Hamilton County Commissioners unaware of new developments on The Banks project

Hamilton County Commissioners unaware of new developments on The Banks project
Posted at 8:30 AM, Jun 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-29 10:56:54-04

Hamilton County Commissioners say they were unaware that the top project executive working on the county’s most expensive investment – The Banks – has left his job.

They were also caught off guard by media reports this week that the project’s master developer, Carter, plans to break ground on a new phase of The Banks early next year.

City and county taxpayers jointly own the land, and have poured more than $100 million over the years into revitalizing the riverfront and creating The Banks, a mixed-use development that features restaurants, apartments and shops.

Yet the county board that controls The Banks appears to be in the dark about the project’s latest developments.

“I was a little surprised, honestly,” Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel said of reports that a third phase of the project will start in 2018. “We know they’re looking at Phase III … I know they’re trying to get the numbers to work. We’ve kind of heard about stuff, but I don’t think they’ve gotten us those details.”

It’s unclear what the next phase of The Banks will look like or offer. 

McCarthy, who had worked as Carter’s project executive on the Banks since 2015, confirmed his last day on the job was June 23 and he submitted his resignation a month in advance.

“I was with Carter for two years and we achieved so much over those two years,” said McCarthy, who left to work for his longtime mentor, Cincinnati developer Dave Neyer.

The new developments come as some have called for more transparency at The Banks. It has been more than two years since the powerful, publicly-appointed Banks Steering Committee that’s supposed to guide the project’s future has met. Meanwhile, one business owner hoping to build a concert venue at The Banks has been left in limbo for more than three years.

Who sits on The Joint Banks Steering Committee?

Bob Castellini, President of the Cincinnati Reds
Katie Blackburn, Executive Vice President of the Cincinnati Bengals
Tom Gabelman, Hamilton County’s counsel for The Banks project
Charlie Luken, former Cincinnati Mayor
Robert Richardson, Sr., president of the Cincinnati NAACP
Robert Rhein, CEO of Rhein Interests, a land development company
Stephen Leeper, President of Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC)
Steven Love, President of SRL Consulting Inc., an economic inclusion services company

Last month, one member of the Banks Working Group called for the group to meet – or quit. But the committee has still yet to meet.

“The group was surprised to find out about the announcement of stage 3 by Carter,” former Cincinnati mayor and Banks Working Group member Charlie Luken said in an email this week to WCPO. “The first I heard of Dan McCarthy’s departure was your email. The Banks Working Group might as well disband.”

Despite a lack of public updates on the projects, Monzel said the project isn’t stalled.

“We’re making progress," he said. "We’re moving forward.” 

Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune was also unaware of changes to Carter's leadership staff on The Banks project.

“I did not know that,” Portune said when contacted by a WCPO reporter. “I don’t know what to make of it.”

When asked about transparency about decision-making on The Banks project, Portune said “that’s all about to change,” adding he hopes to discuss priorities for large projects across the county at a commission meeting next month.

Monzel agreed The Banks could use a bigger dose of transparency.

“We need to be a little bit better in our communication on this,” Monzel said. “We should look at that.”