Thursday, January 06, 2000

Luken: Convention Center expansion too costly

Project might need downsizing

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's essential to expand Cincinnati's downtown convention center, but the $400 million project may have to be scaled back because of the expense, Mayor Charlie Luken said.

        Mr. Luken said starting construction on the “troublesome” convention center is only one way to convince businesses and residents that the city has changed for the better.

        Change and “urging people to come home” to the city is the message Mr. Luken wants to deliver today in his first state-of-the-city address since taking office last month.

        “The city has gotten a bad rap and we need to get past it,” he said Wednesday, while considering remarks he will make to the Rotary Club during a 1 p.m. luncheon at the Omni Netherland Plaza Hotel.

        “People have lost faith in the city,” said Mr. Luken, who served as mayor in 1990. “But the city is being reborn. ... The sleepy old gal is waking up a bit.”

        Mr. Luken said officials must show they can get things done.

        “The convention center is one of the most troublesome issues we have,” he said. “But there are ways to accomplish it.”

        He said “huge financial gaps” might require changing designs on the city-owned Dr. Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center, which now show the building extending over Interstate 75.

        Mike Wilson, president of the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he is optimistic the expansion will go as planned.

        “It's too premature to comment on modification of plans,” he said.

        The city has committed $51 million in bonds and another $18 million from a hotel room-tax increase. Other public and private funding is being sought.

        Mr. Luken praised plans to develop the Banks project, which will include parks, offices and residences adjacent to the two new stadiums on the riverfront.


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