A major highway project and powerful development interests look to reshape three long-neglected uptown neighborhoods
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Recent discussions about an ongoing $100 million highway
project at the intersection of Avondale, Corryville and Walnut Hills have raised
questions about ways development might help address the neighborhoods' recent
struggles — and whether it will at all.
0 Comments · Tuesday, July 1, 2014
A deal approved by City Council June 25
splits limited funds among two affordable housing projects, funding one
in Over-the-Rhine and leaving the door open for another that’s been in
the works for the last few years in Avondale.
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: City Council
at 11:51 PM | Permalink
Council funds one development and leaves the door open for another
A deal approved by City Council June 25 splits the city’s limited funds among two affordable housing projects, funding one one in Over-the-Rhine and leaving the door open for another that’s been in the works for the last few years in Avondale.
The compromise didn’t come without contentiousness, though.
A 100-unit permanent supportive housing project called Commons of Alaska first proposed in 2008 for Avondale has received support from the majority of council in the past, including indications it would get $500,000 in funding toward the facility. But the project has also been delayed as some in Avondale have protested the plans by Columbus-based National Church Residences.
As controversy stalled the Avondale project, Over the Rhine Community Housing put together an unrelated plan to buy up and rehab affordable housing in the Pendleton District in eastern Over-the-Rhine. The city administration indicated to OTRCH that it would be able to use $1.9 million in federal grant money the city holds to help purchase and restore the properties.
Just a couple catches — that’s all the grant money the city has for affordable housing and it’s the same pool of money that would have gone to NCR for Avondale.
The NCR project has been around longer, but some council members are adamantly against it and groups in Avondale opposed to the Commons are vocal and active, continually voicing their opposition to the project.
The Pendleton plan has its own drawbacks. Originally, the plan called for all the available grant money for just 40 units of housing. NCR’s plan called for just a quarter of the funds. OTRCH says the properties in question are very neglected, despite having been rehabbed in the 1990s. They must also be purchased first, which accounts for much of the big price tag. As City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee met June 23, it looked like a battle was shaping up over the money. But it wasn’t to be, and compromise won the day. “Affordable housing and permanent supportive housing are in our heart, they’re what we do,” said Mary Burke Rivers, executive director of OTRCH. “It’s a really difficult position to be in right now, because we support the NCR project.” Rivers asked the Budget Committee to work with both developers to figure out a way to do both projects. Vice Mayor David Mann offered an amendment to give $1.3 million to OTRCH and hold the other $500,000 or so in grant funds until the NCR project can be sorted out or until another supportive housing project can be worked out. The Budget Committee, and subsequently council, passed that deal.
OTRCH, which had looked likely to get all the $1.9 million it requested, agreed to scale back plans and make the lower funding work so both projects could be done.
That doesn’t mean the NCR project has a green light, however. An alternate site in another part of Avondale is under consideration, but there are a number of procedural hurdles and opposition is still loud against the project.
Some resident groups there say Avondale already has a high concentration of low-income housing, a result of historic inequalities in city planning going back to the 1960s. Ruth Johnson Watts said she’s lived in North Avondale since 1963.“When will we stop this trend of keeping crime and poverty concentrated in one or a few neighborhoods?" she asked. "We’re saying that Avondale has reached the capacity for poverty and crime without the necessities of life in our community, like grocery stores, a pharmacy and jobs.”
At least part of the objection to the project is the nature of permanent supportive housing, which provides affordable housing and recovery resources for those who would otherwise be homeless due to addiction problems, mental health issues or disabilities. Advocates say the housing is a necessary step in a multiple-tiered path out of homelessness, starting when an individual enters a temporary shelter and ending when they are able to achieve independent housing. The city’s Homeless to Homes program calls for supportive housing like the Commons at Alaska would provide, but currently the city only has about 15 percent of the units called for in the plan.
NCR has won national recognition for its work with rehabilitative housing, but the group has caught flack for lack of community outreach in Avondale.
Councilmember Christopher Smitherman lambasted the developer during the Budget Committee meeting, saying the group’s efforts to inform Avondale residents about their plan wasn’t good enough and that NCR should be sending letters to every property owner in the area. “This isn’t complicated, this community engagement,” he said. “It really frustrates me that we’re here talking about a project where those community stakeholders haven’t even been properly identified and communicated with."Amy Rosenthal of NCR said the group has reached out to half a dozen key individuals and groups in the area and will continue to work with the community.
During council’s final vote on the compromise yesterday, Councilmember Yvette Simpson suggested that instead of simply opposing more affordable housing in the neighborhood, other council members and Avondale residents should oppose those who aren’t doing the job well. She said her mother had once been placed in what she called sub-standard permanent supportive housing in Avondale.
“The reality is, when you have a great provider for the people who need it, it can be a stability point for the community as opposed to the many facilities in Avondale and throughout our city that are taking a check from people, and people are wandering off,” Simpson said. She recalled a personal experience. “My mother walked home from Avondale to Lincoln Heights and nobody knew she was gone. As someone who has lived with this my entire life, evaluating, trying to find a safe place for a parent, it’s real — you know the difference.”
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 09:04 AM | Permalink
Uptown changes, LumenoCity sells out, $3 million in Nikes
Good morning all. Let’s start out this Monday news rundown by going uptown. •On Friday, Cincinnati’s Planning Commission passed a sweeping new plan for the area in the coming years. The plan anticipates the upcoming reworking of Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and envisions big changes to the area in Avondale, Corryville, and Mount Auburn. Planners hope after the new interchange at MLK and I-71 is completed, Reading Road will become a kind of innovation corridor, with new biomedical and other scientific research facilities lining a redesigned, more pedestrian-friendly roadway. The plan also calls for increased development in neighboring business districts, new construction on the numerous vacant plots in the area and increased housing stock close to the central cores of Clifton, Avondale, Corryville, CUF and Walnut Hills.•Other changes are coming to Avondale. Four large apartment buildings housing Section 8 tenants and another vacant building in the neighborhood will be renovated, and the owners of the buildings are looking to have them placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Alameda, Ambassador, Crescent, Poinciana, and Somerset buildings, built between 1896 and the 1920s, will be overhauled starting this fall. The Ambassador, currently empty, will be revamped first, and then the other buildings will follow suit. The Community Builders Cincinnati, the buildings’ owners, will help 120 families who will have to vacate during renovations move to other buildings temporarily. The renovations are expected to cost about $25 million and will finish up sometime in 2016.• Hey, do you wanna go to LumenoCity? Too late. Tickets sold out in 13 minutes this morning. Yeah, I didn’t get any either, because 8 a.m. is way too early for me to operate a computer. But if you’ve got a hundred bucks to drop, you can still scoop some tickets up on eBay. • Nationally, the 2016 presidential race is shaping up to be a wild ride. While Democrats so far seem pretty content with Hillary, the GOP is still courting their man (and yes, their nominee will almost assuredly be a man). Lately, Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas has been getting a lot of attention. Cruz handily won a straw poll at the Texas Republican Convention this weekend. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who is often cited as a front-runner, came in third. Chalk it up to home-state advantage. It’s hard to know who to root for in a contest like that, so I’m just going to hope that somehow the GOP jumps on the whole throw-back trend and nominates Abraham Lincoln again.• Finally, a woman in Kentucky was found selling $3 million in ill-gotten Nikes from her front lawn. That’s a lot of stolen shoes. She said she didn’t know they were stolen and was selling them for $5 a piece. Not a bad deal, really.Tweet at your boy (@nswartsell) or email me tips: email@example.com
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The group heading a supportive housing
project in Avondale announced Feb. 14 that it will initiate monthly
“good neighbor” meetings to address concerns about the facility.
by German Lopez
Demographics, overall numbers move in right direction
The federal government reported slightly better numbers in
January for Obamacare’s once-troubled online marketplaces, but Ohio and
the nation still fall far short of key demographic goals.
For the first time since HealthCare.gov’s glitch-ridden rollout, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) numbers show the amount of new enrollees actually beat projections.
About 1,146,100 signed up for Obamacare in January, slightly higher
than the 1,059,900 previously projected by the Centers for Medicare and
More importantly, a small boost in young adults means 25
percent of 3.3 million enrollees across the nation and 21 percent of
60,000 Ohio enrollees were aged 18 to 34. That’s up 1 percentage point
for the nation and 2 percentage points for Ohio.
The White House previously said 39 percent of enrollees
need to be young adults, who tend to be healthier, to avoid driving up
health care costs by filling the insurance pool with older, sicker
people who typically use more resources.
HHS’ numbers only reflect people who signed up for a
health plan, not people who paid for their first premium, which is
widely considered the final crucial step to getting covered.
Nearly nine in 10 single, uninsured young adults could
qualify for financial assistance through the health care law or free
Medicaid, which expanded eligibility in Ohio through Obamacare, according to HHS.
by German Lopez
As project moves forward, National Church Residences initiates community engagement
The group heading a supportive housing project in Avondale on Friday announced it will initiate monthly "good neighbor" meetings to address local concerns, with the first meeting scheduled at the Church of the Living God, located at 434 Forest Ave., on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. National Church Residences (NCR) says the meetings will help "set the highest property, safety, and conduct standards" for the 90-unit Commons at Alaska facility, which will aid chronically homeless,
disabled and low-income individuals."National Church Residences is excited to become part of the revitalization of the Avondale neighborhood," said Amy Rosenthal, senior project leader for NCR, in a statement. "Through this series of meetings, we look forward to sitting down with our neighbors and answering their questions about our organization and in particular the planned apartment community."The meetings should help address some Avondale residents' concerns about the project. Although several opponents of the facility say their opposition is not rooted in a not-in-my-backyard attitude that follows so many supportive housing projects, critics consistently argue the housing facility will attract a dangerous crowd that would worsen public safety in the neighborhood.Critics' claims actually contradict some of the research done on supportive housing. A study conducted for similar
facilities in Columbus found areas with permanent supportive housing
facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as demographically
comparable areas.Still, the controversy eventually reached City Council after Councilman Christopher Smitherman proposed pulling the city's support for state tax credits funding the project. In January, council rejected Smitherman's proposal and voted to continue supporting the project. (It's questionable whether a different council decision would have made any difference, since the group already received state tax credits last June.)By several economic indicators, Cincinnati's worst-off certainly need more support. About 34 percent of the overall population and more than half of the city's children live in poverty, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.Correction: This story originally claimed the facility would house 99 apartments, based on a previous estimate. The amount of apartments was actually reduced to 90 through negotiations. We apologize for the error.
by German Lopez
LGBT groups debate timing, Avondale housing project advancing, Kasich tax cuts favor rich
A coalition between Equality Ohio and other major LGBT groups on Friday
officially declared it will not support a 2014 ballot initiative that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Instead, the coalition plans to continue education efforts and place the issue on the ballot in 2016. But FreedomOhio, the LGBT group currently
leading the 2014 ballot initiative, plans to put the issue on the ballot this year
with or without support from other groups. CityBeat covered the issue and conflict in further detail here.The group heading Commons at Alaska, a permanent supportive housing project
in Avondale, plans to hold monthly “good neighbor” meetings to address
local concerns about the facility. The first
meeting is scheduled at the Church of the Living God, located at 434 Forest
Avenue, on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. Some Avondale residents have lobbied
against the facility out of fears it would weaken public safety, but a
study of similar facilities in Columbus found areas with permanent
supportive housing facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as
demographically comparable areas. In January, a supermajority of City
Council rejected Councilman Christopher Smitherman’s proposal to rescind
the city’s support for the Avondale project.Gov. John Kasich’s income tax proposal would
disproportionately benefit Ohio’s wealthiest, an analysis from Policy
Matters Ohio and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found.
Specifically, the proposal would on average cut taxes by $2 for the
bottom 20 percent of Ohioans, $48 for the middle 20 percent and $2,515
for the top 1 percent. The proposal is typical for Ohio Republicans:
They regularly push to lower taxes for the wealthy, even though
research, including from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service,
finds tax cuts for the wealthy aren’t correlated with higher economic
Local policy explainers from the past week:• What Is Mayor John Cranley’s Parking Plan?• What Is Responsible Bidder?
Mayor John Cranley says he wants Catholic Health Partners to locate its planned headquarters in Bond Hill.A new Ohio law uncovered more than 250 high-volume dog
breeders that previously went unregulated in the state. The new
regulations aim to weed out bad, unsafe environments for high-volume dog
breeding, but some animal advocates argue the rules don’t go far
enough. CityBeat covered the new law in further detail here.Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald could
face a longshot primary challenger in May. But the challenger, Larry Ealy of the Dayton
area, still needs his signatures confirmed by the secretary of state to
officially get on the ballot.Former Gov. Ted Strickland could run against U.S. Sen. Rob Portman in 2016, according to The Plain Dealer. Strickland cautioned it’s not an official announcement, but it’s not something he’s ruled out, either.A bill that would make the Ohio Board of Education an
all-elected body appears to have died in the Ohio legislature.
Currently, the governor appoints nearly half of the board’s members. Some legislators argue the governor’s appointments make the body too political.Science says white noise can help some people sleep.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by German Lopez
New puppy mill laws, Democrats guide council, county proposes sewer compromise
Ohio now bans abusive dog breeding practices that previously earned the state a reputation as one of the laxest for dog breeding rules in the nation. With the
new rules, dog breeders must maintain improved living conditions for the
dogs, including standards for cage size, regular
grooming, veterinary examinations and socialization. The rules earned praise from many animal activists as a step forward, but some say the bill should act as a start that leads to even stronger
regulations.City Council advanced a largely progressive agenda that
moves forward with initiatives aimed at job training, homelessness and
inclusion. Specifically, the Democratic majority on council acted as the
foundation in keeping controversial contracting rules for sewer
contracts, continuing support for a permanent supportive housing
facility in Avondale and approving a new study that will look into
potential race- and gender-based disparities in how the city awards
business contracts. With the Democratic coalition seemingly established
on most issues facing the city, it’s now much clearer what direction
council will take the city over the next four years.Hamilton County commissioners yesterday proposed a
compromise with the city over controversial contracting rules for
Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) and Greater Cincinnati Water Works
projects. Although both sides agree the issue must be resolved soon to
avoid a costly legal battle and allow MSD to carry on with work on a
federally mandated overhaul of the local sewer system, the
Democratic-controlled city and Republican-controlled county have failed
to reach a resolution. Since the county put MSD projects on hold in
protest of the city’s rules, $152 million worth of sewer projects and
649 potential jobs have been put on hold, according to data from
Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican who opposes the rules.Councilmen P.G. Sittenfeld and Chris Seelbach questioned
whether recent personnel changes at City Hall violated the city charter.
The concern is whether Mayor John Cranley pushed Interim City Manager
Scott Stiles to move John Curp from his previous role as city solicitor
to chief counsel of the city’s utilities. Sittenfeld and Seelbach noted
the charter prevents the mayor and council members from interfering with
personnel decisions. But Stiles declined to answer and sidestepped Seelbach and Sittenfeld’s questions.Commentary: “Republicans Continue Hindering Access to the Ballot.”Cincy Bike Share still needs more funds to launch.Cincinnati has the most unhappy employees in the country, according to an analysis by CareerBliss.Ohio Democrats and Republicans have begun a push for a May
6 ballot initiative that would expand state spending on road, bridge,
water, sewer and other local public works projects.Micah Kamrass yesterday filed petition signatures with the
Hamilton County Board of Elections, making him the likely Democratic
candidate to replace State Rep. Connie Pillich, a Democrat, as she runs for state
treasurer. Kamrass will likely face off against Republican Rick Bryan.A condemned Ohio killer will be executed with a new,
never-tried lethal injection method adopted after the state’s previous
drug supplies dried up.Ohio high-school students could receive some school credit
for off-campus religious education attended during regular school
hours, thanks to a new bill passed by the Republican-controlled Ohio
House of Representatives.If damage related to potholes is $10,000 or less, drivers
can file a complaint at the little-known Ohio Court of Claims and get
their money back. In the past five years, reimbursements for more than
1,300 Ohioans cost the state nearly half a million dollars.The secretary of state’s office announced early voting
hours for the upcoming primary election here. If Hamilton County
Commissioner Todd Portune decides to stay in the gubernatorial race and
challenge Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, the primary election would decide which Democrat will face off against Republican Gov. Kasich
in November.Most Americans avoided vaccinations during the previous flu
season — a trend experts attribute to increased complacency toward the
virus.University of Cincinnati researchers say they wants to
dispel the belief that drones are only used
to kill.For example, a collapsible, camera-toting drone currently in development could be used just to spy on people.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
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.
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
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 AvondaleA 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
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 study’s 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.