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Council approves lease and 30-year tax abatement for Lunken hotel development

This a rendering of Lunken's redeveloped historic terminal building which the vR Group will lease from the City of Cincinnati.
Courtesy vR Group
Rendering of the proposed $20 million development at Lunken Airport expected to be finished in 2023.

Cincinnati Council voted 8-0 Wednesday to approve a 30-year tax abatement for a development at Lunken Airport. The city will lease the historic terminal building to vR Group for a new hotel, restaurant, and event space. Guy van Rooyen is leading the project.

"We viewed the Lunken terminal as a real piece of history in Cincinnati, and frankly underutilized," van Rooyen said. "And we have always viewed that as an opportunity for really strengthening the front door of Cincinnati.

He's no stranger to Greater Cincinnati development. His family owns and manages the Madison Event Center. He opened Hotel Covington and its Coppins restaurant. And he's currently working on another hotel in what used to be the Covington YMCA.

Since the fall of 2020, van Rooyen has been planning the $20 million development at Lunken Airport. It would include:

  • 55-guest room hotel
  • 100-seat restaurant and bar
  • two event spaces
  • rooftop bar
  • aviation museum
  • service as a fixed-base operator for aviation services such as aircraft fueling, parking, maintenance and more

"Every sitting president has flown in at some point into Lunken," he said during a June presentation. "We can go on and on ... we've got this jewel."
One of the first things he wants to do is to have the airport designated a historic site.

He envisions a walk-up food window so families can get food and watch planes.

A fixed-base operator would help increase aviation traffic. "The FBO represents a magnet for our guests on the property, for folks coming into the bar, the restaurant, the rooftop deck," he says.

One hurdle vR faces is the project would be in a flood plain, costing an extra $300,000 a year in insurance. 

If all goes according to plan, the hotel would open in 2023.

Updated: December 13, 2021 at 8:03 PM EST
This post was originally published December 13 and has been updated.
Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.