Another Missed Target for The Banks

Even discussions about constructing the long-delayed Banks project along Cincinnati’s riverfront are taking more time than expected.

An advisory group formed to quicken development of the proposed housing and shopping district hasn’t convened since its first session May 25, despite a pledge made then by its chair to meet again “within 10 working days.”

That goal would have meant the Banks Working Group should have met by June 8. As of today, another meeting has yet to be scheduled.

The delay is mostly due to conflicting vacation schedules among members of the working group and other people needed at the meeting, according to attorney Tom Gabelman, a group member. The working group probably will meet late next week or during the week of June 26, Gabelman said.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory met privately in his office June 8 with a group of people to discuss creating a subcommittee of the working group. The subcommittee would create policies for ensuring the inclusion of minority contractors in the project. The meeting comes after the NAACP’s local chapter and other groups complained that only white men were selected to sit on the five-member working group.

Mallory said he would monitor the subcommittee’s progress.

“They’re going to be reporting information to me as it comes out,” he said.

Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials created the Banks Working Group in April to quicken the process of selecting a developer. Proposed in 1999, the project has stalled over funding and jurisdictional issues, particularly who will pay for $68 million in parking garages. Sales tax revenues were supposed to pay for the garages but are far below projections.

The Banks will involve $200 million in public funding to supplement $600 million in private investment to develop a vacant eight-block area located just north of the Ohio River.
Last month County Commission President Phil Heimlich said he hoped the Banks Working Group would select a developer in June and negotiate a deal over the summer, with construction beginning by year’s end or early 2007.

— Kevin Osborne

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