Building the Banks from the underground up

Cincinnatians see the buildings along The Banks rise and think that, finally, the project talked about for over ten years is underway. Few, however, understand the massive effort and behind-the-scenes work that was required to lay a lasting foundation for the area's largest mixed-use land development project in recent history.

When Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati committed to the Cincinnati Central Riverfront Master Plan in 1997, a plan created by public input and an open process, the two governments also agreed to, together, leverage local, county, regional, state and federal resources to bring about that vision in as comprehensive and efficient a way as possible. That unprecedented sharing of resources and cooperation became The Banks Public Partnership. The Partnership's job was to lay the foundation infrastructure, that network of transportation and hidden communication and utility lines which connect parking to sports stadiums and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. This infrastructure would become, literally, the platform upon which The Banks neighborhood would be built.

The old infrastructure on site was ancient, installed decades ago to serve the old produce warehouses and railroads along the riverbank. Pulling in funding from federal, state, and local sources, the Partnership engineered the revitalization of power grids, water and sewer lines and communication cables that will meet the needs of future restaurants, shops, offices and residents of The Banks. When the Holy Grail, The Bank's first restaurant, opens later this spring, "[it] can cook a hamburger on a gas grill and not over an open fire," John Deatrick, the Project Executive quips.

According to Deatrick, one of the largest projects undertaken by the Partnership has been the creation of a new Transit Center.

"Transit Center came together because we wanted to make sure that the central riverfront was an intermodal transfer and connector point for the city's business district and the…riverfront," explains Deatrick. The Transit Center can support every type of rail and bus service, from light rail and commuter rail to downtown shuttles and the proposed streetcar system and connects efficiently to the surrounding highways and roads. The new garages under the building complex fill dual purposes.

"Constructing the parking garages was critical to the development of the area because we needed to raise the site out of the flood plain," says Deatrick. Now, with the buildings standing 515 feet above sea level, flood waters are not troubling. And the 6000 planned parking spaces will make it easy to find a spot on busy shopping or festival days downtown and on the riverfront.

At a time when all levels of government are being scrutinized for waste, The Banks Public Partnership shows the success of cooperation between a city and a county. Once the public weighs in on The Banks, this partnership might portend a new era of collaboration as governments realize that working together brings the best results and the greatest public satisfaction.

Writer: Becky Johnson
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