The Cincinnati casino passed one more major checkpoint on Thursday, as Rock Ventures, LLC completed the purchase of the 20-acre Broadway Commons site
Matt Cullen, President and COO of Rock Ventures, LLC announced the closing of the sale in an afternoon press conference at the offices of the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce, calling the acquisition of the land south of the Pendleton neighborhood a "straight purchase" and quoting a price of $35 million.
In sharing other financial details, Cullen said that the project will create 2100 construction jobs, and 2800 permanent jobs, with ninety percent of the permanent jobs earmarked for locals -- a figure he said was "committed to Mayor Mallory in writing." When asked to define "local," Cullen explained that those hires will constitute residents of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Statistical Area, which consists of the five southeastern most Ohio counties, as well as seven counties in northern Kentucky and three Indiana border counties.
As he shared details of the current design concept, Cullen described a casino that was engaged with its surroundings, in its physical layout, as well as its personnel. As he elaborated, Cullen said that the casino's retail and restaurant space would be street-level storefronts, intended to connect to the surrounding neighborhood, explaining that unlike existing "arena-like" casinos, "we want to create a walkable site, a walkable district."
Carrie Rathod is the President of the Pendleton Neighborhood Council
and says that she appreciates the intent of Rock Ventures, LLC, but notes that a community-friendly design is but one piece of the puzzle to building a more successful neighborhood. "It's great that the developers have created this plan to integrate their building into the neighborhood," she explains. "Now it's up to the city to make sure the other side is attractive and ready for development in the surrounding area, to provide the incentives and signage and traffic planning to make it happen."
While the design notes should have been a pleasant surprise to casino critics, several matters of alcohol policy are yet to be worked out, each of which would also have a significant impact on the visitor experience. Addressing the disconnect between gaming norms and Ohio liquor laws, Cullen explained that Rock Ventures, LLC would be exploring the possibility of being able to serve liquor twenty-four hours a day, as well as offer drink comps, two practices currently restricted here. He went on to say that being able to offer drink comps was the higher priority, citing a desire to stay competitive with industry norms, but saying that, ultimately, "We want to defer appropriately to the communities."
With the property purchase now complete, Cullen laid out the rest of the project's present timetable, saying that the next step is to select and hire an operator -- a contract that he indicated has attracted nationwide interest, and which should be awarded by June of this year -- and citing an expected grand opening in "mid- to late-2012."
Writer: Jeremy MosherPhotography by Jeremy Mosher