City officials, faith leaders, developers and federal housing officials gathered yesterday to launch a new three-building development in the heart of Avondale.
The $43 million development at Forest Avenue and Reading Road involved city help along with federal low-income housing and new market tax credits. The complex includes 55 market-rate housing units and 64 affordable units as well as 76,000 square feet of retail space, including a laundromat, an early childhood center, a newly-open health center run by the Cincinnati Health Department and UC Health and other amenities. The two new buildings and one rehabbed structure replace an aging strip mall and fast food franchise.
The LEED Gold-certified project, a partnership between The Community Builders, the Avondale Development Corporation, a coalition of Avondale faith organizations, the city and a number of other groups, has been years in the making.
"We've always wanted to renovate this town center," said Pastor K.Z. Smith, president of the Avondale Coalition of Churches, a co-owner on a portion of the project and managers of the town center since 1996. "We wanted a new town center. But we know Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We didn't really know how to renovate a town center. So we were blessed to have The Community Builders come on board to be our partners. They took the lead."
The renewed town center represents a step toward reinvigorating the area, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said.
"This corner for too long was a symbol of pessimism," Cranley said. "It was not a place people wanted to be, but it was the heart of the place I consider to be the heart of the city, which is Avondale... we believe there should be one set of standards for neighborhoods, and that a beautiful square in Hyde Park or Mount Lookout is nice, but there should be a beautiful square here in Avondale as well. That's the tone we're trying to set."
Cranley also said that several businesses that have long occupied the town center will remain there.
Dr. Jamilia Maddox owns Cincinnati Healing Arts, another business that will open up in the Town Center.
"I'm excited to relocate my office here, and I'm honored to share our services as we create new relationships in our community," Maddox said.
One element that Cranley and other officials touted at the launch of the project four years ago — a full-service grocery store in Avondale — has yet to come to fruition. That could happen in the future, however, officials say.
The project spent $18.6 million with 20 local, minority-owned businesses, according to Community Builders Senior Vice President of Development Bev Bates. That includes 18 Avondale residents who gained employment due to the construction of the project.
"We want as much of the investment as possible to go back into the communities in which we work," Bates said. "We've accomplished most of the goals we set out there."