Talks To Relocate Hilltop For Music Venue Not Going Well

Jul 31, 2019

Negotiations to move a concrete manufacturing plant west of Paul Brown Stadium to make way for a music venue at The Banks are not going well based on letters traded between the parties earlier this week.

Lawyers for Hilltop Basic Resources and the city of Cincinnati traded correspondences Monday and Tuesday.

Relocating the Hilltop facility is essential to the updated plans released Tuesday for a music venue at The Banks.  The music facility will take parking spaces now used by the Bengals on game days for tailgating.  Hamilton County agreed to purchase the Hilltop land and turn that into parking for the Bengals.  But that means the concrete plant must move.

On Monday, attorney Tim Burke, who represents Hilltop, sent a letter to Deputy City Solicitor Luke Blocher.  Burke was responding to a proposal from the city earlier this month that would allow Hilltop to sublease some riverfront land so it would have a spot to unload materials from barges for its operations.

Burke wrote "the financial terms of the July 11, 2019 proposal were completely unexpected and disappointing."

Burke's letter discussed that July proposal from the city and Cincinnati Bulk Terminals (CBT), which currently leases the land from the city.  CBT would sublease 4.8 acres of land to Hilltop for 40 years for its unloading operations.  Hilltop would have to pay $100,000 a year to CBT for the lease plus a $500,000 one-time payment when the lease starts.  In addition, Hilltop would have to pay another $100,000 a year for an easement to get to the 4.8 acres.

Burke said a proposal from April would have Hilltop leasing the land from the city for 30 years for $100,000 per year with no upfront payment and no necessary easement.

Hilltop had proposed purchasing the land from city east of the Mill Creek, and in exchange the company would transfer land that it has an option to buy west of the Mill Creek.  The company had wanted to locate its unloading operations there. But some Lower Price Hill residents are concerned about that plan because they want that land for a park project.

Burke said the company still wants to purchase the land from the city for its unloading operations.

"Hilltop has been operating as a valued corporate citizen in Cincinnati for 75+ years," Burke wrote. "Hilltop cannot put at risk its needed access to the Ohio River to off-load material that are the lifeblood of their business. A limited lease term, or even worse, a sublease, compromises Hilltop's very sustainability for the next 100 years and beyond."

But in an email to Burke Tuesday, Blocher said "this offer appears to move us further away from a resolution because it expressly ignores the city's consistent position that – for the benefit of future generations – we do not wish to transfer riverfront land on a permanent basis."

Blocher said the last city/CBT offer included "new financial terms," and that there was a cost associated with access. In previous discussions CBT had said such a lease and easement would "harm their business."

Blocher also wrote that CBT has a long-term relationship with the city just like Hilltop.

"This is frustrating to CBT and many at the city since neither the city nor CBT asked Hilltop to relocate to this area," Blocher wrote in his email. "Rather, the county and Hilltop had a problem they asked the city and CBT to help them resolve."

Blocher said the city and CBT have made "two good faith offers" to Hilltop and they "stand by those offers."

But, he reiterated as he closed his email, the city will not sell the riverfront land to Hilltop.

An attorney for Hamilton County acknowledged the city/Hilltop negotiations issue Tuesday and the role those talks play for the music venue. "We have a tradition of getting agreements done so we can make projects happen," Tom Gabelman said.