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by Kevin Osborne 12.14.2011
 
 
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Streetcar Gets Grant for Riverfront

It will be headed to the riverfront, after all.

U.S. Transportation Ray LaHood will hold a conference call Thursday afternoon with media to announce that Cincinnati's planned streetcar system is getting a $10.92 million grant. The announcement is set for 12:15 p.m.

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by Andy Brownfield and German Lopez 08.01.2012
Posted In: News, Development, Environment at 12:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)
 
 
quinlivan

Council Approves Ban on Injection Wells

Quinlivan outlines danger of fracking waste injection in afternoon press conference

Without much fanfare but with supporters looking on in the Losantiville Room in Union Terminal, Cincinnati City Council passed an ordinance on Wednesday banning the injection of wastewater underground within city limits.

“I’m proud to be on the first City Council to ban injection wells,” said Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who submitted the ordinance to council.

“I want to give props to the solicitors … who have come up with a very unusual thing in City Council — a one page ordinance.”

The ordinance, which passed unanimously after being voted out of committee on Tuesday, is aimed at preventing the injection of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, under Cincinnati. Its injection has been linked to a dozen earthquakes in northern Ohio.

Opponents also worry that the chemicals in the water, which is used to drill underground to free up gas and oil, can seep into drinking water. Oil and gas companies aren’t required to disclose which chemicals they use.

It’s unclear if the city’s ban on wastewater injection would hold up against a 2004 state law that gives the state of Ohio sole power in regulating oil and gas drilling. That regulatory power also extends to Class 2 injection wells.

At a news conference earlier in the day, Quinlivan cited a ProPublica story that said between 2007 and 2010, one well integrity violation was filed for every six wastewater injection wells.

She says data like this makes it clear injection wells are too dangerous.

Food and Water Watch organizer Alison Auciello spoke in support of the City Council ordinance at the news conference.

“We’re pleased City Council has moved swiftly for the protection of its citizens,” Auciello said.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has received no injection well permit requests for southwestern Ohio, but Auciello says the legislation is a good preventive measure.


Heidi Hetzel-Evans, a spokesperson for ODNR, says it wouldn't be feasible to build injection wells in southwestern Ohio due to the region's geology.


"It's safe to say oil and gas drilling has no direct impact on southwestern Ohio," Hetzel-Evans says.


Auciello says more bans like the Cincinnati ordinance are necessary in Ohio. She says she’s concerned that Ohio is being turned into a dumping ground as massive amounts of wastewater from Pennsylvania are brought to Ohio due to a lack of regulation.


Auciello also echoed calls from environmental groups to ban fracking in Ohio. However, fracking supporters — including Gov. John Kasich — insist the process can be made safe with proper regulations.

This story was updated to reflect City Council's afternoon vote.

 
 
by Danny Cross 08.24.2012
Posted In: News, Social Justice, Homelessness, Development at 04:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
Anna Louise Inn

Zoning Approval Recommended for Anna Louise Inn

Inn could get go-ahead for renovation Monday, but Western & Southern expected to appeal

The Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board will receive a recommendation on Monday to approve a conditional use permit for the Anna Louise Inn, which would allow the Inn to move forward with a multimillion-dollar renovation of its building. 

The Conservation Board staff reviewed the standards required for conditional use and the Anna Louise Inn’s application, concluding that the facility should be allowed to operate as a “special assistance shelter.” 

The Board is expected to rule on the permit Aug. 27 after receiving the recommendation and hearing testimony from the Inn’s administrators and supporters. Representatives from Western & Southern Financial Group, which sued the Anna Louise Inn over zoning violations in 2011, will also have an opportunity to testify. 

CityBeat last week reported the details of Western & Southern’s failure to purchase the Anna Louise Inn when it had the chance and the company’s subsequent attempts to force the Inn out of the neighborhood (“Surrounded by Skyscrapers", issue of Aug. 15). 

Tim Burke, lawyer for the Anna Louise Inn, is pleased with the staff’s determination that the renovation met all qualifications for conditional use. 

“I was certainly optimistic that we would get a positive recommendation,” Burke says. “This is obviously an extremely positive recommendation and we agree with it.”

The staff recommendation states that the Anna Louise Inn “creates, maintains and enhances areas for residential developments that complement and support the downtown core” and that “no evidence has been presented of any negative public health, safety, welfare or property injury due to the current use.” It also notes that “the Anna Louise Inn is a point of reference from which all other new and renovated buildings must be designed in order to be compatible with the district.”

The Anna Louise Inn only applied for the conditional use permit because Judge Norbert Nadel ruled in Western & Southern’s favor on May 4, determining that the Inn is a “special assistance shelter” rather than “transitional housing,” which froze $12.6 million in city- and state-distributed loans for the Inn’s planned renovation. The Anna Louise Inn appealed that decision but also applied for the conditional use permit from the Conservation Board under the judge’s definition, because special assistance shelters qualify for conditional use permits under the city’s zoning code. 

Francis Barrett, lawyer for Western & Southern, appears to have taken exception to the Anna Louise Inn’s application. He sent a letter to the Conservation Board Aug. 20 stating that “the description of the proposed uses set forth in the application for conditional use approval … is not the same as nor consistent with the Court’s decision.”

Barrett didn't return a message left by CityBeat with the receptionist at his law firm after a Western & Southern media relations representative directed CityBeat to contact him there. Francis Barrett is the brother of Western & Southern CEO John F. Barrett.

UPDATE: Francis Barrett returned CityBeat’s call after this story was published. His comments are at the end.

Burke doesn’t know what Barrett meant by suggesting that the proposed uses in the Anna Louise Inn’s application for conditional use don’t follow Nadel’s May 4 ruling. 

“We’re doing what they argued in court,” Burke says. “Judge Nadel’s decision doesn’t ever exactly say ‘you’re a special assistance shelter.’ It certainly refers to the Off the Streets program that way and it certainly refers to (the Anna Louise Inn) as a single unified use. It says ‘go back to the appropriate administrators and seek conditional use approval.’ That’s what we’re doing.”

Stephen MacConnell, president and CEO of Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Anna Louise Inn, says the hearing will involve testimony from himself and Mary Carol Melton, CUB executive vice president, along with supporters of the Anna Louise Inn. 

“We’ll bring a few witnesses just to basically lay out the situation,” MacConnell says. “The board will already have the staff recommendation, so the witnesses that we’ll bring will briefly testify about how we meet the required standards.”

Western & Southern will have a chance to appeal if the Historic Conservation Board grants the conditional use permit. Burke expects that to happen. 

“What I’m pissed about is Western & Southern, they don’t give a damn,” Burke says. “We can do exactly what Judge Nadel told us to do and get it approved as a conditional use. They will appeal it to the zoning board of appeals. We can win it there and they will appeal it and get it back in front of Judge Nadel and then I don’t know what will happen.” 

The hearing is scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 27 at Centennial Plaza Two, 805 Central Ave., Seventh Floor.

UPDATE 5:36 P.M.: Regarding the letter Francis Barrett sent the Conservation Board Aug. 20 stating that “the description of the proposed uses set forth in the application for conditional use approval … is not the same as nor consistent with the Court’s decision,” Barrett said Friday evening: “I just felt that the description in the submission was different from the description in the decision. I would say it was just not complete.” 

When asked for specifics, Barrett said: “I’d have to get the decision out and look at it carefully. I don’t have it in front of me I just thought in general.”

Barrett said Western & Southern will give a presentation to the Historic Conservation Board on Monday but declined to elaborate because it wasn’t finalized. 

When asked if Western & Southern will appeal a ruling in favor of the Anna Louise Inn, Barrett said: “It all depends what the decision states.”

 
 
by German Lopez 11.15.2012
Posted In: Anna Louise Inn, News, Development at 12:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
anna louise inn

Anna Louise Inn Wins Another Zoning Appeal

Western & Southern set to appeal for third time

The Anna Louise Inn today won another case in front of the Cincinnati Zoning Board of Appeals. The ruling upheld a Historic Conservation Board decision that gave Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the inn, a conditional use permit that will allow the social service agency to carry on with a planned $13 million renovation. Western & Southern in a statement given to reporters following the decision vowed to appeal the ruling.

At the hearing, Western & Southern attorney Francis Barrett, who is the brother of Western & Southern CEO John Barrett, continued his argument that the Anna Louise Inn is a “high-crime area.” The accusation is meant to disqualify the Inn for the conditional use permit, which requires that the building’s use will not be detrimental to public health and safety or negatively affect property values in the neighborhood. During an Aug. 27 hearing, the Historic Conservation Board found no direct evidence connecting residents of the Anna Louise Inn to criminal activity in the neighborhood.

Barrett also emphasized Western & Southern’s stance that continuing on the current path set by the Historic Conservation Board is a waste of taxpayer money because the Inn is receiving public funds. Barrett labeled the funds “excessive expenditures.” However, that argument has little bearing on whether the Inn deserves a conditional use permit, because it’s not relevant to zoning laws and rules.

Tim Burke, Cincinnati Union Bethel’s attorney, began his defense of the Anna Louise Inn by calling the ongoing case one of the most “frustrating” of his career. He suggested Western & Southern is just continuing its attempts to delay the Inn’s renovations as much as possible.

Regarding the charge that the Anna Louise Inn has adverse effects on public health and safety, Burke told the Zoning Board of Appeals that the only adverse effect is on Western & Southern because “they want the property and can’t get it.” He claimed there is no proof that the Anna Louise Inn perpetuates crime in the area, and testimony and evidence presented in the case has proven as much.

The case is only one of many in the ongoing conflict between Cincinnati Union Bethel and Western & Southern, which CityBeat previously covered in-depth (“Surrounded by Skyscrapers,” issue of Aug. 15). Cincinnati Union Bethel wants to renovate the Anna Louise Inn in part with $10 million in tax credit financing from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and a $2.6 million loan funded by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that was awarded by the city. Western & Southern says it wants to use the Lytle Park area, where the Inn is located, for private economic development.

The series of cases began when Judge Norbert Nadel ruled on May 27 that the Anna Louise Inn classifies as a “special assistance shelter,” which requires a different kind of zoning permit than the previous classification of “transitional housing.” That ruling was appealed by Cincinnati Union Bethel to the Ohio First District Court of Appeals, which held hearings on Oct. 30 and is expected to give a ruling soon.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 02.27.2013
Posted In: Environment, Development at 04:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
269632_200060063376630_3656678_n

Over-the-Rhine Eco Garden Could Be Forced to Relocate

Main Street spot is being eyed for CitiRama 2014

Leaders of a quiet Over-the-Rhine civic garden that harvests produce like peaches, tomatoes, garlic and blackberries to sell at Findlay Market are worried they could be forced to relocate after calling the same spot home since 1998.

CitiRama, a partnership between the Cincinnati Homebuilders Association and the city of Cincinnati that holds annual or biannual home shows on chosen urban plots of land, has proposed that the lot at 1718 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine, which currently houses the Eco Garden project (run by local nonprofit Permaganic), be amended to instead house the site for its next event, which would force the garden to relocate.

The Livable Communities Committee yesterday was presented a memo submitted by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls from City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., recommending that the Eco Garden lot, which is currently subletted to Permaganics for its Eco Garden program by the Civic Garden Association (CGA), be relocated to a larger area so the site can be procured for CitiRama
.

The parcel of land is actually owned by the city of Cincinnati, but the city leases a number of parcels to the CGA for their use. According to the memo, the lease between the city and the CGA expires in 2015, but grants the city the power to terminate the lease at any time if another use for the land arises.

The area containing the Eco Garden has been targeted as the next CitiRama site by the city’s Department of Community Development (DCD), the main controller of the property. According to Dohoney’s memo, should the Eco Garden be forced to move elsewhere, the DCD would fund the garden's startup and relocation costs.

For Angela Ebner, executive director with Permaganic, that’s not a sufficient compromise, but she’s hopeful the parties can reach an agreement by demonstrating that the Garden's OTR existence is actually of value to CitiRama, which is seeking out forward-thinking potential homeowners invested in fostering positive urban cultural experiences.

“We think they’re (CitiRama) interested in working with us because we think they’re interested in working with that demographic of eco-friendly people. I’m pretty certain they’ll be accepting of the fact that we do a really good job of reflecting the needs and values of people in the community,” she says.

CitiRama's events are designed to attract potential homeowners and developers to pinpointed plots of land in hopes of  reviving urban areas with new housing opportunities, but there's also a heavy focus on sustainability. The most recent CitiRama event, which opened at Virginia Place in Northside (located at the intersection of Virginia and Chase avenues), took place in Sept. 2012.

The Eco Garden exists to “create experiential learning opportunities for inner-city youth to cultivate self-reliance, job skills and an entrepreneurial aptitude by cultivating a market garden to grow fresh, healthy vegetables and herbs for direct sales at Findlay Market," according to a Permaganic Facebook post. They recruit local at-risk teens for a unique job readiness program, which allows the teens to work in the garden in exchange for a stipend.

Supporters of Permaganic and the Eco Garden are concerned that moving the garden would cause disrupt not just to the crops that have grown for the past several years, but also the fabric of the neighborhood, particularly the at-risk neighborhood youth who see the space as a "home away from home."

Ebner and supporters are currently waiting for word from the city in hopes of moving forward on a compromise.

“We want a green, peaceful, healthy world for everyone’s children,” says Ebner. “That’s the bottom line.”

 
 
by German Lopez 09.23.2013
Posted In: News, Development, City Council at 03:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
roxanne qualls

Qualls Unveils ‘Come Home Cincinnati’ Initiative

Plan addresses blight and abandonment in eight Cincinnati neighborhoods

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority and community partners on Monday unveiled the “Come Home Cincinnati” initiative, which promises to make vacant properties available to new occupants in an effort to increase homeownership and redevelop neighborhoods hit hardest by vacancy and abandonment.

The goal is to establish a residential base that will help jumpstart private redevelopment and revitalize largely abandoned areas of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Just about a year ago, we were in Evanston to talk about their housing strategy for the Woodburn Avenue corridor and what to do about the 200 vacant and abandoned properties in the community,” Qualls said in a statement. “The next logical step on the path to revitalization is to incentivize private market investment in the residential core of our neighborhoods and help to fill the once-abandoned homes with new owner-occupants.”

The initiative will work through the Hamilton County Land Bank, private lenders and community development corporations to connect potential homeowners with a pool of loan guarantees.

Qualls’ office says the plan will likely require tapping into the city’s Focus 52 fund, which finances neighborhood projects.

The Port Authority estimates the loan guarantee pool will be $2.5 million to $4.5 million and other aspects of the initiative will cost $3.3 million, but not all of the funding will come from the city.

To qualify for the program, owner-occupants will have to meet minimum credit requirements, agree to live in the rehabilitated home for five years and pay for 5 percent of the total rehabilitation and acquisition costs as a down payment. After five years, the loan will be refinanced at the same or better interest rates to relinquish the city and its partners’ loan guarantee.

The city is eyeing a few potential partners for the initiative, including the Cincinnati Development Fund, Cincinnati Preservation Association, the University of Cincinnati Urban Design Center and neighborhood-specific groups.

The initiative will start with 100 homes in the pilot neighborhoods of Evanston and Walnut Hills, but it will expand to Avondale, College Hill, Madisonville, Northside, Price Hill and South Cumminsville as resources grow. It will work in conjunction with the Moving Ohio Forward demolition grant program, which allows the city and Hamilton County Land Bank to tear down blighted and vacant buildings.

At the same time, three of the neighborhoods — College Hill, Madisonville and Walnut Hills — are currently trying out form-based code, a special kind of zoning code championed by Qualls that allows developers to more easily pursue projects as long as they stay within a neighborhood’s established goals.

City Council will now need to approve a motion that gives the city administration 60 days to develop a plan and budget for the initiative. The city administration’s proposal will also require City Council approval.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 09.12.2011
 
 
modern-streetcar1

League Opposes Anti-Streetcar Issue

A prominent, nonpartisan group today announced its opposition to Issue 48, the proposed amendment to Cincinnati's charter that would block the creation of a streetcar system for at least a decade.

The League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area issued a press release today stating it opposes the amendment because the wording is so broadly written that it would prevent the development of any passenger rail system including light rail or commuter rail.

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by Andy Brownfield 11.01.2012
Posted In: Development, City Council, News at 04:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
quinlivan

Worker Mistreatment Alleged at U-Square Development

Council members urge city to investigate worker wages

Some members of city council agreed that the city needs to take a hard look at the way it inspects projects done with taxpayer money, but they took no action during a special joint committee meeting Thursday to discuss allegations that workers were being underpaid at the University Square development in Clifton.

Council members Laure Quinlivan, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young presented a video investigation they conducted, which included interviews with workers on the project who claim they were being taken advantage of by the University Square developers.

Under Ohio and Cincinnati law, workers on projects funded by taxpayers must be paid a so-called “prevailing wage” (the same as a unionized worker) and be given benefits. 

In Cincinnati, that wage is $23.17 an hour for the carpentry work done by the workers interviewed for the video.

The workers in the video claimed they were paid $500 for working a 60-hour week.

“Five-hundred dollars a week to me when you don’t have a job, that’s a lot,” said Garrick Foxx, a construction worker on the project. 

“But actually when you average it out, it’s not. Like to the hour-wise it’s probably like 9-something, so like I could actually make that working at McDonalds.”

The University Square developer — a collaboration between Towne Properties and Al. Neyer, Inc. — is building a complex with a parking garage, residential units and retail space.

The City of Cincinnati has $21 million invested in the parking garage. The State of Ohio recently ruled that the prevailing wage provisions apply only workers constructing the garage that the city has money invested in.

Arn Bortz with Towne Properties said the controversy was ginned up by unions and it hasn’t been proven that workers are being underpaid.

“All of this was started by the unions themselves because they became very unhappy when the State of Ohio said a sizeable portion of our project was not subject to prevailing wage,” Bortz said. “They tried then to discredit and intimidate anyone who is on the other side of the table.”

Bortz said he agreed to pay a prevailing wage even to workers who worked on parts of the project not subject to the law. He said he cuts a check to the subcontractors based on that agreement.

“Whether any of those subcontractors might have been unfair to the workers, we do not know,” Bortz said. “If they were, they should be made to be fair.”

Deputy City Solicitor Aaron Herzig said if the contract required a particular wage be paid and it wasn’t, the city can bring a breach of contract action against the developers. But to start an investigation, a complaint must first be made.

The council members asked that their investigation be considered a formal complaint.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.21.2012
Posted In: Development, News, Streetcar, Cycling at 02:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
plan

New Master Plan Touts Urban Living

Plan Cincinnati seeks to make city friendlier to bikes and environment

The City of Cincinnati today released the final draft for its plan to “re-establish (Cincinnati) as a model of a thriving urban city.” Plan Cincinnati, which will be taken up in a public hearing on Aug. 30 at 6 p.m., is the first master plan for Cincinnati since 1980.

The primary goal behind the plan is to transition the city away from a model that emphasizes suburban living back to a more urban model. The plan’s report justifies the shift by attributing it to a new societal need.

“Dissatisfied, American society is now beginning to reverse the trend (of suburban living) with the hope of returning to an environment that is more economically and environmentally sustainable, less dependent on the automobile, closer in scale to human form, and ultimately, truly more livable,” the report says.

The plan will make this transition with six guiding principles: Provide more transportation choices, promote equitable, affordable housing, enhance economic competitiveness, support existing communities, coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment, and value communities and neighborhoods.

The vague principles are outlined in greater detail in the 228-page report, which can be read in full here. 

One of the key parts of the plan is its expansion of options for non-automotive travel. The plan promises to focus more work on bicycle paths, support a Bicycle and Pedestrian Program and build links between bicycle systems to allow more cycling through the city. The city will also “design and construct the Ohio River Bike Trail through Cincinnati” and make the city safer for cyclists by making roads smoother and cleaner.

The plan also encourages other transportation programs. Establishing better coordination with Metro buses, building intercity rail systems and integrating the new streetcar into a greater transportation model are a few of the many suggestions in the plan. With these systems, the plan hopes to “facilitate economic development opportunities.”

Beyond transportation, the plan also seeks to establish environmentally friendly programs. Some of the suggestions are developing a green construction incentive program, implementing smart grid networks and reforming the LEED tax abatement program to include additional energy efficient rating systems.

However, the plan is missing one important detail: cost. The report says Plan Cincinnati will be reviewed every year using the new Priority-Driven Budgeting process, but no estimates for cost are currently available. Katherine Keough-Jurs, senior city planner, explained why in an email: “That is not something that we provide. We have found over the years that providing cost estimates in long-range plans is problematic and the estimates can be misleading. Also, some of the Action Steps listed are not necessarily things that would have a monetary cost associated.”

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 05.02.2012
 
 
econocide

New Book Criticizes OTR's Development

Author will hold book signing on Thursday

A social worker that has written a new book criticizing Cincinnati’s development efforts in Over-the-Rhine will conduct a book signing Thursday.

 

Alice Skirtz, a Cincinnati native, is the author of Econocide: Elimination of the Urban Poor. She will host a book signing from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Skirtz & Johnston bakery at Findlay Market, 113 West Elder St.

 

Proceeds from book sales at the event will be given to the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. Skirtz is the founding organizer of the coalition.

 

The book profiles growing economic inequalities in the city that is reflected in policy debates over contentious issues like panhandling, homelessness, planning and funding for affordable housing, zoning for social service agencies and site selection for shelters.

 

Written from a social worker’s perspective, Econocide focuses on advocacy for people who are most vulnerable in society to promote and make sure they’re included in the socio-economic policies of local government.

 

"Based on over 40 years of experience in working with the urban poor, I wrote this book to call attention to how they have become increasingly at risk of being removed permanently from the community and civic life," Skirtz said. "The growth of privatization has led to increasing economic inequities, lessening influence in administrative and legislative affairs, and decreasing access to housing and even public spaces. I intend for this book to lead to a change in how we treat the urban poor."

 

The book includes a blurb by David Mann, a local attorney who also is an ex-Cincinnati mayor and former congressman.

 

“You cannot read her book without tears coming to your eyes at some point and without wondering why a supposedly enlightened society cannot better balance the needs of the least among us with overall economic health and viability,” Mann wrote. “You will ask yourself why we cannot do better.”

 
 

 

 

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by Nick Swartsell 09.05.2014 105 days ago
Posted In: Development at 03:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
to do 2-8 iconic market house photo, courtesy the corporation for findlay market

Cincinnati Developer Looks to Reshape Area Around Findlay Market

Proposed development would create 90,000 square feet of office and commercial space

One of Cincinnati’s biggest developers has plans to reshape an entire block of Race Street near Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine.

Model Group, which is based in Walnut Hills, has put in an application with Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation to develop city-owned properties on the 1800 block of Race Street. In addition, the developer has recently purchased a number of other properties on the block. The grand vision: more than 50,000 square feet of commercial space and 40,000 square feet of office space in the area just east of the historic market.

“We want it to feel like an extension of the market,” said Model Group COO Bobby Maly Sept. 5. But don’t call it Findlay Market II. “We’re not trying to be the market," he said.

The deal isn’t finalized yet, however. Model will still need approval from 3CDC and the city. On June 25, City Council approved 3CDC's request to be preferred developer of the area around the market. The non-profit development group is currently taking applications from developers who want in on the action in the rapidly changing neighborhood and advising the city about which projects should get the go-ahead. Except for a couple businesses such as Rhinegeist brewery, the area of OTR north of Liberty Street is still mostly untouched by redevelopment.

3CDC’s request that the city make it preferred developer in the area caused controversy. Critics, including Over-the-Rhine Community Council President Ryan Messer, say the group has too much power and shouldn’t be allowed to call the shots entirely in OTR. 3CDC has led the drive to reshape the part of the neighborhood south of Liberty Street, including the renovation of Washington Park, the enormous Mercer Commons project and a bevy of smaller retail, dining and residential spaces, especially along Vine Street. But Messer and others say smaller developers could move quicker than 3CDC, which has banked a number of buildings, shoring them up just enough to save them and then boarding them up. He has also expressed concerns that the development group isn’t serving the interests of everyone in the neighborhood and hasn’t paid close enough attention to the need for things like affordable housing there.

“A common thread in the neighborhood is the expressed desire to protect and expand our cultural diversity and this, in part, can be done by paying close attention to providing affordable housing options in both the rental and the purchase markets,” Messer said in a June 18 letter to the city asking it to not grant 3CDC preferred developer status.

While Model Group has played a relatively smaller role in OTR than the nonprofit 3CDC, it has also been very active in the area, especially in the Pendleton District to the east. Model has been working on Pendleton Square, a $26 million residential development just north of the Horseshoe Casino. That project could create about 40 new market-rate residential units and more than 10,000 square feet of retail space in the neighborhood, which is also experiencing a surge in redevelopment efforts.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.23.2014
Posted In: Development at 04:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
master-plan

GE Moving to The Banks

City and county seal the deal, offer sweet incentives

General Electric is officially moving 1,800 employees to The Banks, the entertainment and retail complex on Cincinnati's riverfront. But it took some deal-sweetening by the city to make it happen. City Council and Hamilton County Commissioners on Monday approved a landmark deal that incentivizes the company to consolidate some administrative and finance jobs at the site, which will be 10 stories tall and cost about $90 million to build.

The city's bid beat out Norwood and other locations, though the city and county had to offer one of the most generous deals in the region's history. The company will receive a 75-percent property tax abatement for the next 15 years, with the other 25 percent of those taxes going to Cincinnati Public Schools. Eighty-five percent of employees' city earnings taxes will also flow back to the company over that period of time.

GE said the incentives are needed because moving to The Banks will be about 15 percent more expensive than other bids it considered. The city hopes the deal will lead to a long-term payoff. County officials tout studies showing big benefits. The Economics Center for Education and Research at UC ran the numbers on the deal and suggest that the project could bring in $1 billion in overall economic activity
. The site should reach full capacity by 2018.

The estimated average salary of an employee at the site will be about $79,000, company officials say.

Despite some questions about how quickly the deal came together, both council and county commissioners passed it unanimously during an unusual joint meeting at Great American Ball Park. Council member P.G. Sittenfeld praised the project but noted the city will need to remember to balance fairness and overall impact in the future. Council member Chris Seelbach used the occasion to tout the streetcar, tweeting that it was a big factor in GE's choice to move to The Banks.

 
 
by German Lopez 03.07.2014
Posted In: News, Drugs, Voting, Development, Mayor at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Morning News and Stuff

Early voting agreement sought, downtown project scrutinized, drug abuse reportedly drops

Mayor John Cranley is trying to find a compromise over whether early voting will move out of downtown after the 2016 general election, as some Republicans in the county government have suggested. Cranley called for a meeting with Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke, Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou, Cincinnati NAACP President Ishton Morton and Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel. The meeting will aim to “discuss alternatives the City of Cincinnati can offer to accommodate early voting downtown after the 2016 elections. (Cranley) believes that such a discussion is consistent with the recommendation of the secretary of state that there be an effort to find a nonpartisan solution to the existing disagreement.”

With a $12 million price tag in mind, Cranley remains worried Cincinnati is paying too much for a downtown grocery and apartment tower project. But the project is truly one of a kind, claims The Business Courier: The tower would boast nearly twice the number of luxury apartments of any other project underway in Over-the-Rhine or downtown. And it would replace a decrepit garage and establish the first full-scale grocery store downtown in decades.

A study found Ohio teens’ painkiller abuse dropped by 40 percent between 2011 and 2013. State officials quickly took credit for the drop, claiming their drug prevention strategies are working. But because the Ohio Youth Risk Behavior Survey only has two sets of data on painkillers to work with — one in 2011 and another in 2013 — it’s possible the current drop is more statistical noise than a genuine downturn, so the 2015 and 2017 studies will be under extra scrutiny to verify the trend.

Similarly, fewer Ohio teens say they’re drinking and smoking. But 46 percent say they text while driving.

Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent in January, down from 7.3 percent the year before. The numbers reflect both rising employment and dropping unemployment in the previous year.

To prove his conservative bona fides, Ky. Sen. Mitch McConnell touted a rifle when he walked on stage of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The other Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, will headline a Hamilton County Republican Party dinner.

Researchers studied a woman who claims she can will herself out of her body.

Personal note: This is my last “Morning News and Stuff” and blog for CityBeat. After today, I will be leaving to Washington, D.C., for a new journalistic venture started by bloggers and reporters from The Washington Post and Slate. (CityBeat Editor Danny Cross wrote a lot of nice things about the move here, and my last commentary touched on it here.) Thank you to everyone who read my blogs during my nearly two years at CityBeat, and I hope I helped you understand the city’s complicated, exciting political and economic climate a little better, even if you sometimes disagreed with what I wrote.

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by German Lopez 03.06.2014
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Downtown project gets path forward, feds to pay for firefighters, health board defies mayor

Flaherty & Collins, the developer that wants to tear down a garage as part of its downtown grocery and apartment tower project, offered to pay for a tenant’s move to keep the deal moving forward. The tenant, Paragon Salon, recently announced its intent to sue the city after Mayor John Cranley’s refusal to pay for the salon business’s move left the development project and Paragon in a limbo of uncertainty. With Flaherty & Collins’ offer, the development deal should be able to advance without extra costs to the city.

But Cranley says he still wants 3CDC to review the downtown development project to set the best path forward.

Federal money will help Cincinnati keep and hire more firefighters. The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant provides nearly $8.1 million — about 2 percent of the city’s $370 million operating budget — to pay the salaries and benefits of 50 firefighters for two years. Afterward, the city will need to pick up the costs, which could worsen an operating budget gap that currently sits at $22 million for fiscal 2015. The move would increase the Cincinnati Fire Department’s staffing levels from 841 to 879 and help prevent brownouts, according to the firefighting agency.

The Cincinnati Board of Health defied Mayor Cranley by unilaterally pursuing a $1.3 million grant that will provide preventative and primary care services to underserved populations. Rocky Merz, spokesperson for the board, says the grant application complies with guidance from the city’s top lawyer. Cranley opposes the grant because the extra services it enables could push up costs for the city down the line.

Hamilton County officials will look for outside legal help in their fight against the city’s job training rules for Metropolitan Sewer District projects. CityBeat covered the rules, known as “responsible bidder,” in further detail here.

Smale Riverfront Park will receive $4.5 million in federal funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to control erosion and prevent flooding.

Crime around Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino never materialized, despite warnings from critics prior to casinos’ legalization in Ohio.

Ohio’s prison re-entry rate declined and sits well below the national average, according to a study from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The study found 27.1 percent of inmates released in 2010 ended up back up in prison, down from 28.7 percent of individuals released in 2009. In comparison, the national average is 44 percent.

Hundreds of Ohio school districts plan to test out the state’s new online assessments for math, language arts, social studies and science.

The cold winter is pushing up natural gas prices, according to Ohio’s largest natural gas utility.

A second baby might have been cured of HIV, the sexually transmitted disease that causes AIDS. Even with the potential successes, doctors caution it’s still very much unclear whether the treatment provides a definitive cure for the deadly disease.

Meanwhile, a first-of-its-kind intravaginal ring could prevent pregnancy and HIV.

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by German Lopez 03.05.2014
 
 
greenpeace P&G

Morning News and Stuff

Anti-P&G protesters face court, 3CDC to resolve project, mayor denies politics in board pick

A group of Greenpeace protesters face burglary and vandalism charges after a stunt yesterday on the Procter & Gamble buildings. Protesters apparently teamed up with a helicopter to climb outside the P&G buildings to hang up a large sign criticizing the company for allegedly enabling the destruction of rainforests in Indonesia by working with an irresponsible palm oil supplier. P&G officials say they are looking into the protesters’ claims, but they already committed to changing how they obtain palm oil by 2015.

Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) will step in to resolve the status of a downtown grocery and apartment tower project. The previous city administration pushed the project as a means to bring more residential space downtown, but Mayor John Cranley refuses to pay to move a tenant in the parking garage that needs to be torn down as part of the project. Following Cranley and Councilman Chris Seelbach’s request for 3CDC’s help, the development agency will recommend a path forward and outline costs to the city should it not complete the project.

Meanwhile, the tenants in the dispute announced today that they will sue the city to force action and stop the uncertainty surrounding their salon business.

Cranley insists politics were not involved in an appointment to the Cincinnati Board of Health, contrary to complaints from the board official the mayor opted to replace. Cranley will replace Joyce Kinley, whose term expired at the end of the month, with Herschel Chalk. “Herschel Chalk, who(m) I’m appointing, has been a long-time advocate against prostate cancer, who's somebody I’ve gotten to know,” Cranley told WVXU. “I was impressed by him because of his advocacy on behalf of fighting cancer. I committed to appoint him a long time ago.”

The costs for pausing the streetcar project back in December remain unknown, but city officials are already looking into what the next phase of the project would cost.

Troubled restaurant Mahogany’s must fully pay for rent and fees by March 10 or face eviction.

Through his new project, one scientist intends to “make 100 years old the next 60.”

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by German Lopez 03.04.2014
Posted In: News, Development, Budget, City Council, Mayor at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
downtown grocery

Morning News and Stuff

Mayor blocks downtown development, city leaders push for Google Fiber, budget gap grows

Mayor John Cranley could dismantle a deal that would produce a grocery store, 300 luxury apartments and a new parking garage downtown. Cranley says he doesn’t want millions put toward the deal, even though the developer involved plans to invest another $60 million. Councilman Chris Seelbach says the deal isn’t dead just because of the mayor’s opposition, and City Council could act to bypass the mayor, just like the legislative body did with the streetcar project and responsible bidder. To Seelbach, the deal is necessary to bring much-needed residential space and an accessible grocery store downtown.

Cincinnati officials and startup executives will try to bring Google Fiber, which provides Internet speeds 100 times faster than normal broadband, to Cincinnati. Google plans to hold a national competition to see which cities are most deserving of its fiber services. “Over the last several years, Cincinnati’s innovation ecosystem has made tremendous strides,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said in a statement. “We’re increasingly becoming a magnet for talented entrepreneurs across the country who want to come here to bring their big ideas to life. We need to ensure that we have the modern technological infrastructure to make Cincinnati nationally competitive.”

Cincinnati’s operating budget gap for fiscal 2015 now stands at $22 million, up from an earlier forecast of $18.5 million, largely because of extra spending on police pushed by Cranley and a majority of City Council. The city must balance its operating budget each year, which means the large gap will likely lead to layoffs and service cuts.

Commentary:Budget Promises Spur Fears of Cuts.

Cranley won’t re-appoint the chair of Cincinnati’s Board of Health. When asked why, Chairwoman Joyce Kinley told City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee that Cranley told her “he had to fulfill a campaign promise.” Some city officials say they worry Cranley is putting politics over the city’s needs.

Troubled restaurant Mahogany’s needs to pay back rent or move out, The Banks’ landlord declared Monday. The deciding moment for Mahogany’s comes after months of struggles, which restaurant owner Liz Rogers blames on the slow development of the riverfront.

Kathy Wilson:Mahogany’s: Turn Out the Lights.”

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino supports 1,700 workers, making it the largest of Ohio's four voter-approved casinos.

At least one airline, Allegiant Air, plans to add flights from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Headline:Man wakes up in body bag at funeral home.”

“A 30,000-year-old giant virus has been revived from the frozen Siberian tundra,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

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by German Lopez 03.03.2014
Posted In: News, Taxes, Budget, Development at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Tax abatements benefit wealthy, group to market Cincinnati, winter raises city’s costs

About 1 in 20 Cincinnatians, many of them in the wealthiest neighborhoods, pay less in taxes because their home renovations and constructions are subsidized by a local tax program. While the program benefits the wealthy, it also hits Cincinnati Public Schools and other local services through lost revenue. The tax abatement program aims to keep and attract residents and businesses by lowering the costs of moving and living in Cincinnati. Anastasia Mileham, spokeswoman for 3CDC, says the tax abatements helped revitalize Over-the-Rhine, for example. Others say the government is picking winners and losers and the abatement qualifications should be narrowed.

With hotel room bookings back to pre-recession levels, Source Cincinnati aims to sell Cincinnati’s offerings in arts, health care, entrepreneurism and anything else to attract new businesses and residents. The Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau established the organization to reach out to national journalists and continue the local economic momentum built up in the past few years. “Successful cities are those that have good reputations,” Julie Calvert, interim executive director at Source Cincinnati, told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “Without reputation it’s difficult to get businesses to expand or relocate or get more conventions or draw young diverse talent to work for companies based here.”

The harsh winter weather this year pushed Cincinnati’s budget $5 million over, with nearly $3 million spent on salt, sand and chemicals alone. . The rest of the costs come through increased snow plowing shifts and other expenses to try to keep the roads clean. The extra costs just compound the city’s structurally imbalanced budget problems. The need for more road salt also comes despite Councilman Charlie Winburn’s attempts to undermine the city’s plans to stockpile and buy salt when it’s cheap.

Mayor John Cranley says the success of The Incline Public House in East Price Hill, which he helped develop, speaks to the pent-up demand for similar local businesses in neglected Cincinnati neighborhoods.

Less than a month remains to sign up for health insurance plans on HealthCare.gov.

The estimated 24,000 students who drop out of Ohio schools each year might cost themselves and the public hundreds of millions a year, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says meth abuse has reached “epidemic” levels in the state.

Ohio gas prices continued to rise this week.

Developers say they have funding for the first phase of a Noah’s Ark replica coming to Williamstown, Ky.

There’s a Netflix hack that pauses a movie or TV show when the viewer falls asleep.

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by German Lopez 01.29.2014
Posted In: Anna Louise Inn, News, Development at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
anna louise inn

City to Break Ground on New Anna Louise Inn Location

New facility follows Inn’s intense legal battle with Western & Southern

City leaders will break ground Thursday for the Anna Louise Inn’s new location at Mount Auburn.

The start of construction begins the next phase for the Anna Louise Inn and owner Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB) after a failed legal battle against financial giant Western & Southern forced the Inn to move.

CUB sought to keep the Inn at the Lytle Park location that has housed struggling women since 1909. Western & Southern demanded the property so it could round out its development vision for the Lytle Park neighborhood. (CityBeat covered the issue in greater detail here.)

After nearly two years of litigation held up CUB’s renovations at the Lytle Park location, both sides abruptly reached a settlement and announced the Anna Louise Inn would move. Many supporters of the Anna Louise Inn saw the settlement and decision to move as a huge loss.

The $14 million project comes through the collaboration of various organizations, according to the city. It’s expected construction will finish in the spring of 2015.

The facility will consist of four stories with 85 studio apartments, the Off-the-Streets program’s residential dormitory-style units, community space and CUB’s office.

The city’s attendee list for the groundbreaking includes CUB, Mayor John Cranley, City Council, Mount Auburn Community Council, Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, U.S. Bank, Model Group and various other officials and organizations from the city and state.

But there is one notable omission: Western & Southern.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.23.2014
 
 
news_gentrification_jf3

Morning News and Stuff

Group protests gentrification, streetcar fares revealed, FitzGerald supports death penalty

An anti-gentrification organization says development in southern Over-the-Rhine and downtown is leaving out low- and middle-income residents. The People’s Coalition for Equality and Justice (TPCEJ) cautions it’s not against development, but it supports policies that would seek to help more people take advantage of the revitalization of Over-the-Rhine and downtown, such as more affordable housing, protections for renters’ rights, rent control and the formation of tenants’ unions. The agency behind much of the development in Over-the-Rhine and downtown, 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation), says “people tend to over-romanticize what this neighborhood was” and points to some examples of 3CDC-developed affordable housing as evidence the agency is trying to keep the neighborhood mixed-income.

Related: Some studies found gentrification could benefit longtime residents.

A two-hour streetcar pass could cost $1.75, and a 24-hour pass could cost $3.50, according to a new model unveiled yesterday by Paul Grether, Metro’s rail manager. The same model set streetcar operating hours at Sunday-Thursday 6 a.m.-10 p.m. and Friday-Saturday 6 a.m.-midnight. Under the model, city officials expect 3,000 daily boardings, but Grether cautioned that’s a very conservative estimate and excludes special events, such as Reds and Bengals games.

But the City Council-enforced streetcar delay could cost more than expected after the steel company originally contracted for the $132.8 million project took another job while council members decided the fate of the project. Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick told council the company’s decision could push construction of a maintenance facility by two months if the city doesn’t hire a steel supplier from outside the region.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald yesterday clarified he supports the death penalty, which aligns him with his Republican opponent, incumbent John Kasich, on the issue. FitzGerald’s remark comes after the debate over the death penalty re-ignited in Ohio following the execution of convicted killer and rapist Dennis McGuire, who took 26 minutes to die after state officials used a new cocktail of drugs never tried before in the United States. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction told CityBeat it’s reviewing McGuire’s death, as it does following every execution.

Commentary: “Death Penalty Brings More Costs than Benefits.”

After receiving support from family planning services and abortion provider Planned Parenthood, Democrats running for Ohio’s executive offices re-emphasized their support for abortion rights.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune will announce today whether he’ll challenge FitzGerald’s gubernatorial campaign in a Democratic primary. (Update: Despite previously telling The Cincinnati Enquirer he already made up his mind, Portune canceled his announcement and said he has no final decision yet, according to Carl Weiser, politics editor at The Enquirer.)

Hamilton County commissioners showed openness to keeping some early voting downtown even if the county moves its Board of Elections to a Mount Airy facility. Moving the board along with the county’s crime lab would allow commissioners to consolidate government services.

Cincinnati’s economy should grow faster than previously expected, one economist says.

Plan Cincinnati, the city’s master comprehensive plan, won a national planning award. CityBeat previously covered the master plan in further detail here.

Ten major projects worth more than $1.4 billion are in the planning stages or underway in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Ohio meets voting standards set by President Barack Obama’s bipartisan election commission, with the one exception of online voter registration, according to Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday announced the creation of a statewide taskforce to combat heroin abuse.

Virtual reality could help people see what gender swaps would be like.

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by German Lopez 01.15.2014
 
 
city hall

City Council Tackles Progressive Agenda

Democratic majority pushes initiatives aimed at job training, homelessness and inclusion

City Council on Wednesday advanced a largely progressive agenda that moves forward with initiatives aimed at job training, homelessness and inclusion.

The agenda defined City Council’s first meeting of the new year — the first full session since council decided to continue work on Cincinnati’s $132.8 million streetcar project.

The meeting also showed that the Democratic majority — once fractured over the streetcar project and parking privatization plan — now appears to have formed a coalition on most issues facing the city. Perhaps more than anything, that could indicate the direction of Cincinnati for the next four years.

Responsible bidder

Most contentiously, the Democratic majority on City Council rejected a repeal of the city’s contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) and Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) projects.

The rules dictate how the city and county will award contracts for the federally mandated $3.2 billion revamp of the local sewer system.

The city’s rules impose stricter job training requirements on city contractors and require them to fund pre-apprenticeship programs that would help train new workers in different crafts.

Councilman Chris Seelbach, a Democrat who spearheaded the rules, argues the requirements will help foster local jobs and job training.

But the Republican-controlled county government, which also manages MSD and GCWW, says the requirements unfairly burden contractors and favor unions. Last year, county commissioners halted MSD’s work on the sewer overhaul in protest of the city’s rules.

The county’s halt has put 649 jobs and $152 million worth of sewer projects on hold, according to data released by Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican who opposes the city’s rules.

With the federal mandate looming, county commissioners on Wednesday unanimously proposed a compromise that would create some job training and inclusion initiatives.

“We are approaching a crisis here in this dispute with the city,” said Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican who opposes the city’s rules.

Vice Mayor David Mann, a Democrat, said he will look at the county’s proposal. But he cautioned, “I’m not going to repeal it until we have a substitute. To have a substitute we have to have conversations. This could be the beginning of a framework.”

The issue could end up in court. The city’s lawyers previously claimed they could defend the local contracting rules, but the county insists the city would lose.

“Portions of what the city wants will not stand in court. Our lawyers should meet,” Hartman told Seelbach on Twitter.

If the city and county don’t act before February, Winburn said the federal government could impose a daily $1,500 fine until MSD work fully continues.

Supportive housing project in Avondale

A supermajority of council — the five Democrats plus Charterite Kevin Flynn — agreed to continue supporting state tax credits for Commons at Alaska, a 99-unit permanent supportive housing facility in Avondale.

Although several opponents of the Avondale facility claim their opposition is not rooted in a not-in-my-backyard attitude, many public speakers argued the housing facility will attract a dangerous crowd that would worsen public safety in the neighborhood.

Supporters point to a study conducted for similar facilities in Columbus that found areas with permanent housing facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as demographically comparable areas.

Other opponents decried the lack of outreach for the project. They claim the project was kept hidden from residents for years.

National Church Residences (NCR), which is developing the facility, says it will engage in more outreach as the project moves forward.

Councilman Christopher Smitherman, an Independent, said council’s decision ignores what most Avondale residents told him.

“The supermajority of residents that I have talked to that are directly impacted by this project are against it,” asserted Smitherman, who is leading efforts against the facility in council.

Even if council decided to rescind its support for the Avondale project , it’s unclear if it would have any effect. NCR already received state tax credits for the facility back in June.

Disparity study

City Council unanimously approved a study that will look into potential race- and gender-based disparities in how the city awards business contracts.

The $690,000 study is required by the courts before the city can pursue initiatives that favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses with city contracts, which Mayor John Cranley and most council members support.

But Flynn and Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, a Democrat, voiced doubts that the studys findings will fulfill the legal requirements necessary to legally enact initiatives favoring minority- and women-owned businesses.

Given the doubts, Simpson cautioned that the city should begin moving forward with possible inclusion initiatives before the disparity study is complete.

“I do think we need to rally around a mantra that we can’t wait,” agreed Democratic Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.

Once the study is complete, several council members said it will, at the very least, provide valuable data to the city.

Other notable actions

• Council approved a tax budget that lowered the property tax millage rate from 5.7 mills to 5.6 mills, which will cost $500,000 in annual revenue, according to city officials.

• Council approved an application for a $70,000 grant that would fund local intervention efforts meant to help struggling youth.

• Council approved an application for a nearly $6 million grant to provide tenant-based rental assistance to homeless, low-income clients with disabilities.

• Council disbanded the Streetcar Committee, which the mayor and council originally established to look into halting the project. Streetcar items will now be taken up by the Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee.

 
 
 
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