First proposed in the late-1980s, Western & Southern Financial Group awarded Turner and HOK the project for construction. The project, however, was shelved until 2002 due to slumping office vacancy rates in downtown.(2)(13) Upon resurfacing, Queen City Square was proposed as a 37-story, 800,000 square-foot tower to be constructed after work concluded on 303 Broadway.(1)
The tower’s signature feature would be a tiara that would cost $3 million to $5 million alone.(13) The design of the tiara was inspired by the ABN AMRO Plaza in Chicago, Illinois and would span 130 feet by 130 feet and weigh 250 tons, and be shipped from its manufacturer in Columbia, Missouri.
On June 11, 2007, Western & Southern announced that construction could begin on Queen City Square in 2008 if pre-leasing efforts were successful.(2) The project’s details were modified, in that the project height was increased to eclipse the Carew Tower by 86 feet, and that the square footage was increased to 720,000. Up to 2,000 parking spaces would also be included in an underground parking structure. The existing 1,500 space parking structure would be demolished, and its material would be recycled into the new tower.(13)
Western & Southern was labeled as one of the primary tenants of the tower, stating that it was running out of room for its 1,800 employees at its existing buildings in downtown.(2)
On December 19, Western & Southern met with Cincinnati city officials to propose a timeline for construction of Queen City Square.(3) The project, as proposed, was a 660 ft., 41 story high-rise containing 800,000 sq. ft. of office space, 21,000 sq. ft. of ground-level retail, and 1,300 parking spaces on nine levels. Due to its distinctive arching roof, the high-rise would be taller than the nearby 574-foot Carew Tower, even though it would have fewer floors.(3)(4)(13)
On January 11, 2008, American Financial Group announced that it would relocate more than 2,000 employees into the new skyscraper, occupying 530,000 sq. ft.(4) It would consolidate six downtown buildings into one.
On February 12, the Urban Design Review Board requested that the architect of the planned Queen City Square consider how to make the development more welcoming to pedestrians.(6) Notable changes included moving the building’s main entrance and lobby from Fourth Street to Third Street, facing the riverfront, and the addition of a promenade, retail stores and a winter garden that would extend inside along Sycamore Street. The promenade and stores would connect Third and Fourth street. The building’s profile was also slimmed, to give it the appearance that it was taller.(6) An additional 1,000 parking spaces was also added to the project.(5)
The design was modified slightly for a March 17 Urban Design Review Board meeting, in which an additional 50 feet of retail was added along Fourth Street.(7) Other changes include the addition of an outdoor dining area on the rotunda. expanded garage entrances, and additional retail along Sycamore and Third streets. A promenade and winter garden would reside inside the tower along Sycamore Street.
On May 20, a memo by Western & Southern was released, stating that the project’s cost had risen from original estimates of $300 million to $322 million, and that the bulk of the financing would come from bonds arranged by the publicly funded Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority.(8) The adjoining 303 Broadway was financed with proceeds from bonds issued by the port, to which Western & Southern eventually purchased. In addition, Western & Southern would reserve $40 million in equity for the project, and purchase $225 million worth of bonds issued by the port authority, along with $54 million in tax-increment financing. In total, Western & Southern would assume responsibility for $319 million of the construction costs.(8)(13)(15)
The city would contribute $3.75 million for streetscape improvements, which would include a 1,700-space parking garage and retail space.(8)(15) In total,(13)
The report also included an economic development study, that stated the annual economic impact of the high-rise would be $1.66 billion.(9) The study was conducted by the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center for Education and Research, and concluded that the building would generate or retain 8,655 jobs worth a total of $388 million annually, and that its three-year construction would contribute $715 million to the local economy, as well as 5,388 jobs worth $3.7 million in wages. Upon completion, the tower would contribute $7.7 million in annual tax revenues.(17)
On June 11, Queen City Square was given its final approval by the Urban Design Review Board.(10) Demolition on the existing 1,500-space parking structure was scheduled for July, with foundation digging beginning immediately after. Superstructure construction would subsequently begin in early 2009, and the building would be complete by the fourth quarter of 2010, with occupancy by early 2011.(10)(11)
Groundbreaking ceremonies for Queen City Square were held on the 23rd of June at noon.(11) Demolition began on the parking garage on July 12.(12)
Turner awarded more than $200 million in core and shell construction to up to 30 prime subcontractors and 150 second-tier companies.(13) During the peak of construction in March 2010, 750 people will be expected on-site. The building will require 5,800 tons of structural steel, 400 tons of steel for the tiara, 5,000 tons of reinforcing steel, 63,000 cubic yards of concrete, 273 miles of electrical wire and 320,000 sq. ft. of curtainwall.(19)
On November 17, the Port Authority gave its okay for bonds and tax increment financing for the Queen City Square development.(14)
“There is no question that our involvement with the historic Great American Tower at Queen City Square project raises the profile of the Port Authority. This project is a great example of just what an Ohio port authority can do to make an impact. But, it’s not about the Port Authority. It is about using the unique financing tools available to Ohio port authorities to forge the public-private partnerships that are needed to grow our regional economy.” (15)
-Kim Satzger, President of the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority
On January 19, 2009, contractors began the pouring of the concrete base for the tower.(16)(17) The first pour, which was expected to last for 12 hours, would form a six-foot-thick concrete slab that will be cast under the entire office tower. On average, one concrete truck would arrive and depart from the project every minute throughout the pour.
On January 19, 2010 at 11:20 A.M., the final beam was lifted 560 feet into the air that marked the completion of the tower’s steel superstructure.(19)(20) The beam was signed by dozens of construction workers. The topping out came one year and one day after work first began on the tower.
By late March, construction began on the interior along with the 400-ton tiara.(19) Construction was completed in January 2011.
Queen City Square was registered with the U.S. Green Building Council for its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.(13) Green efforts proposed include the installation of efficient heating and cooling systems, the usage of coated, insulated glass to avoid heat transfer, a fresh air monitoring system on each floor, the usage of materials with low volatile organic compounds and recycled content, and water conservation techniques.
In addition, more than 95% of the parking structure that was demolished for Queen City Square was recycled.(18) As materials were removed, each truck was weighed before unloading at a recycling yard. Bulldozers removed large pieces of concrete, and shook rebar to remove concrete. Rebar was then sheared, bundled and sent to River Metals Recycling’s salvage yard. The concrete was converted to gravel used in road construction, and the rebar was melted at a steel mill for use as raw material.(18)
In total, 228,950 tons of concrete were recycled; 24,435 tons of bankrun sand were recycled; 514 tons of rebar were recycled; and 13,463 tons of debris could not be salvaged.(18)