Feds Nix Metropole Claim

Mar 2, 2010 at 5:21 pm

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has informed attorneys that it’s rejected a fair housing complaint involving downtown’s Metropole Apartments.

Kelly Leon, a spokeswoman for the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC), said its attorney informed the organization today that a complaint filed by Metropole tenants had been turned down.—-

The Metropole Tenants Association, hastily formed after 3CDC announced plans to turn the Metropole into a boutique hotel, filed the complaint with HUD. It alleged the planned conversion would unfairly limit housing options downtown, and that displacing tenants violates HUD policies about promoting mixed-income neighborhoods.

“At this point, Metropole has 230 units of housing in the Central Business District of Cincinnati,” attorney Rickell Howard of the Legal Aid Society told CityBeat last fall.

“Once those units are eliminated from the Central Business District, there will be little to no affordable housing in this area, and that’s why (tenants) feel like it’s discrimination,” Howard had said. “They have a right under the Fair Housing Act that keeps them from having the option to live in this neighborhood taken away from them.”

HUD disagreed, stating the tenants have no legal standing.

"We are pleased with this news and will continue to work one-on-one with residents to insure that the relocation process is as smooth and sensitive as possible," Leon said.

The Metropole was home to about 207 people, many of them elderly or disabled. The building had been continually operated as federally subsidized affordable rental housing since 1971.

But the building’s long-term contract with HUD to provide affordable housing expired in 1991 and its current owner — Showe Builders Inc. — decided to sell the dilapidated property.

3CDC bought the property for $6.25 million in November, and all tenants were given notice that they must relocate within one year. The firm provided tenants with vouchers that can be used at an apartment or house of the person’s choice, and is paying moving expenses.

Of the Metropole’s 230 units, 78 — or 34 percent — are now vacant, Leon said.

Under 3CDC’s plan, the Metropole will be converted into the 21c Museum Hotel, modeled after the similar hotel in Louisville’s West Main Street Historic District. It will be the first new hotel opened downtown since 1984.

The luxury hotel, slated to open in mid-2012, will feature 160 rooms, a contemporary art gallery and other upscale amenities.