Sunday, February 22, 2009

Council Giveaway Ignites Firestorm

Local media attention ran high after COAST challenged Cincinnati City Council's illegal Feb. 11, 2009 ordinance earmarking $300,000 for the Glencoe Hotel and Condominium project.
WLWT-TV interviewed former resident Victoria Steel, who said, “Right now, there's nobody down here, and look at it, because it's worth saving. We just hope and pray that somebody will put up the money and try to get the community back the way it was.

WCPO-TV interviewed Councilmember Chris Bortz, who said, "It's really not the right use of public dollars. When we invest in a property on a private side, generally it's part of a development agreement. There are claw back provisions. The city has a stake in the development and more than just an interest in seeing it done. This isn't that. This is literally writing a check to a private owner to fix a private building. This would be like you going down and saying, 'Can I have money to fix my roof?'"

UC Bearcast Radio's (22:52-36:05) Explore Cincinnati host Travis Estell interviewed COASTer Mark Miller, who said, "By short-circuiting the [legal] process, City Council has, you know, kind of thrown a pie in the face of everybody who obeys the law."
Funds were originally allocated to improve city-owned portions of the jobsite as part of a pending agreement with a private developer. City officials were unable to come to terms with the developer and dropped the deal. But recent storms destroyed the roofs, accelerating deterioration of the properties, and the owner was unwilling or unable to fix them, prompting Council to order stabilization of the private property at public expense.

A week earlier, Building Cincinnati reported that, "In a memo to council, city manager Milton Dohoney Jr. says that the funding cannot be used for anything other than public improvements, and that City staff will continue to design those improvements until directed otherwise." The Cincinnati Enquirer later reported the same. So why did Council reject Dohoney's counsel?

Lawyer Leslie Ghiz, followed the law and voted against it. Professional property developer, Chris Bortz, did too. Jeff Berding, honeymooning out of town, didn't vote. The remaining 6 Councilmembers saw nothing wrong with spending public funds on a private project, and drove the measure through.

Building Cincinnati, who broke the story, said "In supporting the redirection of City funds, the amended ordinance noted that 'preservation of such buildings would serve the public interest of the citizens of Cincinnati'". That would be true if there were any citizens in the buildings to protect, but the City ordered them vacated for safety reasons.

The simple fact is this developer at this time is simply not going to get financing.
  1. It is $209,000 behind in property taxes,
  2. it is subject to foreclosure suits,
  3. it is subject to criminal prosecution for poor maintenance of the building, and
  4. the capital markets are seized up as never before.
Even if converting these buildings into housing was an entirely laudable public purpose, even if the expenditure and the other $5MM of city funds committed to the project are an inefficient way of getting there, these monies and all the money the City has to throw at this project WILL NOT result in a single housing unit being developed a this site in the next 10 years. It's delusional to think we are going to “save” these buildings with NO REALISTIC PLAN to turn it into housing units.

Some of the damage to the Glencoe buildings can be seen in the slideshow below. Hover for player controls, and click any image for a larger view.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the excellent slideshow, Mark. The last photos I have are from 2005, and the problems have become much worse since then.


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