Washington Park is Over-the-Rhine’s largest public green space. Neighborhood residents enjoy the open space, historic bandstand, basketball courts, playground, and the only exterior deep-water swimming pool in the neighborhood. With the onset of land-banking in the immediate Washington Park area by the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) as well as new and more up-scale development in Over-the-Rhine generally, a new design is under way for Washington Park. Through city and state funding, in addition to loans from the Cincinnati Equity Fund and the Cincinnati New Markets Fund, the proposed park renovation is projected at over $43 million. The new plan includes the addition of an underground parking garage that can accommodate 500 vehicles, the elimination of the current basketball courts, and the demolition of the deep-water swimming pool.
Additionally, the plan calls for the removal of 56 trees to make way for new pedestrian pathways, a large civic lawn with an event stage, an “interactive water feature,” a new playground, dog parks, and vehicular and pedestrian entrances to the underground garage. 3CDC claims the new plan will contain 114 new trees and most of those will be medium-sized.
In December of 2009 as a visual investigation several Miami University students sought to determine what the park might look like with the loss of the public amenities and the large amount of forestry (some measuring approximately three feet in diameter). Students wrapped the trees targeted for removal, as well as the public amenities, in yellow “caution” tape to represent experientially the impending loss of such features. Photographic and video evidence documented the investigation. Pamphlets with information about the park’s redesign were handed out to passers-by. Several residents frequenting the park were disturbed to find that so many trees were to be removed. Many found the park enjoyable as it exists, and questioned the redesign of the park as well as the surrounding area.