Our "Moment of Leverage" is tonight at 6 pm.

Tonight the Over-the-Rhine Community Council will vote on whether or not to sign a letter of support for a proposed development at Elm and Liberty.

According to a post written by community activist, Margy Waller, on sway.com,  this is a large, prominent piece of land  with a massive development that will include 15,500 square feet of commercial space and almost 100 small apartments, plus a huge garage.  Margy thinks the Community Council should withhold their support.

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An image from the marketing materials of the proposed development at Liberty & Elm

Not that she’s against the development of the property. Or this particular developer. Nobody is.  Her point is that the community hasn’t been given enough information to make an intelligent decision on whether or not this plan works for the people who actually live here and know each other by name, homeowners and renters and business owners who believe in their little place on the planet more than any other and are intimately familiar with its challenges.

Why the rush?  Why tonight?  Why no time for questions or discussion?  This is a decision Over-the-Rhine will live with for decades to come, an important conversation that deserves to be treated with respect.  Quicky votes that limit input are the norm in publicly subsidized commercial real estate development.

The logic is always the same:  If support isn’t given this minute, the whole deal could fall apart.  The neighborhood is lucky anybody wants to risk private capital to build anything, with the ubiquitous “job creation” carrot dangled liberally throughout the argument – because “job creation” is accepted on such faith within the political community, it’s almost a religion.   As long as a development is legal and can be financed, ALL development is always assumed to be good.

Baloney.

This deal is not going to fall apart if there’s more conversation.  Big developments like this take decades to acquire properties, work with architects and lobby elected representatives.  A few more months is not going to dampen the enthusiasm of the for-profit developer who has been dreaming this dream morning, noon, and night for years.  They’re not going to walk away from what they’e already invested.

As population precipitously drained from our cities, municipalities had to do whatever they could to stabilize the tax base.  Thank goodness the factors that required such desperate government intervention have finally reversed.  Buyers now want what we’ve got- an affordable, walk-able, urban experience with unique historic building stock and non-chain everything on a sweet little bend in the river .

Citizens, it’s time we learned how to negotiate better deals.  Which means we need to organize, show up for meetings, lobby politicians, and demand transparency.  The point is not to stop development.  But we absolutely have to get more for our money and lower the public risk, the exact same thing any smart for-profit investor tries to do.

This vote tonight is very, very important.  Not just for the future of Liberty and Elm.  It’s important for every neighborhood that wants a say in  the investments taxpayers make for the Greater Good in whatever part of town has captured their heart.  This vote is an important lesson in power to every Community Council in Cincinnati.

As Margy so astutely points out:

When developers seek our support—especially when they are hoping to get city investment, zoning and other land use changes, or other public benefits—it’s our moment of leverage.

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7 thoughts on “Our "Moment of Leverage" is tonight at 6 pm.

  1. Nina Johns

    Related to a reply about our Linwood Community experiences which I posted on Danny Klinger’s entry, I wholeheartedly believe that this type of citizen oversight of the relationship between the City and developers is critical at this moment in Cincinnati’s growth. I am now fully engaged in my neighborhood in Linwood, even if we have been “blindsided” a few times already by the rush to demolish and build which seems to be City Planning whether stated as such or unofficially embraced by City Hall. I hope you have a great turnout. We did, for the last Zoning variance Hearing we came together to examine as a community in Linwood. The result was not what we wanted or expected, but it brought to light things to be questioned, challenged and ready for, the next (maybe more important) occurrence. “Relentless” is the best way to describe this push back to the rush to make these decisions.

    Reply
  2. Chip Kussmaul

    Our good friend, Donald Trump, said “Never make a deal you’re not prepared to walk away from.” Don’t be too quick to accept anything that the city puts in front of you. The developers have a whole lot more to lose than you do. Don’t let them forget it.

    Reply
  3. Matt Jacob

    I think we need to be careful not to stereotype all developers here. Not all developers rush things through sneakily in the night to stick it to the public. Lets not let this morph into a conspiracy theory.

    As in this case, they came asking for input in December and have already incorporated some of the feedback into their plans after multiple meetings. It’s not perfect; everyone doesn’t get everything they want; but the outcome is better for it already; and still can/will be improved from where we are today. However there are both physical and economic realities that also limit some of the greatest ideas/desires from actually making it to brick and mortar, so we need to stay realistic if we ever want to see something come out of the ground.

    As a community the best thing that we can do is to set up clear expectations and a road map to guide developers through a required public engagement process.

    This isn’t in place right now. Unfortunately there is no actual requirement to engage the public right now, so there is genuine concern that developers could choose to go around the public rather than attempt to engage them. In my view, the current mess
    of a process actually encourages and rewards this bad behavior.

    Reply
  4. Marc Raab

    I don’t see this “conspiracy theory” that Matt Jacobs interpreted from this post. A recommendation to slow down seems to just be sound logic.

    We all see what happens when projects get rushed through- a walk through the Banks shows how $600 million dollars doesn’t guarantee an architecturally significant project. Queen City Square, The Great American Tower- rushed. And just an awful piece of skyscraper cities like Nashville built in 1985. GABP- The worst of the new era stadiums. I recall little public input on these projects. And I recall the Cincinnati’s Urban Design Review Board recommending changes that were never implemented, or half implemented, or overruled. This same group “tried” to get the hotel at the Banks to look less like a La Quinta Inn, yet settled for a few cosmetic changes.

    This is what happens when we settle. And we settle a lot, in the name of “jobs” and “development.” Not to reflect just on this project at Elm and Liberty, but in general it is time the city realize they have a product in high demand, and stop giving away the farm.
    .

    Reply
  5. Nina Johns

    I have to agree with Marc Raab. “Conspiracy theory” has a bad connotation of being the hallmark of the highly emotional, poorly informed. The personal experiences which I related on Danny Klinger’s post allow for feeling and emotion because they happened to me and my neighbors. What surfaced (or is in the process of surfacing) is a pattern of development in which the City behaves consistently in facilitating the developers’ access, sometimes to the detriment of long time residents/taxpayers. It moves like a behemoth, a juggernaut with countless individuals involved, but all operating within a culture of favoring development – that’s not a conspiracy, it’s a compilation of laws, regulations, relationships, precedents, vague long-term pIanning goals, etc. I am hoping that the experiences I recounted can be fleshed out into a posting which is factual, and specific. However, I am part of my neighborhood group, and need to respect their wishes too, about how high profile they want our experience to be. I hope to shed some light on the processes used by the City Planning Commission and the Building Dept., the City Council, etc. in order for citizens to obtain real transparency about them, so that we aren’t always having to drop everything to participate in a defense against something we will be very much affected by.

    Reply

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