It’s finally completed after approximately nine months. This Broadway Commons District Study Report has been given to our clients at the City of Cincinnati, which include the Planning Department and the City’s internal Casino Infrastructure Task Force, led by Budget Director Lea Erisken. It is a draft version in which they have 30 days to comment before we make any last revisions and submit the final product. Download the Draft Report HERE.
Summary . . .
On November 3, 2009, Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment (Issue 3) to allow four casinos to be built in the state—in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, and Cincinnati. The amendment specified that the Cincinnati casino will be located downtown on the Broadway Commons site, which abuts the Central Business District and the neighborhoods of Walnut Hills, Over-the-Rhine, and Pendleton. Furthermore, the Mount Adams and Mount Auburn neighborhoods overlook the site. Because of the Cincinnati casino’s central, urban location, residents, business owners and other local stakeholders have been concerned about how this entertainment mega-project will fit into the urban center—physically, socially, and economically. In this regard, the nascent, volunteer organization Bridging Broadway asked the question: how can the investment and energy of the casino development create a positive, synergistic relationship with the residential neighborhoods and business districts that surround it, promoting economic development, improving quality of life, and enhancing a sense of place?
This report summarizes our one-year investigation into this and related questions, focusing geographically on the impact areas that surround the casino site, rather than the design of the casino site itself. Our recommendations emphasize urban design, pubic policy, and organizational strategies to extend and connect the energy of the casino to other destinations and amenities in the urban core.
The study identifies Four Focus Areas—the Casino Fringe, Justice Zone, Main Street (OTR) and Pendleton—as areas most directly impacting and impacted by the casino development. The study also identifies key corridors that link the casino development to other downtown destinations and amenities, including Fountain Square, Gateway Quarter, Sawyer Point, CBD, and arts venues (Pendleton Arts, Music Hall, CAC, ETC, Taft Museum, etc.).
In collaboration with the Community Design Center at the University of Cincinnati, Bridging Broadway has served as the primary conduit for community engagement on the casino district question. The emphasis of our study was to collect and synthesize the concerns and aspirations of center city residents and other stakeholders, particularly to mitigate the potential impact of the casino development on its neighbors. In addition to gathering input from residents, business and property owners, the study incorporates case studies from other US cities, and best practices in contemporary community development, urban design and public policy.
This study summarizes the outcomes/findings from three Bridging Broadway Dialogues, conducted to engage the public in identifying concerns and opportunities (“Block Walk”), creating a vision plan for the area (“Visioning”), and developing strategies for implementation (“Implementation and Management”). Following the dialogues, BB also initiated the Pendleton Neighborhood Development Roundtable, to more directly engage the neighborhood’s key property owners and Pendleton Neighborhood Council in the process.
Summary of Recommendations
Our specific recommendations fall into three categories: urban design, public policy, and administration.
Urban Design recommendations focus on improving the public realm and promoting synergistic infill development. The urban design concept includes streetscape improvements along key corridors (“Boulevards” and “Gateways”);identifies potential sites for expanding the supply of quality workforce housing; new public open space; and suggests sites for neighborhood- and region-serving services/businesses.
Five primary corridors are identified to maximize the multi-modal connectivity to and from the casino. These linkages should be enhanced via “Complete Street” design, public art, and revised busking laws that promote street animation. A major gateway at Liberty and Reading, and a secondary gateway at Pendleton Street and Reading will serve to adequately welcome visitors to the area and attract them to the Pendleton Arts Center.
Complementary infill development around the casino site and along the identified corridors will benefit existing uses, encourage mobility, and enhance the appeal of the new Broadway Commons entertainment district. Development sites are recommended to provide new affordable housing for casino employees, and retail space for complementary businesses.
With the south end of the Horseshoe Casino serving as the main ingress and egress, an opportunity exists to capture a critical mass of patrons. To accomplish this, short Reading can be redesigned as a pedestrian plaza with its existing uses converted to nighttime entertainment options. Additionally, the installation of a pocket park to the south-east, a new landscaped pathway between the County buildings, and an art screen for the jail, can help to mobilize visitors, improve sightlines, and tighten the urban fabric.
Public Policy recommendations identify sustainable funding sources, management and enforcement mechanisms. We recommend the creation of a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), linking the casino operator, the City, and community stakeholders to mitigate the impact and maximize the positive effect of the casino on neighborhood residents and businesses. The CBA creates an ongoing funding stream to support neighborhood-serving activities and improvements in the impact area(s), and would be governed by community stakeholders. Specifically, a portion of local TIF, casino Host City tax revenue, and foundation contributions should be earmarked for these uses—near and long-term—in the casino entertainment district, and within adjacent casino impact area(s), especially within the Pendleton Neighborhood Service Area.
Administration recommendations include organizational strategies for ongoing management, programming, and oversight in the Broadway Commons district. Primary recommendations include creation of a nonprofit Community Development Corporation (CDC) to focus on work-force housing and non-market driven development, and to manage a Special Improvement District (SID) serving the casino impact area(s).