What should be done with the Music Hall pedestrian walkway?

Posted at 5:04 PM, Jun 30, 2017

CINCINNATI -- The span between Music Hall and the Town Center Garage is currently a bridge to nowhere, as it is closed because of its deteriorating condition. The big question now is what to do next: should it stay or should it go?

In addition to the pedestrial bridge being closed, two lanes of northbound Central Parkway are blocked due to deteriorating floor beams. Rusted metal is visble on supports for the canopy. Concrete on the ramps leading to WCET is crumbling.

Vice Mayor David Mann said he hopes the bridge will be replaced. He's worried about the impact on audiences for Music Hall events.

"I think some of the folks who are concerned about the elements, who perhaps are elderly concerned about safety, think it's a necessity," Mann said. "For others, it's a convenience just like the garage under Washington Park, which is not large enough."

Replacing the bridge would cost between $2 million and $3.3 million. Replacing the ramps to WCET would cost between $3 million and $5 million.

Arts supporter Larry Kellar has spearheaded an effort to raise money to fix the current problems. He said they've raised about $800,000 so far and could probably raise more if needed.

"The bridge should definitely stay," he said.

However, there's not money allocated for the project right now.

"It's not a priority this year," Mann said. "It's not in the budget."

Nothing will be done before Music Hall renovations are finished and the Cincinnati Symphony moves back in this fall.

"You have to cross eight lanes of traffic on Central Parkway, meander through the parking lot of Music Hall and it's dangerous," Kellar said. "It's very dangerous."

The orchestra is taking stepts to give subscribers spots in the Washington Park garage. There's even talk of valet parking or shuttle service from in front of Music Hall.

"I don't know about you, but my last choice is a shuttle or valet because I don't want to have a long line and be around 30 minutes after an event," Mann said.

For Kellar, the obvious move is to fix the problem now.

"It just doesn't make sense to try to build something new if we can repair what we have and get people into Music Hall," he said.

There's talk about a long-range plan that could mean a new bridge plus major redevelopment along the block where the WCET studios are located. Mann said that plan could provide a new home for CET and GUC, a new parking garage, a new connection to the bridge and a new bridge.

Mann said the most important component is parking for Music Hall, Memorial Auditorium and the new Shakespeare Theater.

"If Music Hall is as successful as we expect - it's going to be amazing in a few months - it's going to be full frequently, more frequently than before," Mann said. "And if we don't have adequate parking, that's a problem."

Kellar doesn't see it as a realistic plan.

"It is pie in the sky for at least the next 10 years," he said.

That's why he's behind the fundraising efforts to repair the current walkway.

"Attendance at the symphony and other venues at Music Hall are going to go down eventually if they don't have the convenience of that bridge going into Music Hall," Kellar said.

The Cincinnati Symphony and other resident companies want the bridge to be repaired and retained.

For now, 3CDC said their focus is on finished the Music Hall renovations. The bridge will be closed when the hall reopens.