Ohio River Redevelopment: Role for Sustainable Remediation?

Waterfront plans across the Ohio River region are plentiful, ranging from hike and bike trails stretching across Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati’s West Side to billion-dollar developments for new residents, businesses, and retailers.

US Census statistics show faster population growth in American cities than its suburbs, good news for Cincinnati projects and those directly across the river from Downtown in Northern Kentucky. Studies also show that younger generations seek walkable communities, connected to the amenities and entertainment they crave.  Grassroots organizers, city planners, and developers hope the strengthening U.S. economy will boost financing, as competition for state and federal grants becomes stiffer.

Riverfronts are becoming popular development sites, as cities across the nation try to clean them up, and communities want to capitalize on the trend. Cincinnati is among the top 10 busiest inland ports in the country, with more than 13 million tons of freight traffic per year.  And as the water quality in the Ohio River improves, so do the tools to build and redevelop on floodplains safely for natural habitats and people.

Challenges lie mainly in funding.  Developers of two billon-dollar projects in Northern Kentucky communities of Dayton and Newport expressed hope that 2010 would be their year, echoing that optimism every year since.  But six years after the state enacted a tax incentive to jump-start the projects, Ovation in Newport and Manhattan Harbour in Dayton remain unbuilt. But with the worst of the recession behind them, they are hoping the projects will be back on track for 2013.

Contamination issues are dragging out plans at the brownfield development MetroWest in Lower Price Hill, rated the top priority of 17 projects funded by the Clean Ohio Council in 2007, earning $3 million for clean up. Environmental remediation usually takes 3 to 5 years for a site that size, but it’s been six so far.  Diana Christy of Cincinnati’s Office of Environmental Quality says that cleanup will be more widespread and extensive than anticipated. "We had to get more money."

Read the complete article at Cincinnati.com, by Carrie Blackmore Smith, March 12, 2013.