Master deal on Banks reached
Step forward leaves money questions
BY JESSICA BROWN | JLBROWN@ENQUIRER.COM
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After months of delays to iron out the legal details, a master development agreement for the Banks riverfront project - the document that will dictate how the project will work - is done.
The documents are to be unveiled at a Banks Working Group meeting at 9 a.m. today at Great American Ball Park.
The announcement will set the stage for city and county votes on the project, perhaps as early as next week, and means that the Banks could still be on track for an end-of-year groundbreaking - that is, if the city and county can figure out where their shares of the financing will come from.
"There are a lot of details to be worked out," said Councilman Chris Bortz, head of the city's economic development committee.
The Banks is a proposed 18-acre, mixed-use neighborhood district on the Ohio River between the Great American Ball Park and the Paul Brown Stadium.
The master development agreement with Atlanta developers Carter Real Estate and the Harold Dawson Co. will detail every aspect of how the project will work, Carter's Trent Germano said. It will outline who is financing what - but not necessarily where that money will come from. The county and city must together come up with almost $200 million in public money to build parking garages to lift the project out of the flood plain, fund utilities and a build a riverfront park, among other things.
The financing has for years been a sticking point among some city and county officials.
Both governments must approve the development agreement before the project can move forward.
Commissioner Todd Portune said he expects to schedule a joint city/county meeting with Mayor Mark Mallory next week for a vote.
"I can speak on behalf of everyone in the region when I say its about time and thank goodness and interject a note of caution of don't screw it up," Portune said. "That's to all of us involved in the process. Let's not let this slip through anyone's fingertips at this point. It's time to seal the deal."
The city additionally must vote on amendments to the concept plans that would allow the development to be much larger than initially proposed.
The Cincinnati Planning Commission this summer approved the developers' request to double the density of the project to 2.8 million square feet and allow buildings to be up to 30 stories tall. Previous plans capped building heights at 15 stories.
A group of influential downtown business owners is protesting the project because of its size. The business owners fear that the project will compete with downtown, rather than complement it.
The city's economic development committee is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. today to discuss those issues, among other things.
But Bortz said the committee needs a chance to digest today's master development agreement before making any decisions.
"At this point, there's no way we're acting on anything tomorrow," Bortz said Monday. "They told us they'd have the documents to us a week ahead of time."
The master development agreement has been in the works for months. Several self-imposed deadlines by the Banks Working Group have been missed.
Germano declined Monday to give specifics of the agreement or why the process took so long.
"It's a very complicated agreement - somewhat of a matrix," he said. "And lots of aspects of the agreement have many parts. It's not an easy thing, structurally or legally."