Anna Louise Inn wins permit at hearing

CINCINNATI - A downtown Cincinnati facility that offers services to low-income women won an approval at a city hearing Thursday that allows it to continue a planned $13 million renovation.

The Cincinnati Zoning Board of Appeals upheld an earlier ruling by the city's Historic Conservation Board that allows the Anna Louise Inn to receive a conditional use permit for the renovation.

Wednesday's hearing was the third time that the Anna Louise Inn prevailed at a city hearing.

Western & Southern Financial Group has opposed the facility's renovation. Both are located near Third and Lytle streets, and Western & Southern wants to buy the facility and convert it into upscale condominiums.

After Wednesday's hearing, Western & Southern issued a statement indicating it would appeal the ruling again.

Western & Southern has offered Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Anna Louise Inn, either $3 million to purchase the property or the greater of two independent appraisals.

But Union Bethel rejected the deal, stating it doesn't want to move the facility, which has operated at the site since 1909.

The rejection triggered a series of legal and administrative challenges by Western & Southern. The Fortune 500 company alleges the facility doesn't qualify for the permit because its operations violate zoning regulations that state any use shouldn't impact public safety or lower property values in the area.

Union Bethel's attorneys, however, counter there's no evidence that the Anna Louise Inn has caused any crime in the neighborhood. To the contrary, they said the facility has operated for more than a century with few problems.

The Anna Louise Inn provides permanent supportive housing, social services programs, services for at-risk homeless women, and recovery services for women who previously were prostitutes.

In July 2010, Union Bethel received $10 million in Ohio tax credits and $2.7 million from the city of Cincinnati to renovate the facility. Both of the funding sources received their money through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The facility was founded when prominent attorney Charles P. Taft – brother of former President William Howard Taft -- donated the site and helped provide funding to erect a five-story building to accommodate 120 women in single rooms.

The Anna Louise Inn, named after Taft's daughter, Anna Louise Taft Semple, opened on Memorial Day, 1909. The Inn was filled to occupancy on its first day, and the demand was so great for that type of housing that Taft helped again, donating property along Pike Street. An addition was built there in 1920.

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