There's plenty of reason to be (newly) excited about changes coming to The Banks

'A lot of good momentum, a lot of good energy'
Posted at 12:00 PM, Nov 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-13 12:00:57-05

CINCINNATI -- Growing pains continue at The Banks, but there are signs that relief is on the way.

Orange Leaf Yogurt at The Banks is no more, joining a list of failed restaurants at the Downtown development that includes Johnny Rockets, Toby Keith's, Mahogany's and, more recently, Crave.

The Banks spokesman Jon Reischel isn't concerned, though. He knows that help is on the way, and he's bullish about the prospects of the development and its tenants.

"At The Banks, there's a lot of good momentum, a lot of good energy," Reischel said.

Real estate finance professor Shaun Bond, director of the University of Cincinnati Real Estate Center, points to the General Electric Co.'s new global operations center as the biggest of several game-changers for the development. GE already has more than 900 people working at its new facility at the corner of Second and Rosa Parks streets, with plans to employ more than 2,000.

"That's going to bring a lot of office workers into that environment, and I expect that that will be a big boost to businesses in that area," Bond said. "It brings some stability to the customer base there, particularly that lunchtime crowd. I think that going forward, we'll probably see an improved outlook."

Eateries and bars at The Banks used to rely almost exclusively on Reds and Bengals game-day foot traffic to attract customers. Although sporting events will continue to be a boon for The Banks, they are becoming less critical to the development's success.

That's why the failures of restaurants past haven't stopped others from putting down roots at The Banks. Taste of Belgium recently opened there, and two more restaurants -- Pies & Pints and Tiger Dumpling -- are set to open soon.

Though it's at the top of the list, GE isn't the only reason for optimism. Just getting to The Banks used to be a challenge. But The Banks Public Partnership recently celebrated completing the construction of a 700-plus-space parking garage, and the successful September opening of the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar has already made an impact.

"It's a huge draw," Reischel said. "It's a huge part of why GE wanted to be there. The Connector basically comes to the front door of The Banks. It bridges the gap of the freeway, and it connects people that live and work at The Banks to places like Over-the-Rhine."

It's also a huge reason why people are excited about Radius, The Banks' new, 297-unit luxury apartment development, Reischel said. Radius roughly doubles the number of people living in the immediate vicinity of The Banks, he estimated, which further benefits the restaurant tenants.

And there's more help on the way soon in the form of the AC Hotel Cincinnati at The Banks, a 170-room, $35 million Marriott property being constructed in the shadow of Great American Ball Park.

"That's going to bring us a different set of customers," Bond said.

A rendering of the AC Marriott Hotel at The Banks, a 171-room development set for a spring 2017 debut.

Now that the groundwork has been laid, Bond sees the same momentum Reischel sees.

"We could potentially see more office workers there. We could see another hotel. We could see more apartments or other forms of residential," Bond said. "I think as that gets built out, we'll continue to build up that core base of consumers."

According to the website of CBRE, the brokerage firm for The Banks, there are four spaces available for lease, ranging in size from 4,800 to 12,000 square feet. Rental rates were not immediately available. But don't be surprised if they fill up soon.

"I think regardless of what's happened in the past, the outlook's probably a lot better from this point forward," Bond said.