CINCINNATI -- The Great American Tower at Queen City Square ended Carew Tower’s 81-year reign as the tallest building in Cincinnati in 2011 — and it did so with a crowning touch.
Great American Tower is 495 feet tall at its roofline, but the steel tiara it wears on top pushed it into the No. 1 spot at 665 feet, making it the third tallest building in Ohio.
HOK architects’ founder Gyo Obata, the building’s principal designer, came up with the tiara idea. He drew inspiration from Cincinnati’s nickname, the Queen City, and a photograph of a tiara worn by Diana, princess of Wales.
Passing Carew in height is the tower’s secondary achievement, said Mario San Marco, president of Eagle Realty Group, the subsidiary of Western & Southern Financial Group that developed the building. San Marco, whose company controls leasing, property management and investments, said the tower’s purpose is to attract and retain businesses. Doing that, San Marco said, boosts Cincinnati’s pride, economy and shows that “much was happening here.”
The leadership of Western & Southern Financial Group, he said, wanted a building that would attract and retain jobs. San Marco said William J. Williams, Western & Southern’s former chief executive, and John Barrett, the current CEO, saw a chance to build city pride.
The tower and 303 Broadway, an adjoining 11-story building finished in 2006, together make up Queen City Square and have a “great place in the city’s skyline,” San Marco said. Combined, the buildings offer more than 1 million square feet of leasable space and are downtown’s largest office complex.
“It’s a catalyst for downtown to help spur confidence and future development in our downtown. It shows the rest of the world that Cincinnati is entering a renaissance,” he said.
The project, first envisioned more than 20 years ago, got the shot in the arm it needed when American Financial Group, parent company of Great American Insurance, agreed to lease space in the tower. Today, the company occupies 55 percent of it, San Marco said.