Group OKs Banks plan
BY JESSICA BROWN | JLBROWN@ENQUIRER.COM
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Cincinnati's Planning Commission on Thursday night recommended approval of a Banks riverfront development that will be twice as dense and could be twice as tall as originally anticipated.
The seven-member commission voted 5-1, with one member absent, to recommend approval of the latest Banks plans.
The plans put the development at 2.8 million square feet with buildings up to 30 stories tall. The previous riverfront master plan, adopted in 2000, called for a maximum of 1.4 million square feet and capped building heights at 16 stories.
Planning Commission member John Schneider cast the lone dissenting vote, because of the new height allowances. Commission members noted concerns that tall buildings could block views downtown, create an unfriendly canyon-like appearance on the riverfront and interfere with height restrictions in the Bengals' lease with the county.
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"We only have four 30-or-more-story buildings in our entire downtown," Schneider said. "I think I'll have to regretfully vote no. This is a pretty remarkable change in the status quo. I'd just have to be convinced that 30 stories is the way to go."
The Banks' Atlanta-based developers, Carter Real Estate and the Harold Dawson Co., said they don't have any plans to build skyscrapers on the riverfront. They just want flexibility so that if a major corporation wants to build its headquarters there they can work to accommodate it, said Bailey Pope of the Dawson Co.
"We're creating a window of opportunity for a Fortune 500 company to join the riverfront," he said.
City Manager Milton Dohoney agreed with the 30-story flexibility. "I think the spirit of the (increased height) request is for the city to be attractive for outside investors," he said.
He noted that this plan is just an outline. The Planning Commission still will be required to sign off on final details, including building heights on each block, as the development moves forward. Developers plan to begin construction by April.
Developers said the dramatic changes in the new plans "allow us to push the vision a little further," Pope said. The companies believe there is a larger demand for space on the Cincinnati's riverfront - especially for apartments and condominiums - than earlier anticipated.
The maximum amount of retail space has increased from 300,000 square feet to 400,000 square feet. Residential space increased from 745,000 square feet to 1.8 million square feet. Office space increased from 200,000 square feet to 1 million square feet. Hotel space increased from 200,000 square feet to 400,000 square feet. Total space, though, is capped at 2.8 million square feet.
The new Banks plan will move forward to the Cincinnati City Council and Hamilton County Commission. Both governments must approve the plans. They are expected to vote by Sept. 12.