Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Sharonville convention expansion on hold

Hotel problem disrupts plan

By Ken Alltucker kalltucker@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A proposed expansion of the Sharonville Convention Center is in limbo, waiting on the sale or closure of one of the city's marquee hotels, the Radisson Hotel Cincinnati.

        Owners of the 350-room hotel recently notified city officials and 108 full- and part-time employees that the property would close Oct. 30 unless a buyer is found.

        The Radisson property had been expected to play a crucial role in the redevelopment of Sharonville's hotel corridor, Mayor Virgil Lovitt II said Monday. “The city is currently doing renderings of an expanded convention center,” Mr. Lovitt said. “The Radisson was a player in that and part of a much bigger redevelopment.”

        Until a buyer is found, Mr. Lovitt said the city would push ahead with road, landscape and design improvements along Chester Road. Other details about the convention center expansion, including financing and size, have yet to be revealed.

        Just three months ago, city and tourism officials gathered at the Radisson parking lot for a festive ceremony promising a revitalized Chester Road strip of office towers, new shops and an expanded convention center linked to the Radisson. The old Windjammer restaurant, once visible from Interstate 75, was knocked down as part of the redevelopment plan.

        Radisson General Manager Frank Hardin declined to cite a reason for the hotel's pending closure. The hotel's owner, Apollo Real Estate of New York, hired Insignia/ESG Hotel Partners to find a buyer.

        “I feel confident from that couple of calls I have gotten that the site is a viable site and will redevelop,” Mr. Lovitt said.

        The Sharonville hotel strip, on both sides of I-75 between Sharon and Kemper roads, has been popular for developers planning small and mid-sized hotel properties. Plans have been approved for a six-story, 188-room hotel and a new Holiday Inn Express, Mr. Lovitt said.

        The possible Sharonville expansion comes as Cincinnati and Hamilton County struggle to piece together a financing package for a $198 million addition to the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center.

        Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken “mothballed” the project after Delta Air Lines pulled a $30 million naming rights commitment; area leaders have yet to agree on a new financing package.


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