Improvements planned for neighborhoods surrounding casino site

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The City of Cincinnati's Budget Director presented plans to city council for infrastructure improvements surrounding the casino site downtown during Tuesday's Budget and Finance Committee Meeting.

The plans include nearly $16 million of necessary infrastructure improvements, $3.6 million in optional projects and $7.4 million in neighborhood projects.

The budget director says the goal is to have TIFF money generated by the casino pay for the majority of the improvements.

"We have to envision what this area will look like so we can put the resources there," shared Stephen Samuel. "What's important is making sure it's not an island over there and that it's still connected to the neighborhood."

Samuel is the president of the non-profit Bridging Broadway which is working with the city to come up with development plans around the destination.

"There's going to be an immense amount of intensity that occurs in this area which means immense opportunity and it also carries with it plenty of challenges," Samuel explained.

Right now city plans include street and sidewalk expansions, beautification projects, and utility improvements.

"From a business side it's terrific," Pendleton businessman Jim Verdin said.

Verdin's company owns a number of buildings in the area.

"Everybody's in the planning stages right now," Verdin shared. "There are probably 15 to 25 people that are actively talking with architects, designers, looking at opportunities, trying to arrange for financing or investors."

"The changes to housing, buildings, new development opportunities, management of the area, that's going to take some time," Samuel said.

While the excitement for development is growing, so is the concern for what it may bring.

"This is a large development that's going in to the city's largest historic district," said Margo Warminski with the Cincinnati Preservation Association. "While it could possibly help the neighborhood, there's lots of potential for harm."

At the Preservation Association, their hope is that people will use preservation as a development tool rather than letting progress harm the area's rich history.

"The neighborhoods have expressed a lot of concern about increased crime, also litter, parking issues, and possible threats to historic buildings for being demolished for parking or the like," Warminski explained.

Samuel, however, is confident that progress will preserve Pendleton.

"I am pretty confident that a lot of these buildings that have been neglected in Pendleton for so long will be improved," Samuel said. "The quality of life should improve, but you have to plan. You have to plan and be prepared."

The city's budget director says her department hopes to present a finalized project plan and timeline for completion to council within the next two weeks for approval.

The goal is to make sure all improvements are made alongside casino construction so they are completed by the site's grand opening.

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