City Rejects Hilltop's Solution To Move Banks Music Venue Forward | WOSU Radio

City Rejects Hilltop's Solution To Move Banks Music Venue Forward

May 6, 2019
Originally published on May 7, 2019 12:53 pm

Updated: 7:20 p.m.

Hilltop Basic Resources proposed a land swap with the city of Cincinnati that would allow the company to move from its current location next to Paul Brown Stadium to make way for a music venue at The Banks.

Attorney Tim Burke, who represents Hilltop, sent a letter last week to Mayor John Cranley and City Council members suggesting the company could trade 13.5 acres of land it intends to acquire in Lower Price Hill and Queensgate in exchange for 10 to 14 acres of land the city owns in Queensgate along the Ohio River. Some of that city property is currently leased to Cincinnati Bulk Terminals (CBT).

"CBT has indicated to the City in clear terms that it is not interested in amending or otherwise transferring its leasehold interests in the manner proposed in your letter," Deputy City Solicitor Luke Blocher wrote Burke in an email, seen by WVXU Monday evening. "For that reason, the City cannot accept your counter-proposal. The initial offer of the City and CBT, communicated to you on Friday, still stands and we would be happy to discuss it further if further discussions can be of use in finding a solution."

The Hilltop situation is important as Cincinnati and Hamilton County leaders try to nail down final details so construction can begin quickly on the music venue with hopes of it opening sometime in late 2020.

The Bengals had to sign off on the intial project. The team was concerned about losing parking for tailgaters before games in lots east of the stadium where the venue will be built. The county proposed allowing the team to use land now owned by Hilltop west of the stadium for parking and tailgating.

That means Hilltop, which manufactures concrete and asphalt, needs to find a new home. The company was considering a barge offloading site in Lower Price Hill on the west side of the Mill Creek. It would then locate a storage site and a new plant in Queensgate.

But some Lower Price Hill residents want the riverfront land Hilltop is trying to acquire used for recreation and a park.  

City Council last month approved an interim development control (IDC) overlay district for that property. That area is now under study for 90 days, and while it doesn't stop development on the land, it does make it harder.

City Council Members Tamaya Dennard and Amy Murray and Hamilton County Commission President Denise Driehaus have held at least one meeting with the stakeholders on a solution.

Mayor Cranley had proposed Hilltop lease some city-owned property located just east of the Mill Creek on the riverfront for its barge offloading facility. Burke said in the letter that "site is not practical due to the physical constraints on access to/from the site." He said the site is not safe and has other legal constraints.

Burke then wrote the company believes there's a far better solution also involving city-owned property east of the Mill Creek closer to the Brent Spence Bridge.

"Hilltop's proposed solution, if accepted by the city, would secure the property adjacent to the future Price Landing Park for greenspace and future park development—all under the city's ownership and control," Burke wrote. "It also moves Hilltop's barge unloading and aggregate distribution much further away from the Lower Price Hill community and Lower Price Hill's resurgency plan area. In fact, under Hilltop's proposal, all of the property would be outside the IDC overlay district recently imposed by the city."

Burke said the plan allows Hilltop to consolidate its operations in one location rather than three.

The Hilltop proposal has the support of the Lower Price Hill Community Council. President Jack Degano wrote a letter to Burke calling the plan "well done."

"In particular, the Lower Price Hill Community Council is grateful for the sensitivity and generosity that Hilltop has shown to our neighborhood," Degano wrote. "If Hilltop can purchase the west Mill Creek Martin acreage, transfer it to the city, to then give it to Lower Price Hill to expand what is a small area, it would be a rare and welcome gift."

Cincinnati and Hamilton County recently agreed on financing the infrastructure needed for the music venue project. The $29 million cost for parking garages to lift the project out of the flood zone will be covered by a state grant, proceeds from other Banks developments and $8.7 million in county funds. The county is covering the city's portion of the project and will be re-paid with revenues from The Banks project.

The Cincinnati Symphony (CSO) and Music and Event Management, Inc. (MEMI) will develop and operate the venue.

CSO/MEMI proposes a largely indoor venue that could hold least 4,000 people. It would be built on just one three-quarter acre lot at The Banks with lots of park space surrounding, which could be used to host up to 8,000 people for outdoor events.

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