By Morgan Miles, Staff Writer
FC Cincinnati has begun a $300 million, 8.5-acre, eight-year project in the West End, just outside the TQL Stadium. The project’s goal of building a new Cincinnati district will start with the demolition of the area and has garnered critcism for the potential displacement of surrounding buildings and residents.
Once completed, the new Cincinnati district is expected to have a hotel, restaurants, offices, shops and apartments. At the moment, there are no space renderings to show what the new district will look like. There is also no timeline for construction and no district name. Anne Sesler, FC Cincinnati spokesperson, said that the district will be inspired by places such as The Wharf in Washington, D.C.
“This will be additive to the community. We really believe we have the (West End) community council support for the project. We’re going to bring a lot more residents to the neighborhood. We’re going to be bringing some much-needed new housing to the area, new restaurants which are much needed, office space, which is much needed, a hotel which is much needed,” Sesler said.
On Feb. 8, FC Cincinnati Co-CEO Jeff Berding kickstarted the project’s demolition. He knocked down a building that formerly served as the home of the Cincinnati Ballet. Located between Central Parkway, Central Avenue and Wade Street, the first demolition marked Stage One of FC Cincinnati’s project.
Stage One will include the demolition of buildings on the corners of Central Parkway, Wade Street and Liberty Street. According to FC Cincinnati, demolition is likely to be completed by this summer. Berding plans to purchase more properties to expand the project’s supersite area.
“All the property that either we own or at some point where we would have an interest, we’ve had very ongoing, very open conversations with property owners. There are plenty of property owners who have asked us to buy, some outside of the (supersite) area,” Berding said.
The Vice President of the West End Community Council, Noah O’Brien, agreed with Berding’s statements.
“We have to leave our neighborhood to go to a restaurant. We have to leave our neighborhood to go to a pharmacy. We have to leave our neighborhood to go to attractions and things to do. It shouldn’t have to be like that” O’Brien said.
As a decade-long resident of the West End, O’Brien hopes for improvement in the lives of those who will benefit from more businesses closer to home. O’Brien also noted that the expansion can give purpose to spaces and empty storefronts that have been neglected for 20 years, despite being in a business district.
To support surrounding communities, FC Cincinnati signed a community benefits agreements (CBA). The CBA ensures funding of up to $100,000 a year for 30 years. This funding can be used for programs that aid residents in the West End, such as creating a community student garden.
Ahmed Hmoud’s experiences with FC Cincinnati have differed significantly. The owner of Liberty Used Tires LLC, Hmoud received an eviction notice from FC Cincinnati on Feb. 28, stating that it was a condition required by FC Cincinnati. Upon asking, Hmoud said he was denied answers to questions about his eviction and relocation assistance.
“I don’t know how they can sleep, just kicking me on the street and they got millions. They cannot offer anything to me to support me or to move my business to a different location,” Hmoud commented.
As a historically Black neighborhood, the West End has experienced statistically disproportionate amounts of displacement and neglect. Marvin Smith, the owner of Ollie’s Trolley on Liberty Street, commented on this pattern.
“I’m pro-development, always have been. I supported the soccer stadium. I supported cleaning up Central Avenue and all that. I don’t support coming in and throwing out small businesses. It’s like business gentrification,” Smith said.
As a business owner, Smith has seen many neighbors and neighboring businesses be displaced due to development.