Cincinnati: City of the future... or not

Imagine driving into Cincinnati at night, greeted by spires of light reaching into dark skies, a string of jewels in the form of suspended mass transportation lacing its way through a space-aged riverfront while boats gently bob in marinas all along the Ohio River as a bell tolls from a spiraling tower in Newport, Ky., marking the hour.

This is the Greater Cincinnati of dreams, the one that never was.

What follows is a conglomeration of visions and architectural designs that were either scaled back, abandoned, mere pipe dreams from the beginning or re-imagined before implementation.

(Courtesy Cincinnati Transit )

As early as the mid-1940s Cincinnati city planners began discussing a grand re-imagining of the city’s Riverfront that the current Banks project echoes.  The Cincinnati Metropolitan Master Plan in 1948 imagined a convention center lining the Ohio River.  That center would eventually be built near Plum Street in the late 1960s and most recently expanded in 2006. The complex included a baseball park (The Bengals as we know them did not exist), parks and a history center.

Photo credit: Cincinnatus Association and the Cincinnati Planning Commission and Mid Century Architecture

Then in 1961 another rendering of the Riverfront was commissioned by the Cincinnatus Association and the Cincinnati Planning Commission. The project may look a bit more familiar, with its parks, apartments and a history center, as reported in the 1998 book, Unbuilt Cincinnati.

Of course, a third radical Riverfront design was proposed in 1996 when a group of Cincinnatians held high hopes of hosting to 2012 summer Olympics. The above was a proposed Olympics parks design and marketing campaign submitted to the Olympics selection committee by Nick Vehr that was turned down in 2001, in favor of hosting the games in London, UK.

(Photo Courtesy KZF Design)

What better way to frame the Queen City’s rebirth than with a crown of spiraling lights? That was what KZF Design proposed. KZF also did design work for smaller gateway projects, such as the Cincinnati side of the Purple People Bridge.

(Courtesy Bill Butler group)

Of course, to compliment Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky’s communities have also proposed their own riverfront projects over the years, such as this extension of the Corporex development in Covington in 2003 called Covington Harbor. Many other plans have been, and are in the works for this area.

(Courtesy Bill Butler Group)

In Newport, Ky. Butler’s Corporex group planned to further its Northern Kentucky development plan with Ovation . A small city within a city the development was to offer residential, business, and retail promising "6,000 new jobs for the community and 1,000 urban homes," according to a letter by Butler in 2007 . A housing complex was demolished near Fourth Street before the project faltered due the economic collapse in 2008.

(Courtesy DW Productions)

This was not the fate of the grand Millennial Monument tower that was to house the World Peace Bell gifted from France at the turn of the 21st century. Backers of the project proposed by Wayne Carlisle and David Hosea of DW Productions in 1997 simply were not willing to pay the cash to have it built. A much smaller housing for the bell was built to ring in the new millennium.

(Courtesy David C. Imboden)

Further down the river Dayton, Ky. proposed its own waterfront community with marina. So far, the site of Manhattan Harbor , David C. Imboden's vision, has become home for the remains of the pulverized remains of I-471 in Campbell County.

(Courtesy Forward Quest)

And of course, always a timely topic in Greater Cincinnati, one of the most Jetson-esque plans to tie the region together was promoted and proposed by the non-profit group Forward Quest in 1997 before being rejected by federal transportation in 2001. Sky Loop would have been “an elevated system of three-person, electric cars that would run in a nine-mile loop connecting Covington, Newport and downtown Cincinnati,” according to a 1999 Citybeat article.

For even more architectural and area design history visit Matt Hunter Ross' blog, Cincinnati Revisited .

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