Mayor targets millions for troubled communities

CINCINNATI – A new coalition created to lure investment and redevelopment work to Bond Hill and Roselawn stands to get millions of dollars under Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley’s proposed two-year budget.

“These neighborhoods are going through some major changes,” said Cranley, noting the more than $71 million investment made in Bond Hill by Mercy Health for its new headquarters just off of the Norward Lateral. “This is about giving our neighborhoods the same kind of attention and investment that we’ve seen in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine for the last decade.”

The proposed investment – valued at more than $3.2 million -- is part of roughly $35 million in spending outlined in Cranley’s budget plan which he’s unveiling during a series of events this week.

WCPO was offered an early look at the proposal and the projects, which span Avondale, Bond Hill, College Hill, Madisonville, North Avondale, Roselawn, West Price Hill and Westwood. On Monday, Cranley outlined plans for $10 million in projects and investment in College Hill, Westwood and West Price Hill. 

“This Is Long Overdue”

On Tuesday morning Cranley is expected to join leaders from Bond Hill, Roselawn and Avondale to offer details for investing more than $5.2 million across those communities.

Under his budget plan, the city would give $3.2 million to the newly created Community Economic Advancement Initiative and the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority.

Both the Port and the nonprofit development initiative must agree on how to invest the money, which can only be used for capital expenses such as acquiring property or to cover construction-related costs. 

“As I’ve watched all this progress happen Downtown and in other neighborhoods, I kept wondering – why aren’t some of these things happening in Bond Hill and Roselawn?” said Ron Mosley, a 19-year Roselawn resident and president of the neighborhood’s community council. “This is long overdue.”

Also part of Cranley’s plan is a $2 million investment into the redevelopment of the Avondale Town Center at the corner of Reading Road and Forest Avenue.

The project, which is slated to be anchored by a full-service grocery store, will also include a dental office and space for sportswear retailer. Above the retail space, nearly 120 apartments are planned – 50 of which will be set aside for low-income residents.

“The vast majority of these projects have been on the planning table for a long time, but they lacked resources to get them done,” Cranley said. “It’s these kinds of public-private partnerships that help neighborhoods achieve their goals and visions.”

Where the Money is Coming From

All told, Cranley’s plan calls for up to $35 million to be invested into a series of neighborhood projects slated to be unveiled this week.

Money for the projects, Cranley told WCPO, is coming from two main sources: Money recovered from the sale of land part of the Blue Ash Airport and newly awarded tax credits.

Here’s a breakdown:

$25 million: Nearly a decade ago, the city Cincinnati sold 130 acres of land at Blue Ash Airport to the city of Blue Ash for roughly $37 million. At the time, city leaders said those dollars were to be used for neighborhood projects. However, the money was used instead to invest in the streetcar.

“That wasn’t smart,” Cranley said. “ I wasn’t for the streetcar, but the reason that wasn’t smart was because it tied up money that has flexibility other sources don’t have.”

For example, municipalities can’t use tax dollars to invest private projects, but proceeds from land sales can be used.

Last year, when the city refinanced the streetcar debt at a lower interest rate – it not only saved the city money and but it freed up $25 million – money that Cranley says should be used for its original purpose: “Investing in our neighborhood.”

$10 million: Norfolk Southern is giving the city $10 million tax credits they were awarded from the federal government for railway maintenance. The rail company leases the city-owned railway line that runs to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and it owns the unused rail line poised to become the Wasson Way bike trail. “It’s totally unexpected, and fortuitous” said Cranley of the tax credit award.

What to Expect Next

Through Thursday, Cranley is planning a series of public events in other neighborhoods where he and community leaders expect to announce details about other projects that would benefit from his plan.

By Friday, Cranley says he expects present his full budget proposal to city council. For now, he says, he believes he has the backing from council to move the plan forward.

“I won’t speak for any council members, but I feel confident majority of them support these projects,” he said.
Last week, Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black delivered his $1.1 billion budget plan to council.

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