Developers want a West End population boom to complement stadium, but residents don't want 'OTR 2.0'

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Posted at 3:55 PM, Apr 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-30 17:31:38-04

CINCINNATI — The West End could see 10,000 new residents and an influx of office, small-business and entertainment jobs in the years after FC Cincinnati opens its $250 million stadium in 2021, key partners of the project told local real estate executives Tuesday.

But those partners offered no guarantees that current West End residents won’t be forced out of the neighborhood.

“The goal is that every one who lives there now has a chance to stay and is happy with the development that happens around them,” said Laura Brunner, CEO of The Port, a development financing agency that acquired land in the West End to make way for the stadium project. “There is room for a lot more investment. The West End has about 6,600 people living there now, and there’s room for, I don’t know, 10,000 more. So, there’s plenty of room for more people to come.”

Brunner was part of a panel discussion at the Cincinnati Business Courier’s annual Real Estate Developers Power Breakfast. She and four other speakers — including FC Cincinnati president Jeff Berding and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley — discussed the impact of the new stadium on the region.

“I think it puts us on the map internationally,” Cranley said. “If you’re recruiting an engineer from India, would they rather live in a city with or without a Major League Soccer team? It’s the same for Brazil, same for Japan, same for Germany.”

As the West End grows, Cranley said Over-the-Rhine and Downtown could double in size to 30,000 residents, making Cincinnati more of an urban destination.

“You’re talking about 45,000 people in an all-walkable urban core area that I think will continue to create the livability excitement ... as a great place to spend the weekend, great place to live,” he said.

However, Cranley also expressed a goal for “zero displacement” of West End residents.

“We need to bring investment, market rate investment without displacing residents, because what’s been lacking in the West End for several years is diversity,” he said.

Berding said the team has been approached by local, national and international developers who are pitching ideas for land around the stadium. He would like to see mixed-use development that includes home ownership at various price ranges and a mix of retail and office projects.

“Certainly, we’d like companies to be located down there,” Berding said. “It would be a very dynamic place for employees to want to come to work each day. With that, you’re going to have a level of retail, places for people to have lunch, have coffee. We want to see people living around the stadium and we want that living to be diverse.”

Alexis Kidd-Zafer, executive director of Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses, said West End residents want development that doesn’t erode the culture of the city’s oldest African-American neighborhood.

“We don’t want OTR 2.0. Ask any resident, we don’t want another OTR,” she said. “We have families and still have yards. We want to maintain that. There are so many resources that are lacking that it’s definitely an opportunity. You go to Harlem for that Harlem experience. You come to the West End, you should experience the West End.”