Wednesday, April 23, 1997
Taste aside, tower makes
big impression


BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The best thing about Newport's Millennium Freedom Tower 2000 is not where it's going to be built. But how.

The tower may serve as a testimony to questionable taste. A scale model of the thing looks like doughnuts stuck on a spear. It's going to house the world's largest bell. And the planet's biggest free-fall ride. Yoweeee! That'll bring a world of tourists to Newport.

But for all of its debatable assets, the tower remains a monument to civic muscle and a working model of cooperation. I am honestly impressed.

As far as I can tell, it is going to get built. What is now a block dominated by a parking lot, a few offices and the Captain's Cove Lounge - ''where diplomats meet'' - should be the site of the world's 11th-tallest tower by the year 2000. Bigger than the Eiffel Tower. Nearly twice as big as the Carew Tower.

Unlike so many projects in Cincinnati, it's not going to be debated to death. Nobody has sent it back to committee for a 10-year cooling off period or called for the umpteenth feasibility study. They're just going to do it.

Join the club

The tower joins a growing list of Northern Kentucky triumphs. It goes next to Newport's $40 million aquarium and ranks with the $30 million convention center in Covington that's going to be connected to a new 326-room Marriott hotel.

The tower's backers are two can-do guys from Fort Thomas, developer David Hosea and construction magnate Wayne Carlisle.

When their $100 million tower opens on New Year's Eve 1999, it's supposed to soar 1,083 feet above the streets of Newport. It will be a landmark - not for a city where a four-story building is a skyscraper - but for a place. Northern Kentucky is the fastest-growing region in the entire state. The place that used to be going nowhere is going strong.

A tower could do a lot worse. If it had been proposed for downtown Cincinnati, community leaders would take forever before agreeing to build such a flashy thing. The tower might open in time for the next millennium in the year 3000.

''We do things differently in Northern Kentucky,'' said Ken Paul, Campbell County judge-executive. ''We believe in teamwork.''

The spirit of cooperation cuts across county and party lines, said John Finnan, chairman of the Northern Kentucky Consensus Committee.

''It used to be that every city in the Northern Kentucky counties would work against each other to get new business. We wound up getting very little.''

The 70-member Consensus Committee was formed in 1990 to get more.

The committee represents a cross section of community leaders in government, education, business and civic groups. It struck pay dirt with its first major project, Covington's convention center.

Although it did not fund the tower, the committee gave the project its blessing.

''That idea would not have flown in Cincinnati,'' John Finnan noted. ''The day it was proposed, it would have been shot through with 7 million holes.''

Ken Paul sees Cincinnati's problem as a lack of clear leadership.

''Everybody's running for mayor,'' he said. ''Everybody wants to drive the car. They fight for the wheel and end up in the ditch going nowhere.''

Time's up

In Northern Kentucky, time is a precious commodity. There's only so much of it. So, you don't waste a minute.

Cincinnati's leaders act as if time grows on the trees that line the city's seven hills. They move slowly. They debate everything. This makes developers head for the hills ... of Northern Kentucky.

Instead of getting in the way of progress, Northern Kentucky's leaders work hard to get along. They go after their goals with a clear, unified vision.

Cincinnati and its Hamilton County neighbors should take some lessons in teamwork from Northern Kentucky. They could visit the sites for the convention center and hotel complex in Covington, Newport's aquarium and the Millennium Tower. Even better, they could sit in on a few Northern Kentucky meetings.

They might even feel the need to form an Ohio version of the Northern Kentucky Consensus Committee. The first hurdle, of course, would be a three-week argument over the name.

Previous stories

FREEDOM TOWER'S GIANT BELL DESIGNED TO AVOID HAVOC April 22, 1997
TOWERING DREAMS, TOWERING OBSTACLES April 20, 1997
DESIGNS, DETAILS April 19, 1997
TOWER EAGERLY ENDORSED April 18, 1997
PROPOSED TOWER WOULD BE WORLD'S 11TH-TALLEST April 17, 1997

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax 768-8340.


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