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Officials: The Banks Has Transformed From 'Mud Pit' To 'Vibrant Riverfront Community'

Bill Rinehart
A view of the newest part of Smale Riverfront Park.

The latest part of The Banks is finished and open. Phase 3B includes an extension of Race Street and underground parking, and the new event center lawn. When it's not used for outdoor concerts at the new Icon Music Center, the lawn will be open as park space.

Cincinnati Parks Director Kara Kish says the city's parks are essential destinations.

"Smale Riverfront Park represents one of Cincinnati's greatest achievements, and it is made better by the addition of this new event lawn designed specifically to host and celebrate live music," Kish says.

Hamilton County Commission President Stephanie Summerow Dumas says the before and after pictures are "remarkable." She says the entire Banks project has created thousands of jobs, and is the product of city and county, as well as public and private, cooperation.

Dumas says it's important to keep a view toward the bigger picture. "As there will be more openings and celebrations expected soon," she says. "Not only did we raise the front porch of the county out of the flood plain, but we transformed a mud pit to a vibrant riverfront community."

Credit Bill Rinehart / WVXU
The view from the eastern edge of the event lawn, looking toward the Icon Music Center, and Paul Brown Stadium.

County officials say the next step will be developing the small plot of land at the corner of Elm and Mehring Way, Lot 28, with more greenspace, and maintenance space for the Parks Department.

"It's the front door to the music venue," says Commissioner Denise Driehaus. "Lot 24 though, is the most developable of all lots. We can do mixed-use there; we can do some density there. That's a bigger nut to crack. We're thinking through all of what might be appropriate in that space."

Driehaus says the opening of the Icon Music Center and the event center lawn does make Lot 24 more attractive to developers. She says the COVID-19 pandemic did set schedules back.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.