Friday, December 01, 2000

Fifth and Race

A tower of creative suggestions

        Greater Cincinnatians believe miracles can happen. Even at the empty corner of Fifth and Race.

        Following the death of the deal to bring a Nordstrom store downtown, my Monday column asked for ideas about what to put in place of the proposed department store.

        The city plans to turn the hole in the ground at Fifth and Race into a parking lot.

        Two hundred spaces. No waiting. Such a deal.

        Knowing Cincinnatians' independent streak, hometown pride and deep-seated desire for something new and wonderful downtown, I asked readers to come up with better ideas. You did. In spades.

        In four days, I received 107 suggestions. Some were frivolous.

        “Fill the hole with water, fish and some mallards for that suburban feel downtown.” — George Vesper, West Chester.

        One was deadly sarcastic.

        “A "gaping hole' fairly cries out for a cemetery.” Reserve plots for shopkeepers ruined by “the inept and incompetent central planners at City Hall.” — Stu Mahlin, Hyde Park.

        Many were serious.

        “Make it the central station for rapid transit in Greater Cincinnati.” — Abe Schwartz, Amberley Village.

        “Build something for kids, and the rest will come.” — Tom Schmutte, downtown.

        Regardless of its tone, every idea believed in the Miracle at Fifth and Race.

        “Have an outstanding architect devise something for this center place in downtown that will have a warmth that will attract all kinds of people.” — Tom Reed, via the Internet.

Change gears
               My original plans called for collecting readers' ideas for a few weeks and printing a selection before Christmas. This is, after all, the busy holiday season. Everyone has a life. That takes precedence over downtown's latest hole in the ground.

        Those plans soon changed. The response was too great to delay. And the need too urgent. On Tuesday, city manager John Shirey issued an appeal for “the highest quality and most creative competitive proposals.”

Duty calls
               The ideas for filling the hole in the ground fell into four categories:

        • Upscale Nordstrom cronies: Bring in Bloomingdale's, Jacobson's, Marshall Field or Crate & Barrel. “Give downtown some elegance.” — Joan Bennett, Hyde Park.

        • Multiuse, multistory building: “A below-ground parking garage, a street-level Kroger grocery store, a Skywalk-level cinema with 4-6 screens and 10-15 stories of reasonably-priced apartments.” — John Vanderbilt, via the Internet.

        • A park, not a parking lot: “The space needs an arboretum. We have the buildings. We need trees and plants.” — Midge Bateman, College Hill.

        • Fun: “Build a casino. They make money. Taxpayers won't have to pay for it.” — Mary Huth, Delhi Township.

        “A Bavarian-style biergarten would be just the thing. Throw in a bandstand for some lively oom-pah-pah. Could be a mecca for fun, weekday worker lunches, happy hour or pre- and post-Reds/Bengals activity.” — Andy Cosgrove, Washington, D.C.

        If all else fails, suggested New Burlington's Henry Dorfman, the Fifth and Race plot could be the site of “a tower people can climb to see how nicely Northern Kentucky is developing.”

        Anything's possible. This is the season of miracles.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.


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