Tuesday, August 03, 1999

Riverfront planners want new group to oversee projects

Authority needed to keep momentum up

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Fearful his group's work could end up gathering dust on a shelf, the head of the riverfront advisory group said Monday his panel will recommend a new entity be created to oversee implementation of its development plan.

        Cincinnati Riverfront Advisory Commission Chairman Jack Rouse said the group thinks it's too much to ask either the city of Cincinnati or Hamilton County — or both — to oversee private development between the Bengals stadium and Reds ballpark.

Riverfront park plan
        The Rouse group's report, due next month, will recommend an entity be created to oversee the design, financing and operation of the mix of development the group recommends.

        “It's one thing to do the pretty pictures. It's another thing to find out how to pay for the pretty pictures. It's another thing to keep the vision going year after year after year,” he said.

        “There needs to be some sort of development authority to somehow watch over how we keep this vision alive,” he said. “Our greatest fear is that this will end up on a shelf, and that's the end of it.”

        Shops, restaurants, office space and housing developed on the riverfront would be built atop garages planned to stretch between the two new sports facilities. The earliest the first phase of development could be completed is 2003. A second phase could be finished in 2006.

        It was unclear Monday whether a new entity created to oversee the development would have any authority to tax or issue bonds. Reaction to the idea of forming such an entity was mixed.

        Cincinnati Councilman Phil Heimlich praised the idea. He and Mayor Roxanne Qualls have proposed the creation of an independent development authority to oversee projects throughout the city.

        The authority they propose would use tax money generated by the new projects to pay for its operations. Creating it would take a change in state law.

        “They're just focused on the riverfront, and we're looking at the entire city,” he added. “But I think we've come to the same conclusion.”

        The central riverfront is so big and complex that it demands such special attention, said Rick Greiwe, president and chief executive officer of Downtown Cincinnati Inc., the downtown advocacy group.

        “The magnitude of the site, the time it will take to implement and the high expectations we have as a community are the reasons you might consider such an entity,” he said.

        But Councilman Jim Tarbell thinks oversight of the riverfront redevelopment would be better performed by the Cincinnati Planning Commission.

        “Within the planning commission, you could create something special,” he said. “And we should.”

        Cincinnati and Hamilton County named the members of the Rouse group in January. They were charged with advising the city and county about what mix of development should be built on the riverfront and how it should be funded. The commission also was charged with recommending a structure to ensure the development gets built.

        The Rouse group will recommend a mix of shops, restaurants, office space and housing. Mr. Rouse said it will likely be for buildings with shops or restaurants on the ground floor and housing above.

        The group also will recommend ways to finance the development, Mr. Rouse said.

        Hamilton County is paying for the stadium projects and riverfront parking with a half-cent countywide sales tax approved in 1996 to fund stadium construction.

        For the nearly $280 million reconstruction of Fort Washington Way, the city cobbled together funds from its own resources, the states of Ohio and Kentucky, the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, Hamilton County, the federal government, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority and the Metropolitan Sewer District.

        “We think that the city and the county are going to have to start looking at highly innovative and creative ways to fund these projects,” Mr. Rouse said. “There have to be incentives for most any developer to do anything.”


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