Many motorists and pedestrians in Over-the-Rhine have wondered what it was, and now CityBeat has the answer. “It” refers to the nearly three-story high mound of dirt located at the corner of Liberty and Race streets.
The dirt, which first appeared a few months ago and has grown in size ever since, lies behind a chain-link fence on a vacant parcel. Some concrete barricades have been pushed against the fence to give it extra support at containing the mess as it expands, but stray bits of soil have spilled over onto the sidewalk and street.
City officials said the dirt is from the large excavation project underway at nearby Washington Park, where an underground parking garage is being built before the park is expanded and renovated. The project is overseen by the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC), a private organization that also owns the vacant parcel where the dirt is being temporarily stored.
Some emails and telephone calls to CityBeat have asked whether storing the large amount of dirt violates any of the city's zoning rules or nuisance laws, and if residential property owners would be allowed to store the soil in that manner for their projects. City officials replied that the mound isn't in violation.
“From the large excavation for new the garage at Washington Park, 3CDC stored about 4 percent of the material at this site, to be used as backfill after the walls of the parking garage are poured,” wrote Amit Ghosh, the city's chief building officer, in an email.
“The building code allows for such temporary storage as long as there is no significant danger to the public or the adjacent properties,” Ghosh added. “3CDC plans to start the backfilling at Washington Park by the end of this month and use up all of this material by mid-November.”
Begun in August, Washington Park's renovation will expand the park from about six acres to eight acres and add several amenities. They will include a playground area, water features, a performance stage, event plaza, dog park and an underground garage with space for 450 vehicles.
The project will cost $47.3 million, and is expected to take 18 months to complete. Of that amount, $14 million comes from city funding, $2.85 million from state funding, $5 million from an Ohio urban redevelopment loan, and $25.5 million from private contributions.
Those contributors include PNC Bank, Cincinnati Equity Fund II, the P&G Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, and the Carol Ann & Ralph Haile U.S. Bank Foundation.