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Best laid plans? How The Banks project differs from its 2007 master plan

Riverfront development celebrates 10th anniversary
Posted: 6:00 AM, Apr 06, 2018
Updated: 2018-04-06 11:24:58Z
Best laid plans? How The Banks project differs from its 2007 master plan

CINCINNATI - The Banks riverfront development project will be completed by next summer, according a Master Development Schedule attached to the 2007 development agreement signed by the city of Cincinnati, Hamilton County and Carter-Dawson, an Atlanta-based developer chosen to rebuild the city’s riverfront.

Of course, much has changed since then.

For one thing, Carter-Dawson is out of the picture, ending its contract with the city and county last year. Retail tenants have come and gone. A hotel, planned for one block, opened in another.

The project celebrated the 10th anniversary of its groundbreaking this week. So, what better time to compare how the 2007 vision differs from the 2018 reality?

Here’s a look at the vision versus the reality:

Moving from east to west, here’s how the project differs from the original development plan.

  • Block 4 – Bounded by Second Street, Main, Walnut and East Freedom Way, this block was the first to see construction. But an office building of up to 340,000 square feet has yet to draw a tenant. “The office building will have a gracious lobby located on Walnut Street and lobby entrances to the residential units will be located along Main and Freedom Way,” Carter-Dawson’s original concept plan states.
  • Block 8/11B – Bordered by East Freedom Way to the north and the Christian Moerlein Lager House to the south, this block was planned to include “a high-rise condominium with river and park views in each direction.” But it ended up with apartments over retail along Walnut and Freedom Way and an AC Marriott Hotel on the southeast corner.
  • Christian Moerlein Lager House – This wasn’t part of the original Banks development property. But the Cincinnati Park Board incorporated the site into its Central Riverfront Park design in 2010.
  • Block 7 – This block south of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was originally planned to accommodate “two signature restaurants with expansive outdoor dining capability to take advantage of the great views.” The Yard House chain restaurant claimed one of the spots in 2012.
  • Carol Ann’s Carousel – This Park Board project wasn’t part of the original Banks development, but it opened in 2015 thanks to funding from the Ralph V. and Carol Ann Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation. The project enabled an event space to become part of a block that was originally designated for a large public fountain.
  • Block 2 – General Electric Co.’s Global Operations Center at the Banks is on a site originally designated for a hotel of up to 200,000 square feet. The remainder of the block was built as planned.
  • Block 6/11a – This block at the southeast corner of Race Street and West Freedom Way is currently the subject of a bidding competition in which developers are vying for the right to build a riverfront concert facility. It was originally planned to hold up to 470 residential units, including ground-floor units facing south that “may have stoops to give the appearance of traditional row houses.” Park-oriented retail was also contemplated for this block, including bike rental shops and a sporting goods store.
  • Block 5/10 – The concept plan called for “a high-rise residential tower providing retail, restaurant and café’ space at street level” for this Elm Street block between Mehring Way and West Freedom Way. The plan also warned the Cincinnati Bengals would have to waive “height restrictions” in its lease for Paul Brown Stadium to accommodate a tower holding up to 530 units. That might be one reason the block is still a surface lot.
  • Block 1 – Also an undeveloped surface lot, this block on the southeast corner of Second and Elm streets called for up to 380 residential units in a high-rise facing Race Street along with smaller retail and office buildings closer to Paul Brown Stadium.
  • Block 13 – The concept plan called for this tiny block north of Paul Brown Stadium to include a limited service hotel catering to sports enthusiasts. 

And here's a look at how Cincinnati's riverfront has evolved through the years:

Cincinnati's riverfront through the years, from 1993 to the spring of 2017.