CINCINNATI -- A Hamilton County magistrate on Tuesday ruled that City Gospel Mission can legally locate its new facility in Queensgate.
The ruling appears to pave the way for construction to start on the $13.5 million project, which would remove several nonprofit organizations from historic Over-the-Rhine and relocate them to a site on Dalton Avenue.
“There is nothing prohibiting them from beginning construction now,” said Tim Burke, who represented City Gospel Mission and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) in the case.
Several Queensgate businesses have opposed the new project, arguing, in part, that having social services in the industrial neighborhood of Queensgate will be unsafe for the people served.
The businesses also accused City Council of violating the city’s zoning codes by approving a so-called notwithstanding ordinance to allow City Gospel Mission’s move to Queensgate. Opponents lost that legal challenge in May when the Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
In the case before Hamilton County Magistrate Michael Bachman Tuesday, the businesses argued that because all the nonprofits involved in the project are religious organizations, they should only be allowed to locate in an area of the city zoned for religious assembly, said Peter Koenig, the attorney representing the businesses. Queensgate is not zoned for such uses.
"Religious assembly is prohibited in Queensgate because it's an industrial area," Koenig said.
Bachman disagreed, however, and issued a verbal ruling in favor of 3CDC, the city of Cincinnati and City Gospel Mission.
Koenig said his clients probably will appeal Bachman's ruling to a Common Pleas judge. If the judge rules against the businesses too, that decision also could be appealed, he said.
"I think we should prevail," he said. "But we may have to go to a higher court."
City Gospel Mission President Roger Howell said Wednesday that he expects a groundbreaking date for the project will be set soon.
3CDC is developing the facility for City Gospel Mission and has raised enough money to move forward with the project, said Anastasia Mileham, 3CDC’s vice president of communications.
“We haven’t raised all of it, but we’ve raised enough for everyone to feel comfortable with moving ahead,” she said.
The new site will consolidate City Gospel Mission’s offices, homeless shelter, soup kitchen and drug recovery program at the new location. The JobsPlus employment program, which recently merged with City Gospel Mission, also will be located there along with nonprofit the Lord’s Gym.
JobsPlus and the Lord’s Gym are currently located in Over-the-Rhine, too.
The new facility will double the number of beds in City Gospel Mission’s emergency homeless shelter to 74 and will triple the number of beds its long-term addiction recovery program to 36.