Commissioner Parks to Cranley: ‘I’m done playing games.’ City, county feud threatens development at The Banks

Commissioner Parks to Cranley: ‘I’m done playing games.’ City, county feud threatens development at The Banks
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 (Enquirer) - Negotiations broke down on Friday between the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County over control of riverfront development, according to FOX19 NOW’s media partners at the Enquirer.

The latest snag in a long saga of snags between the city and county could hold up future development at The Banks entertainment complex along the Ohio River. 

Both the city and county have accused each other of holding up development at The Banks.

Hamilton County Commissioner Victoria Parks, in a statement released Friday, accused Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley of breaking the deal he made with Commissioner Todd Portune this past November, just a few months before Portune died. 

The deal paved the way for a music venue to be built on the riverfront.

“I’m disappointed the mayor is being unreasonable and threatening to hold up construction of the city’s own park for no rational reason,” Parks said in the statement.

Parks is Portune's former chief of staff and is serving out the remainder of his term. She said the city, in the final hour on Friday before finalizing an agreement, gave the county a document with 578 revisions. 

“The mayor is playing games with jobs, with development, and with progress by continuing to move the goal post,” she wrote in her statement. “Mr. Mayor, I’m done playing games.”

This comes a little more than a week after Cincinnati’s interim city manager, Paula Boggs Muething, accused the county of not honoring the November deal.

In that November deal, Portune and Cranley divided up lots along the riverfront near Paul Brown Stadium – two for the city to develop and two for the county to develop. The city got Lots 1 and 13, which are currently parking near the football stadium.

Cranley, in a statement on Friday, said the county is refusing to give up the development rights to those lots. The mayor said the county wants to keep Lots 1 and 13 as parking to meet obligations it made to the Bengals.

In order to get the Bengals to consent to the music venue being built right next to Paul Brown Stadium, the county agreed to purchase more land for parking. Hamilton County struck a deal with concrete company Hilltop Basic Resources to buy its 17-acre facility just west of the stadium for this. The price tag on the land is $30 million. But Hilltop has yet to find a new location. 

So, Cranley contends the county wants to keep those parking lots. 

"The taxpayers paid for the riverfront and they deserve to be given the development they were promised," Cranley said in a statement, "which was not surface parking forever, but mixed-use development – a riverfront park, office towers, residential and retail space."

Parks has alleged Cranley wants to scrap the master development agreement that dictates the revenues and development rights the city and county have at The Banks. 

The county gets parking revenues from The Banks. The city gets earnings taxes from the businesses. If the development agreement is scrapped, Parks and county administrator Jeff Aluotto told The Enquirer last week they fear the county could lose revenue and still be on the hook for building infrastructure, such as garages on the site. 

What does all this mean for the city's waterfront? Well, that depends on how long this fight drags on. 

The indoor portion of the music venue is already well underway and is still slated for completion in December, county officials told The Enquirer. 

But the park slated to be built atop the parking garage for the music venue and meant to accommodate the audience for outdoor concerts might be delayed. The deadline was Friday for the county and city to sign the contract for $6.5 million to build the park. 

If the two sides can’t agree, future development, including this park and anything else that may be developed, is on hold, officials told The Enquirer.

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