Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Contested Lower Price Hill riverfront site approved for recreation, housing

Now that a lawsuit with Queensgate Terminals over a proposed barge-to-rail facility on Lower Price Hill's riverfront has been settled, work to bring housing and recreational uses to the site has begun.

Last Wednesday, City Council voted unanimously to rezone land it owns at the former 31-acre Hilltop Basic Resources site at 1911 River Road from RF-C Riverfront Commercial and RF-M Riverfront Manufacturing to RF-R Riverfront Residential-Recreational, a victory for local advocates who had been fighting the terminal proposal, citing light, noise, pollution, and other effects that might damage ongoing redevelopment in the area.

Before Hilltop, the site had various industrial uses.

Starting in approximately 1883, a rail yard operated on the western portion of the site, and, from 1891 to the mid-1920s, Carlisle Coal Company used the eastern side of the site to transfer coal from trains to carts. From the early 1930s through the early 1960s, the Moskowitz Brothers Company operated a salvage and scrap yard there.

Following the flood of 1937, few railroad buildings remained in use, but the property did serve as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's Storrs yard for approximately 70 years until its closure in the 1980s. An Amtrak station operated on a small portion of the property between 1972 and 1991.


Of the 31 acres, approximately 15 acres will be open to redevelopment when the Waldvogel Viaduct project concludes in two years.

But redevelopment of the land presents some serious challenges.

The land is located in a 100-year flood plain, meaning that any new residences would have to have all habitable space elevated. A new access road would have to be built across the railroad tracks, which may have to be expanded to accommodate high-speed rail service from Union Terminal to Chicago. And the site's industrial past could have left contaminants, which would have to be assessed before the land can be returned to private use.

Then there's the question of funding – neither the Cincinnati Parks Department nor the City's Department of Community Development have capital funding to support new residential development or the construction and maintenance of a new park.

Trail proposed

Still, groups like the West Side Summit's River West Working Group believe that the site's high-visibility location could serve as a unique western gateway into the City that could help its struggling neighborhoods attract and retain residents.

Phase one of its proposed Western Riverwalk multi-use trail would begin at the Hilltop site and continue to the Gilday Recreation Complex, approximately 2.2 miles in length.

Upon completion, the trail would follow the Ohio River for eleven miles from the western edge of The Banks to Fernbank Park. It eventually could connect with the Mill Creek Greenway Trail at Confluence Park, identified in 2007's Cincinnati Parks Centennial Master Plan.

The proposal contends that the Western Riverwalk would spur private redevelopment in the historic neighborhoods of Lower Price Hill, Sedamsville, and Riverside. It would also build upon the momentum of several completed or proposed projects, including the $68 million Waldvogel Viaduct replacement, the $20 million renovation of Oyler School, the $4 million upgrade of the Gilday Recreation Complex, a proposed 60-acre mixed use development by Neyer Properties, a mixed-use development planned in Sedamsville, and residential and commercial developments in East Price Hill's Incline District.

"While this region hosts several riverfront industries, it also has green hills, scenic views, and untouched riverfront," the proposal said. "Just a few feet down from the busy streets and railways, there is a different Cincinnati – one that has the potential to be a national example of environmental stewardship and urban recreation."

Previous reading on BC:
Local highway projects causing closures (5/1/12)
Photos: Grand opening of the Elberon Senior Apartments (4/16/12)
Grants would fund safety, access improvements at Riverside Recreation Area (3/20/12)
City, Queensgate Terminals likely to go to trial – again (2/28/11)
City, CPS to swap land (3/30/10)