For Shanwnte Barker, walking is not a big deal. She lived in New York for 15 years.
“I’m used to walking five or 10 blocks," Barker said. "But that’s not normal here in Madisonville."
Madisonville is far from the concrete jungle of Manhattan. But Barker is back in her hometown neighborhood as a business owner, having recently opened a clothing boutique called Stylish LeNese in Madisonville, where she grew up.
Her customers have had a difficult time, though, getting to her shop because it is surrounded by the construction of a large development at Madison Road and Whetsel Avenue. Parking is at a minimum even though there's a brand new parking lot behind her shop.
Barker said she was originally promised the ability to use the parking lot of the new development during the day.
“But then we later learned that that was not going to be available to the businesses that are not inside of their development,” she said.
Madisonville community leaders say they were promised parking, too, when plans were first unveiled for the large development on property owned by the city of Cincinnati at the corner of Madison Road and Whetsel Avenue.
When residents learned at the February Madisonville Community Council meeting that they will not be able to use the parking associated with the development project, they took a vote. The result was a letter to the city of Cincinnati asking for the suspension of the closing on the third phase of the project until Sept. 15, 2020. They want the time to work with the developer, the Ackermann Group, on a parking agreement and a community benefits agreement.
“Right now the community has some serious concerns in regards to phase three of development,” said Kate Botos, president of the Madisonville Community Council.
“When you compound that with the public library looking at leasing space in that phase three, what does that look like for the residents in terms of the parking and the real concerns of what the community asked for,” she added.
Botos said earlier plans for the development indicated there would be a parking garage. However, that changed over time along with the access to parking for Madisonville residents, she said.
“When the community was first engaged in conversations with the developer, parking was going to be public parking on phase one, all throughout the day,” Botos said.
The city of Cincinnati has approved funding agreements for previous phases of the project. In September an emergency ordinance was approved by the city authorizing the sale of the property at the northeast corner of Madison Road and Whetsel Avenue to Ackermann with a 30-year tax abatement. The Port Authority of Greater Cincinnati issued the bonds to construct the Phase IIA of the project.
“(It) is not good use of public funds,” Botos said. “We want to have that space, that destination location, but we have to be able to have a space for people to park when they get there.”
Botos and several other Madisonville residents raised the parking issue before the city’s budget and finance committee on Monday. The committee referred the issue to the city’s community and economic development office.
Meanwhile, there’s another plan that is causing some concern in the neighborhood. Drawings for another portion of the development show a pool and another parking lot. Botos said a private pool will send a message of exclusion.
“It literally sets us back years when you think of what’s happening in the neighborhood in terms of the gentrification,” Botos said. “In terms of people feeling like they’re being pushed out, that the development is not for them. It just furthers that message, and that’s not a message that we want to be sharing in Madisonville.”
Barker said she would like to see a parking lot that all businesses in the development area can use.
“Not having the parking that I need to suffice my customers is a real hindrance,” Barker said.
Botos said that people in the neighborhood know change is coming.
“But it needs to be done with the respect and dignity that’s deserved for all of the residents here,” Botos said.
WCPO 9 News reached out to the city of Cincinnati and the Ackermann Group for comment on this story. We have not yet received a response.