Development Of Banks Music Venue Hits Another Snag

Jul 22, 2020

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and Hamilton County Commissioner Victoria Parks are scheduled to meet Thursday concerning the latest city/county snag on building a music venue and park addition at The Banks.

It's similar to a meeting Cranley had with the late county commissioner Todd Portune in November. Parks served as Portune's chief of staff before being appointed to fill out the remainder of his commission term following his death in January.

On Tuesday, Interim City Manager Paula Boggs Muething sent a 19-page memo with attachments to the mayor and City Council members accusing the county of delaying the projects.

"As a result of the county's delay, the music venue and adjacent park projects are facing delays and cost increases that may put the projects in jeopardy," Boggs Muething wrote. "The county alone is in a position to accept the Cranley-Portune agreement already approved by both parties."

A county representative disagreed that there was an accepted agreement but is "hopeful on a quick resolution."

In November, Cranley and Portune had met to resolve the outstanding issues that were preventing the city and county from reaching an agreement on building the music venue next to Paul Brown Stadium.

The main sticking point was relocating the Hilltop Basic Resources concrete plant away from the riverfront to provide surface parking for Cincinnati Bengals home games and tailgating. That was happening on parking lots that are now the home to the music venue and expanded Smale Riverfront Park. 

The Hilltop plant remains, but it is searching for a new location. In the meantime, the county will turn a portion of the site over to Bengals parking.

Cranley has said he doesn't want the final phases of The Banks to be "a sea of surface parking lots" for the Bengals.

Cranley and Portune agreed on several points, and each compromised on some items to move the plan forward.

Basically, the city was given the right to use two lots it owns at The Banks without the county having a veto right on potential developments on those lots.  And the city released its veto rights on two lots the county owns that are now being used for the music venue.

Boggs Muething in her memo this week said a small group of city and county officials met and on Dec. 3 released an agreement that "memorialized" the terms of the Cranley/Portune plan. But she said the county has not yet approved that document.

Instead, she said the county's outside lawyer for The Banks presented different documents in January that did not reflect what officials agreed to on Dec. 3.

A Hamilton County official said in a text message to WVXU that the small group of officials did not reach an agreement on Dec. 3.

"If fact, the version that the city passed wasn't even the version discussed at that December 3 meeting," the county representative said in the text.

Construction on the music venue is underway and is scheduled to be completed this fall. It will have seating for 4,500 inside and 8,500 on greenspace outside the venue.

Some contracts have been awarded for the park expansion project, but some of that work is contingent on the Cranley/Portune agreement being accepted by both the city and the county.