City Gospel Mission's board of directors voted Thursday to move forward with a plan to relocate its homeless shelter from Over-the-Rhine to Queensgate.
U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown announced an agreement June 20 with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that the senators hoped would allow City Gospel Mission to proceed with the development. The nonprofit had discovered a legal hurdle earlier this year that the senators worked to resolve.
The City Gospel Mission board met to review HUD's language and determine whether board members were comfortable continuing with the project.
"They're comfortable with the wording and agreed to accept the property and move forward," said Tim Curtis, a spokesman for City Gospel Mission.
Deeds for two parcels of land that make up the Queensgate site contained fair housing restrictions. Those restrictions said projects built on the land could not discriminate based on someone's religion or gender. They had been in place since 1981 as part of an urban design plan for the northern part of the neighborhood.
But City Gospel Mission's services are all steeped in the Christian faith, and its new homeless shelter is being designed exclusively for men.
The letter from HUD said: "So long as City Gospel Mission comports its conduct with federal law, there is no need or reason to raise any issues about the deed restrictions with respect to City Gospel Mission."
That was enough to give the nonprofit's board members the reassurance they needed, Curtis said. An official groundbreaking could happen within three weeks, he said. The project is expected to be finished by summer 2015.
"That was the final hurdle in terms of moving forward in earnest," he said. "We're ready."
Several businesses in Queensgate have opposed the City Gospel Mission project, saying the industrial site is not suitable for the shelter and could put the homeless people who use the facility in harm's way because of the trucks that come and go nearby all day and night.
"We are disappointed they've decided to go ahead," said Peter Koenig, a lawyer representing businesses that oppose the plan. "In my view, those letters really don't add anything to the legal situation. As I understand it, City Gospel Mission is asking HUD for permission to discriminate."
The new City Gospel Mission shelter is part of a broader $34 million plan to improve services for homeless residents of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
WCPO Insiders can get an update on where that whole plan stands and read more about how much money still must be raised for the various homeless shelter developments.