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Hamilton County leaders see urgent need for 'headquarter hotel' at downtown convention center

Convention center district under construction
Cincinnati convention Duke Energy
Posted at 6:40 PM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 18:40:19-05

CINCINNATI — Hamilton County Commissioners said Tuesday there is an urgent need to get moving on a new "headquarter hotel" at the Duke Energy Convention Center.

“Right now there is an urgency to get this started, to get this moving,” said Stephanie Summerow Dumas, President of the Hamilton County Commission.

Currently, the Millennium Hotel is being demolished. The blighted hotel has long been blamed for the city's failure to attract large tourism events.

“We need to get moving on this because it is the one thing, even with the Millennium standing, it is the one thing that has held us back because the Millennium did not serve the purpose of a real top notch hotel,” Commissioner Denise Driehaus said.

According to County Administrator Jeff Alutto, the county is in a rare position to control its own destiny. Roughly seven acres of land around the convention center are publicly owned by either the city, county or Port meaning now is the time to move forward with redeveloping the area as a whole — creating a convention center district as opposed to taking a piece meal approach.

Julie Calvert, President of the Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau, said creating this district is essential to attracting tourism and conventions moving forward.

“The convention experience is really important for people that are traveling. Part of that experience is having restaurants, entertainment, retail right at your finger tips,” Calvert said. “Right now, we have a convention center and a lot of empty buildings around our convention center.”

Both the County Commission and Cincinnati City Council are separately considering resolutions supporting 3CDC as a coordinating partner in the convention center district project. According to a proposed scope of services, 3CDC would update a market study to determine what is needed for the district, identify potential hotel developers and oversee the construction of the hotel, among other things.

3CDC declined to speak to WCPO about the project until both the city and county approve resolutions.

President Summerow Dumas said she is supportive of the partnership.

“The goal of involving them is to get off the dime and have all the stakeholders for the city, the county, the resident she business to be involved in the process. We know someone has to pull everybody together, Dumas said. “They’re not there to be the developer.”

Jeff Berding, president of FC Cincinnati, warned if the project does not move forward in a quick and coordinated way, the city could lose the opportunity to host the 2026 World Cup.

“Without it, it will be nearly impossible to host the World Cup. That is the single biggest tourism event, it would be, in the history of our city,” said Berding, who noted FIFA is concerned the city does not have enough hotel space to host the event.

According to the county, demolition of the Millennium will be complete this summer. The goal is to have a headquarter hotel up and running by fall of 2025.

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