By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Greater Cincinnati is at a critical juncture for deciding how transportation and housing will develop in the coming decades, experts told more than 100 developers and local officials Monday.
"It's almost a model of modern suburbanization," said Wendell Cox, a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute and a frequent lecturer on sprawl. "This community is incredibly positioned for growth."
Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, were among other speakers brought in by the Community Growth Institute, a regional nonprofit group. Cincinnati is at a crossroads, several said, as it decides what to do about outdated, overloaded Interstate 75 and an aging Baby Boomer population.
Cox, an opponent of light rail, praised Cincinnati's highway network, which is less congested than those of most other metropolitan areas.
But the relocation of people and jobs to the suburbs will make transportation to and from downtown less of an issue, Cox said - and there's plenty of room to widen roads outside of Interstate 275.
"This is a city that has the infrastructure in place to add a lot of people without a lot of work," Cox said.
Other speakers, however, said downtown has a chance now to regain some of its population losses of recent decades. Two groups - the young, mostly childless creative class and the boomers whose nests have emptied - are ripe for moving to amenity-laden downtown condos, lofts and apartments.
The Banks will provide a mix of retail and residential on the Cincinnati side of the riverfront, when and if it gets off the ground. Tom Humes, president and CEO of Great Traditions Land and Development Co., said he's working to line up money for the garages that will provide the base of the rest of the development.
Urban centers such as downtown Cincinnati may also get an assist from Turner, former mayor of Dayton, in coming months. House Speaker Dennis Hastert will soon name him to lead a new congressional working group called Saving America's Cities, Turner said.
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