Cincinnati casino could set bar for urban casino design

Cincinnati leaders expect Ohio's first casino to be developed on the Broadway Commons site located on the edge of downtown Cincinnati.  Developers hope to break ground on the $350-400 million project later this year, with a grand opening planned for sometime in 2012.  One issue in Cincinnati is the design of the casino and how it fits into the surrounding historic neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton.  Luckily for Cincinnati, Rock Ventures, developers of the casino, appear willing to design a casino that engages the neighborhood.

"Cincinnati could set the bar for what an urban casino could be," said Aaron Renn, Urban Policy Analyst from Chicago, during a panel discussion at the 2010 Commercial Developers Power Breakfast.  "The developers will have to make something that engages the community though."

During the discussion Renn emphasized that the plans sound great, and that if Rock Ventures follows through on their promises, Cincinnati will get something truly special and unique.

Matt Cullen, Principal of the Cincinnati Casino and self-described "city guy," highlighted the project and discussed how Rock Ventures wants to work with the community to deliver a great product.  Cullen also described their interest in developing an urban casino.

"Cincinnati is a city of outstanding neighborhoods, and we bought the ultimate fixer-upper and prepare to give it the ultimate makeover," said Cullen in describing the troubled Broadway Commons site.  "A successful region in this global economy must be built around a great urban core," Cullen explained.

Once complete, the Cincinnati Casino is estimated to generate close to $21 million for the City of Cincinnati, $12 million for Hamilton County and $14 million for public schools annually in tax revenue.  Neighborhood proponents are excited about thousands of new temporary and permanent jobs, an estimated 6 million visits annually and new investment spurring from the development that will be more than typically seen with an inward-facing casino design.

"We've been getting a lot of calls from people who own property in the area who are ready to do something with it," said Patrick Ewing, Interim Director of Cincinnati's Economic Development Division.

Cullen stopped short of promising a truly urban design, but did commit in writing to work closely with the City, County and State; engage in local and minority hiring practices; work with the local business community to increase economic impact; and to use existing local hotels.

"This will be the first great urban casino in the United States," exclaimed Cullen.  "We plan to fill 90 to 95 percent of the jobs with Cincinnati-area residents, and we want to be a part of downtown and drive business to local hotels, restaurants and bars.  We don't want to be an island...if we wanted that we would have been on another site."

Writer: Randy A. Simes
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