Business Development News

Construction Pace Picking Up on $120M Smale Riverfront Park Project

As is often the case in construction, warmer weather brings greater progress on the site. This holds true for the $120 million, 45-acre Smale Riverfront Park.

According to project manager Dave Prather, work has picked up in recent months and significant elements of the ongoing phase of work are now becoming visible.

One of the elements that is very quickly nearing completion is the Heekin/PNC Grow Up Great Adventure Playground that sits immediately beside the Roebling Suspension Bridge, and is on schedule to open in spring 2015. Significant progress is also now noticeable on the Vine Street Fountains & Steps, which are almost identical to their existing Walnut Street counterpart, and the Anderson Pavilion.

In the latest video update from Cincinnati Parks, Prather walks viewers through all the progress and mentions that a great deal of additional work will be completed in the near future.

“It’s really starting to come into focus,” Prather said in the 15-minute video update. “The next time we film, which will be in late summer, you’ll see the slides and pick-up sticks in place, all the stone climbing walls will be there, and you’re really be able to get a feel on what we’ll have to offer in this next extension.”

One of the things significantly different about the portion of Smale Riverfront Park west of the Roebling Suspension Bridge is the Anderson Pavilion and Carol Ann’s Carousel. These two features will create the most significant building structure at the central riverfront park to-date, and serve as potential sources of revenue to maintain the sprawling park going forward.

The implementation of the full vision for the park will not come for several years, and is still seeking additional capital funding. Some capital funding help, however, has been found this year in the form of a $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The ongoing work is also being aided by $4 million from the City of Cincinnati that was approved last year following a one-time allocation of resources from a property tax supported bond increase in 2013. The recent budget quickly passed 6-3 by City Council, however, included no additional capital support for Smale Riverfront Park.

Project officials estimate that an additional $30 million will be needed to complete the park.

In April, the American Planning Association presented its National Planning Excellence Award for Implementation to Cincinnati for its execution of the Cincinnati Central Riverfront Plan, which included the reconfiguration of Fort Washington Way, and the development of The Banks and Smale Riverfront Park.

Business Development News Transportation

PHOTOS: Construction Activities for $133M Streetcar Project Move Southward

Since the dust-up in December, construction work on the $133 million first phase of the Cincinnati Streetcar has been proceeding as planned.

Those living, working or visiting Over-the-Rhine, can now see significant visual progress throughout much of the neighborhood. Meanwhile, utility relocation and upgrade work continues near the southern terminus of the initial system; and now track work is beginning to approach as rails are installed along Central Parkway.

Due to the congestion and centuries old utility systems, work in the Central Business District is expected to be messy and lengthy. In order to minimize disruptions, city officials say that they are working as much as possible at night and on weekends.

Vertical construction continues at the system’s northern terminus where the Maintenance & Operations Facility is being built; and officials say that work is now beginning on one of the first power substations at Court Street and Walnut Street.

Restoration of the Central Parkway median is currently taking place following a surge of construction activity along this stretch of the route, which, coincidentally, is located directly above the Race Street Station for the never-completed Cincinnati Subway.

Rail installation will continue to take place throughout Over-the-Rhine in the coming weeks, and gradually work its way south. Meanwhile, expect the heavy lifting that is the modernization and relocation of utilities to continue.

Due to encouraging progress, some project officials believe there is the possibility the system could open several months ahead of schedule sometime in the summer of 2016.

It was also learned this week that the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), the agency who will eventually operate the system, will deposit $268,278 of a remaining 1996 grant from the Federal Transit Administration into the Cincinnati Streetcar’s unallocated contingency fund. That fund, meant to cover unanticipated costs, started out at $4.7 million. Since the start of the project officials have used nearly $900,000 of those funds.

EDITORIAL NOTE: The following 22 photographs were taken by Jake Mecklenborg on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Those interested in learning more about Cincinnati’s transit history should read his book – Cincinnati’s Incomplete Subway: The Complete History.

Development News

Washington Park continues construction

The 47.3 million dollar renovation currently undergoing Washington Park is progressing at a fantastic clip. Though all the general public normally sees is a green construction fence, make no mistake: improvements are happening, and it is already amazing to see what 3CDC has accomplished since closing the park last year.

UrbanCincy had the opportunity to join a private tour of the park with the ArchNATI 2011 week. The updated park includes classic elements of the original greenspace that opened in 1855 – the bandstand is being restored, the original monuments are still intact, and a majority of the old trees stand tall – two of which will be highlighted and decorated in the winter months instead of bringing in a new tree a la Fountain Square.

There are several green features incorporated into the park. “We (3CDC and the Parks Department) wanted to be cutting edge with our sustainable elements of the space,” said Jeff Martin, project manager and the tour guide for the event. “These features will save us money over time, and help the city as well.” Located in four locations of the park are “dry wells” – storage containers for excess rain water that will keep two million gallons of storm runoff out of the MSD system. The public restrooms are spacious and incorporate natural lighting with solar tubes – circular skylights that go through the roof and use reflective metal to bring sunlight into the space. All the new buildings in the park will have green roofs.

The garage at Washington Park has been designed with light and safety in mind.

The 450-space parking garage has been designed with light and safety in mind. The three exits from the garage serve as light wells into the space, and are built twice as wide as normal stairwell allowances, encased in storefront glass to bring as much sunlight into the two level garage as possible. The bays of the structure inside are designed so that cars park at the level with the supporting columns, not next to them (like the Newport Levy garage) which creates better views for drivers and passengers getting out of their cars.

New features of the park are progressing as well. The playground area has been designed specifically for the park, with play towers representing the water tower in Eden Park, and taking other cues from the historical architecture of the city. The dog park on the western end of the space incorporates special “pup-pea” gravel that will allow pups to do their business and keep the space looking and smelling fresh – there is also a small trough that runs through, allowing dogs to play and drink potable water.

The football-field sized green space will soon have specialized sod laid down. The grass initially incorporates a synthetic structure in order for the root system to grow strong and remain springy for the public to run and play. It is the same system that the Cincinnati Reds use in their outfield, according to Martin.

“It’s great to see how much detail and attention was paid to the material selection,” said John Back, local designer and co-chair of the Young Architects and Interns branch of the Cincinnati American Institute of Architects, who assembled the ArchiNATI week and subsequent tour. “When [Washington Park] is finished, it’s going to be an incredible asset to the entire community. I can’t wait.”

Check out the rest of the pictures below, and for more construction updates, you can follow the progress on the 3CDC website.

Washington Park pictures by Jenny Kessler for UrbanCincy.