Thursday, June 3, 2004

Businesses pledge help if art school will move

Private group proposes new site a block away

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Corporate donors could pour millions into a planned K-12 public arts school in Over-the-Rhine if the Cincinnati school board and a private fund-raising group agree to change the school's planned location.

The money would put fund-raisers much closer to their goal of raising $26 million by June 15 for the $52 million school, now planned to be built adjacent to Music Hall on Elm Street. In April, fund-raisers said they had raised $13 million.

Bill Knodel, who heads the arts school's fund-raising effort, would not identify the donors or the amounts pledged. In a letter to supporters dated May 28, Knodel said that the additional corporate support would bring the fund-raising total to more than $20 million.

The newly proposed location, about a block south at Central Parkway and Elm Street, is supported by a private development group, which on Tuesday announced a revitalization plan for Over-the-Rhine.

Knodel said the plan has yet to be considered by the fund-raisers' board.

"In general, I think it's a very comprehensive plan that takes into account a lot of things that our plan wasn't necessarily called on to consider," he said.

The Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., known as 3CDC, envisions street-level shops and a 750-space parking garage where the arts school is currently planned. The group wants to ensure sufficient parking for the new arts school, Music Hall and neighborhood businesses. A surface parking lot and the Pipe Fitters union hall are now at the site.

The new arts school would replace the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Pendleton and Schiel Primary School for Arts Enrichment in Corryville, both built in the early 1900s. The Cincinnati school board plans to pay the remaining $26 million to build the school.

Developers also proposed expanding Washington Park and relocating the planned Washington Park School.

The development group said that there was no organized effort to ask corporate donors for money to ensure the schools' relocation.

The board of the Greater Cincinnati Arts and Education Center, the fund-raising group, will hear the developers' proposal Tuesday. Cincinnati school board members could discuss it as early as Wednesday. A guiding reason to move the school next to Music Hall was to provide students access to professionals centered in Over-the-Rhine, including performers from Music Hall and the nearby Cincinnati Ballet, and artists from the new site of the Art Academy of Cincinnati at 12th and Jackson.

Jane E. Simon, a Schiel teacher, said moving the school a block south shouldn't inhibit access to Music Hall performers and she hopes the new site would offer more parking and areas for students to play.

"Everything is still right next door," Simon said. "Whether you're walking across the street or walking next door, it's still the same thing."

School district officials Wednesday said they are receptive to the plan, which developers have discussed with superintendent Alton Frailey.

"There are some good ideas, and I think we need to talk about them," said board member Sally Warner. "We want to be a part of what's good for Over-the-Rhine."

The 3CDC plan will get its first public hearing at City Hall June 14. One unknown is the cost of relocating the schools and building a parking garage.

Even if the city is asked to contribute to build a garage, Councilman Jim Tarbell said, it's a small price to pay to help revitalize the neighborhood's western edge.

Ken Alltucker contributed. E-mail

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