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Banks Music Venue Moving Forward As Hilltop Negotiations Continue

Plans for a music venue at The Banks continue to take shape even as a deal to relocate Hilltop Basic Resources remains unfinished.

The Joint Banks Steering Committee heard updates Tuesday on the MEMI/CSO building plan and the adjoining park space. Financing for the plan was approved in April.

The design and construction plans presented Tuesday anticipate both the indoor venue and the outdoor park spaces will be ready for a fall 2020 opening.

"It will be around a third of a million people per year," that the venue brings to The Banks annually across around 160 events, says Jonathan Martin, president of MEMI/CSO.

"We're not throwing up a shed," Martin adds. "We're putting a $400-plus per square foot investment into this." That adds up to a total investment of about $25 million. "And, again, no taxpayer money. We have it fully financed ... we know where the money's coming from."

The exterior design calls for elements reminiscent of nearby buildings. For example, an exterior metal wrap similar to Paul Brown Stadium, grand staircases like those in Smale Park, and glass fronting like Carol Ann's Carousel.

The interior calls for an "industrial chic" design scheme with touches of oxblood to add color and direct attention to key areas. The main floor will be general admission, though chairs can be placed as needed. The two upper balconies will include fixed seating in the middle and standing room general admission areas on the sides. The architects say this is designed to keep areas of energy close to the stage while bringing that atmosphere into the balcony areas.

A black and white rendering of the interior of the hall from the second balcony.
Credit Courtesy of GBBN
A black and white rendering of the interior of the hall from the second balcony.

The restrooms are slated to be at the southern end of building with exterior access so they can be utilized for the outdoor concerts or other events that may be programed in the neighboring park area.

The exterior stage will be oriented to point the sound toward the river, away from the retail areas and apartments. The parks department intends to install an artificial turf on the lawn to stand up to wear and tear from the outdoor concerts.

Cincinnati Deputy City Solicitor Luke Blocher slowed the conversation by pointing out there are still deals that must be worked out. Chief among them is relocating Hilltop in order to turn the company's current home west of Paul Brown Stadium into a tailgate lot with 1,700 to 1,900 parking spaces.

There are also some deals and agreements with MEMI/CSO and between the city and county that need to be wrapped up.

Tom Gabelman, Hamilton County's Banks counsel and steering committee member, looked to soothe those concerns and assure steering committee members that framework deals are in place and those issues will be addressed without affecting the construction schedule. "We have a tradition of getting agreements done so we can make projects happen."

A study puts the economic impact of The Banks at $1 billion annually. Gabelman says that will increase to in excess of $1.2 billion by 2021.

Lot 26, 180 N. Walnut St.

Texas-based Lincoln Property Company plans to build a 15-story office building on the lot just north of Ruth's Chris next to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The glass-clad tower would include 11 stories of office space, ground-level retail, and a rooftop food service/bar amenity area for building tenants to utilize. There will also be two levels of parking for about 90 spaces. This will also sit atop and connect to the existing parking garage.

Construction is slated to begin next summer and wrap up by the end of 2021. The current budget is estimated at about $90+ million. No tenants have been announced.

Copyright 2021 91.7 WVXU. To see more, visit 91.7 WVXU.

A rendering of the MEMI/CSO music venue at The Banks as of July 30, 2019.
Courtesy of GBBN /
A rendering of the MEMI/CSO music venue at The Banks as of July 30, 2019.