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Monday, June 2, 2008

3CDC and CPS reach an agreement on Washington Park

This is a follow up to a previous post about the new Washington Park renovations. Previously, the 3CDC was having difficulty coming to an agreement with the Cincinnati Public School district over a critical piece of land for the new Washington Park proposal. The good news is they have worked out an agreement that will now allow the project to move forward.


Green space will replace concrete in one of Cincinnati’s most historic parks

Thanks to a partnership between Cincinnati Public Schools and the Cincinnati Park Board, the planned renovation of Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine will now include a one-block, permanent extension of the park.

In the fall of 2007, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) demolished the former Washington Park School at the corner of 14th and Race streets and decided not to re-build on the site, creating an opportunity to expand the six-acre Washington Park up to 14th Street. After discussions with the Cincinnati Park Board and Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC), CPS has agreed to permanently transfer the title for the former school site to the Park Board. Discussions regarding specific details of the transfer continue. This action will enable the park renovation and expansion planning process to move forward.

“We are very grateful to CPS and its administration for working with us to make this important land transfer,” said Willie Carden, director of the Cincinnati Park Board. “Expanding green space in an urban park is an opportunity that doesn’t come along every day. This will not only enhance the beauty of Washington Park, it will serve as a national model for other urban neighborhoods.”

“Cincinnati Public Schools is proud to be a partner in the revitalization of Over-the-Rhine,” said Superintendent Rosa Blackwell. “This historic neighborhood will be home to two of our schools—the new School for Creative and Performing Arts, the nation’s first K-12 arts school created through a public-private partnership, and the fully renovated Rothenberg School, serving grades K-8.”

The latest conceptual plan for the site calls for an underground garage as part of the park renovation and expansion. The planning and design effort will be led by the Park Board and 3CDC with costs paid by 3CDC. The Washington Park Master Plan Steering Committee, a neighborhood representative group that will include representatives of Cincinnati Public Schools and which has been guiding the Park Board on renovation and expansion plans for the park, will work with the design team on the park and garage design.

Under the conceptual plan, a 600-700 space, three-level underground garage would be built, with parkland on top, similar to Millennium Park in Chicago and Boston Commons. The garage design will be carefully integrated with the design for the park expansion.

“Merging the garage construction and park expansion elements of this project will result in substantial savings in the construction process and access to additional private financial resources to help fund the total cost of this $25 million project,” said Steve Leeper, president and CEO of 3CDC. “This action by Cincinnati Public Schools will have a long lasting, positive impact on Over-the-Rhine and the city as a whole.”

There has been widespread support from city leaders and community leaders, specifically the arts community, for this concept because of the benefits it will provide to Music Hall, Memorial Hall, neighborhood business owners and residents and CPS’s new $72 million School for Creative and Performing Arts, currently under construction on 12th Street between Race and Elm. Members of the Washington Park Steering Committee have also expressed support for the plan and will meet in the next few days to discuss this latest development.

The renovation of Washington Park is part of the on-going renaissance in OTR to recognize, preserve and celebrate the unique and historic character of the neighborhood. Since 2005, 3CDC and the City of Cincinnati have invested over $70 million in OTR, about $58 million through private sources, to preserve and renovate housing and commercial space. 3CDC has been charged by the city to lead the revitalization of OTR as a vibrant, mixed-use, mixed-income, racially diverse urban neighborhood.

A timeline for the Washington Park renovation and expansion will not be determined until further input is gathered from the community and a final plan for the park renovation, expansion and garage is in place. The park, including the pool, will be open this summer

Washington Park was acquired by the city in 1855 and is owned and operated by the Cincinnati Park Board. Its current borders are West 12th, Race and Elm streets and with the renovation will expand to 14th Street. In addition to the pool, the park includes an historic bandstand, trees and several Civil War cannons and busts of Civil War heroes.
*This post is from a 3CDC press release

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