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Old Pogue's garage redevelopment isn't dead, officials say

Posted at 6:37 PM, Jun 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-27 19:18:11-04

CINCINNATI -- A big development had been planned to open at the corner of Fourth and Race this summer. Instead, there's just a big empty lot there.

Plans have been in the works to redevelop the former Pogue's garage since at least 2012. Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., or 3CDC, says they're close. City officials said there could still be more changes to the agreement. 

Nearby business owners, like Jeff McClorey of Bromwell's and Harth Lounge, worry the project could be in jeopardy. 

"Both people who have lived here all their lives and people coming to visit question me, 'What is going on there and why is it taking so long?'" he said.

The city spent $8.5 million to buy the land and the old Tower Place Mall years ago. Officials announced a 30-story development with parking, apartments and a grocery store back in 2012. In 2014, the plan was downsized to a smaller building with no grocery. The garage came down in 2016.

Now, McClorey said, "They've got junk stored on the lot."

He said his business is suffering and he's threatened to sue over the lack of progress.

"We keep hearing over and over again this constant refrain, 'Oh, we're 60 to 90 days out, we're having to redraw some things, we're having to reconfigure some piers.' It's always an excuse and no one is accountable," McClorey said.

A 3CDC spokesman said Wednesday the project is still going forward.

"We are diligently working every day with our partners to finalize the financing and move the project forward," they said.

In May, 3CDC president Steve Leeper told the City Council the project's cost had jumped from $77 million to $117 million. Also, delays with bringing the garage down cost more and slowed progress, he said.

City officials are also still committed to the project. A city spokesperson provided WCPO with the following statement:

"The City of Cincinnati remains committed to implementing the development of a high-quality, mixed-use project at the corner of Fourth and Race streets downtown. The site is an important, high-visibility indicator of Cincinnati’s growth. Over the last number of months, the City has worked diligently to ensure that both the best interests of taxpayers are protected and that a project begins construction as soon as possible.

"Importantly, the City understands that 3CDC and Flaherty & Collins have reached agreement on the project’s financing. The City will continue its efforts to move expeditiously on the project, and looks forward to it beginning construction in the near future.

"As previously mentioned, we expect that over the coming weeks some modifications to the Development Agreement will be necessary to let the project move forward. These changes will require no additional funding on the part of the City. The City's Department of Community and Economic Development will prepare those and send to Council for approval as soon as possible."

If construction starts this summer, the new parking garage could open by next October, according to 3CDC. 

Project developer Flaherty & Collins didn't immediately return a call for comment.

In the meantime, McClorey said he'll keep beating the drum.

"I've been asking for 'plan B' for two years now," he said. "And we need a plan B, and they need to be genuine about it."