Hamilton County spends $3M for more riverfront land for Bengals fan parking

Former site of Valley Asphalt is now parking area for Bengals fans
Hamilton County bought 1.2 acres of riverfront land for more Cincinnati Bengals parking on Oct. 21.
Posted at 12:06 PM, Oct 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-26 12:06:43-04

CINCINNATI — Hamilton County officials closed on 1.2 acres of Hilltop Basic Resource’s riverfront property last week, adding more parking for Bengals fans and taking another step toward controlling the entire coveted site near Paycor Stadium.

The county paid $2.98 million for the land, which once housed an asphalt plant, and an additional $362,163 to Hilltop to develop and pave the site; reimbursement for 2021 parking; and for various closing fees, according to county documents dated Oct. 21.

“As a result of the county, Bengals, and Hilltop’s cooperative efforts, the asphalt manufacturing plant was removed, and the property redeveloped for additional public parking along the riverfront. The county was able to have the property ready for Bengal patron parking in advance of the Falcons game this past Sunday. The lot was at full capacity on its first day of operation,” said county spokesman Bridget Doherty in a statement.

The county signed an agreement to buy the entire 17-acre parcel of land in 2019, to free up the land for additional Bengals parking, a temporary practice facility and possibly a more permanent practice facility for the team.

But the transfer of the entire of site has been stalled because Hilltop has been searching for a new home for five years.

When WCPO interviewed Hilltop President Kevin Sheehan last April, he said the company was close to finding a new home. He declined to name the location of the new proposed site, other than to say it’s on the Ohio River and near downtown which the company requires for the transportation of its materials.

Sheehan has not responded to several recent requests for comment on the status of his move.

Hamilton County bought 1.2 acres of riverfront land on Oct. 21 for more Cincinnati Bengals fan parking.
Hamilton County bought 1.2 acres of riverfront land on Oct. 21 for more Cincinnati Bengals fan parking.

“The county is working with Hilltop and the city regarding the relocation of the concrete manufacturing plant in order for the last remaining parcel to be transferred to the public for future development,” Doherty said.

Hilltop, an 81-year-old family business, has supplied concrete, gravel and limestone for landmark structures across the region. It also owns valuable riverfront land on Mehring Way that has been at the center of negotiations over Bengals tailgating and parking space, and disputes between the city and the county over how The Banks will be developed.

Hilltop Basic Resources and the site of the proposed temporary Bengals practice facility.
Hilltop Basic Resources and the site of the proposed temporary Bengals practice facility.

In an April interview, Sheehan said he had met with community leaders from his prospective new neighborhood and given them a tour of the concrete facility. The next step was for Hilltop officials to ask the city of Cincinnati for permits at the new site to allow for open storage of sand and gravel, to vacate a paper street and install a conveyor over a roadway.

Sheehan has been looking for a new home for the concrete facility since he got a call from Hamilton County officials in March 2017 asking if he would be interested in selling land. Hilltop’s land became a valuable part of a land swap between the Bengals and the county, which allowed the Andrew J. Brady Music Center at The Banks to be built.

Hamilton County agreed to buy Hilltop’s riverfront property in October 2019, at what the county described as "a fair market price" of $29.75 million.

Hilltop Basic Resources President Kevin Sheehan
Hilltop Basic Resources President Kevin Sheehan

As part of the deal, the Bengals gave up $30 million owed in game day payments to allow the county to buy the Hilltop property and offer it to the Bengals for parking, tailgating and a practice facility.

In exchange, the Bengals gave up parking areas east of the stadium for the construction of the concert venue near Smale Riverfront Park.

But finding a new home for Hilltop has been difficult. Their plans to relocate to Queensgate and Lower Price Hill fell through in 2019, due in part to city politics and community worries about the industrial presence.

Hilltop has had multiple sites under contract and made proposals to buy several other sites on both sides of the river, Sheehan said in April.

In the meantime, the county purchased seven acres of the Hilltop property in April 2020 for $12 million. Sheehan agreed to squeeze his operations onto the remaining 10 acres, which meant parking trucks closer together and stacking piles of sand higher to conserve space.

This seven-acre parcel is where the Bengals built a temporary indoor practice facility with a 75-foot high synthetic air dome and regulation-size turf practice field.

Bengals practice facility render

Once Hilltop finally relocates, the remaining 10 acres of its land will be available for future development – and possibly a permanent Bengals practice facility.

The county and Bengals deal specifically allow for the construction and usage of an indoor practice facility on the Hilltop site.

Once Hilltop purchases a new site, the company will need time to redevelop it. In April, Sheehan said he is considering a temporary move to an interim site, which would allow Hilltop time to develop their new property and free up their old location near Paycor Stadium.

The county’s most recent amended purchase agreement with Hilltop had a Sept. 1 closing date on the remaining 10 acres of land.

WCPO asked the county for an updated or amended purchase agreement with Hilltop, but so far has not received any public documents.