Trent Germano surveys The Banks construction site, noticing piled bricks, skeletal scaffolding and wooden beams have materialized since he last landed in Cincinnati.

The progress is impressive to Germano, vice chairman of Carter, one of The Banks' development companies. It's only been a week since his last visit. The Atlanta-based developer has traveled here so often in the last three years that the staff at the hotel knows him by name. He enjoys a good baseball game. He and Reds owner Bob Castellini exchange stories about their children.

And this time, Germano has brought some humid Georgia weather to Cincinnati "” a sticky day for early September. Though the climate is out of kilter, the sprouting structures surrounding him, he says, are right on schedule.

"Look at all our customers out here that see us every day," Germano observes of the scores of workers in the glossy skyscrapers looming overhead.

Customers, indeed. Cincinnati has endured a long and tortuous wait for this development on the banks of the Ohio River. Now, that it's unfolding, what has the process been like? What can those customers expect? Germano is the man to ask.

A Site Like None Other

When the Carter team considered developing Cincinnati's riverfront, they had to wonder: What's wrong with this spot? Why has no one touched it in all these years?

Of course, there were reasons it had not sprung new development, but there were significantly more reasons to do it, Germano says.

"It was interesting to us, because you won't find a site like this anywhere in the country. The idea of filling in this palette with the riverfront, the [central business district], the stadium and the new park, it was just a great opportunity."

Despite a down market, Carter and The Dawson Company sat down to the table and shaped a vision for the area, wedged between Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium. Their hopes for entertainment, restaurants, bars and a park are being realized, though other ideas are on hold until the economy is mended.

A hotel and condominiums were waitlisted, though the desire for living space will be reflected in luxury apartments. Condos, Germano says, are a "five-letter word" that make lenders slam the door in the current market.

There will eventually be plenty of opportunity for condos and a hotel, though, with two million square feet remaining undeveloped. After the current stage is complete, the developers will gauge the economic situation before planning new additions.

Moving Ahead

At a time when many cities are shying away from construction, Germano says even the current building projects are remarkable.

"To see tower cranes up at The Banks and Queen City Plaza, those are probably two sets of tower cranes more than most cities have," he says.

Nick Rosian, operations vice president of Messer, agrees. The Cincinnati-based construction company is construction manager for The Banks' public projects, including parking garages.

"I think the public officials have done well with finding funding this time," Rosian says. "It's pretty exciting to go down for a Reds game and see all this progress."

Diving into the construction process in the current economy was a leap of faith for The Banks team. Asked how they surged forward, Germano jokingly responds, "Blinders."

"We've had to really work hard to keep our budgets," he continues. "We've had to put more equity into the project because of the lack of opportunity in the lending market; we've had to make sure that we've watched every dollar."

It helped to see the great demand for development here. After all, Cincinnatians have been hearing about The Banks project since the 1990s. While the hunger for development was partially sated with billion-dollar ballpark and stadium appetizers, the city has still awaited its full buffet of options to connect the riverfront.

Eat, Drink & Jaywalk

Today the orange hardhats congregate in the shells of 300 apartments, erecting walls to close them in without obstructing the views of the river sparkling in the sun. Water iced down in orange plastic coolers provides refreshment between the heavy lifting.

In April, Germano hopes renters, followed by trendy watering holes, entertainment options and restaurants, will replace these workers. The apartments have already attracted renters, who have so far only seen the artistic renderings.

They seem to have a lot to look forward to: unparalleled views, a fitness room, secure parking, a pool and proximity to downtown destinations. But even for those who aren't planning to move down here, the developers say The Banks will offer a bounty of attractions for locals, even those in far-flung suburbs.

What can they expect?

"We hope that people will come to The Banks and have dinner before or after a game, before or after they go to the casino, or just to come for drinks and maybe go from one bar to another. People who come to the park during the day maybe will go to lunch at The Banks," Germano says.

Throughout the process, Germano has been asked if he thinks The Banks will detract from business at Fountain Square and other entertainment districts. The short answer is no. Germano says it's all about synergy "” attracting people downtown will benefit the whole area.

But rather than the hustle and bustle of other spots downtown, The Banks is laid out to be more pedestrian-friendly and convenient. After all, it's just a minute off both I-71 and I-75.

"If you look around downtown, this is one of the few places we have two-way traffic. And that's by design," Germano says. "We want two-way traffic, because really, it's not about passing cars through The Banks; it's about people coming into The Banks."

The brains behind the construction even expect a good deal of jaywalking. Not that they'll say it's legal, Germano explains, but the developers have created an open, interactive environment and folks will inevitably be crossing the streets.

Cincinnatians and visitors will find many entertainment options. The retail spaces are yet to be finalized, but signed letters of intent give a peek into what may unfold.

For one, a sports bar plans to occupy the corner looking out at the Reds Hall of Fame, complete with outdoor seating for, perhaps, drinks and dinner before a game.

The Right Kind of Interest

Pressed about retail and entertainment spots, Germano won't name names, but he goes so far as to say, "We're getting the right kind of interest."

And while they're not part of Carter's projects, the soon-to-be Riverfront Park and Moerlein Lager House are also expected to draw people to the area. The Messer team was able to relocate Mehring Way to make space for the park, hitting its goal before the first Bengals game of the season.

"It fills in the hole between the Freedom Center and Great American," says Rosian of Messer. "People can live there, go out to eat, go to entertainment venues. I'd tell people to get out there when it's done and just enjoy it."

No matter if people are coming down for dinner and drinks, playtime in the park, business meetings, or just passing through, Germano and the rest of the team say the development will be a pleasant addition to downtown.

"One thing we hope when pedestrians look in here is to just make their experience better on their walk between Second and Third streets," he says.

Though it's expected to have a magnetic force on locals and out-of-towners alike, Banks developers are aware of lingering concerns about safety downtown.

To address that, a Cincinnati Police Department welcome center will be formed on Freedom Way with approximately 50 officers assigned. It will operate 24/7.

"I think the people who haven't been downtown in two or three years would be shocked if they came downtown on a Wednesday night to go to dinner," Germano says. "They'd be surprised at the activity down here."

And the building continues.