explore with the county options for the placement of and development on the decks over Fort Washington Way.
  • The city and county agree to work together over the next 2-3 months to create a revenue-sharing agreement related to the Skystar lease on Lot 18 through which the city’s portion of the revenue will fund ongoing maintenance and operations of Smale Riverfront Park.

Additionally, any TIF revenues from development on Lots 1 & 13 will be allocated in the following priority order:

  1. Funds needed for the city to pay back its debt to the county for the building of the garage on lots 27 and 23 in accordance with the already signed city-county construction financing agreement
  2. Finance the construction of garages necessary to build and develop on Lots 1 and 13
  3. 50-50 split in revenue between city and county

On Wednesday, WVXU learned that City Council could vote next week to formalize the agreement. 
Cranley said his concern all along was preventing continued surface parking on a couple of lots (Lots 1 and 13) at The Banks for Bengals tailgating. The city now has the final say, without county approval, on developing those parcels. 

"We can be certain that the city has the right to develop, whether it's in six months or two years, three years, or whatever," Cranley said at a Wednesday council meeting. "I'm hoping we an get started before I leave. But I'm not going to promise that today. But most importantly is that future mayors and councils, or us if we get moving faster, will be able to develop it without being subject to this agreement with the Bengals." 

In exchange, the city granted exclusive development rights to the county for major parcels (Lots 24 and 25) one of which already has a parking garage on it. That could be turned into a mixed-use development with additional housing and retail space. Lots 27 and 23 are the music venue.

banks lots
Credit Courtesy of the city of Cincinnati

Construction on the music venue is scheduled to begin this month and be completed in fall 2020. It will have seating for 4,500 inside and 8,500 on greenspace outside the venue. County officials said the music venue is needed to support businesses located at The Banks. They also said the agreement reached with the Bengals last year to allow it construction and relocate parking will save the county money.

Just last month, city officials argued if the deal would save taxpayers money, they should release details of how it will do that and how much.

Jay Hanselman contributed to this story. 

Jennifer Merritt brings 20 years of "tra-digital" journalism experience to WVXU.