Banks Music Venue Takes One Step Forward, One Step Back

Apr 10, 2019

Updated April 11, 2:24 p.m.

Hamilton County commissioners are giving the go-ahead to a financing plan to advance a music venue at The Banks. The board voted 2-1 with Commissioner Stephanie Summerow Dumas dissenting, though she declined to say why.

A music venue at The Banks looked like it might be a step closer to beginning construction. But, as one part of the puzzle slid into place, another became loose.

Cincinnati and Hamilton County have come to an agreement on financing the infrastructure needed for the project. According to a city filing on Phase IIIB, the $29 million cost will be covered by a state grant, proceeds from other Banks developments and $8.7 million in county funds.  The county is covering the city's portion of the project and will be re-paid with revenues from The Banks project.

In a letter to council on Tuesday, Mayor John Cranley wrote, "I thought that the lot 24 option would move faster and would cost less money overall. However, I believe the county made a good faith offer to the city that makes me comfortable with their approach since they have made it clear that they will not support lot 24."

Lot 24 is at the corner of West Freedom Way and Rosa Parks Street. Lots 23, 27 and 28 are along Mehring Way and Elm Street, east of Paul Brown Stadium.

The Bengals organization had to sign off on that location. The team had the right to block the development of anything next to the stadium based on the structure's height. In order to get Bengals' approval, the county agreed to purchase 15 acres of property west of the stadium. The site would be redeveloped for parking.

The land is currently used for concrete production, and Hilltop Basic Resources would have to relocate. The company has its eye on land along the Ohio River near Lower Price Hill, and that disturbs some neighbors.

Carla Stanley with Lower Price Hill Neighborhood Action Team says her organization wants to see the riverfront reserved for recreation for the West Side. "Locating another industrial company is just detrimental to the long-term prosperity of that whole valuable stretch of riverfront property," she says.

An attorney for Hilltop says its plans do not include a concrete plant on the site. Tim Burke says the site is currently used for barge unloading, and that's what the company wants to do there. "It is critical that it has riverfront access. Every study that has been done by this city says you have to preserve some riverfront access for business, for manufacturing, and that's what this site is consistent with."

Burke says the current Hilltop site, on Mehring Way, under the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge, does not interfere with recreation.

Cincinnati council voted Wednesday afternoon to approve an interim development control (IDC) overlay district, which includes the Lower Price Hill site. That puts the area under study for 90 days. Economic Growth and Zoning Committee Chair Amy Murray says she wants to set up a meeting soon with all the interested parties. "Because we don't want to slow down the music venue at all. We need to be able to make this work. It's like a jigsaw puzzle."

Murray says she wants a decision in less than 90 days.

Council Member Tamaya Dennard originally proposed the IDC. She says she's not worried about the timing of a decision because she says she doesn't have a "stadium-first mentality."

"Development is good when it's driven by the people of the community, not driven by people of the outside. This is not an either-or proposition as proposed. It doesn't have to be all or nothing," Dennard says.

Hamilton County Commission President Denise Driehaus made an appearance at the Economic Growth and Zoning Committee meeting. She says the ground hasn't been broken for the proposed music venue, but there is some urgency to move ahead. "This issue has delayed that or has the potential to delay that.

"Any kind of delay just moves back the start time for the music venue. The (Banks) retailers are desperate to have something move forward," Driehaus says.

The ordinance for funding infrastructure needed for the music venue is expected to be on council's April 15 budget and finance committee agenda. Hamilton County commissioners will discuss the music venue at Thursday afternoon's regular meeting.

This story has been updated for new developments.