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The Banks Cincy

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The Banks ready to start next phase, say officials

Plans to start development of the next phase of The Banks could get approval within the next 30 days, project officials said Monday on the same day that the project’s long-awaited hotel was unveiled. A grocery could be part of the third phase, the officials hinted.

City and county leaders could be asked in June to approve plans for The Banks’ third phase, which would start by building a parking garage and adding infrastructure to help raise additional parcels of land at the 18-acre site out of a floodplain.

The next phase will start with part of a site called “Lot 24,” which is located due south of buildings under construction for General Electric Co.’s offices and new residents and retail tenants. The Freedom Way site between Race and Vine streets would feature two levels of parking, totaling 690 parking spaces. Design work began last fall.

About $25 million is available in a tax increment financing district that can be used to help complete improvements, Tom Gabelman, a lawyer for Hamilton County on The Banks project, said Monday. Development could begin as early as this fall, but details were not immediately available on what would be built atop the parking.

Once the parking structures are completed, the site’s master developer Carter could begin adding elements such as new housing, retail space or other buildings on top of the garages. Gabelman said the project’s third or fourth phase could eventually be home to the long-sought Downtown grocery store.

A second office building and hotel are still part of The Banks’ master plan.

Discussions about the next phase of work in Downtown Cincinnati launched after the Joint Banks Steering Committee unanimously approved a resolution Monday for Eagle Realty Group to begin building a 165-room AC Hotel and for Winegardner & Hammons to operate it.

“I really believe we have the best possible flag and developer,” said Bob Castellini, the committee’s chairman as well as the Cincinnati Reds principal owner, president and CEO. “… We have no doubt this is going to be fantastic.”

More structured parking is expected to be built on the west side of The Banks near Paul Brown Stadium to prep the mixed-use site for additional development.

Construction could wrap up by September 2016 on a 338,000-square-foot office building for General Electric Co. The facility could employ 2,000 workers and many of those workers could support activity in the building under construction next door. Construction on a building featuring 291 apartments and 20,000 square feet of retail space could be completed in spring 2016. Private investment could soon outpace public investment in the $120 million Smale Riverfront Park project that’s under construction.

The Banks now has nearly 300 apartments and more than 90,000 square feet of retail space.

Castellini said plans to add a grocery store and more retail spaces at The Banks help fulfill the “shop” component of the site being a live, work and play destination.

Gabelman said The Banks’ momentum in landing GE, more residents and a hotel makes the grocery store more likely. He said the site now occupied by Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill was initially envisioned as a spot for a 17,000-square-foot grocery store but it didn’t happen. He said one possible location for a store could be Second Street near Paul Brown Stadium.