Avondale church's leaders worried redevelopment could leave them behind

Posted at 5:32 PM, Feb 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-18 17:32:09-05

CINCINNATI — Its paint may be cracking and its iron rusting, but New Friendship Baptist Church is alive and well.

The 112-year-old church is located just blocks away from the relatively new Interstate 71/Martin Luther King Jr. Drive interchange. It was a project designed to boost the local economy, but church leaders are worried redevelopment in the area could push them out of the community.

The predominantly African-American church sits on Reading Road in Avondale. Pastor Michael F. Mack said that prime location could pose a problem. The church is now landlocked by soon-to-be new development, and he worries the church could be next.

"We're not just having service on Sunday morning, we are serving the community," he said.

Uptown Consortium Inc., an organization tasked with "advancing development" in the area, has acquired more than 100 nearby properties, according to its website. A reporter reached out to the organization but hadn't heard back by the time this story was published.

Former state representative and church member Alicia Reece advocated for the I-71/MLK interchange and worries the original vision could be corrupted.

"We're going down a slippery slope," Reece said. "All of the sudden progress is a code word for 'throw African-Americans out."

Now they've developed a proposal for something called "The Dream Campus." They hope it will help the church adapt to the changing community.

"We're not objecting at all," Mack said. "We just want to be part of it. We want to fit the face of what's going on."

So far, church leaders have raised $30,000 for The Dream Campus. They hope to raise $40 million total.