Here's what Downtown's Court Street could look like after 'pedestrianization' redesign

Posted at 10:11 PM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 23:35:48-04

CINCINNATI — City and business leaders Wednesday unveiled what a planned redesign of downtown Cincinnati's Court Street corridor might look like.

"We're going to see a complete reimagination of Court Street," Mayor John Cranley said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. "Far more pedestrian-friendly, more broader sidewalks, more opportunity for outdoor eating, activity, concerts."

Cranley convened a task force in early 2019 to lead the redesign effort of the block bookended by Kroger Co.'s headquarters and its new Downtown grocery retail and residential development on Walnut Street between Court Street and Central Parkway.

The current configuration includes one traffic lane in each direction, two parking lanes in each direction, and a narrow median separating the two. The new nearly $9 million design calls for eliminating the median and some of the parking in order to widen the sidewalk space on both the north and south side of the street.

"It's always been my belief that we need to have more pedestrianization of streets, with reasonable accommodations, of course, but to promote outdoor activities. And this task force was born of that vision," Cranley said.

Business managers had mixed feelings about the proposed developments on Court Street, and it all has to do with balancing the need for more foot traffic with the desire to keep the current parking setup in place.

With limited sidewalk space, outdoor seating each night is something Court Street Lobster bar can’t serve up. General Manager Peyton Johnson thinks a plan that includes expanded sidewalks and limited parking could boost business.

“That would be great, if people could just bounce from bar to restaurant,” Johnson said.

On the other side of Court, the jury is still out on whether going from 62 to 28 parking spots will meet the customer needs for civil trial lawyer Albert Brown, Jr.

“Accessibility to people who are disabled, that’s why I’m in that building," he said.

Brown is making the case to hold onto more parking, which he says goes quickly when the courthouse is full. While additional parking would be built nearby, some of his clients can only handle the current short walk inside.

“I do a lot of litigation work. I represent a lot of injured people.”

In the literal -- and figurative -- middle sits Set4Life Customz, a t-shirt business that Mike Baker has run with his brother Brian for seven years. He sees the benefits of a more pedestrian-friendly street.

“The walk-in traffic would be great for me, honestly,” he said.

But he worries about what lies down the road.

“I don’t know how I’m going to keep my customers coming if they don’t have anywhere to park.”

The project is slated to go before the Cincinnati's Budget and Finance Committee next week.