|Ohio cities focus on rivers as key to development|
|Written by By Associated Press|
|Monday, 25 June 2012 05:49|
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Ohio cities focusing on new large-scale downtown development are looking to their rivers as a base for much of that development, and planners say a key decision facing cities is how best to tie their rivers to such projects.
Developers and planners say the question that cities including Dayton, Toledo, Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland have to answer is not whether to use their riverfronts but how to best link them to city centers to attract new residents and businesses and strengthen the economic base, the Dayton Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/L5dr92).
Michael Ervin, who has been leading efforts to develop Dayton's riverfront as chairman of the Downtown Dayton Partnership, said rivers have always been critical to the state's economy. But now planners are "trying to connect the river to the rest of the city by creating a great sense of place, where people will want to live, work, play and learn," he said.
Ervin said a vibrant downtown is essential for a strong regional economy "because that's where workers of the future want to live."
Cities throughout Ohio and elsewhere are working on transforming downtown areas along rivers once primarily used for barge traffic and waste disposal.
"In the Midwest, especially, riverfronts used to be the back doors of cities because they were industrial," said David Ginsburg, chief executive of Downtown Cincinnati Inc., which was instrumental in The Banks project in Cincinnati. "What you're seeing now is cities reclaiming their riverfronts."
The mixed-use development along the Ohio River already is a central attraction in Cincinnati. The nearly completed Phase 1A includes a 300-unit luxury apartment complex and 96,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, which is expected to generate $91 million a year in economic impact, according to the University of Cincinnati Economic Center. When fully completed, the initial phase is expected to draw $276 million a year in economic impact.
The 11-acre, $40 million Scioto Mile city park along the Scioto riverfront in Columbus, and the nearby Columbus Commons park opened last summer and represent a $65 million investment.
A $31 million baseball stadium that opened in 2002 in downtown Toledo near the west bank of the Maumee River is considered as the catalyst for revitalization there. Developers have announced plans to turn an old plant along the Maumee into a $16 million complex with a new YMCA, health clinics and apartments.
A new casino in downtown Cleveland, which already is bringing cash and visitors to that city, eventually will expand to include a building along the Cuyahoga River.
Dayton hopes to attract residents to its urban core with a plan to create better recreational spaces along the Great Miami River.
Tricia Casey, who lives in downtown Dayton is the kind of resident planners hope will lure retailers, restaurateurs and nightclub operators to return.
"I like the convenience of being downtown," said Casey, who believes the river could be a major draw there.
The Downtown Dayton Partnership has raised nearly $4 million for the RiverScape River Run, which would tear down the low dam across the river and replace it with boulder-like structures to create separate passageways for canoes and kayaks. It's expected to be completed in 2014
Ervin said there are many similar-size cities around the country that have seen a significant return on waterfront investments.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
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