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Springtime Walk

By Steve Ramos · May 16th, 2002 · Arts Beat
I've been keeping a log of my most dismal walks in Greater Cincinnati. It's my way of tracking progress -- or the lack thereof -- in the revitalization of our sleeping city. I know that anyone who passes the rundown buildings on East McMillan between Clifton and Walnut Hills will agree that they belong on a list of Cincinnati eyesores. Seedy 12th Street in Over-the-Rhine is a personal favorite, only because I've walked across it on my way to Music Hall so many times.

I suppose that local political and business leaders would be upset to learn that I would place Cincinnati's much-hyped riverfront on my list. After all, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent preparing the riverfront for its new life as a vibrant urban neighborhood. A renovated expressway and gargantuan football stadium are proof of the monies spent. A new baseball stadium, transit center and a museum celebrating Cincinnati's role in the Underground Railroad are underway.

I'm hoping that the best is yet to come, because what we have now is stark, uninviting and ugly. The Brown family, owners of the Bengals football team and the proud recipient of the shiny stadium, would probably scoff at the idea that I'm comparing their new digs with rundown buildings in Walnut Hills. Still, I can tell you firsthand that the pedestrian experience outside Paul Brown Stadium is just as dismal as any seedy corner in my home neighborhood of Walnut Hills.

The concrete plazas outside the football stadium are cold and uncomfortable, no matter what the temperature might be. The stadium's lobby entrances are as uninviting as any vacant storefront. Basically, Paul Brown Stadium is a hulking mass of concrete that sits empty most of the year.

Still, I don't want to come off as repetitive. Criticizing Paul Brown Stadium as poor use of taxpayers' money is like taking a stand against terrorism. It's a given. The point of my rant is to offer some examples of what can still be done to remedy our sorry situation.

In Seattle, at the Washington State Football/Soccer Stadium, home of the Seattle Seahawks and adjacent to the Seattle Mariners' Safeco Field, streetscape programs, fa├žade renovations on nearby buildings, public art projects and open spaces have helped connect a new football stadium to its citizens and nearby residents.

Northwest artists are featured in and around the Seattle facility, part of a Stadium and Exhibition Center Art Program co-created by the Washington State Public Stadium Authority and First & Goal Inc., the management organization behind the Seattle Seahawks' new home and the adjoining exhibition center. At the stadium, amenities for the fans are not forgotten. There are the numerous restrooms, ATM machines, restaurants and retail shops that fans have come to expect. Seattle business and political leaders felt the citizens deserved more.

In Seattle, the plaza outside the stadium is used year-round for mid-day lunches and evening concerts. Except for Bengals home games, Paul Brown Stadium is desolate.

Closer to home, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, formed in 1984 as both an arts agency and a real estate and economic development catalyst, has created a 14-square block Cultural District and riverside park adjacent to new baseball and football stadiums.

Construction continues on the new Reds ballpark. We still have time to appropriate some good ideas from other cities. I can't help but think about the efforts in Pittsburgh and Seattle whenever I cross Fort Washington Way and walk past Paul Brown Stadium. If you've made that stroll, I think you know what I'm talking about.

If you haven't, I can't say that I blame you.



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