Federal research lab coming to Cincinnati Innovation District

Fifteen years after its first reveal, the new facility is finally coming to Avondale.
The future of uptown Cincinnati revolves around the intersection of Reading Road and Martin...
The future of uptown Cincinnati revolves around the intersection of Reading Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, where an innovation district is planned and the National Institutes for Occupational and Health Safety wants to build a new research facility.(Uptown Consortium/City of Cincinnati)
Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 11:06 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A federal research lab more than a decade in the making cleared a major hurdle Wednesday.

It’s the second of four large development projects planned at the intersection of Reading Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Avondale.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which employs more than 700 in Cincinnati, wants to consolidate two research laboratories into a new research facility on a single campus on the intersection’s northwest quadrant.

The 14-acre site will include an employee parking garage and a five-story building set back 100 ft. from the property boundary to comply with Department of Homeland Security requirements.

Story continues below.

The City of Cincinnati owns around 1.4 acres in the site plan that is currently controlled by Cincinnati Parks. Around 0.4 acres are also city-owned, and some property in the site comprises public right- of-ways including Hickman Avenue.

City Council on Wednesday voted to vacate the right-of-ways and sell all the property to the federal government for $3.07 million to move the project forward.

The sale price includes a NIOSH contribution to Greater Cincinnati Water Works to install a water main along Reading Road south of the site.

It “equals of exceeds the fair market value” of the property, according to the City.

The Board of Park Commissioners and the city’s departments of economic development and transportation already signed off on the sale. The Park Board deemed the 1.4 acres it owns aren’t needed for park purposes, according to the City.

The Parks department will vacate the property by April 30, 2023, if not sooner, according to the purchase agreement.

[UPTOWN INNOVATION DISTRICT | Partnership aims to bring 20K jobs, $3B annual economic impact]

The NIOSH facility is years in the making.

Cincinnati’s current two labs in Columbia Tusculum and Pleasant Ridge are more than 50 years old and predate NIOSH’s founding in 1971.

The U.S. General Services Administration first announced the labs would be consolidated in 2007, though it did not say where. Several sites were considered, including some outside Cincinnati.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2015 helped acquire $110 million to find the new facility, according to our media partners at the Enquirer.

Avondale was identified as the likely final destination for the project in 2017. Design and construction were expected to begin the following year, according to a Centers for Disease Control request for project bids. A completion date was set for early 2021.

In November 2019, still no progress had been made. Both Brown and fellow Ohio Sen. Rob Portman worked to secure the funding from Congressional cuts, while they assured local stakeholders the plans were still moving forward.

Then the pandemic happened.

It wasn’t until May 2021 that the federal government invited representatives from the City, Uptown Consortium and the staffs of Brown and Portman to participate in design review.

Uptown Consortium’s vision for the Reading Road/MLK intersection, part of which comprises the Cincinnati Innovation District, is similarly years in the making.

The district’s mixed-use Uptown Gateway development is already underway. The University of Cincinnati Digital Futures Complex, located within Uptown Gateway, celebrated its grand opening last week.

An update on the other development sites is below.

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