Tensions Continue Over Housing As Key Votes Approach for West End FC Cincinnati Stadium

A day before the Cincinnati Planning Commission votes on a key zoning approval, West End Residents facing relocation will hold a news conference asking FC Cincinnati to take up a compromise deal supported by Cincinnati City Council

click to enlarge Amier Lane, 16, is among the residents of 1559 Central Ave. facing relocation - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Amier Lane, 16, is among the residents of 1559 Central Ave. facing relocation

Revelations that residents are being asked to leave two properties in the West End purchased by FC Cincinnati in January continue to stir controversy as key zoning approval votes the team says it needs to continue construction of its coming $250 million Major League Soccer stadium approach.

Those residents say they will hold a news conference tomorrow with faith leaders again asking the team to take up a compromise supported by Cincinnati City Council. That comes a day before the Cincinnati Planning Commission is set to vote on amendments to FC Cincinnati's zoning change request.

Last month, CityBeat reported that residents at 421 Wade St., just yards from the stadium site, and a nearby building at 1559 Central Ave. received notices that they would need to move by April 30. The former owner of those buildings, Fred Berger, told CityBeat that the moves were necessary due to the coming stadium. Documents from the Hamilton County Auditor revealed that FC Cincinnati purchased the properties. 

Since then, the team and residents and community organizers have gone back and forth over the situation. Residents say they would like to stay in their respective buildings or, failing that, move into a renovated 1559 Central so the team can use 421 Wade. That's a compromise supported by a majority of Cincinnati City Council, which passed a motion suggesting that solution April 24. 

FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding shot back the next day at a press roundtable discussion, saying he felt compassion for the residents but equating council's suggestion to "a threat." The team is not a landlord, Berding said, and residents will eventually need to leave both buildings.

"City council acts as if we're some plague upon the city to be blocked at every opportunity," Berding said of the body that last year approved $34 million in public money for infrastructure serving the stadium site.

Berding again lit into council and community organizers at a May 3 meeting with the Cincinnati Enquirer's editorial board, where he said efforts by those he called "agitators" and council were "bullshit."

On April 30, Berding issued a letter requested by tenants promising that they would be able to stay in their homes until May 30 as negotiations play out. The team says that deadline could possibly be extended, but that it would like to resolve the situation as soon as possible.

In response, residents and organizers doubled down on their assertion that the team should take up the compromise plan and renovate 1559 Central to accommodate residents of 421 Wade and then transfer ownership of the former to West End community development corporation Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses. The group also wants the team to pay relocation costs for residents.

"We know that this would still displace those of us in 421 Wade Street over to 1559 Central Avenue, but in an effort to reach a resolution, we are offering this compromise; the same resolution called for by City Council," the residents' group said in a statement yesterday.

A number of faith leaders, including Rev. Damon Lynch III of New Prospect Baptist Church, Rev. Ennis Tate of Church of the Living God, AMOS Project Executive Director Bianca Edwards and others will join residents at the news conference May 9.

FC Cincinnati will ultimately need council's approval for an amendment to the team's zoning request for the stadium site that includes three city right-of-ways, one of which the city's transportation department has asked the team to acquire for the entrance and exit of a planned parking garage. Earlier versions of that amendment also included the land occupied by 421 Wade St. and a nearby Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall, though the team has removed that portion of the request.


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