Cincinnati Museum Center expects $33 million loss during massive Union Terminal renovation

CEO: Project would create 'new opportunities'

CINCINNATI – Cincinnati Museum Center expects to lose $33 million while Union Terminal is renovated if Hamilton County commissioners place a quarter-cent sales tax on the ballot and voters approve it.

Some of the arts organizations that call Music Hall home would see a financial impact from renovation work there, too, although not nearly as big.

"We're not going to be different from any other business that goes through construction," Museum Center CEO Doug McDonald said. "You know that when you get to the other side of that, it creates new opportunities for you. It's a good thing."

The quarter-cent sales tax would be a major source of funding for $187.7 million in repairs and renovations for Union Terminal in Queensgate and $109.5 million to restore Music Hall in Over-the-Rhine.

A Cultural Facilities Task Force comprised of local business leaders recommended the tax increase to Hamilton County commissioners on June 23. The commissioners haven't yet decided whether to put the tax increase on the November ballot. Hamilton County's sales tax rate is 6.75 percent, or 6.75 cents on the dollar. The increase would raise it to 7 cents on the dollar.

If the tax goes on the ballot and is passed, the bulk of the Museum Center's $33 million loss would come from losing the proceeds of a Hamilton County operating levy scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

Part of the task force's recommendation is for the Museum Center to give up the operating levy if the sales tax proposal goes on the ballot. The reason is that a renovated Union Terminal would reduce the building expenses that the levy has helped fund.

The county's Tax Levy Review Committee hasn't yet made a recommendation on that to Hamilton County commissioners. The operating levy generates about $3 million a year for the Museum Center.

Insiders can read more about how McDonald would cope with the loss in revenue, what parts of the Museum Center would close during construction, what would happen to the employees who work there and what impact the Music Hall renovation would impact the arts organizations there.

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