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Convention center district plan moves ahead despite a county commissioner's opposition

Duke Energy Convention Center
Updated: January 27, 2022 at 2:56 PM EST

A roadmap for developing a "convention center district" in downtown Cincinnati passed easily through council Wednesday, but Hamilton County Commissioners were divided on the issue Thursday.

A majority of commissioners approved a resolution asking 3CDC to oversee redevelopment of the Duke Energy Convention Center and surrounding properties, including the former Millennium Hotel. Commission President Stephanie Summerow Dumas and Commissioner Denise Driehaus voted in favor.

Driehaus says she's grateful Council added language about minority inclusion.

"We want 3CDC to do this work in a very inclusive, intentionally diverse way, which is something that we've over and over again said that we're committed to," Driehaus said. "And I think the message has been heard loud and clear."

Commission Vice President Alicia Reece abstained from the vote.

"These things we're building will be around forever," Reece said during discussion Tuesday. "I want to make sure that we do it correctly, because I don't think we'll have another project like this in a long time. And we have not done a good job on those public projects in the past."

The resolution has no funding attached. A "scope of work" outlines 3CDC's responsibilities, including finding interim uses for the area and recruiting developers for a hotel and other projects.

Reece says the agreement should have more explicit promises for minority inclusion.

"We want it in writing on the front end, instead of putting minorities and African Americans on the back end," Reece said Tuesday. "Back end has never worked. We want to try something different."

3CDC representatives say they're committed to minority inclusion at all levels of the process.

Officials say the resolution is urgent because of a January 31 deadline to submit information to FIFA about the city's bid to host a World Cup game in 2026.

Reece says she supports collaborating with the city to plan a convention district, but says a national search should be done to find the best partner.

"I'm OK with us writing a letter that we're going to have a hotel," Reece said. "At the same time, I don't see anything where FIFA said we need to have 3CDC be the person."

County Administrator Jeff Aluotto will negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with the city and 3CDC for a term of up to four years.

3CDC will report regularly to county and city officials. The city's version of the resolution says a new convention center hotel should be complete by fall of 2025.

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.