BLUE ASH, OH (FOX19) - Blue Ash City Council will vote on legislation allowing for the finalization of its transaction with the City of Cincinnati to purchase 130 acres of property at the Blue Ash Airport during a council meeting on Thursday at 7:00pm.
In the summer of 2006, the City of Blue Ash negotiated the acquisition of 130 acres of the 228 acre Blue Ash Airport owned by the City of Cincinnati. This purchase agreement, approved by the City Councils of Blue Ash and Cincinnati, represented a breakthrough in a 20+ year discussion regarding the future of the airport land.
Various private development proposals existed at that time regarding re-use of the airport land, including a myriad of office, retail and residential developments. However, Blue Ash placed before the voters a vision of acquiring 130 acres for development as a "Central" Park with amenities such as the Blue Ash Center (Performing Arts and Conference Center), pedestrian plaza, open space, walking trails, family-friendly golf facilities, and open green space. Voters approved of this plan and a related 0.25% earnings tax financing plan passed via Issue 15 by a 2 to 1 margin.
While the continuance of the Blue Ash Airport operation on the remaining 98 acres retained by the City of Cincinnati was not guaranteed as part of the Issue 15 process/vote, the purchase agreement specified that Cincinnati would apply for FAA funds to reconfigure and redevelop the airport, and do so by August 2010, with extensions available until August 2012 (in February 2010, Cincinnati did in fact request one of those year extensions to give them more time to work with the FAA). The agreement also specified that Blue Ash would commit up to $2 million in matching funds to the FAA grants received by Cincinnati. Should Cincinnati not receive the required $10 million in FAA funds requested, they have the option of closing the airport.
Before Blue Ash can move forward with development of the park, the City of Cincinnati must resolve these issues associated with airport operations. As noted above, Cincinnati has formally requested one of those optional year extensions in February 2010, and as of May 2011, Cincinnati is awaiting approval from the FAA as federal funds will be required to reconfigure airport operations.
In the meantime, Blue Ash remains committed to the airport and continues to support Cincinnati's efforts to receive FAA funds to keep it operational. Should that process not prove successful, Blue Ash has a contractual right to match any purchase offer on the remaining 98 acres, and will go through a due diligence process to determine financial feasibility. Regardless of whether the airport remains open or not, Blue Ash will likely begin phased development of the new "Central" park around 2012-13, depending on the economy.
This major park will be a benchmark project for the City of Blue Ash and the Greater Cincinnati region.