There are times when Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) CEO Steve Leeper brings to mind the Great White Explorers of yore — Christopher Columbus, Capt. John Smith — who, upon landing on foreign soil, set about making it “new” by extracting the natives who were already there to make room for the Pilgrims who will think they landed there first.
There is a 3CDC-based plan afoot to move three major shelters, two of which will put our indigent far enough afield from the goods and services nearer the city’s center that they’ll have to take buses to get to them. The Drop Inn Center and City Gospel Mission — presently just blocks from one another on Elm Street — are being moved farther west to make room for still more urban (used to be called ghetto) development.
The “new” Anna Louise Inn, kicked out of its enviable digs after a protracted Samson-and-Goliath legal battle with Western & Southern, will soon be attached to the YWCA Women’s Shelter being built by 3CDC in Mount Auburn.
Together, these moves, refurbishments and attachments will cost $33.7 million; 3CDC, through private contributions from corporate neighbors, has already raised $28 million.
What is strangely captivating and maddening about Leeper and 3CDC is they move at lightening speed to get things accomplished and that flash-quick strategy leaves absolutely no wiggle room for debate, input or disagreement.
When, in 2003, then-Mayor Charlie Luken — who’d mismanaged his responses to Timothy Thomas’ April 2001 shooting death by Officer Stepehen Roach — helped form 3CDC so the management and refurbishment of the very parts of the city that had erupted in riots and looting could be privatized, the city was in effect saying it was incapable of reaching critical mass or consensus or making tangible progress.
That 3CDC can do all those things means it’s adapted a game-tight business model based solely on the movement of massive amounts of money.
And, in business, when large sums of money are being bandied about there is absolutely zero room at the Inn for people or emotions.
Imagine being homeless or being homeless and mentally disabled and being swept away from what you need the most: access.
Also, there is the notion that the least of us should be out of the line of vision of the balance that class clashes make.
The wealthy, the upwardly mobile and even the paycheck-to-paycheck strivers need to at least encounter the specter of the poor.
I believe this, lest they forget.
Long before the multi-million dollar 3CDC facelift of Washington Park, developers have been eyeballing the corner of 12th and Elm streets, where the Drop Inn Center presently sits.
Now that the park is — thankfully — the outdoor gem it is and development of all the formerly subsidized housing heading north along Elm Street is underway, wouldn’t it be nice not to ever have to lay eyes on the few straggling and shadowy indigent folks who still occupy the edges of the park?
And won’t it be comforting to rarely, if ever, have to be panhandled by those people again when we’re walking from our valet-parked cars to eat over-priced hot dogs or to drink artisanal beer?
Now, we can just stroll.
We may not know it until we see it happening, but I do believe 3CDC is inching its way north up Elm Street to Liberty and perhaps even as far north as Findlay Market to manifest its total takeover.
As recently as early September, the city put the kibosh on a private meeting between 3CDC and the Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board, but only after Over-the-Rhine Community Council President Peter Hames and attorney Tim Mara, who lives in OTR, found out about the item on the meeting’s agenda and objected to city officials.
This means we need to pay closer attention to the intentions of 3CDC and not just be lulled and wowed by the all the pretty, shining lights along Vine Street.
Enquirer publisher Margaret Buchanan is on 3CDC’s board of directors, which explains why the paper sometimes appears sorta like a 3CDC newsletter in its reporting of the group’s “missions.”
Please do not misunderstand me.
I do not begrudge development, change or refurbishment, but it must be done humanely and with greater consideration than it has been done thus far.
Of course, the Drop Inn Center’s administration have to be on board with their pending move to the Butternut Bread factory at 5th and Gest streets and the homeless trade-off still needs a city zoning go-ahead and input from the public and Queensgate neighbors — namely United Parcel Service and Duke Energy — because, as we all know, the homeless love brown boxes and electricity and being in such close proximity to both could cause some real problems.
These are all formalities.
Expect all this to happen.
All that’s left is the Freestore/Foodbank.
Right now, they’re safe because they’re still in a pleasingly grungy strip of real estate on Liberty, prominent to the needy yet out of sight for settlers looking for a site for maybe a new microbrewery or loft living.
Some of this reminds me of the forced encampment of the city’s blacks in the 19th century to the fringe community called Buck Town, which was just east of Broadway between Fifth and Sixth streets.
The city needed the blacks for their cheap domestic labor and to take the crap riverbank jobs no one else wanted, but no one wanted to otherwise see these people, so it was best to let them languish in their own squalor, robbing and killing one another at will.
I am not saying this is what is going to happen with our indigent once they all get moved out of sight, but we should prepare ourselves for whatever is to come — good, bad or frightening — with this shift because the homeless are people, too.
And they are people who are having major decisions made for them based on what is being portrayed as their best interests.
We should ask them.
But hurry. Soon you won’t be able to find one.
CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: firstname.lastname@example.org