Construction on the John G. & Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park in downtown Cincinnati is currently underway, and the first phase looks pretty spectacular. Designed by Sasaki Associates, this park connects the city of Cincinnati back to the Ohio River, which gave the city its birth in 1788. This two-level park provides residents and visitors with an event lawn, stage, pathways along the river, monuments, a tree grove, and water features.
Back in the spring of 2011, John G. Smale, the former Chairman of Procter & Gamble, gave a gift of $20 million to the Cincinnati Parks Foundation in honor of his late wife Phyllis. This great urban park was possible not only through his private donation, but also through a mix of city, state, and federal funding. The park’s economic impact is expected to be great, as it’s expected to bring over one million visitors downtown. It also provides an excellent venue for major events and festivals, and it includes space for restaurants and concessions to generate revenue.
The Smale Riverfront Park’s cascading waterfalls and illuminated stone walls add an eloquently modern touch to the adequately detailed bordering mixed-use buildings. The event lawn sits adjacent to the Schmidlapp Stage, which is detailed with warm wood and black metal supports. The stair and elevator tower is also another modern building, which shines due to the wonderful juxtaposed material choices. The sustainable features include a solar panel array covering the stage, a vegetated roof covering the elevator tower, and a geothermal heating and cooling system for the Toilet Rooms, Bike Center, and the neighboring Morelein Lager House (great beer!).
What makes this project shine even more is that all of this is happening during the throes of the first phases of The Banks project. The Banks is the large scale redevelopment of the Cincinnati Central Riverfront, which was approved back in 1997. The plan included the construction of the Great American Ball Park (home of the Cincinnati Reds), the Paul Brown Stadium (home of the Cincinnati Bengals), and 18 acres of multi-use development. Though The Banks is the central element of Cincinnati’s $2.5 billion riverfront revitalization, the Smale Riverfront Park is the literal icing on the cake for those millions of visitors and residents that will experience downtown Cincinnati every year.