Source: Cincinnati Business Courier
By Chris Wetterich
Kroger Health and United Dairy Farmers are donating $1 million apiece to help complete a key portion of the Crown, a major network of bicycle and pedestrian trails throughout Cincinnati and Hamilton County. The contributions are part of $6 million in total donations announced Wednesday.
The two companies will be represented as “crown jewels” on the trail through artwork to be commissioned. UDF’s installation will be on Montgomery Road near where UDF’s founder, Carl Lindner Sr., opened his first production facility in Norwood. Kroger’s will be downtown.
“The impact this project brings to the city is going to be really incredible,” said UDF CEO Brad Lindner, himself a bicyclist, often on off-road mountain biking trails. “United Dairy Farmers is a neighborhood store. This is going to be something that links so many neighborhoods together. Making connections today is more important than ever. The city’s been very good to us, and I think this is a project that serves much of the city, if not all of the city.”
Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health, said funding the Crown fits into the company’s broader business.
“Our vision is to help people live healthier lives, and we believe this project will do just that. Just as healthy eating and community health care are vital to improving physical and mental wellness, so is maintaining an active lifestyle,” she said.
A total of 150 companies and foundations have committed to support the Crown, according to Wym and Jan Portman, who are leading the private fundraising campaign.
Spaces for two more $1 million gifts have been reserved, with stakeholders hoping to bring the total raised to $8 million. Requests for those gifts are pending, Portman said.
Roughly $4 million will be used to match federal funding for Wasson Way, a part of the core, $50 million, 34-mile urban loop. With that contribution, it will allow Wasson Way to be completed from the University of Cincinnati to Red Bank Road. Another $2 million will go for a bike trail along the Oasis Rail Line, which runs from downtown to Lunken Airport. The city recently signed a term sheet with the railroad that has an easement on the site for its use as a bike trail.
Portman, a longtime Cincinnati business leader who led the Portman Equipment Company and Pon North America and served on the University of Cincinnati board, said such trails are vital to attracting and retaining workers in the region, not to mention the economic development that comes along with them.
“The talent piece is huge,” Wym Portman said. “We think this trail … will be the best trail in the Midwest. People are already buying up real estate. At Homerama (in the East End), they’re marketing homes as being close to the bike trail.”
The Crown will be free to use and connect people and their neighbors safely to parks, universities, medical centers, arts organizations and other institution. Once additional connections to other communities outside the main loop are added, the project will encompass 100 miles of bike trails. About half of the 34-mile Crown urban loop is complete, which includes portions of the Mill Creek Trail, the Ohio River Trail, Wasson Way, Murray Path, the trail around Lunken Airport and the Little Miami Scenic Trail. The Crown will link 54 neighborhoods and 356,000 people together.
The city, the county, their parks departments, nonprofits Wasson Way and Ohio River Way, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority and Tri-State Trails, an initiative of Green Umbrella, are involved in the public-private partnership building the Crown.
“We’re connecting people in a safe and equitable way to places that they care about and places that can improve their lives,” said Jan Portman. “Everybody cares about safety. The trail’s really important from that perspective.”
The private fundraising isn’t over. The Portmans said there is major interest from groups and companies in helping fund the Mill Creek phase of the Crown, which will connect neighborhoods along the creek and eventually the West Side to the rest of the network. Groups are also interest in programmatic elements that will activate the trail.
Portman also hopes if there is a federal infrastructure bill, it will help fund the Mill Creek trial, which is broken up into several, unconnected pieces now. The Business Courier included the Crown as one of its top 5 infrastructure priorities for the region in last week’s Weekly Edition cover story.
Learn more at http://crowncincinnati.org/