Courier Power Breakfast examines how 3 projects will reshape Cincinnati from center out
Brent Spence companion bridge expected to improve transit, add land for development
In 2005, building a companion to the Brent Spence Bridge was just starting to become a serious plan. But now, in 2023, the Brent Spence Bridge project has blossomed into a reality, backed by one of the largest federal grants to be awarded in U.S. history. A 2029 completion for the project is being eyed – more than 20 years after Moore recalls the beginning of the planning process.
From the Brent Spence Bridge project to decks over Fort Washington Way, to creating a revitalized convention center district, the projects discussed by the panel showcased just how transformative connecting downtown’s active hubs could be.
“That central … downtown core is so strong, and it really is a good selling point if we can create an asset in the convention center and hotel for people to stay in,” Gelter said. “People will choose Cincinnati because of all those other assets.” From the Cincinnati region, 70% of the United States can be reached by truck within one day.
The Brent Spence corridor project – which includes a new bridge west of the current one and expanding the highway on both sides of the river – comes at a steep price tag of $3.6 billion. That’s up $800 million from 2022 estimates.
But the federal government is kicking in $1.6 billion for the project, and the economic boom the new bridge shepherds in could greatly help an already growing logistics hub in Northern Kentucky.
Convention center district plan will breathe life into core
Cincinnati needs to make a change in its convention center district if it wants to attract larger groups downtown.
The convention center district is located right by Interstate 75, leading to the Brent Spence Bridge. As one of downtown’s epicenters, the convention center also is tied to Fountain Square, another 3CDC project the nonprofit development groups sees as “critical” to developing a new convention center district.
The entire project would cost about $700 million, with the bulk of the expense coming from the $482 million headquarters hotel. In March, 3CDC recommended Atlanta-based Portman Holdings to be the hotel developer. The 800-room hotel would include 60,000 to 80,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, 15,000 square feet of retail, a pool, an outdoor amenity deck, and junior and senior ballrooms.
Virtually every inch of the convention center needs a refresh. 3CDC estimates it will take $200 million to overhaul the space, which would include wrapping the outer facade with glass, adding a rooftop solar garden and opening up many of the concourses.
The convention center is a city-owned asset, and the city must make sure it is being a good team member in renovating the building.
Fort Washington Way decks would better connect downtown to the Banks
The decks wouldn’t be possible today, if not for the collaboration of city and business leaders who made an 11th-hour push more than two decades ago to raise the funds to install the pylons that could hold the caps. About 20 years later, Cincinnati, Hamilton County and the chamber applied for a $2 million planning grant from the federal Reconnecting Communities program that would finally put those pylons to use by capping Fort Washington Way.
The project could cost over $110 million and would turn Fort Washington Way into a tunnel. On the topside, initial concepts include a seamless, long, open park for events and everyday use. Here, Cincinnati could host events like the NFL Draft. It could also be a potential site for the chamber’s two major festivals: the Taste of Cincinnati and Oktoberfest Zinzinnati.
The grant would have required a $500,000 local contribution, although the U.S. Department of Transportation passed on funding the project in March. But local leaders are still determined to find a way for the project – which could add much-needed green space in the city’s urban core – to move forward.
In addition to becoming a green space, Moore said the caps are important in connecting downtown Cincinnati to the Ohio River. By extension, the caps could also mean greater connectivity to Northern Kentucky as other projects such as Ovation take shape.
The timetable for the caps remains unclear. But like the Brent Spence Bridge project and convention center district, it’s an example of an ambitious plan that shows the Cincinnati region wants to grow and bring people downtown.
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