CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Council could vote Wednesday on substantial changes to Fountain Square, the city’s primary downtown gathering space.
The proposed changes would close off the square’s Walnut Street entrance to accommodate an expanded atrium for Fifth Third Bank, which owns part of the square.
A permanent performance stage would also be built on the square’s east side.
The city has been working with Fifth Third and 3CDC for almost a year to craft the proposal, drawing on input from the police and fire departments, among others.
Increasing the safety of the square was a priority, especially in the wake of last year’s Fifth Third shooting. City officials say this plan accomplishes that goal.
The plan improves the square’s accessibility by replacing several stairways with graded ramps, the city says.
A new seat wall near the Graeter’s would also create two distinct elevations, an upper and lower plaza, to improve the flow of pedestrians through the public space.
But the most prominent—and most problematic—feature of the redesign involves the existing Walnut Street entrance, a pedestrian breezeway connecting Walnut Street to the square.
Fifth Third’s new two-story atrium, including an extended lobby and a small museum, would eliminate the entrance.
Members of the planning commission called this aspect of the plan concerning in a meeting held October 4.
They also raised concerns about Fifth Third possibly narrowing the square’s Sixth Street entrance, an enclosed passageway on the square’s north side.
The commission ultimately approved of the plan under two conditions: that Fifth Third not narrow the Sixth Street passageway; and that the bank make the passageway more inviting and visible to offset the elimination of the Walnut Street entrance.
Council’s Economic Growth and Zoning Committee voted in favor the plan Tuesday.