Editor's note: This story originally claimed FC Cincinnati was not directly involved in the sale of the building. This is incorrect — the team, in fact, bought the building, but WCPO did not have access to this information at press time. WCPO regrets this error.
CINCINNATI — Mary Frances Page, called Aunt Frances and Miss Mary by many in the West End, spoke Friday night from a hospital-style bed with its covers pulled up to her chin. She is 99 years old and largely dependent on aides to care for her — a fact about which she feels guilty.
When she’s forced to leave her home of 15 years at the end of the month, she won’t be able to help pack.
“I felt really bad because I can’t walk, and I have to get somebody to try to get me out of here and everything,” she said.
The letter announcing the sale of her Wade Street apartment building to FC Cincinnati arrived in mid-February and began: Dear Ms. Page, The one constant in life is change. Its owners gave tenants 70 days — double the minimum required by Ohio law — to find new places to live, but Page’s poor health has complicated her family’s search.
She can’t be moved just anywhere, niece Kim Dillard said.
“As far as taking an apartment where it’s got like 10 steps for her to go up, that’s challenging,” Dillard said. “Getting her transported, that would be challenging. I’m still out here trying to find something where it’s first-floor, so if something does happen, she can be taken out with no problem.”
Page also hopes to remain in the West End, where she lived for decades even before she moved in at Wade Street.
Dillard acknowledged that could mean more heartbreak in the future if they found a good fit and it were sold, too, but that’s a worry without a 25-day deadline.
“I’ll deal with that then,” she said. “Right now, I just want to get her moved. I want to get her comfortable, and I want to get her to where she’s not worrying anymore.
“I’m all for FCC,” she added. “I’m all for them. I’m a soccer fan, but the way this was done? No.”
The situation recalls the anxieties some West Enders voiced when the Lindner-backed Orange and Blue proposed building their home in a neighborhood historically populated by low-income people of color. The stadium project needs room, hence the acquisition of many nearby buildings that already housed people and businesses.
Even for those not directly in the path of construction, it’s hard to put a $200 million project in the middle of a city block without pushing up property values in the surrounding area.
Long before the construction project began, the team and the West End Community Council signed a community benefits agreement meant to provide a cushion for people already living in the West End.
Council president Keith Blake, who had supported the agreement, said he hadn’t heard about Page’s situation until Friday. He said when he reached out, FC officials told him the 99-year-old did have somewhere to go.
Page hopes she’ll have it figured out by April 30.
“I don’t want to move, but I got to move,” she said. “I don’t know. I’ll move some kind of way.”
Dillard will help, although she’s still unhappy. She said she wished they had been provided more time to find somewhere else, given her aunt’s fragile condition.
“I know that the city has to advance,” she said. “I don’t have a problem with that. That’s life. But the way it was done, that’s what I have a problem with.”
Before reporters left the small apartment, she unfolded the second letter Page had received from the building’s owners. It began:
Dear Ms. Page,
Time is running out!