Some locals angry over plan to revamp Washington Park

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)  - Private developer Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, or 3CDC, wants to fix up Washington Park. Many locals agree something needs to be done, but they don't agree on the price tag: nearly $50 million.

Kenneth Retic runs the Over-the-Rhine Devourers, a clothing store feet away from historic Washington Park.

"First thing that comes to mind is enter at your own risk," Retic said.

Retic likes the park, but says he wishes someone would clean it up. Developers from 3CDC have a plan to do just that.

"Most urban planners will tell you that if you invest properly in civic places and manage them and promote them and create events with it, the entire community will begin to benefit," said Stephen Leeper, President & CEO of 3CDC.

The organization wants to put up a bandstand, water features, play areas and a 450-space underground parking garage.

"I don't know how much I feel about a parking garage," said Retic. "I think more parking would be an asset. I think if they kept it open as it is and made it even more friendly to the point you can have concerts there, I think that would be a definitely turnaround."

A turnaround to the tune of an estimated $47 million. $26 million would come from private funds. $21 million would come from public loans and grants, including $14 million from the city of CIncinnati. Most council members were out of town or didn't want to comment on the plan on Thursday. Council members Jeff Berding and Laurie Quinlivan said they're for it. Mainly because $11.5-million would come from what's called tax increment financing or "TIF" money.

"By law, the TIF dollars have to be spent in the neighborhood on capital projects that benefit the neighborhood," said Berding. "And Washington Park is exactly the kind of project that the state of Ohio had in mind."

"I think the revitalization plan for Washington Park is fantastic," said council member Quinlivan. "I think it will finally bringing the park up to all that it can be. It's not well used right now, but it could be one of the best public spaces in the city. I like the plan."

But some homeless advocates disagree.

Josh Spring runs the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. He said the park is the only plot of greenery for people living in Over-the-Rhine. Spring said it's important for the children and families living in the area, but especially for the homeless men and women of Cincinnati.

"We have 1,200 to 1,500 people on the street or in the shelter system every night in this city," said Spring. "And we're going to spend $46-million on a park that is already used abundantly and is a good place to be."

Just like present day Fountain Square. Years ago, 3CDC revamped the landmark. That project cost $48-million.

The finance committee will vote on the plan on Monday. It then heads to the rest of Council on Wednesday.

3CDC hopes to start working on the park this summer, and finish by next winter.

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