As competition to sustain industry and population intensifies in the rapidly evolving
landscape of the 21st century, urban centers increasingly consider their role as both distinct
entities and actors within larger multi-regions. Like many mid-sized midwestern cities sharing a
past shaped by manufacturing, Cincinnati faces the need to position itself regionally, nationally,
and internationally as challenges presented by globalization, urbanization, and digitization unfold.
The Banks has the economic, historical, and infrastructural potential to support this aspiration. The
prominent and high powered site establishes a gateway into the city, a front lawn to downtown, and
has the capacity to redefine the city by regenerating the economic vitality once showcased on the
riverfront. Today, Cincinnati ranks 65th in the nation in population; however, the strong presence
of overlapping industries and shared innovation has positioned it at number 6 in concentration of
Fortune 500 companies. A new innovation district, The Exchange at The Banks, will build on this
synergy by leveraging the promising future of the site.
Innovation potential will be utilized to attract a core of nine Fortune 500 companies with
the objective of pursuing long-term, mutually attractive projects. The design and development
strategies for this innovation core will nurture and support cross-fertilization and facilitate
interactions between like-minded companies. A deliberately mixed use and pedestrian focused
environment will foster a community built on innovation. The Exchange strengthens the existing
entertainment focused identity at The Banks, and inserts an innovation based planning strategy to
provide stability between influxes of events based energy. Guidelines for street and building design
will enrich the historic character of Cincinnati and create an experience oriented development to
increase foot traffic and encourage cross industry conversations.
The Exchange will attract industry leaders for its location and amenities. Immediate
adjacencies encourage access to downtown, renowned Smale Riverfront Park and both stadiums.
Capping the highway repairs the severed connection between the Downtown Central Business
District and The Banks and establishes the Parcade. A contemporary evolution of the traditional
median marketplace, its supersized scale recognizes the value of both commerce and public space.
It provides a framework to showcase the diversity of local vendors and startups, and direct access
to open green space. Washington Way Park supplies a “garden” for the dominant new tower along
Cincinnati’s skyline. The Sports Promenade strengthens the corridor between the two stadiums by
redesigning the intersection at the entry to Paul Brown Stadium. A graphic art walk integrates both
stadiums with the streetscape and energizes the promenade, while enhancing the distinctive quality
of the space. Pedestrian connections to Smale Riverfront Park are reinforced and the river is seen as
an opportunistic space for future development.
By improving public transportation between the burgeoning Uptown Innovation District and
The Exchange at The Banks, a foundation is laid for the first twin-centered real estate development
built as a crossroads for innovation. This strategy will cement the long-term competitive advantage
of the region by positioning Cincinnati as a critical nexus within the midwest and a thriving node
within a global network.
DEVELOPMENT / DESIGN NARRATIVE FINANCIAL NARRATIVE
Athena Properties will develop The Exchange through a joint venture with the city of
Cincinnati. Athena will purchase parcels A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Additional lots will be purchased on
Third Street to develop several mixed-use residential, office, and retail. The development entity
will acquire the land in three separate closings under one land acquisition agreement, with options
for phase II and III land executed immediately preceding their respective groundbreakings. These
acquisitions will be based on a fixed price of C$55 per square foot for Phase I, C$56 per square
foot for Phase II, and C$57 per square foot for Phase III, with a total land acquisition cost of C$96.62
The venture will invest C$322 million in private infrastructure and public spaces to connect
with the surrounding communities and enhance the experience for all who visit the Banks of
Cincinnati. Improvements include an elevated half-acre walking space over Fort Washington Way,
three public ground retail locations, including a market space, entertainment venues, and various
innovation spaces. Infrastructure costs will be front-loaded in the first two phases of development
The site will be developed in three phases over eight years, with a total development cost
of C$811 million. Phase I will be constructed at the northern portion of the site where infrastructure
is required for the highway and will redesign the neighborhood around the banks. The cornerstone
of Phase I is the open-area community park space, which will be accessible by the general public.
Phase II will supplement this recreated neighborhood with condominium, apartments, affordable
housing, and luxury hotel. Through a variance with the city, the last phase will feature experiential
retail, technology centers and meeting rooms, and co-living & co-working spaces.
Through a strategic alignment of condominium pre-sales and permanent refinancing of
earlier phases with construction of subsequent phases, the entity will minimize required equity
contributions for phases II and III. Construction will be financed with a senior loan at 65% loan-to-
cost carrying a 5.0% interest rate with the rest funded by equity split between the partners involved,
potentially including the city of Cincinnati in the form of CRA investment and TIF financing. Due to
equity reinvestment, the bulk of the equity return comes in years 8, 9 and 10 and the assumed sale
of the property following the 10-year holding period. Returns by phase and the total project are as
EXPERIENCE CHANGE 197707