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West End officials have other plans for development there

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Carol Brown, alumnae of Taft High School, spoke at the Cincinnati Public Schools’ Board of Education meeting Monday about a possible FC Cincinnati stadium on the West End. Photo by Lauren Worley

Soccer stadium not among them

By Nahamani Yisrael

Herald Contributor

The neighborhood redevelopment spotlight is focused on the West End of Cincinnati. Entities such as FC Cincinnati are looking to relocate their soccer stadium, and the Williard H. Stargel Stadium located at Taft High School is being considered as one of three possible locations. The move is contingent upon the Major League Soccer expansion incorporating the Cincinnati team into their league.

Recently FC Cincinnati has submitted a bid to purchase 60 lots from Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority.   The housing authority has struggled to find developers for the lots that they currently own in and around City West. CMHA’s intent was to have the lots converted to affordable housing units. Their most recent request for proposals had only one submission and according to officials at CMHA, this development plan was not in line with the housing authorities’ mission.

In addition to FC Cincinnati, Homebuilders Association of Greater Cincinnati has also made strategic moves to purchase land from CMHA. That organization has obtained support from the West End Community Council to create 54 single-family homes as part of the city’s next Citirama project. The base prices for the homes included in the Citirama development, Stowe Place, will start at $250,000 and increase dependent upon the amenities that the homebuyer selects.

When the news of FC Cincinnati’s intent to purchase the land upon which Stargel Stadium sits from Cincinnati Public Schools became public knowledge, many stakeholders from the West End neighborhood were outraged. The descendants of the late Willard H. Stargel, renowned educator and coach who taught at Taft High School, were displeased at the possibility of tearing down Stargel Stadium. “The legacy that Dad left was intended to not only improve, but include the existing neighborhood,” stated Jason Stargel, son of Willard H. Stargel.

Nearly 100 concerned citizens have attended the various town hall style meetings designed to give community members a voice in the upcoming changes.

Berding met with the West End Community Council and residents Tuesday evening to further discuss FC Cincinnati proposals. Keith Blake, president of the community council, said, “Community engagement is a priority for WECCC. We remain committed to an open process for the community and FCC to explore the potential for the stadium and its impact.’’

Bearding said in addressing the concerns of West End officials, “I understand that there are fears that FC Cincinnati’s stadium could negatively impact Taft High School. I wish to put these concerns to rest. While there are several configurations that could work, none of them touch the high school building. We look forward to discussing how FC Cincinnati could support Taft High School directly in new soccer programs, new student internships, new extracurricular fundraising opportunities and other ideas as determined when we meet with CPS and Taft staff, parents and students.’’

Berding said the stadium investment offers more than $200 million that would be spent in a local neighborhood. “We want to ensure we move forward where the community is supportive and where we can do the most good where the stadium will be located,’’ he said. “Finally, if we are blessed to win the MLS award, we will be pro-active with a community engagement process that included residents, stakeholders and elected officials in these neighborhoods.”

While change in the community is greatly needed, the community members said they want to have a say in the decisions that will affect the neighborhood where many grew up as well as protect the interests of generations to come. In order to have an active voice in the redevelopment of their community, members said they need to make strategic moves to ensure their neighborhood is not the next destination of gentrification in the city of Cincinnati.

Amidst the development buzz, one key player is looking to ensure that the development of the historic neighborhood aligns with the needs of the current residents. This entity, West End Area Revitalization Enterprises Ltd., is distinct from the other entities that have their eyes on the development opportunities in the area. West End Area Revitalization Enterprises, also known as WEARE, has plans to lead the development of the West End neighborhood in a manner that enhances the quality of life for West End residents.

WEARE’s plan is to create economic growth in the historic neighborhood by attracting businesses to the impoverished area. Through job creation, increased homeownership opportunities as well as increasing the number of affordable multi-family housing units, WEARE is working to create a plan that encourages growth.

Aja Pryor, development director of West End Area Revitalization Enterprises, said, “We’d like to see the City of Cincinnati designate the funds needed to make the West End a self-sustaining neighborhood. We feel that the city is obligated to make economic development a priority in this once thriving community.   Far too long funds have been disseminated to other neighborhoods, while overlooking this urban community. “

As part of West End Area Revitalization Enterprises’ plans to spur economic growth in the West End, WEARE is currently working with an attorney from Ullmer and Berne to aid in the formation of an investment pool that will allow individual investors a means to pool their resources. The funds generated through the investment pool will be used to acquire and rehabilitate vacant homes and investors will receive dividends as a result of their financial contribution. Interested community members who would like to be a part of the community-centric development in the West End can make monetary contributions through DonationsYourWay.Com.

Unlike other development entities, WEARE’s plan is not contingent upon Cincinnati being chosen for a new Major League Soccer team. WEARE has received a letter of support from the West End Community Council members are actively working with city officials to solidify their position as lead developers in the West End Community.

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