Or so this article from today indicates. It's still supposed to take a decade to complete, which is crazy.

Banks design work to begin

By Kevin Osborne
Post staff reporter

A critical step in constructing the long-planned Banks riverfront district will happen this summer when design work begins for underground parking garages needed to start the project.

Officials from the regional Port Authority overseeing the Banks development said this morning that they are ready to hire a project manager for the garage portion.

Although some planning and behind-the-scenes jockeying for funds has occurred, the garage work will be the first tangible sign of progress at the barren riverfront area in more than four years.

The garages will take nine to 12 months to design and two years to build, Port Authority board members said.

That means actual turning of dirt at the site probably will begin next spring.

The Port Authority had been stymied trying to raise the $68 million needed for garage construction, after a county sales tax intended for that purpose didn't generate enough revenue. Ultimately, the agency was able to win $21.4 million in state and federal grants to begin two large garages on the eastern end of the site, near the Roebling Suspension Bridge.

"We're moving forward in the context of reality right now, not in the context of what if," said Jack Rouse, the Port Authority's board chairman.

The underground garages are needed to lift the area out of the flood plain, and will act as the foundation for development above the structures.

To better coordinate the project, Cincinnati parks officials have adjusted the schedule for developing a sprawling 36-acre riverfront park near the Banks so the portion near the eastern garages will be done first.

Road improvements in that section also will be prioritized so that the entire section - known as blocks 4 and 8 - will be ready when a private developer is chosen to build the first phase of the Banks, said Kim Satzger, Port Authority president.

Three development teams were selected in December 2001 as finalists to build the Banks, but because so much time has passed, that process may be redone.

"Some of those may still be viable, some not so viable," Rouse said. "Now that word is out that this is actually going to happen, interest from developers is beginning to ratchet up."

The Port Authority is beginning a search to hire a full-time Banks director to manage the daily work needed for the project.

Board members hope to hire a director within three to six months, and the job is expected to pay an annual salary in excess of $120,000.

The salary will be paid with the proceeds from selling a previously abandoned nine-acre industrial site that the Port Authority cleaned up for reuse on Kemper Road in Sharonville. The so-called "brownfield" site sold for $785,000.

Planned since 2000, the Banks district is envisioned to include apartments, condominiums, office space and shops between the Reds and Bengals stadiums.

The project will be built in phases, and take about a decade to complete.

Area officials hope the $800 million project - which will involve public and private funding - will attract crowds to the riverfront year-round, instead of just during baseball and football seasons, thus boosting the local economy.