Thursday, April 20, 2000

Residents question builder's firing

Fear delays in housing redevelopment

BY Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Residents of a West End housing project are demanding to know why the developer chosen to rebuild their homes has been fired.

        A group of residents told City Council members Wednesday that the decision to fire Concorde Capital/Midcity developers was done without their knowledge and will jeopardize the $100 million reconstruction.

        “We have already moved out thousands of residents. We can't afford any delays,” said Shirley Colbert, Laurel Homes Resident Council president.

        The Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority's acting board president confirmed Concorde was sent a termination letter Tuesday, but said it won't affect the completion of the project.

        “Our desire and plan is to move forward in the same time frame that we planned,” said Charles Gerhardt. “Our first concern is for the residents and the authority.”

        He said the developer was fired when a contract couldn't be negotiated. Another developer — the second lowest bidder for the project — has already been contacted.

        The project — which will replace 21 of 24 buildings housing about 5,000 residents — stems from a nationwide program to recreate public housing projects into urban communities, called Hope VI. Last year, the authority won a $35 million Hope VI grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish 970 apartments in Laurel Homes, which is across Ezzard Charles Drive from Lincoln Court.

        In addition to the $35 million grant, the city of Cincinnati has pledged more than $9 million to the rebuilding of Laurel and project developers are supposed to come up with the remainder.

        Council members said Wednesday they will ask the authority for a detailed report at the Neighborhood and Public Works Committee next week.

        By firing the developer on its own, residents say the authority violated an agreement with them. They question whether the action was taken because of a personality dispute with the authority's executive director, Don Troendle.

        Dave Phillips, a consultant for the residents, said Mr. Troendle is using Concorde's existing plan to obtain tax credits and attempting to keep the same architect.

        “You don't change cars when the one you've got is working fine,” he said. “I'm comfortable with the car I'm driving.”


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