Downtown Camp Inhabitants Issue Requests, City Issues Eviction Notices; More News

Those living in a tent city along Third Street say they need housing options, portable restrooms and showers and long-term solutions to homelessness, but Mayor John Cranley says they must leave due to public health concerns

click to enlarge Residents of a tent city on Third Street - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Residents of a tent city on Third Street

Hello all! A ton of stuff has happened in the past couple days. Let’s do a brief news rundown, shall we?

The City of Cincinnati is facing a lawsuit from a billboard company over a tax it instituted to shore up the city budget. Norton Outdoor Sign company filed the suit alleging 1st and 14th Amendment violations over the tax, which the city expects will generate about $700,000 a year. That tax would assess billboard companies like Norton 7 percent of what they charge for a billboard advertisement or $2 per square foot. The companies would also not be permitted to list the tax on an invoice. The suit claims the city’s action illegally restrains advertising, company record keeping and treats billboard companies unequally to other businesses. The city’s ordinance is scheduled to kick in Oct. 15.

• The first portion of the Wasson Way bike trail officially launched over the weekend with a ceremony behind Withrow High School. The roughly half-mile stretch of completed path runs from Tamarack Avenue to Madison Road in Hyde Park. The city has chipped in $750,000 for Phase 2 of the project, though there are still holes in the funding necessary to complete the trail. Phases 1 and 2 of the trail will stretch across 4.1 miles of former railroad right-of-way the city purchased for $12 million. Eventually, supporters say the path could stretch 7.6 miles from Avondale to the Little Miami Bike Path.

• A group of real estate investors with ties to the founders of Rhinegeist Brewery went on a recent buying spree of properties north of the brewery in Over-the-Rhine. Rhinegeist founder Bob Bonder incorporated investment firm Franz Capital last year, and the group has spent more than $300,000 buying up 28 parcels on Renner and Mohawk Streets in the neighborhood. Franz is headed by Alan Krichavsky, who previously worked in San Francisco for real estate firm South Ridge Capital. Though the group is still exploring options for the properties, it is focusing on residential and potentially mixed-use development.

• Residents of a tent city along Third Street have been served 72-hour eviction notices by the city, which says it must remove the camp. Those living in the camp yesterday issued their demands to the city of Cincinnati, saying they won't be moved.

Mayor John Cranley says the camp on Third Street and another downtown must move, despite protests from those living in it.

"It's a public health hazard for the people living there and for the city as a whole," Cranley said, citing what he says is an increased risk of hepatitis and other illnesses. "So, I find them to be totally unacceptable."

The camp, which includes a number of tents between Plum and Walnut streets, got several new inhabitants after the city cleared a previous camp under Fort Washington Way. Another camp also sprang up nearby under another I-71 overpass. Activists say the city should focus on addressing the long-term, systemic issues that push people into homelessness instead of simply cracking down on the camps. Residents at the camp and the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition yesterday issued a list of demands to the city. Those include a demand that the city cease clearing camps, that it provide portable restroom facilities and showers, garbage and recycling canisters, options for permanent housing, a year-round shelter without barriers to entry, an increase in human services funding from the city, and progress on legislation that establishes a homeless bill of rights.

“We know we are a part of a large and growing number of women, men and children facing homelessness in Cincinnati,” the group said in a statement yesterday. “We implore the City of Cincinnati and City Council to act toward us in good faith, not only in terms of immediate needs, but to focus on long-term solutions that will create desperately needed access to an adequate quantity of affordable housing.”

• Usually, the thought of someone moving next door to you and throwing loud concerts isn’t super-welcome, but businesses at The Banks definitely want to know when they’ll get their new noisy neighbor. MEMI, the entertainment arm of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, is set to open a new 4,000 seat concert venue at the riverfront development. That’ll be great for foot traffic, businesses in the area hope, but there are some complications, thanks to the multitude of organizations involved in planning development at The Banks. Cincinnati, Hamilton County and the Bengals are still wrangling over where, exactly, the venue will go — the team gets a say on any development over two stories tall near their Paul Brown Stadium. The spot originally pitched for the venue is land Bengals fans tailgate on, the team says.

"It has become a political issue," team owner Mike Brown told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "For us, for me, it's relatively simple. My job is to protect the interest of our football team. My job is to help our fans have what they want. For our fans, it is better for them if they have this area for tailgating."

That could mean more wrangling and more delays for the music venue, which city and county leaders hope will be finished by the end of next year.

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