CINCINNATI - One of Cincinnati’s historic neighborhoods is about to get an extreme makeover. Project organizers are in search of local contractors and tradespeople to make it happen.
The Community Builders (TCB), the nation’s largest non-profit developer of mixed income housing will partner with the Greater Cincinnati & Northern African American Chamber to co-host a contractor’s open house as part of a five year, $29.5 million renovation project in Avondale.
“This event is about ensuring that we have the appropriate amount of inclusion,” said Ozie Davis, executive director of the Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation.
The event will provide general contractors and subcontractors with details about the first phase for the redevelopment of multi-unit housing. Representatives from minority business enterprises (MBE), women business enterprises, (WBE) and small business enterprises (SBE) are encouraged to attend to network with general contractors as part of the bidding process.
“Avondale being the region's largest African-American neighborhood, we want to ensure African American, minority, small and women-owned businesses benefit from the work that’s going to occur in the neighborhood over the next five years,” Davis said.
Opportunities for the community
Over the last several months, TCB, the African-American Chamber of Commerce, the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati, Hamilton County Community Action Agency and other organizations have been notifying local contractors about the upcoming open house and bidding process, explained TCB vice president of development Lou Mitsch.
At the Nov. 18 event, Mitsch will give specific details about inclusion requirements for hiring sub-contractors. He said TCB intends to hire one single general contractor for the first phase of the project. That general contractor will then be responsible for hiring sub-contractors who meet federal guidelines as well as represent the community.
“They’re going to have to present a plan that will convince me that, yes, we’re going to embrace and involve the community,” he said. “That’s really what Monday’s meeting is all about. General contractors can’t just come back in with their standard, 'I’ve got a plumbing subcontractor or I’ve got an electrical subcontractor, and he’s from out in the suburbs someplace.' If they do that, they’re not going to get awarded the job.”
- The first phase of TCB's work in Avondale will include 175 units of rehab and 25 units of new construction along Reading Road, Mitsch said.
- The second phase will add another 118 units closer to the center of town.
- Later phases of the project still need to be better defined, but will include commercial space and shared community property.
Mitch explained the goal of the project is to improve lives of residents while providing opportunities for small businesses and minorities in the neighborhood.
“We’re working with all of our residents of Avondale to provide community outreach, resident services and trying to connect them to programs that they can take advantage of better opportunities of what’s going on in Avondale and achieve what they want out of life,” he said.
The Road To Renaissance
In 2012, TCB received a $29.5 million federal Choice Neighborhood grant to redevelop Avondale. According to Mitsch, the project began to take shape 18 months ago when TCB purchased troubled properties in Avondale which were part of a Fannie Mae portfolio.
He said TCB identified the neighborhood as one with strong potential and substantial community involvement already in place, perfect for the federal grant. Avondale is one of only seven neighborhoods chosen to receive the grant.
Cincinnati African-American Chamber of Commerce president Sean Rugless explained the chamber's role is to provide community outreach and support to minority, small and women owned businesses vying for participation in the project.
“I think this is a good thing for minority and women owned business to pay attention to, because the types of contracts are perfectly scaled for those size our businesses, “ he said.
The Chamber will assist general contractors who are looking for minority-owned firms and help them make those connections.
“We’re not talking about building skyscrapers or a casino. We have a very strong density of minority owned businesses that can perform the work. This project is making a commitment to look for minority businesses; and these contracts and opportunities are the right size for our community,” he added.
Home To Proud Traditions
Pouring investment dollars into renovation is critical to Avondale's survival, Rugless said. He explained Avondale generally misses out on investment dollars when competing with other Cincinnati neighborhoods such as Hyde Park
or Over-the-Rhine. He believes this type of investment will have a ripple effect through the community: spurring job growth and improving education by breathing new life into a struggling economy.
“Avondale has some of the largest disparities in income, job creation, education and workforce,” Rugless said. “Bringing this type of investment to a community like Avondale who has a proud history and tradition it’s a great thing. It’s a wonderful gift and an opportunity."
As an Avondale native, Davis said his commitment to the neighborhood runs deep. After law school, purchased a home just across the street from the apartment where he grew up. He explained improving housing options for residents of Avondale is vital to its rebirth. During the last two decades, Davis said he’s watched the neighborhood fall into disrepair, with a steady population decline from 2000, down to approximately 12,500 residents.
Here's how Avondale stacks up, according to the 2010 US Census:
- Median household income: $22,520
- Poverty level: 38.9 percent
- African American population: 92.6 percent
- Unemployment rate: more than 40 percent
Making New And Current Residents Feel At Home
Davis said the TCB project will not only improve living conditions for current Avondale residents, but will provide fresh, attractive housing for an estimated 20,000 new arrivals. He said with the pending I-71 and Martin Luther King exchange, the area has potential to become a coveted downtown neighborhood.
“I always equate it to the Harlem Renaissance of the 20s. I call it Avondale renaissance 2019,” he said. “You think about the 20s and the 30s, people wanted to live uptown. Living uptown is about urban living. It’s about not living in the Central Business District, but still getting the same amenities of urban life.”
If You Go:
- Avondale TCB Open House: Monday, Nov. 18, 11:30 a.m.
- Children’s Hospital MERC Center located at 620 Oak Street
- Area contractors and sub-contractors are encouraged to attend
- Learn more on the Strengthening Cincinnati Communities website