- Associated Press - Sunday, February 9, 2014

CINCINNATI (AP) - Restaurants, bars and apartments that have risen in The Banks project have enlivened Cincinnati’s riverfront, but the development is still far from achieving earlier visions.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports (https://cin.ci/1fEi4pp ) that only a portion of the 18-acre site between stadiums where the Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals play has been built up as planned. The goal of a mixed-use urban neighborhood is still missing key pieces such as a hotel, office building, condos and retail shops as development continues.

There’s a 300-unit apartment building soon to be joined by a luxury apartment building, and condos are still part of future plans. Efforts to draw a hotel and retailers are continuing.

There are more than a dozen eateries and bars. But one restaurant owner says business is slow when there is no major event such as a game or concert.

“This is an event-driven area,” said Rick Thompson, owner of Johnny Rockets, which closed early one recent Friday night because of few customers. “If there’s not an event, there’s no business. It’s not adequate to get by.”

“I love being on The Banks, but we’re more of a destination right now,” said Liz Rogers, owner of Mahogany’s restaurant. “I would like to see more retail, a hotel, a movie theater.”

A 1999 study recommended a 24-7, walkable urban community where people could live, work, shop and play.

“In the big picture, we still have a lot of work to do,” said Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann. “We don’t have people working down there, we don’t have tourists staying overnight.”

Still, in just a few years, the area has been transformed from what Cincinnati Reds owner Bob Castellini said “was a dust bowl.” The bars and restaurants are popular gathering spots when the Reds are in town. “I’m just delighted with what’s happening before and after games.”

Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill draws big crowds some nights, and John and Stephanie Cassidy of Preble County are among those who like visiting it and other new attractions along the riverfront.

“We eat somewhere different every time,” said John Cassidy, who lives some 50 miles away. “There’s a great atmosphere. Cincinnati has needed something like this for years.”

Developers and others involved in the project say they are trying to avoid going for quick fixes and to aim for high quality.

“The fact is, The Banks is in its infancy, with perhaps not even a third of the development complete,” said Mark Nicol, owner of Nicol Investment Co. “And already, there is a waiting list to live there, some of our restaurants have hour-long waits, and there’s a list of retailers that are interested in locating at The Banks, so we have the luxury of being selective.”


Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, https://www.enquirer.com

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