Developers of The Banks assured a city design panel Thursday that the proposed housing, shopping and office district along the Ohio River won’t include just upscale condominiums but will also contain more affordable rental units.
AIG/Carter and Harold A. Dawson Inc., the Atlanta-based developers selected by Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials to build The Banks, met with the city’s Urban Design Review Board to discuss preliminary plans. Comprised of local architects, the board serves as an advisory panel to the city manager.
Bailey Pope, head of design and construction for the Dawson firm, told the panel that The Banks’ first phase would include a minimum of 300 apartments, 150 condos and some townhouses. Once the entire project is completed, it probably will include 1,500 to 1,800 residential units overall so it has a critical mass of people who live there and feels like a viable neighborhood.
“Our experience has been you need at least 800 to 1,000 residential units to establish a neighborhood,” Pope said.
The plans calls for a mix of units targeting most income levels including “workforce housing,” he added.
Referring to future residents, Pope said, “They’re regular folks. They’re not just tourists, they’re not just there for the game. They’re there all the time.”
Trent Germano, an executive vice president with Carter, said, “It’s really a neighborhood first … it’s predominantly a residential community.”
John Senhauser, an architect who sits on the city panel, said he wants whatever final design emerges to ensure the maximum public access to a large park planned along the riverfront.
“In projects like these, the civic benefit really comes from what happens in the public rights-of-way. Cul-de-sacs tend to privatize things, as do changes in elevation,” Senhauser said. “These need to be kept as part of the public realm so they aren’t viewed as someone’s private lawn.”
Developers told the panel that access to the park would be clear and open to the public. Also, several sidewalks throughout The Banks would be 20-feet wide, larger than standard sidewalks, to promote the use of sidewalk cafes and encourage pedestrian traffic.
Initial work on The Banks, which includes building a street grid and parking garages, will begin by the first quarter of 2008. Construction of its first phase, which will include 70,000 square feet of retail space and 300 apartments, will begin by the third quarter of next year.
When completed, The Banks will cover eight city blocks and contain up to 2.8 million square feet of space.
Developers plan on selecting different architects for each of The Banks’ phases, to have diversity of design and create an urban atmosphere instead of a uniform, mall-like setting.
“There will be a wide range of (architectural) firms asked to submit,” Germano said. “We will probably narrow it down to three or four firms per product type.”
First proposed in 1999, The Banks project will be built on about 17 acres between the Reds and Bengals stadiums in phases over several years. The district will include a mix of condos, offices, shops and a hotel next to a large riverfront park.
The project was delayed over the past few years due to funding and jurisdictional issues, particularly who will pay for up to $81 million in parking garages and other improvements needed to lift the development above the Ohio River flood plain. County sales tax revenues were supposed to pay for the garages but are far below initial projections.
About $200 million in taxpayer money is expected to be included in any financing plan for The Banks, which has an estimated price tag of about $800 million.
— Kevin Osborne