Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Blue Ash selects MSA to design 'signature' park

The City of Blue Ash has selected MSA Architects to design the first phase of what it hopes will be a world-class park on 130 acres of land at the current Blue Ash Airport.

The firm was one of six to respond to a request for qualifications issued in May and has experience developing in the city, having spearheaded the $12.8 million expansion and renovation of the Blue Ash Recreation Center between 2007 and 2009.

"Given our past experience and their quality of work, we are excited MSA will now put their talents to use on this project," Blue Ash City Parks and Recreation Director Chuck Funk said in a prepared release. "We have complete confidence they will produce a park Blue Ash residents and guests will come to enjoy for generations."

Phase I of the project, expected to cost $13.5 million, includes a 7,000-square-foot multi-purpose pavilion; a 10,000-square-foot open-air, glass canopy-covered gathering space overlooking a great lawn; a seven-story observation tower with stage pad; a 7,000-square-foot restaurant facility; and infrastructure improvements. Trail construction could begin later this year.

Future phases, contingent upon available funding, could include a performing arts center, driving range, dog park, and children's and natural playgrounds.

MSA Architects owner and President Mike Schuster called the park a "visionary project for the City of Blue Ash".

"I think this is a great opportunity for the City of Blue Ash," he said. "We want this to be a place where it will be a 365-day park where people feel welcome to come and enjoy a variety of activities."

(Re)acquiring the property

Last Thursday, Blue Ash City Council voted 6-1 to rework a 2006 deal with the City of Cincinnati to purchase the 130-acres at Glendale-Milford and Plainfield Roads for $37.5 million, which was suggested by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a way for Cincinnati to use the sale proceeds for non-aviation purposes.

Under terms of the new deal, Blue Ash will briefly sell the airport property back to Cincinnati and receive the $6 million it has already paid. On August 29, Cincinnati will suspend airport operations and sell the property back to Blue Ash for $37.25 million.

Doing so will allow Blue Ash to proceed with park planning and construction without the possibility of the land – and the city – becoming entangled in expensive and lengthy litigation between Cincinnati and the FAA.

"We were between a rock and a hard place," said Blue Ash Vice Mayor Lee Czerwonka. "If we didn't pass this legislation, we were staring down the barrel of years of delays to build our new park and exorbitant legal fees. This was a way to avoid becoming collateral damage in a long, protracted fight between Cincinnati and the federal government."

In November 2006, Blue Ash voters passed Issue 15 by a 2-to-1 margin, authorizing a 0.25 percent rise in the city's earning's tax to fund the new park.

Previous reading on BC:
Blue Ash considering restructuring of airport deal (8/6/12)
Master plan completed, Blue Ash issues RFQ for Airport Park (5/30/12)
Ordinance supports Blue Ash Airport cleanup (2/1/11)
Cincinnati, Blue Ash await CORF, FAA funds for airport (7/12/10)
Construction on Blue Ash's 'central park' unlikely until 2012-2013 (12/8/09)