Saturday, October 21, 2000

Traffic deal to bring down Cintas gate

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NORWOOD — A controversial gate built to control traffic flow near Xavier University's new Cintas center is coming down.

        An agreement between the city and university was announced Friday by Norwood Mayor Joe Hochbein and Robert Kohlhepp, CEO of Cintas Corp., who is also a member of the university's board of directors.

        “We now have recognized all of our concerns, looked at them and developed an effective traffic management plan,” Mr. Hochbein said.

        Negotiations lasted four years and were at times contentious, but the mayor said the plan addresses the city's concerns.

        “We are shaking hands and moving forward,” he said.

        Included in the agreement is removal of the gate the city installed in April on Cleneay Avenue. It was to redirect traffic during major events at Cintas Center.

        The gate would have kept patrons from using the residential street as a route to the center.

        The $44 million center, the biggest building project in the 167-year history of the university, holds a 10,000-seat arena for Xavier's basketball teams. It also houses a student dining hall and a conference center.

        “Norwood and Xavier have worked a long time (on the plans). Mayor Hochbein and his staff people have played a key role and Joe a most important role in getting this done. Still, it is a work in progress,” Mr. Kohlhepp said.

        Xavier and Norwood officials say that while they have tried to anticipate traffic issues, the center is new and the plan untested.

        Part of the agreement calls for meetings between Norwood and Xavier officials after each major event to address any problems.

        Mr. Hochbein said the city's intent was to protect the residential neighborhood near the center from an influx of traffic.

        The mayor and Mr. Kohlhepp outlined five key elements to the agreement:

        • Increased parking. The university has committed to providing 3,180 parking spaces. Of those, 1,890 will be on campus with a minimum of 1,290 off campus.

        The off-campus sites will be at lots in Cincinnati and Norwood that Xavier has either purchased or made agreements with the owners. Three sites in Norwood will provide 750 of the 1,290 off-campus spaces.

        • A two-lane access road to the center's parking facilities. Xavier is constructing a two-lane north/south access road connecting Dana Avenue with Herald Avenue to become the main access to the center.

        The city has agreed to allow up to 900 vehicles to use Cleneay Avenue to get to the center, with the university providing off-street parking for residents. Residents are to receive advance notice of major events.

        The $1 million street will result in the city's removal of the Cle neay Avenue gate.

        • No Mentor Avenue access to the center's luxury-box patron parking lot.

        Mr. Hochbein said that until now, the city had not received a written agreement from university officials that they would not seek access to Norwood through residential Mentor Avenue, which dead-ends at the on-campus parking lot.

        The university has agreed not to use the street so long as Cleneay Avenue remains open. This means Cintas patrons will have access to the center from Cleneay and Webster avenues in Norwood.

        • Traffic control. Xavier agreed to pay all traffic-control costs needed on Montgomery Road, including policing and barricades.

        • Cintas' availability to Norwood. Xavier will make the center, some athletic fields and other facilities available to Norwood Schools for some activities, including Norwood High School's 2001 graduation ceremony.

        The Norwood High School basketball team will be able to play at the center and Norwood schools and other athletic programs will be allowed use of fields.

        Mr. Hochbein said the traffic plan allows the city and university to pursue commercial and residential projects that could benefit both.

        Mr. Kohlhepp noted that Cintas Center will provide employment opportunities to Norwood residents and may become an economic boon to Norwood businesses.


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