CINCINNATI — City Council jabbed both elbows into the Bengals’ side Wednesday afternoon, approving two separate motions that could permanently stall a riverside land deal to build a concert venue at the Banks.
The first, which passed 6-3, requests that the team loosen its grip on the project, relinquish its right to dictate the outcome of construction near Paul Brown Stadium and stop demanding the relocation of Hilltop, a nearby gravel business, for the sake of tailgate space. (The venue is set to be built on land used now by Bengals tailgaters, and the team has demanded a new place for those fans to go.) Councilmembers David Mann, Tamaya Dennard and Wendell Young cast the three no votes.
Council unanimously approved the second, which indicated the city would not allow Hilltop to move to Lower Price Hill or Queensgate as previously projected.
So, in short, according to council: The Bengals should stop trying to steer a project that rightfully belongs to the city and county, and Hilltop shouldn’t expect to settle down in a residential neighborhood if it leaves the Banks. Although the company has considered relocating to Lower Price Hill, people who live there now have voiced worries that the sounds and smells of industry on neighborhood streets will spoil their community.
“We have a right to our opinion, too,” Mayor John Cranley said at the meeting. “The Bengals have an opinion. We weren’t part of a deal that caused this chain reaction of negative feelings.”
Wednesday’s decisions are likely to cause more, however — from the Bengals and potentially from others.
The concert venue had been pitched since its inception as a new tool to draw commerce to the Banks, where historically business turnover has been high and traffic has been uneven: High on weekends, feeble on weekdays. It would give top-40 hitmakers more space and better facilities than U.S. Bank Arena, drawing them into the city proper rather than funneling toward nearby Riverbend.
However, in order to open the $19.25 million venue on time in spring 2020, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra — winner of a three-way bidding war with other firms — would need to break ground the by the end of October.
In order to break ground, the major players in the unfolding drama (Hilltop, the Bengals, the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners and the City of Cincinnati) would need to reach an agreement about where the venue, Hilltop and all the Bengals tailgaters who would lose parking space to the construction project should end up.
The Bengals would like to move Hilltop and use its current plot as additional parking and tailgating space.
Council’s Wednesday votes send a strong message that won’t happen.
If it doesn’t, everything stays where it is — until March 2020, when the Bengals and Hamilton County will be free to discuss other uses for the property on which the concert venue would have been built.