By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Now that the dust has settled after Cinergy Field's collapse, the real work of reshaping Cincinnati's riverfront begins in earnest.
True, more than $1 billion in new stadiums, roadways and a world-class museum are already in place or under construction along the city's front porch. But the final pieces of the puzzle - a 51-acre riverfront park and a neighborhood known as The Banks - will ultimately define the riverfront because they will make the difference between usable space and a sea of surface parking lots.
Planned for the space between Great Anerican Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium are parks, amphitheaters, a wharf area of restaurants and a business and residential complex called The Banks.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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Hamilton County controls all of the land, including the footprint of the former Cinergy Field. But developers still need millions - as much as $700 million - to pay for the riverfront park and the neighborhood.
Nick Vehr, who works for the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and worked for a group called the Riverfront Advisors, which drew up the redesign and the plans to pay for it, predicts Cinergy's fall will be a galvanizing force in the community.
"I think after Cinergy comes down, for the first time people will be able to envision what artists have rendered for the past half decade," Mr. Vehr said. "For the first time, we'll be able to feel it ... we'll get a glimpse of what will end up being the most remarkable, well-planned inland riverfront in the United States."
If ambitious plans that have been dominated drawing boards for years become a reality, it's clear Cincinnati will not recognize its riverfront by 2020.
That plan includes a $78 million public park between Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park, covering the land currently occupied by Cinergy Field. It will run north to south from Third Street to the Ohio River banks, and will include:
A large public festival area on the east side of the park, called Roebling Commons, with a children's playground and carousel.
Another playground on the west side that will be educational with replicas of riverboats, railroad cars, mounds of fake coal and a public boat landing.
A four-acre open amphitheater for concerts will sit next to the boat landing.
A wharf area of restaurants is envisioned on the western-most edge of the park, near Paul Brown Stadium, home to the Bengals.
A small amphitheater will overlook a concrete landing featuring giant fountains that will shoot arching streams of water more than 70 feet.
Steve Schuckman, superintendent of planning and design for Cincinnati Park Board, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will get $200,000 next year to complete a study for Congress on how much federal funding should go into the park.
It will be 2005 at the earliest, before significant federal dollars are available for the project, he said.
"We don't know which part of the park will be able to be built when," Mr. Schuckman said. "It may be happening over the next four to eight years. There's no real way of knowing. We're working closely with Port Authority, because as the park develops it will need to go along with The Banks."
The Banks is a riverfront neighborhood that would combine apartments, retail, office space and entertainment - all built over parking garages meant to lift the development out of the flood plain.
Planners with the Port Authority have had a tough time getting the development started. County money for the parking garages is not currently available because of sluggish sales-tax collections.
Mr. Schuckman said all of the wrangling will have been worth it once the park is in place.
"It's a place that, I believe, will bring people down to the river and bring them from the river up to the city," Mr. Schuckman said.
"It will connect us with downtown in a way that hasn't happened in many, many years."
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