CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati’s riverfront entertainment district could be getting a pedestrian-friendly makeover, per two plans outlined Tuesday by Mayor John Cranley.
Together with a proposal for permanent outdoor dining in Over-the-Rhine, Pendleton and the Central Business District, the plans proposed Tuesday point to a dramatically altered downtown when the pandemic ends — more walkable, more transit-friendly and more al fresco.
The first plan announced Tuesday would create a designated outdoor refreshment area at The Banks, allowing bar and restaurant patrons to carry a 16oz open alcoholic drink in a designated cup anywhere within the DORA area, bounded by Heritage Bank Center, Mehring Way, Paul Brown Stadium and Second Street.
The second and arguably more ambitious plan would create a pedestrian-friendly urban park on the easternmost block of Freedom Way between Great American Ballpark and Yard House.
The park/walkway would permanently close that portion of the road to vehicle traffic. It would also provide additional outdoor service areas for bars and restaurants.
“With the creation of a DORA and pedestrian walkway at The Banks, we open the opportunity for more outdoor dining and entertainment options as well as more vibrancy and revenue at The Banks,” Cranley said. “This next phase of energy and experiences at The Banks will provide a boost to our restaurants and bars when they need it most.”
The DORA plan appears to have broad support. Department of City Planning Director Katherine Keough-Jurs wrote in a letter to the city:
“The Banks has always been envisioned to be a mixed-use entertainment center for Cincinnati. Instituting a DORA complements this vision and the work that has already been completed in the community. We anticipate that this DORA will foster continued investment in the area, and we look forward to helping see this project to its completion.”
More, a letter signed by 17 businesses at The Banks dated June 29 reads in part:
“As we continue to recover from COVID-19, it’s now more important than ever for our bars and restaurants to create new revenue opportunities so we can stay in business. We believe a DORA District will increase new economic opportunity to The Banks to better support our businesses.”
Holy Grail co-Owner Jim Moehring added Tuesday: “The Mayor’s announcement is much needed good news as we close this year of innovation and perseverance - for all at The Banks. These initiatives provide new avenues for growth as we solve against current challenges, and tremendous opportunity as all of us move forward.”
Cincinnati Bengals Executive Vice President Katie Blackburn and Cincinnati Reds President and COO Phil Castellini also signed separate letters of support for the DORA.
The plans are not yet finalized, though Cranley says they could be complete by Reds Opening Day, or April 1, 2021.
Tuesday’s announcement comes a week after city leaders put forward a plan to create permanent outdoor patio dining — ‘streateries’ — throughout Over-the-Rhine, Pendleton and the Central Business District.
That $2 million effort cements a temporary initiative carried out in the pandemic’s early months.
Initial plans called for inclusion of outdoor dining at The Banks as well, though the rollout was slowed on fears street and lane closures might encourage a “free-for-all feel” similar to the city’s Opening Day atmosphere, Cranley said in May.
The current plans apparently allow for social distancing but seem intended for a post-pandemic world.
As for the ‘streateries’ plan — a combination of parklets, bump-outs and sidewalk expansions — it passed out of City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee Tuesday.
Since it was announced, the plan has grown to encompass the redesign of Imagination Alley, a small park in the 1300 block of Vine Street. 3CDC will commence design work upon passage of the plan by full City Council.
A memo on the plan from City Manager Paula Boggs Muething reads in part:
“Though some critics have noted that the proposed improvements will negatively impact parking, the City Administration believes that the substantial investment in off-street parking and transit in the urban core, including the streetcar and increased bus service resulting from passage of Issue 7, will appropriately counter balance any such impacts.”
The ‘streateries’ could be completed March 15.
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