City council approves millions for OTR tech hub

Map of the area from Google
Map of the area from Google

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - An OTR building with a lot of history will get to write a new chapter when it becomes a tech campus for a Cincinnati business.

In an effort to put Cincinnati on par in the future with cities like Austin, Texas, and Raleigh, North Carolina, known for attracting high-tech companies and jobs, city council members voted this morning to spend millions of dollars buying real estate for a new tech campus in Over-the-Rhine.

The project is being spearheaded by a group called Cintrifuse, which brings in technology startups into its business incubator and introduces them to companies and investors who might finance their growth. But Cintrifuse says it's outgrown its current space.

An Italian company has expressed interest in possibly locating here due to the groundwork laid by local business leaders in generating technology business and innovation, a Cintrifuse executive told city council members before this morning's vote.

The tech campus will be located along 1311-1315 Vine Street across from the Mercer Commons project. Pictures of the building and drawings of future plans for it, show space where technology entrepreneurs can meet with others in the industry to fully develop their ideas and spark new ones. In addition, there is space on the first floor for a restaurant. It's also connected to a parking garage.

"This is a slam dunk for Cincinnati," said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who noted CNBC recently ran a story about a "tech boom" here.

The money approved for the project today, including a $4.5 million grant, will be used to purchase the property.

3CDC will serve as developer, retaining ownership of the commercial space, while Cintrifuse will own the office space. The $14.3 million project will be financed through a Cincinnati Equity Fund II loan, tax credit equity, private investment, and the City grant.

1313 Vine, the new address for Cintrifuse, has served as a center for commerce since 1855 when it was constructed as a beer hall.

It was used for dances, concerts, athletic events, weddings, and drinking. Beer was actually brewed in its cavernous sub-basements, which later became a Prohibition-era speakeasy.

A German newspaper named "Hochwaechter" was even edited there in 1861.

And in 1897, six regulation-sized bowling alleys were constructed inside the building. Its latest use, from 1992 until 2004, was a rave club called the Warehouse.

The votes on the project came during a session where the city council was acting as the budget and finance committee. Each council member is a member of the committee.

Even so, these items usually require formal approval at a future city council meeting.

Cintrifuse and 3CDC will begin the permitting process immediately and break ground on the project in September. The project has a 15 month construction timeline.

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