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Not Magic, Just Good Design: GBBN Backs Vision to Expand Downtown Cincinnati by 30 Acres

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It’s not every day that a transportation story makes the front page of the local newspaper. But this is so much more than a transportation story. It’s about the future of Cincinnati.

After months workshopping the idea, GBBN and its collaborators’—Brian Boland and Bridge Forward Cincinnati—proposal to consolidate I-75’s approach to the Brent Spence Bridge (and its planned companion bridge) recently went public as the cover story of the Cincinnati Business Courier.

Like the Fort Washington Way project 25 years ago, which shrank the footprint of the tangle of interstate lanes that once cut Cincinnati’s riverfront off from the downtown, the Bridge Forward proposal would shrink the footprint of the northern approach to the Brent Spence Bridge by simplifying its on and off ramps. While the Fort Washington Way project opened approximately 14 acres of Downtown for development, the Bridge Forward proposal would open as much as 30.

On the whole the response to the proposal has been positive. A follow up story by Cincinnati Business Courier describes both Cincinnati Mayor, Aftab Pureval, and Hamilton County Commissioner, Denise Driehaus, as interested in the idea.

GBBN’s Director of Community Development Steve Kenat, who worked on the proposal, isn’t surprised by the positive response. “People can see that this is an opportunity to transform our city for decades to come by reconnecting Downtown to Queensgate, restoring some portion of the West End, and reclaiming the potential of up to 30 acres of valuable Downtown real estate for new uses.”

GBBN’s Chas Wiederhold is especially interested in the opening it creates to right a historical wrong. “Just as planners and designers in the past made decisions to demolish an almost entirely black neighborhood (home to 5% of the city’s population), today we can make deliberate decisions to mend the street grid, restitch the urban fabric, and heal the community.”

Some hesitations persist. Notably, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) worries that the proposal would delay the Brent Spence Project, risking its funding.

“ODOT’s caution is understandable,” Steve says, “but our goal is not to delay the project, or increase the budget. The design of ODOT’s current plan is only 25-30% complete, and the selected design/builders are responsible to advance the design prior to beginning construction in 2024. As these proposed adjustments are within the same footprint as ODOT’s existing plan, the environmental review process does not need to start over, as they’ve suggested.”

For more on the proposal, visit Bridge Forward Cincinnati’s website here.

Learn more about Steve Kenat or Chas Wiederhold.