Friday, July 12, 1996
Kunzel's idea to move SCPA may be a hit

The Cincinnati Enquirer

They're already giving it nicknames. Some call it ''Erich's Dream.'' Others say it's the ''Kunzel Concept.''

It is Erich Kunzel's idea to move the School for Creative and Performing Arts next to Music Hall.

There is more to this than moving an arts school from the east end of Over-the-Rhine to the west. This move could trigger yet another wave of downtown development. The long-neglected Washington Park area could join Main Street's entertainment district, the Aronoff Center's Backstage area, Fountain Place, the riverfront and wherever they eventually put those new stadiums.

The conductor of the Cincinnati Pops says he's going to reveal his plans Saturday night during a pre-concert dinner at Riverbend. He's invited 60 people with the capacity - by birth and - or occupation - to get things done in Cincinnati.

Before dinnertime Saturday, Mr. Kunzel has lots of work to do on the project he says has him ''more excited than anything I've ever done in my life.''

Word is he does not have a specific site. Among those under consideration: the block of parking lots across Elm Street from the YMCA; the parking lot between Music Hall and Memorial Hall; and the land occupied by the rapidly aging 38-year-old Washington Park School.

Today, money is on his agenda. The conductor plans on talking to ''some very important government people'' about funding.

He's already heard from Patricia Corbett. Cincinnati's arts angel says ''Erich's Dream'' is ''a fabulous idea. If he puts the school across the street from Music Hall, I'll build a bridge to it like we did across Central Parkway to connect Music Hall with the parking garage.''

That bridge could do more than link an auditorium to a school. If the money, land and will are available, the hoped-for American Classical Music Hall of Fame and Museum could be built next to the new SCPA.

''When you plant one seed,'' says David Klingshirn, the hall's president and founder, ''you can grow all sorts of things.''

Developer Arn Bortz also sees the idea's growth potential.

''The Kunzel Concept is a golden opportunity to develop the Washington Park area and bring that neighborhood back to life.''

Washington Park blues

Anyone who has been to Music Hall in the last 30 years knows this neighborhood could use a shot in the arm.

The people living there are run-down. The houses are worn out.

Kids play on filthy sidewalks lined with broken glass and paper bags. Scraps of toilet paper roll down the streets. Panhandlers ask passers-by: ''How 'bout a light?'' ''Got some money?'' ''Wanna fight?''

A recent walk through the park was no picnic. At 10 a.m. Thursday, its paths and benches were littered with smashed malt liquor bottles and the people who got smashed emptying them.

''This place is an open bar,'' says Paul Lee, who has the unenviable job of cleaning up Washington Park. He tosses empty cans, bags of half-eaten chips and chunks of broken glass into a barrel.

''I'm telling you,'' he adds, ''this mess is a darned shame.

''The park is pretty when it's clean and when those guys,'' he says, nodding toward three men and a bottle, ''are gone.''

The park's potential is why he's in favor of ''putting that SCPA school down here. Those students would enjoy what goes on across the street at Music Hall.''

Never too much

Cincinnati doesn't care to admit it, but many people here are like Paul Lee and Erich Kunzel. Both have double vision. They can see the way things are and the way they could be.

They stand out from myopic Cincinnatians. Those folks look at this flurry of downtown development and say it's too much. They can't see that after years of stagnation downtown, you can't overdo it with development.

In the spirit of the conductor and Washington Park's cleanup man, I'm going to look ahead, too. If Erich's Dream gets built, Cincinnati Public Schools will have to alter its policy of not naming buildings after living humans.

Formally, the new school should be called the Erich Kunzel SCPA. But it can also go by the nickname, Erich's Vision.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax to 768-8340.