FC Cincinnati clears way for large West End development district

The 8.5-acre mixed-use district is slated to rise north of TQL Stadium.
Demolition starts to prepare for new development north of TQL Stadium
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 10:11 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Demolition began Wednesday to clear the way for a large mixed-use development district in the West End directly north of FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium.

FCC co-CEO Jeff Berding joined community leaders and project partners in a public event at the demolition site Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re working with the West End Community Council,” Berding said. “We presented the plan to the West End Community Council, they’re very supportive. There’s also an FCC community council that we talk to on a regular basis.”

The first phase of demolition will take down three buildings bounded by Liberty Street to the north, Central Parkway to the east, Wade street to the south and Central avenue to the west.

The new 8.5-acre “live-work-play” district will include a hotel, apartments, office space, retail, restaurants and what the club calls “a privately owned public green space.” The development plan, which is not yet publicly available, will be inspired by Wrigleyville in Chicago, the Wharf in Washington, D.C. and Titletown in Green Bay.

The development is expected to cost $300 million.

If completed, it and a slew of nearby projects will bring dramatic visual and functional changes to the area. The projects include: the Central Parkway redesign; Freeport Row at Liberty and Elm; the Findlay Market Garage; Logan Commons at Findlay Market; a supportive housing project on Dunlap Street; Wilkommen II at Central Parkway and Findlay; 3CDC’s Findlay Community Center and the Compendium Hotel across from TQL Stadium. A new development encompassing the site of the Towne Center Garage on Central Parkway is also in the works; a City-issued RFP is due in March.

FCC’s change of plans

Among the buildings to be demolished is the Tri-State Wholesale building at 1555 Central Parkway, part of which was formerly a Cincinnati Ballet practice facility. Tri-State Wholesale moved to Price Hill in 2018, and the ballet facility relocated to Walnut Hills in 2021 after a contentious saga with FCC over parking.

The building complex dates from 1866 and was originally home to the Lion Brewing Company. It remained a brewery but changed hands several times until 1973, when the Burger Brewing Company closed its doors. The Cincinnati Ballet took over the vacant space nearly 30 years later.

At first, the club intended to redevelop the Burger Brewing barrel storage house (a.k.a the Tri-State Wholesale building) into 100,000 sq.ft. of office space, according to the district’s initial masterplan concept. “The last remaining building remnants of a once thriving brewery are envisioned to be incorporated and revitalized as a tribute to the rich brewing history in Cincinnati,” the document reads.

Beer cellar vaults beneath the adjacent parking lot might have become a restaurant or bar with “vast skylights and monumental stairs leading down into the space.”

Diminished demand for office space post-pandemic likely scuttled plans for the building’s redevelopment. What becomes of the vaults remains unclear, though it’s possible they’ll go by the wayside beginning Wednesday as well.

Mission creep in the West End

Club leadership, including owner Carl Lindner III, have long held ambitions to expand their development footprint northward.

The stadium’s development plan was amended several times after it was proposed in January 2019, first in September of that year to accommodate the east parking garage and plazas. It was amended again in January 2020 to add land for an 800-space county-funded garage (completed last year) as well as two future development sites, one of which was rezoned to allow for a building of up to 11 stories.

A year later, when a planned development district proposal for a 6-acre site first surfaced, Berding described it to our media partners at the Enquirer as a “generational” opportunity.

“It’s not something to be done hastily,” he said. “Neighborhoods are forever. We are trying to create a new pocket between Over-the-Rhine and the West End, building off the shoulders of the enormous history of those neighborhoods.”

Berding said the club will prioritize the “aesthetic appeal” of the new district: “We don’t want something that could be plopped down in any city in America. We want something that is distinctly Cincinnati and captures the character of the city.”

From one acre to two to six, the proposed 8.5-acre district now appears to sprawl north of Bauer Street and west of Central Avenue. It’s no longer a simple elaboration of TQL Stadium—no longer simply a welcome mat for match-goers on match days—but rather its own community, fully fledged and flung out from the axle of its origin to comprise a significant share of the neighborhood whose history the club proposes to shoulder.

It’s a tall task. As neighborhoods go, the West End is not one whose past has been overly kind to its present.

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