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East Westwood neighbors protest plasma center, call for grocery store in food desert

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Posted at 4:08 PM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 19:55:12-04

CINCINNATI — Westwood residents planned to protest for accessibility to fresh fruit and vegetables in their neighborhood Wednesday evening.

"I think the protest lets people know, hey, we are here," said Te'Airea Powell. "We don't want y'all here, and the residents can see and feel that they have the support."

Powell is one of many Westwood residents upset by the prospect of a plasma center opening at a former Save A Lot located at 2435 Harrison Ave. Before Save A Lot closed, it was one of the only places within walking distance for people to shop for fresh food.

"Since Save A Lot closed we've seen triple, quadruple numbers of people coming to our food pantry than before, so it was very obvious that it was a problem, not having a grocery store," said Abe Brandyberry, executive director of Cincinnati Urban Promise.

In late July, residents such as Powell said developers blindsided them with plans to lease the space to OctaPharma Plasma.

"We were unaware of the plasma center until we seen the sign," Powell said. "We had no idea."

The plasma center also raised concerns about the type of clientele it might draw to the neighborhood, said Powell, who sits on Westwood's community council and runs for one of five spots on Cincinnati City Council.

"We all know from experience, a lot of times these plasma centers attract addicts," she said. "Of course with addicts comes petty crime, comes with more open-air drug dealing, which leads to more gun violence. So everything that we have worked towards in regards to cleaning up the neighborhood, from everything from the litter, to the drug dealing, to the crime. That's going to be putting us 10 steps back if this plasma center opens, because it's going to attract a whole different crowd that we fought so hard to get from up here."

Both Brandyberry and current Cincinnati City Councilwoman Jan Michele Lemon Kearney said they spoke with the building's developer about recruiting a grocery store to open in the space instead, but Lemon Kearney said the developer chose the plasma center because it offered more money for the space.

"I know the people that comes to the pantry. I know what, what's going on with them and the needs that they have and so knowing that that was just pulled away from them was just really heartbreaking," Brandyberry said.

The plaza developer did not return calls left by WCPO for an interview.