‘Game-changing’ Freedom Park offered for banks – at a steep price
CINCINNATI (WXIX) – Banks could get a facelift if a multi-million dollar plan submitted to the city comes to fruition.
“Freedom Park” calls for a pedestrian park just south of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center with numerous art installations, community spaces and symbolic references to the Underground Railroad.
It also offers a meeting point directly outside the Freedom Center that would act, according to a planning document, as “the epicenter of community engagement in banks.”
Cincinnati Reds COO and chairman of the banking board, Phil Castellini, presented the plan to city council’s budget and finance committee on Monday.
“I think it’s a game that changes the game, that changes the ecosystem [way to] to give life to a project that is still not finished, ”said Castellini, referring to the banks. “I think this is a very important vision for the city, but it also comes at a high price. “
The plan would make dramatic visual and functional changes to the 20-year-old waterfront development.
Since its inception, the Banks have been envisioned as a series of dense infill projects on a linear block grid connecting the two stadiums – what Castellini called “the bookend tenants”. The predominance of these tenants meant things were decentralized by design, while almost all public spaces and parks were demarcated separately.
“I don’t think we’ve ever considered [the Banks] with the pedestrian center and the rallying point in the middle, ”said Castellini.
Freedom Park gives exactly that.
The park would also extend a pedestrian plaza planned for the eastern half of Freedom Way. This place was approved and funded to the tune of $ 750,000 earlier this year. Construction is expected to begin this winter.
Castellini’s planning document foresees that the same plaza will continue west to the Paul Brown Stadium. The result would be a pedestrian walkway from one end of Freedom Way to the other.
The drivers of change are a set of economic realities.
These “bookend tenants” have not proved capable of taking charge of the entire development. MEMI’s new ICON Music Venue is here to help, but if banks are to be successful in the long term, they need to create a series of new use cases.
“Bars and restaurants continue to struggle outside of the sporting season, and so a big part of that vision is how to keep this ecosystem healthy,” Castellini said.
“The understanding here is that the more we invest in this central rallying point platform, the easier it will be for people to do pop-up events. “
Castellini estimated the construction costs at $ 13-15 million. He said ideally the city would pay a third, the county would pay a third, and private companies would pay a third.
Castellini did not have an operating cost figure but said he plans to have it maintained by the Cincinnati Parks Department.
City council approved $ 1 million in September for Freedom Park, although council member David Mann said he was completely unaware of the upcoming plan at Monday’s meeting.
The $ 1 million came from a contingency fund established earlier this year for a possible refund of municipal income taxes that businesses were withholding despite lack of clarity as to whether those taxes are actually owed due to the fact that many workers telecommute outside of city limits during the pandemic.
The Reds organization spent $ 160,000 to come up with the initial designs.
Castellini says the designs have been approved by stakeholders including the Freedom Center, the Cincinnati Parks Board, the MEMI (Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra) and the Bengals, as well as the office of outgoing Mayor John Cranley and the County Council of Commissioners. from Hamilton.
Monday’s presentation worked as a transfer to the city, as Castellini said he pushed the plan as far as possible without city involvement. Mann complied by returning the project to administration for a report and a formal recommendation.
The first reception was positive. Mann called the plan “very exciting,” while board member Greg Landsmann agreed it “was a game-changer for the whole company out there.”
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