Morning News: Council approves contested Liberty and Elm project; arrested faith leader to get help with code compliance; Husted's tricky tax semantics

If you’re tired of updates about a proposed project at Liberty and Elm called Freeport Row, well, this may be the last one you get for a while.

click to enlarge Freeport Alley, which bisects land near Liberty and Elm streets in northern OTR slated for a $26 million new development. - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Freeport Alley, which bisects land near Liberty and Elm streets in northern OTR slated for a $26 million new development.

Good morning all. Here’s what’s up today.

If you’re tired of updates about a proposed project at Liberty and Elm called Freeport Row, well, this may be the last one you get for a while. After lots of back and forth about the $26 million mixed-use project, Cincinnati City Council voted yesterday to approve the sale of two alleys and two LEED tax abatements that will allow the huge, possibly precedent-setting development to move forward. Community groups in Over-the-Rhine were opposed to the project because its design didn’t fit the historic character of the neighborhood, it didn’t include a parking garage that was in initial plans, it had no affordable housing and because it will be significantly higher than surrounding buildings.

Council voted 8-1 to approve the project’s final details — Vice Mayor David Mann was the only no vote, saying “the gap is still too great” between the community’s requests and the developer’s plans.

Some, including Councilman Kevin Flynn, were emphatic about approving the project.

To say that there's been no compromise flies in the face of facts," Flynn said about developer Source 3’s alterations to the building. The group removed a story from the height of the building earlier in the planning process.

At least a few council members voting yes did so reluctantly, though, citing a number of concerns community members have that hadn’t been met.

"Going forward I don't want to see another project in OTR that doesn't have considerations for design, parking, affordable housing," Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said, echoing concerns from council members Mann, Chris Seelbach and Wendell Young about the lack of a process that could hold developers to very specific community requests.

Freeport Row will host 110 market-rate apartments running about $1,000 a month in new buildings and two historic rehabs along with 15,000 square feet of retail space and an 80-space surface parking lot.

Another update out of Council: Yesterday we told you about the arrest of Cincinnati Human Relations Commission member and faith leader Rev. Peterson Mingo over code compliance issues related to a retaining wall on a property he owns in Evanston. Peterson was released from jail the same day and now will be receiving some no-charge rehab work from another local faith leader, Rev. Tom Hargis. The Methodist minister will do the estimated $6,000 repairs free of charge, according to Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, and Mingo will also be offered pro bono legal services by local attorneys if he needs it. Yesterday before his arrest, Mingo told Municipal Court Judge Bernie Bouchard, who presides over the city’s housing court, that he couldn’t afford to make those repairs until this summer. Code compliance has become a big issue in some low-income Cincinnati neighborhoods.

• Here’s the next big mixed-use development potentially coming to OTR, according to the Business Courier. A couple quick points — it’ll be on the property currently occupied by the old office of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, and former Cincinnati Bengal Chinedum Ndukwe’s development company, Kingsley + Co., is involved in the project.

• City Manager Harry Black released his proposals for the city’s fiscal year 2018-2019 budget this morning. You can check out our preview here.

It’s been a packed few days in terms of news. Let’s play catch-up on a couple city things from earlier in the week that I missed (shame on me).

• The Cincinnati Public School Board elected Catherine Laura Mitchell as its new superintendent Tuesday. Mitchell has been the district’s deputy superintendent since 2005. She’ll take her post Aug. 1 from retiring Superintendent Mary Ronan, who has been in that perch for seven years.

• A proposed bridge across I-75 and the Mill Creek between South Cumminsville and Cincinnati State is dead, according to a memo City Manager Black sent to City Council earlier this week. The bridge, which would have replaced a closing off-ramp for I-74, has been a priority of leadership at Cincinnati State for years — former President Odell Owens pushed hard for the structure before his departure from the school.

• Finally, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who is running to replace Ohio Gov. John Kasich next year, says his office won’t be using taxpayer money to operate. But he wants to use a pool of money that comes from fees businesses pay to register… money that business owners say is, you guessed it, a tax. Husted bases his claim on the fact he’s weaned his office off of income and sales taxes doled out via the state budget process. But since the secretary of state’s office runs all the state’s elections, business owners paying the fees argue that all taxpayers should be funding those operations. Be prepared for more such semantic battles over the provenance of various public money sources as the governor’s race heats up.

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