Council narrowly approves $4.4 million City Hall atrium project

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati City council voted 5-4 Wednesday on spending $4.4 million on an atrium project at City Hall.

The project calls for the renovation of the courtyard at City Hall to make it an event center for weddings and other occasions.

The Atrium project was initially proposed by city manager Milton Dohoney as a way to generate revenue for the city by leveraging capital assets.

The manager's office stated in a letter to council members that the proposed atrium presents an opportunity for job creation. The letter referenced other cities including Columbus and Minneapolis who rent out city space to generate revenue.

According to Dohoney, the city spends $780,000 a year in utilities, security, cleaning and general maintenance and upkeep for City Hall which could be partially offset by event space rental.

City councilman Charlie Winburn said there is more than enough vacant space for a venue at the city-owned Centennial Plaza on Central Avenue.

Winburn says that space has been vacant for 1.5 years and has resulted in lost revenue for the taxpayers of Cincinnati of approximately $500,000, and would cost less than $100,000 to renovate.

The city has a balanced budget for 2012, but the most controversial item in the budget has been the atrium project.

The new atrium could appeal to conventions and large meetings, weddings are considered to be the front runners for filling the courtyard on a consistent basis.

"I think it's gorgeous. Especially with a June wedding, the sun coming in, that would be awesome," said bride-to-be Jaime Schiferl.

One bridal expert, however, believes the atrium would be a tough sell to the industry as a whole. Tina Minshall, manager of Bridal & Formal Inc. in Reading said, "We deal with brides all the time and I can pretty much guarantee you...because we deal with customers regionally not just Cincinnati. I think I've never had a bride tell me she's getting married at City Hall."

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