*Update: 6/24/2014 Though not in writing, WVXU is told the Zoo has called Commission offices to rescind the request reported below.
*Correction: Note the corrected time for the first public hearing.
Hamilton County Commission chambers overflowed with supporters waving yellow signs Monday as the Cultural Facilities Task Force made its recommendations for fixing up Music Hall and Union Terminal.
The two historic buildings are in need of repairs. The Task Force is recommending the county ask taxpayers to approve a 9-year, quarter percent sales tax to fund renovations.
Former Procter and Gamble head and Task Force Chair Bob McDonald says the group also considered a four-year, half-percent increase.
"We've done a lot of focus groups," says McDonald. "We've done research over time and it suggests that the majority of citizens in Hamilton County would vote in favor of this proposal. So the real issue for us is 'can we get the county commissioners to put it on the ballot in November?'"
The group says it reduced earlier estimates and now puts the price tag to revamp both buildings at $297 million.
- That's $187.7 million to repair and renovate Union Terminal and $109.5 million to repair and renovate Music Hall.
The sales tax would generate $189 million toward the project ($225 million net). State and federal tax credits, charitable donations and money from the city would make up the difference.
Part of the recommendation includes allowing the Museum Center's current operating levy to expire.
Two public hearings on the possible sales tax are set for:
- July 23 at 6:30 p.m. (corrected time) at Sharonville Convention Center
- July 28 at 11 a.m. at Hamilton County Administration Building
The Zoo Wants In Too
The Cincinnati Zoo wants in on any proposed "cultural facilities levy." In a letter to Commission President Chris Monzel, Zoo Director Thane Maynard asks Commissioners to "seriously consider" including the Zoo. He notes the Zoo is the region's third largest driver of hotel room nights and has more than 1.5 million visitors each year.