Here's what a West End group could ask from FC Cincinnati

A committee of the West End Community Council will present what it says is a loose, non-binding framework for a community benefits agreement to FCC today, though some on that committee have voiced concerns.

click to enlarge Stargel Stadium - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Stargel Stadium

A committee of the West End Community Council will today present what it calls a "framework" for a community benefits agreement with FC Cincinnati should the team opt to build a soccer stadium there. But a couple of those committee members say that framework should not have been drawn up yet or at all.

The introduction to the 13-page CBA framework starts off by noting the council's 50-10 general body vote (five members abstained) against the stadium last week and observes that stadiums generally have a large impact on neighborhoods where they are built. It also references a neighborhood plan, West End Speaks, created by the community in 2016.

"Professional stadiums represent a huge change in any community," the document reads. "They are a big land user, they create traffic and attract many visitors to a community during games and in low-income, minority communities in particular, they open communities to the kind of gentrification that can displace residents and make a community unrecognizable to its current residents. They also bring the possibility of positive investments and new markets to communities. The West End has a current population of 5,716, with 84% being African Americans and a poverty rate of 50%. So the West End is just the kind of community that potentially has a lot to lose by becoming the home to a soccer-specific stadium."

Among the asks presented in that document:

• Creation of a West End housing trust that will fund new affordable housing and support existing affordable housing as well as look at establishing renter equity and cooperative housing models. Currently, roughly 4,000 people in the West End have incomes requiring affordable housing. There are about 1,000 units of subsidized housing in the neighborhood.

• Creation of a number of youth programs.

• A detailed plan for replacing Stargel Stadium, the Cincinnati Public Schools facility FCC would need to tear down to build its stadium. FCC has proposed spending $10 million to build a new Stargel across Ezzard Charles Drive.

• Provision of neighborhood-wide free wireless internet.

• Creation of job opportunities paying at least $15 an hour, vocational training opportunities and support for unions.

• Full mitigation of traffic impacts.

• Hiring West End residents for up to at least 5 percent of the stadium’s managerial staff positions.

• Provision of three storefronts for nascent local businesses at no rent for five years.

• Renovation of cultural sites like Regal Theater and First German Reformed Church, which will then be deeded to the community.

• Creation and funding of a CBA implementation oversight group made up of community members.

• Payment of taxes for full value of stadium to CPS.

You can read the full document here.

The creation of the CBA framework began with a meeting of the ad-hoc committee held Saturday. That meeting was restricted to neighborhood residents, a CityBeat reporter was told at the door. At least two members of the 13-member committee protested any CBA presentation to FCC after the council's general body last week voted against the team building a stadium in the West End.

In an email to West End Community Council President Keith Blake, the two also opposed presenting the document to FCC before it had gone back before the council's general body for a vote of approval.

"We are worried that the people who met for the ad-hoc committee today don't have a mandate from the full body of the community council to put forward any final recommendations without approval from the rest of our neighbors,” reads a missive to Blake from two committee members opposed to the stadium. “Last Tuesday, the council decided not to approve the stadium at all. We also decided that a committee would only come together if they chose to come here despite our vote, and our members were very clear in that we wanted to have final approval on anything the council recommends.”

City West resident Earnestine Hill, one of the committee members who wrote the email, says she's still distrustful after Saturday's meeting. Hill and other stadium opponents think that some members of the council are trying to reignite the potential for a stadium in the West End after FCC said it was moving on to Oakley and Newport ahead of what it has identified as a March 31 deadline for site selection.

"I'm not sure who to trust at this point," she said. "It's an I-dont-know kind of situation."

Blake claims everyone at the meeting was from the neighborhood except for facilitator Liz Blume of the Community Building Institute. 

Hill and some others in the community say the meeting should never have happened anyway.

During last week's full-body meeting, the council's executive board pledged that work on a CBA would only go forward should FCC decide to build its stadium in the West End, and that any agreement would need the full council's go-ahead.

Blake says he asked FCC General Manager Jeff Berding if the team had truly moved on after the Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education passed a resolution setting down its terms for a land swap in the West End that the team needs to build its stadium. FCC said it was moving on from the neighborhood after CPS issued a similar, though not identical, offer previously.

Blake says Berding told him to bring FCC a proposal and the team would take a look. Blake, who voted in favor of the stadium, says he's not sure that the possibility of FCC in the West End is dead yet, but also says he's not necessarily "hopeful" about it either.

The document the community council committee will give to FCC doesn't lock the group into anything just yet, and isn't a bid to woo FCC, Blake says.

"This is exploratory," he says. "My job is to make sure that, if they build a stadium here, the West End Community Council is at the table. My job isn't trying to keep a deal going."

This post has been updated to correct the count of the community council's vote.

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