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FC Cincinnati stadium re-zoning has some West End residents concerned about losing homes

Posted at 5:00 PM, Apr 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-22 18:28:50-04

CINCINNATI — A handful of West End residents say they'll lose their homes to the new FC Cincinnati soccer stadium, but the team has made a change that will buy those residents more time.

Those residents, activists and others will get a chance to weigh in on the development Monday evening when city planning staff hear concerns about zoning changes at a public meeting.

The soccer club bought buildings on Wade Street and Central Avenue with the idea of redeveloping the residential area. That means longtime residents, like 99-year-old Mary Page, had just a couple months to move out.

FC Cincinnati wants to re-zone part of the area for its stadium development. But on Friday, after talking to people who live there, the team took Page's building off the list. That building has two other apartments in it.

Still, local activists who have fought this development from the start. Josh Spring with the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition said they want the city to deny the re-zoning request.

"They should not recommend approval of this zoning change while FC Cincinnati is attempting to put people out of their homes," Spring said. "... The zoning change does not even match the neighborhood's plan for itself, nor the city's plan."

The proposed zoning change comes as new data show something troubling happening in the West End.

FC Cincinnati paid for a study looking at housing issues in the neighborhood. In a preliminary report given to 9 On Your Side, an outside consultant shows more than 1,400 renters and more than 400 owners in the West End are at risk of displacement, regardless of whether a stadium is built there.

The preliminary numbers didn't include Section 8, housing authority or voucher-protected homes, Seven Hills Executive Director Alexis Kidd-Zaffer said at a committee meeting earlier this month.

"These are mainly renters and seniors, people on fixed income," Kidd-Zaffer said. "It is also the working poor — people making less than $31,000. That seems like you should be able to afford something, but [the study shows] even those are in the 'extremely threatened' area."

West End Housing Study Update by WCPO Web Team on Scribd

"I wish that our City Council would say, 'We're not going to approve anything until that report is done,'" Spring said.

FC Cincinnati GM Jeff Berding had previously said, "All the properties we are acquiring are commercial properties, vacant land."

The team said it didn't know about the struggles of people like Page when it bought the properties on Wade and Central. It promised to work with the residents.

"We want to be a good neighbor and work with the West End community on shared goals," Berding previously said.

While the club removed Page's address from its re-zoning request, a fight is still brewing.

"I think it shows us that they think perhaps it will give them good PR, but no, it doesn't change anything," Spring said.