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A 'convention center district' could be coming to Cincinnati

Millennium hotel demolition
Bill Rinehart
Demolition of the Millennium Hotel is set to be complete in June 2022.

Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials want to create a full "convention district" downtown with redevelopment of the Duke Energy Convention Center and surrounding properties.

A City Council committee passed a resolution this week appointing 3CDC to manage the development process.

"We're not developing property," said 3CDC CEO Steve Leeper. "We are focused on trying to encourage others that are in this business to develop property."

Leeper says that includes looking for the best partner to build a replacement for the Millennium Hotel.

"Any development plans put forward would be subject to future approval by the city, the county, the Convention and Facilities authority and our friends at The Port who own the land," Leeper said. "So there's many, many times where there's going to be input, and certainly guidance from the various elected bodies."

Leeper says 3CDC won't see payment for the management actions. They'll report directly to Hamilton County Administrator Jeff Aluotto and Interim City Manager John Curp.

The Millennium Hotel was widely criticized in the years leading up to its closure on Dec. 31, 2019. At one point, then-Mayor John Cranley publicly discouraged people from staying there, pointing to online reviews calling the hotel "horrible" and the "worst downtown hotel ever," and saying it caused people to have bad experiences in Cincinnati.

The Port acquired the property in 2020 and began demolition last spring. A spokesperson says demolition is on schedule to be complete in June 2022.

The hotel project in particular is critical to a bid to bring the FIFA World Cup to Cincinnati in 2026. That decision could come in the early part of this year.

Jeff Berding is board chair of the Convention and Visitor's Bureau and is leading the World Cup effort. He's also co-CEO of Cincinnati's MLS team, FC Cincinnati.

"Let me underscore the importance of the hotel," Berding said. "Without it, it will be nearly impossible for us to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. And that is the single biggest tourism event in the history of our city."

The United States is jointly hosting the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico. Cincinnati is one of 17 cities vying for 10 U.S. spots.

Berding says they can submit information to FIFA officials until Jan. 31, and he hopes to have the resolution finalized by then so it can be included.

Full council is expected to vote on the resolution next week. County commissioners are expected to pass a similar resolution soon.

See the proposed scope of services for 3CDC below:

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.