Cranley, Portune come to agreement about future of Banks development

Cranley, Portune come to agreement about future of Banks development
The latest renderings of the Banks show what the future could hold for Cincinnati's massive riverfront development. (Source: Hamilton County/The Banks Partnership)

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley hammered out a deal Saturday regarding future development at the Banks, according to a joint statement released Tuesday night.

The entire deal is embedded at the end of this story.

News of the deal comes a week after the city and county sparred again over development of the riverfront, as reported by FOX19 NOW’s media partner, the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The long-running feud first touched off last year when the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was awarded rights to build and operate a music venue next to Paul Brown Stadium, which required the county to amend its lease with the Bengals.

Mayor Cranley has objected to the terms of the stadium lease amendments, saying they aren’t in the best interest of taxpayers.

The feud has since spilled over to development rights and parking revenues on lots both north and east of the venue, though tensions appeared to subside in October after the county agreed to purchase 17 acres from Hilltop Basic Resources and it was not clear the city had any other means to stop the venue’s progress.

Then came the city’s zoning meeting of Oct. 30.

At the meeting, according to the Enquirer, the city surprised county leaders by proposing to eliminate residential zoning on two lots—lots 24 and 25—and declining to support the ‘entertainment’ zoning change needed for the music venue to proceed.

Eliminating residential zoning on lot 24 is significant because the Enquirer reports a proposal exists for a mixed-use building on the lot that would include residential and office space.

Lot 24 is also the lot on which Cranley has said he favors building the music venue.

The next day, on Oct. 31 the Enquirer obtained an email from City Manager Patrick Duhaney to County Administrator Jeff Aluotto outlining a list of city demands.

Among the demands was a request by the city for exclusive development rights of lots 1 and 13 directly north of Paul Brown Stadium, lots the city feared would remain surface parking under the stadium lease amendments.

The deal reached by Cranley and Portune Saturday would see the city drop its proposal to eliminate residential zoning on lot 24 and give independent exclusive development rights to the county for lots 24 and 25.

Additionally, the county promises to give the city independent exclusive development rights of lots 1 and 13. Any property tax revenues generated from the development of those lots would primarily go to debt payments the city owes the county for building various garages at the Banks.

Also at issue between the city and county were design guidelines, including height restrictions, that originally gave the Bengals veto power over new buildings in proximity of the stadium. According to the Enquirer, the stadium lease amendments promised to revise those guidelines, and the city feared they could be revised for the worse, giving the Bengals even more say over the height and design of new buildings at the Banks.

In the deal reached Saturday, the county promises any revisions to the design guidelines will be either the same or less restrictive than they are today.

The deal also contains a noteworthy, albeit vague, agreement by the city to join the county in exploring a way to add decks over Fort Washington Way, a project for which Portune has long advocated.

With the deal in place, the city has effectively given the green light to the ‘entertainment’ zoning needed for the CSO music venue to move forward, though the zoning must still clear the city’s planning commission and city council.

Construction of the venue’s garage podium has already begun. The venue is expected to open in the fall of 2020.

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