Will the casino help or hurt local businesses?

Yesterday, Rock Ventures LLC completed the $35 million purchase of the Broadway Commons site (pictured at right) where Cincinnati’s new casino will be located. But with construction set to begin this fall and an opening date in 2012, questions remain as to whether the development will help or hurt existing businesses in the area.

Some local business owners believe casino visitors will venture out into the surrounding neighborhoods to patronize bars, restaurants, hotels and other local businesses. Paul Fries, co-owner of the new Jack Potts Tavern, said that the opening of the casino, in addition to the Cincinnati Streetcar line, would create a “great entertainment area.” But others aren’t so sure, and say the casino will have no effect or would even hurt the surrounding area. To ease these concerns, the developers held a mini-charrette in February that focused on the connections between the casino and the nearby entertainment districts, among other topics.

The design of the building will be a huge factor in how the casino connects to the neighborhood. Casinos are often insular, with restaurants, bars, and entertainment within, giving visitors little reason to leave. With convenient access to a connected parking garage, many visitors will drive in and never step foot outside of the development. Creating a primary entrance facing the street is absolutely necessary to develop a true connection. Fortunately, Cincinnati’s casino developers plan to build restaurants and retail facing Reading Road, Broadway and East Court, and have a main entrance at the corner of Reading Road and Broadway.

Another emerging issue is how modified alcohol regulations for the casino would affect area bars. The developers are seeking the right to serve liquor 24 hours a day and to give guests free drinks. But would guests be as likely to venture out into nearby bars if they have the ability to be served later at the casino?

Hopefully additional charrette sessions will be held, allowing more residents and business owners to give input and voice their concerns. Since the casino is a certainty, Cincinnatians should fight to make sure it has a positive impact on the surrounding community and our existing businesses.

Broadway Commons photo courtesy of Sherman Cahal.