Created on Friday, 01 February 2013 Written by AMANDA LEE MYERS,Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) — Construction began Thursday on a consumer-data company's new $122 million headquarters in the heart of downtown Cincinnati, a development being touted for deepening the city's ongoing transformation from a declining Rust Belt dinosaur to a region pulsing with new development and revitalization.
The nine-story office tower will be home to dunnhumbyUSA, which analyzes consumer habits for companies like Macy's, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.
The company, a joint venture of Cincinnati-based Kroger and London-based dunnhumby, began in Cincinnati with three employees in 2003 and now has more than 650; the company plans to nearly double to a 1,100-person workforce by 2018.
Both Cincinnati and state officials fought to keep the fast-growing company in the city, awarding it a combined $25 million in tax credits and incentives. Those efforts came despite arguments from some who said that in tough financial times, cities should tighten their belts.
"Anytime you can take a vacant lot that was a parking lot and turn it into a world headquarters for a company in your city, that's a big deal," said Mayor Mark Mallory at a groundbreaking Thursday.
Mallory has been one of the biggest proponents of dunnhumbyUSA's plans in Cincinnati, saying the city would be crazy not to try to retain the company with tax incentives. His philosophy is that more people working downtown mean more income taxes and commerce, and that's going to mean a more vibrant economy.
Stuart Aitken, dunnhumbyUSA's president and CEO, said that staying in downtown Cincinnati will "help grow our business and bring more professional jobs to the state of Ohio."
Aitken said his company is committed to Cincinnati for the long run.
"We have enormous pride in this city and feel genuine love for this city," he said.
In what is now a city-owned parking lot, the new building will be in a prime location. It will be nestled between a Sak's Fifth Avenue and a Macy's, surrounded by three hotels and just a block away from Fountain Square, the heart of downtown and the site of some of the city's biggest public events, including Oktoberfest.
Along with 280,000 square feet for dunnhumbyUSA, the project will include 30,000 square feet for restaurants unique to the area, retail stores, entertainment venues and conveniences. Construction is expected to finish in December 2014.
City officials hope the new headquarters will spur further redevelopment in the downtown area, which began undergoing a major transformation in 2006 with the reopening of Fountain Square after a $49 million renovation.
Other projects include a $322 million, 41-story office tower that opened in 2011 and now monopolizes the city's skyline, a $600 million retail and residential development in the half-mile between the Bengals and Reds stadiums known as The Banks, and a new streetcar line slated to open in 2015.
A 156-room boutique hotel had its grand opening in November after a $51 million renovation, and a $400 million downtown casino is set to open on March 4 after more than two years of construction.
In the nearby Over-the-Rhine historic district, dozens of shabby but beautiful buildings have been transformed into popular bars and restaurants and the once crime-prone Washington Park underwent a $48 million overhaul to become one of the city's favorite spots for concerts, outdoor movie viewings and flea markets.
"In spite of the fact that you can see your breath, it's hot in Cincinnati," City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said at the groundbreaking amid freezing temperatures. "From The Banks to the casino to Washington Park, we're creating a city that's getting attention both nationally and internationally."