New $100M DunnhumbyUSA headquarters expected to spur other downtown development

Race Street corridor ripe for renewal

CINCINNATI - The new $100 million DunnhumbyUSA headquarters project could be just what downtown Cincinnati needs to spur a long-awaited revitalization of Race Street.

The development at Fifth and Race streets will break ground Thursday morning to fill a block that has for years been home to a city-owned parking lot.  Plans announced in November called for 280,000 square feet of office space in an office tower that city officials expect will be between 15 and 20 stories high. The project also will have a 1,000-car garage and 35,000 square feet of street-level retail.

Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney said he expects as many as 1,500 DunnhumbyUSA employees will eventually work at the headquarters – more than doubling the market research company's current staff.

"It's not just moving current people from one place to the next," Dohoney said. "They are in a growth mode so you're going to add to the downtown density and add a lot more life on the street."

The site is just a block south of wig shops, a wireless phone store and retailers that buy gold teeth – property ripe for redevelopment.

"What you're seeing finally for the Race Street corridor is a major new anchor there that hopefully will start supporting development farther north on Race Street," Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said. "It's very exciting."

The Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., or 3CDC, is overseeing the DunnhumbyUSA project for the city. The company's current headquarters is located on West Third Street downtown and sits in the path of the Brent Spence Bridge reconstruction project. 3CDC hasn't revealed details of its financing plan for the new headquarters, but some elements were explained to the board of the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority in a Jan. 4 meeting. The financing package includes a $34 million bond issue for a 1,000-car garage and $40.2 million in New Markets Tax Credit allocations from PNC Bank and 3CDC. JobsOhio, an economic development arm of the state of Ohio, would contribute a $7 million loan, according to the Jan. 4 report by Susan Thomas, vice president of public finance for the Port Authority.

3CDC also led the $49 million revitalization of Fountain Square just a block east at Fifth and Vine streets. The Fountain Square project was completed in 2006 and has spurred nearly $125 million in private investment in restaurants and bars around the square.

Race Street property owners hope the DunnhumbyUSA project could result in similar interest and investment.

Chong Kim, who owns the 44,000 square-foot building at 616 Race St. that houses hip-hop clothing retailer The Chong Inc. and Sun Wigs, is looking to sell.

"I'd like to get out, too," he said. "I'd like to retire."

Kim said he's asking $1.2 million for the building. Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes' records indicate Kim bought the building for $800,000 in 1993. The auditor lists the market value at roughly $850,000.

Qualls said she couldn't say whether 3CDC would be targeting properties such as Kim's for further revitalization.

"I think it's a matter of what are the opportunities, and is it complementary to the overall strategy of Fountain Square outwards," she said.

Regardless, Dohoney said the addition of the new headquarters tower and a proposed 200-unit apartment tower being envisioned atop the downtown Macy's store is bound to make things happen.

"The potential is immense," he said. "I think the market will react well to that."

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