First Phase of Smale Riverfront Park to be Completed as Planned

By Adrian Maties, Associate Editor Parks in Cincinnati today occupy more than 5,000 acres, about 10 percent of the city’s total land area. That area is about to grow. With 70 neighborhood parks and 34 nature preserves already in the system, [...]

Parks in Cincinnati today occupy more than 5,000 acres, about 10 percent of the city’s total land area. That area is about to grow. With 70 neighborhood parks and 34 nature preserves already in the system, which has been rated “excellent” by the Trust for Public Land, it will soon add the Smale Riverfront Park, a $120 million project.

Work on the project started in 2008. Designed by Sasaki Associates, the 45-acre site is located along the city’s waterfront, just south of The Banks Development, between Great American Ballpark and Paul Brown Stadium. It will feature unique playgrounds; boat docks;expansive lawns; a carousel; floral gardens; a bike trail; walkways; tree groves; a river-edge promenade; dramatic water features like cascades, fountains and waterfalls;and restaurants and cafes.

The project is being paid for by a combination of private and public funding. Planners hope to collect more than $80 million from federal, state and local funding and as much as $40 million through private donations. It was originally named the Cincinnati Riverfront Park, but city officials changed the name to the Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park following a $20 million donation – the largest to date – made by John G. Smale, former chairman of Procter &  Gamble Co., in memory of his late wife.

The first phase of construction is now almost complete, with only a handful of small construction pieces still to go. The park’s geothermal system will soon be operational and the bike runnels along Walnut Street are ready to help transport bikes to the soon-to-come Bike & Mobility Center. Officials will open the first phase of the park in the coming months. The grand opening of the Moerlein Lager House has been set for Feb. 27.

The Black Brigade Memorial is expected to be finished by mid-May. Work will continue this summer as the project expands to the east. Future phases, however, depend on funding. When finished, the park will become an important economic engine for the region in addition to offering an open space for citizens.