Why hasn't construction started on the Blair Lofts affordable housing project?

Avondale Blair Lofts Project
Posted at 7:29 AM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 07:29:00-04

CINCINNATI — The Blair Lofts project was set to start this month, but community leaders in Avondale are left asking why construction still hasn't begun.

The two-phase development at Reading Road and Blair Avenue is supposed to bring 64 affordable housing units to a neighborhood that hasn’t seen newly built affordable apartments in 15 years.

The income requirements to live in the apartments will be as low as 30% of the average median income, meaning some residents could get an apartment for as low as $425 a month.

MORE: Avondale community meeting addresses concerns with Blair Lofts project

So why hasn't construction started? Some in the community blamed The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority for the delay by not approving their portion of project financing.

But Port CEO Laura Brunner said they aren't the hold up -- they're waiting for Cincinnati City Council to approve the project. She also says it has nothing to do with the developer, Kingsley + Co. president Chinedum Ndukwe, who was involved in the FBI investigation of council members last year.

"People might perceive that that is the issue or worry that that is the issue or building a case that that's the issue, but the simple fact is that my board's approval of this project at any time right now would not accelerate this project at all,” Brunner said.

The Port's involvement in the project includes acquiring the deed for the land so they can then grant a sales tax exemption for construction costs, which will come to about $300,000. The project also has financing through low-income tax credits and tax incremental fund requests to the city.

Meanwhile, Kingsley + Co. is involved in litigation with the Port right now over the Convention Place building downtown on Elm Street. The Port said that is not impacting the Avondale development.

Brunner said she has spoken to Ndukwe in the last few days as well as Avondale community leaders. She's hoping they can all get together and sort everything out.

"So that's where we sit now," she said. "And, I do not understand why there's all this pressure, all of this commentary about us holding it up because even if my board had approved it two months ago, the project cannot move forward until they get their city approval."

Once the city approves the project, it will be presented to the Port's board, which Brunner said usually approves the staff's recommendations.