Thursday, June 02, 2005

Fountain Square Plan

At the YPCincy event last night I think many were impressed. I was impressed with the plan for revamping Fountain Square. I think it will be good for the city overall. There are issues out there and realizations that people need to make:
  1. This is a Done Deal. There will not be much changed to the design and look of the square. The changes will be by City Council to the lease plans and the finances, but they will be minor.
  2. 3CDC is planning on privatizing the management of Fountain Square. The garage I believe is currently operated by an outside firm, but in this Plan 3CDC as a private entity would run the actual Square for the City. The City would own the entire Square and Garage, but would not gain the revenue it has now.
  3. The Fountain will move. 3CDC CEO Stephen Leeper could not push that more. It was almost the obsession of the presentation. The way he sold it makes sense on the surface, but it assumes a level of deterioration of the garage that I did not know is established as fact.
  4. What is the target market for this development? It appears like they are going for as wide a market as they can. They throw out the classic "family friend" phase that generally makes me cringe. It was not dwelled upon, which at a Young Processionals meeting of mostly single or childless couples was wise. I was floorws when they threw in as a regional attraction the Kentucky Speedway. Are NASCAR Dads really going to come downtown in large numbers?
  5. The issue of who controls the public stage is a rather large civil rights issue. What was not clear to me was who was going to decide who gets to use the square for rallies, protests, and other gatherings. Will commercial interests get preference over the average Joe? Will the lease with 3CDC give them the right to keep certain people out?
  6. There will be a small performance stage or platform set up permanently, but with little room. 3CDC would have more portable staging, but how and when it could be used would likely cost more and limit non-profits from their use, without donation of the fees likely to be tacked on.
  7. Parking fees will go up in the garage. Right now for the evening it only costs a buck. That price would rise to 3 bucks. This is not really going to change that many minds, but it will not improve the perception that it costs money. It compares to what is in Newport at the Levee, so if you would go there and pay, this should not deter you.
  8. Finances are somewhat foggy. It appears that the city would not have that much to cough up, but the level their revenues would drop is unclear.
  9. Something missing from the presentation was the timeline for the retailers/restaurants to open up shop in the area. This I think is a concern. This project is going to start this year and open next summer. I don't see the retailers/restaurateurs moving in for up to a couple or more years after that. Talks with companies may be further along than I perceive, so their construction may happen while the redesign is ongoing.

What matters most for this entire project, as one reception attendee put it, is the perception that something is happening in downtown. There has to be a buzz and some action must be visible. If that happens this could snowball other projects, making them happen. If that does not happen, that is where I believe the Banks, Vine Street, Main Street, and the rest of the plans out there will not be realized.

1 comment:

  1. Brian,

    Good to meet you last night, and I like this post. Constructive and factual...

    I have a couple updates for you:

    #2 - Correct, 3CDC would use revenue from garage. Currently the city gets about $500k a year. However! 3CDC is going to pay $7.5million up front for the garage. That's 15 years of revenue assuming not a single penny of it is invested in anything.

    #5 - The permit process will be 100% the same as it is today. I can give more detail on the process if anyone cares, we've used the square twice for Give Back. You fill out a form send it in, and if the date is open and you aren't going to slaughter humans, it typically is approved. Same process will apply going forward. HOWEVER, currently there is almost no programming on the square so it's almost always available. With 3CDC involved and having invested a lot of money, I am guessing they will want to have people there. This means they'll likely schedule more events in advance, (concerts, rallies, etc). What this will result in is a perception by some that 3CDC controls the square. Every event 3CDC wants they will have to apply for a permit for, just like you and I. Just depends on if you are organized enough to apply in advance.

    #9 - I think you are incorrect. The fact that he named locations for the bookstore (tower place 5th/vine), and location for McCormick's (Westin) leads me to believe many of these folks are ready to go. My guess, these retailers are keeping an arms length away until the city gives it's blessing. If the usual council antics applied, can you blame a retailer for not wanting to sign on in advance? I can't.

    Finally... your last comment is beautiful. I'd love to see more of that. The buzz of construction on the square will breathe new life into the banks. A project right now that is ripe with negitivity (and rightfully so), but 3CDC making this happen along with the opening of convention center in 2006 could spark some real progress for the Ohio side of the river.

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