Hamilton County has awarded the latest bid package for a variety of trade contracts on the infrastructure work for Phase III of The Banks, which includes a 690-space addition to the Central Riverfront Garage and a one-block addition of other infrastructure south of Freedom Way.
All three contacts were valued at a combined $653,228; and all went to area companies. According to Phil Beck, project executive for The Banks development, Universal Contracting Corporation will perform site work, Geograph Industries will handle signage, and ESI will manage security of the site.
While not particularly large or sexy contracts, project officials say they are representative of the continued progress being made at the massive central riverfront mixed-use development.
“Awarding these contracts for work at The Banks signals that another aspect of the riverfront development is nearing completion,” said Chris Monzel (R), president of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. “This phase of the project sets the stage for more economic impact.”
The University of Cincinnati Economics Center has estimated that, once fully completed, the first phase of The Banks will positively impacting the local economy by some $276 million per year – a figure they expect to grow substantially once later phases are built out. General Electric’s new 338,000-square-foot Global Operations Center, alone, is projected to boost the region’s economy by roughly $1 billion annually.
While Hamilton County is overseeing the construction of the infrastructure work at Phase III, the City of Cincinnati and the private development team is making progress on the vertical build of GE’s new building, the 165-room AC Hotel, and 291 apartments and 19,000 square feet of retail within the first two phases of the project.
THP Limited and Burgess & Niple are in charge of the design of Phase III work, while Messer is handling the construction.
As of now, all the infrastructure work being managed by Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati is $29.3 million within budget; and project officials say that they have achieved 30% Small Business Enterprises participation on all work, but just 17.3% on phase three activities thus far. Beck also says that phase three work is on schedule to be complete by September.
With construction expected to wrap up on the second phase of The Banks this coming spring, the development team is celebrating the signing Taste of Belgium as the first retail tenant inside the $67 million project.
After getting his start modestly in 2007 in the back of a produce shop at Findlay Market, Jean-François Flechet has grown Taste of Belgium into a household name regionally. The location on the central riverfront will be Flechet’s sixth, and one of its largest.
“The Banks has been such an important catalyst in the resurgence of downtown Cincinnati,” Flechet told UrbanCincy. “We’re thrilled our locally-owned restaurant will be front and center in the new phase of the development.”
The announcement comes at a time when things are picking up pace at The Banks. Construction work has begun on the new AC Hotel, and infrastructure work has commenced for the third phase of the project.
Once complete in spring 2016, phase two will be home to an estimated 2,000 employees at General Electric’s 338,000-square-foot Global Operations Center and 300 new apartments. There will also be approximately 20,000 square feet of street-level retail, of which Taste of Belgium will occupy 4,800 square feet.
Over the years since getting started, Flechet has positioned himself as an outspoken small business advocate, and has been vocal in his support of inner-city development and the improvement of urban mobility through projects like the Cincinnati Streetcar and Red Bike – both of which are located a block from this new location. Due to this passion, Flechet says this location at The Banks just makes total sense.
“Cincinnati has responded so positively to our waffles and one-of-a-kind dining experience and this new venue – right in the heart of the riverfront – will have that same great energy and atmosphere.”
The move also is a nod to the growing preference for local businesses over national chains. In fact, the first phase of The Banks largely relied on national chains to fill out its retail space. But due to changing demographics and consumer trends, Marc Fallon at JR Anderson, who put this deal together, believed that The Banks would be better suited with an establishment like Taste of Belgium.
“Taste of Belgium is a great local success story and Jean-François is a great example of the kind of visionary entrepreneur driving so much of our regional growth,” said Dan McCarthy, project executive for Carter, The Banks’ master developer.
Like its other locations, Flechet says that Taste of Belgium at The Banks will be open seven days a week, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with weekend brunch and unique wine lists and beer selections. There will also be a private dining room, chef’s table and a patio with outdoor dining.
“With all the excitement around our Radius residential community and the new GE office building, we needed a dynamic retail tenant that would appeal to all the new people who will be living and working at The Banks,” McCarthy added. “Taste of Belgium more than fits the bill.”
Does it make sense for the combined company to operate both of these hotels, which will target similar demographics, in such close proximity? And will Marriott, which now controls 30 hotel brands, maintain both the AC Hotel and Aloft flags, or will one of these two new hotels be forced to rebrand? If so, the change won’t take place in the near future, as hotel experts predict it will be a “minimum of three years before any brands disappear.”
Officials overseeing the development of The Banks have announced that they will soon proceed with the design and construction of the infrastructure needed for the next phase of the massive riverfront project.
Yesterday, at a special meeting of The Banks Steering Committee, the eight-member group unanimously voted in favor of moving forward with what they expect to be $29.3 million worth of work, which would then provide the platform for millions more in private investment in the form of offices, residences and retail on what is referred to as Lot 24.
As has been the case with all prior phases of the mixed-use development, the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County will build out the utilities and roadway network, and construct a 690-space, two-level parking garage that will lift the site out of the Ohio River floodplain. Carter and The Dawson Company – the private development team selected for the project – would consider what elements should be included and then proceed with building and leasing out whatever is built on top of the parking decks.
A guiding principle that has not changed since the beginning of the development process is that the underground parking garage will be reserved for public parking, leaving Carter-Dawson to develop additional above-ground parking to satisfy the City’s mandatory parking requirements.
The Steering Committee said that the public work will be funded through the issuance of $22 million in tax increment finance bonds, and $7 million from the State of Ohio. Project officials say issuance of the bonds is expected to come within the coming months.
While the Carter-Dawson team has not yet decided the exact mix for this third phase of work, it is widely expected to be primarily residential. In total, the zoning and infrastructure for the site will allow for around 320,000 to 400,000 square feet of developable space.
The timing of the announcement could not be better, with work rapidly progressing on General Electric’s 338,000-square-foot Global Operations Center, 19,000 square feet of retail space, and the 291 apartments at the phase two site to the immediate north; and with the announcement that AC Hotels will develop the long-sought hotel along Main Street in front of Great American Ball Park.
Phase two work is expected to be completed in phases throughout 2016, while AC Hotel by Marriott is expected to open in spring 2017.
While management with the Cincinnati Bengals expressed some concern over the loss of one of the team’s few remaining tailgating lots, The Banks itself is evolving into more of an entertainment district than many had thought.
Project officials say the phasing of construction at the 18-acre site has been carefully coordinated between the district’s various stakeholders, along with the construction schedule of Smale Riverfront Park. As park work has moved west so has work at The Banks, and with the latest work on the park taking place just south of phase three of The Banks, the timing makes perfect sense.
If all goes according to plan, this next phase of infrastructure work could begin as soon as January or February – just after the conclusion of the Bengals football season.
After several years of trying to attract a hotel to The Banks, the project has landed a brand that is sure to attract the fastest growing customer segment in the industry – millennials.
In a special meeting before the Joint Banks Steering Committee, Eagle Realty Group development affiliate Main Hospitality Holdings and Blue Ash-based hotel operator Winegardner & Hammons announced plans to build a seven-story, 165-room AC Hotels by Marriott on the southwest corner of Freedom Way and Joe Nuxhall Way, directly across from Great American Ball Park.
Known for its upscale, contemporary European influences, the brand began as a joint venture between Marriott International and leading European hotel developer Antonio Catalán in 2011. The brand officially launched in the North American market in 2013 and now boasts locations in Chicago, Kansas City, Miami Beach, New Orleans, and Washington, DC, making it the fastest launch of a Marriott brand in history.
“We’ve wanted this brand for over five years,” explained Mike Conway, president and CEO of Winegardner & Hammons, with regard to why the third largest hotelier in the world wants to grow in the Cincinnati marketplace. “We think it’s a…absolutely home run in Cincinnati. The reason why we say that is people are moving back to the urban core; and our city, like all major cities across the country, is experiencing a revitalization of downtown.”
Adding to Conway’s enthusiasm was Cincinnati Reds president and CEO, and committee chairman, Bob Castellini.
“The Banks offers up perhaps the best location for a hotel in the city,” Castellini noted. “It took us a while to find and secure the best possible flag and developer for the hotel at The Banks, and I really believe that we have the best possible flag and developer.”
The designs show an L-shaped structure, with the main building height fronting on Joe Nuxhall Way and a smaller, one- to two-story portion to the building’s south.
Along Joe Nuxhall Way, the building will include the front desk and guest rooms – expected to have a $180 per night average rate – and will be capped with a rooftop terrace bar and deck overlooking the Ohio River. It will also include a water feature and a four-story animated LED video board.
The shorter southern portion, made necessary due to height restrictions, will include a lounge, library, fitness facility, conference rooms, and a courtyard overlooking Smale Riverfront Park.
The project team will present the plans to the Urban Design Review Board on Thursday. If all goes according to plan, construction could begin in August and be completed by spring 2017.
The development is expected to cost approximately $35 million, with the equity and debt financing already in place. But the best part, steering committee member Tom Gabelman said, was that it will require no city or county subsidies.
“That’s rather phenomenal in this environment,” he said. “And it’s rather phenomenal, too, that we basically have the quality of hotel that the city and county desired for this premier location.”
Meanwhile, construction continues on Phase 2 of The Banks, most notably on a 339,000-square-foot office building for General Electric that is expected to employ between 1,800 and 2,000 workers when completed in late 2016. Next door, a building featuring 291 apartments and 20,000 square feet of retail space is slated for completion next spring.
Project officials provided some additional details on the infrastructure buildout for Phase 3, which will be paid for with revenues produced by prior phases. This infrastructure work is critical to lift the development out of the Ohio River floodplain, and must be completed before any private real estate development can begin.
Leadership also said that there is a desire to diversify the retail environment along the central riverfront, and further add to the “live, work, play” mantra driving the development.
“I want to add another word there pretty soon, because we hope to have there not just a hotel, but a grocery store and some other retail opportunities so it will be a great place to live, work, shop and play,” said Castellini, who also explained how he used to have to walk down to the river at 4am to make sure it was below 52 feet so that he could open his produce business.
Much has changed along the northern banks of the Ohio River since the days of Castellini’s produce business, and much more will change over the coming years. Project officials say that they will bring a detailed plan for the next round of work to City Council within the next one to two months.