Monday, September 15, 1997
Give council riverfront input

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Everybody talks about developing the riverfront. But who's listening?

Tuesday, you can put a bug in city council's ear about what should go where by the Ohio. A town meeting starts at 3 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall.

Have an idea? They'll listen.

''I always approach these meetings with an open mind and open ears,'' says Councilman Todd Portune.

As chairman of council's Special Projects Committee, he's running Tuesday's show with two other council members, Bobbie Sterne and Dwight Tillery.

''We'll listen and do what we can,'' says Bobbie Sterne.

''If we don't do what the average citizen wants us to do with the riverfront,'' says Dwight Tillery, ''everything we do down there will be in vain.''

They won't hear any debate about where to put the Bengals' stadium. That's a done deal.

But everything else on the riverfront - a flood plain that has been landscaped for far too long with warehouses and parking lots - is fair game.

It's easy to get up and speak at these meetings. Don't be shy or nervous. Remember, these people work for you. They're public servants. You're the boss.

So approach the microphone with confidence. Blow into it if you want - you own it - and ask: ''Is this thing on?''

You don't even need to worry about going first. I'll break the ice, right here and now.

My ideas for the riverfront begin and end with the notion of pride.

I want council to turn the city's front yard into a signature centerpiece. Mark it with the distinction of other great cities. Chicago has its lakefront. San Francisco has the wharves along its bay. We have our riverfront. Turn it into our pride.

Avoid the trendy and tacky. They go out of date too soon, like toilet bowl-shaped stadiums.

Go for what's original and timeless. You're building a monument for future generations.

Riverfront designs

I want a riverfront connected to the rest of downtown. After Fort Washington Way is reworked, run streets and sidewalks to the river.

I want a streetcar line that runs along the river, from Bicentennial Commons to the Bengals stadium with the open-ended price tag. Extend the tracks to Union Terminal and Music Hall, up Mount Adams and back downtown, past Fountain Square and then to the river.

Run the streetcar to Broadway Commons. That's where I want to see the Reds' stadium and the team's hall of fame and museum. When the river floods, the Reds' trophies, pennants and mementos will be high and dry.

The riverfront has room for only two big bookends. The Bengals' stadium on the west, the Coliseum on the East. So level Cinergy Field.

That'll leave room for Cincinnati's gateway, a park flanking the Suspension Bridge. It will be the city's welcome mat, rich, green, peaceful and playful.

Make sure the park runs to the river. With that connection, generations to come can get in touch with Cincinnati's river-city beginnings. They can try to skip a stone across the Ohio, see the waves, smell the water. The river could call to them, make them wonder where it might lead and how it could bring them home.

The Underground Railroad Museum goes next to the park, west of the Suspension Bridge. Cut a cove into the riverbank, line it with sailboats and let the museum sit above the shore.

Stop the circus

The city has said it wants to turn the riverfront into Cincinnati's family entertainment district. Council members have proposed a multiplex cinema and a 3-D theater with shops and restaurants linking the theaters to the stadium and Coliseum.

I see this turning tacky in no time. I see cheap T-shirt shops and souvenir stands. I see fast-food restaurants and crummy bars. I see junk instead of a city's classy signature.

Beyond the park, make places for people to live and work. The area would be occupied full time, not just at nights, on the weekends and during game days.

This would give the city a riverfront that's a show place. The people who live here - you and me - could point to it with pride.

But it's our duty to talk it over and do a good job now. Only then will it become a signature centerpiece that generations after us will be proud to own.


Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.