Monday, February 2, 2004

First-class developer needed for city


Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy calls Stephen G. Leeper "the best guy in America at what he does."

That's encouraging, because Murphy has been chosen as the top executive to head the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC), and Cincinnati needs a person of his caliber for the job. Leeper helped the city of Pittsburgh redo its $1 billion riverfront, which included the construction of two new stadiums for the Pirates and the Steelers, a new convention center, and a $240 million private, mixed-use development next to the stadiums. The Cincinnati project has similarities to Pittsburgh's, right down to the two new stadiums downtown and The Banks development.

The fact that Leeper, 46, is an Ohio University and Ohio State University graduate is a plus. His challenge is great. He will put together deals to help finance the project.

Formed last July, 3CDC consists of business and civic leaders led by Procter & Gamble chief executive officer A.G. Lafley and Federated Department Stores Chairman Jim Zimmerman. It is committed to raise $50 million in private money and $100 million in government money to develop important core areas of Cincinnati: Fountain Square, Over-the-Rhine and The Banks, a mix of residential and retail properties planned on the Ohio river. The project will rank among Cincinnati's most ambitious ever, and can chart a course for what the city's will look like for a long time.

New York consultant John Alschuler recommended a face-lift for Fountain Square last year, saying it had been "junked up" by surrounding buildings.

In December, 3CDC hired Williams Jackson Ewing Inc., known for turning old unsightly urban landmarks into thriving commercial and retail properties.

Now that two key components for the project are in place, citizens can soon look forward to more concrete plans that will shape the future of our city.

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