Monday, January 24, 2011

Casino groundbreaking Feb. 4; Visioning continues

With a groundbreaking for Cincinnati's $400 million casino now scheduled for February 4 at 11 A.M., the non-profit formed to ensure that it integrates well with the surrounding neighborhoods is continuing its effort to involve the public in the decision-making.

More than 100 residents, business owners, landowners and urban-minded citizens attended the second of Bridging Broadway's three community visioning sessions on Saturday at BOOST…for meetings sake in Pendleton.

Approximately two-thirds were from Pendleton, Over-the-Rhine, and the surrounding neighborhoods.

The casino, scheduled to open in late 2012, is expected to generate nearly $520 million in annual gambling activity, generate 2,800 jobs, and bring more than six million annual visitors Downtown.

"It's important that the community gets involved when a huge development project like this happens in our backyard," said Bridging Broadway co-founder Stephen Samuels. "And that the future really occurs and comes to be realized because the public is involved."

Edge City

Laure Quinlivan, chair of City Council's Quality of Life Committee, asked participants to think about the neighborhood's strategic corners and the paths that visitors may use to visit nearby attractions such as the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Washington Park, and the Pendleton Art Center.

One of her ideas, which came out during the budget process in December, was to utilize some of the casino revenue to enliven these "edge" areas with sculpture and performance art.

"I think you may remember that there was a lot of backlash after that," Quinlivan said. "I do anticipate we are going to have a public hearing eventually about what we're going to do with the casino money that's coming to the City, and I believe that having a public sculpture contest that is ultimately decided by the citizens would be a fabulous way to get people to be outside in the City."

Samuels also pushed the idea of connectivity.

"We're essentially a Downtown of edges right now," he said. "It has yet to be connected."

Creative concepts, open minds

The visioning session began with a five-minute briefing in urban planning principles. Attendees were then split into diverse groups of 8 to 10 people, each facilitated by a volunteer architect or urban planner.

The groups began by poring through stacks of old magazines to find images that best represented the general qualities they would like to see in and around the casino. These images were assembled into a collage, from which participants were asked to scan for key themes and principles.

From there, participants were asked to look at those key themes and principles from the point of view of one of a dozen different demographics – an 11-year old African American boy who attends VLT Academy or a 35-year-old woman from Hyde Park, for example – and to envision real-life applications of those principles that would appeal to that particular person.

Groups then were given blank maps and asked to identify the area's positives and negatives, and what changes could be made to remedy those issues.

The day ended with a debriefing of all of the groups' ideas.

Among the key considerations for the casino area emerging from the groups were:

  • The number of free and open activities versus the number of costly activities;
  • Family friendliness;
  • Showcasing the area's history;
  • Incorporating green space and pedestrian friendliness, including streetscaping and lighting;
  • Including music, art, and public event space;
  • Creating shopping districts and street markets, including locally-owned businesses;
  • Controlling and calming traffic;
  • Improving wayfinding;
  • Creating and retaining affordable, family housing;
  • Offering multi-modal transportation choices, including rail and bicycle infrastructure;
  • Building an iconic "gateway";
  • Remaining sensitive to possible future development;
  • Keeping the casino building itself "permeable" (breaking up its mass); and
  • Ensuring diversity.
"I think the day was a big success," Samuels said. "It was a very engaged group who brought many different perspectives to the discussion. From the director of the VLT Academy to a major housing developer to a resident directly across the casino site on Reading, everyone proposed very creative concepts and did so while keeping open minds."

Now, implementation

The visioning session was part of a six-month district study of the economics, social issues, transportation, and urban design issues within an approximately half-mile radius around the , funded by the City and conducted with the assistance of Bridging Broadway and City staff, volunteers from the University of Cincinnati Community Design Center, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

"We will do our best to make sure that everything presented today is well-considered and becomes integrated into the District Study that we're doing," Samuels said. "We are very excited to being synthesizing the work produced."

The third and final visioning session, focusing on idea implementation, will be held in early March.

Previous reading on BC:
Bridging Broadway outreach continues Saturday (1/20/11)
Casino-area study will begin September 1 (8/19/10)
Harrah's selected as minority partner, operator of Cincinnati casino (8/16/10)
Bridging Broadway steps in to address casino issues (8/2/10)
Strickland signs casino rules, with reservations (6/14/10)


Clara said...

Although the actual groundbreaking is invitation only, Bridging Broadway is hosting a Casino Groundbreaking Community Celebration Friday from 6-9 at the Drinkery, 1150 Main St.

Kevin LeMaster said...

Yes! I hope to make it. Did a little write-up today.

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