Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Sites sought for Olympic housing

By Ken Alltucker and Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Organizers of a bid to bring the Olympics to Cincinnati in 2012 want the city to endorse sites in Blue Ash or Bond Hill for development of apartments and homes where 15,000 athletes can eat and sleep.

        But Nick Vehr, president of Cincinnati 2012, acknowledges that Blue Ash Airport may be a long shot because Cincinnati City Council last week decided to sell it and the city of Blue Ash is eager to buy.

        That leaves a site containing the Maketewah Country Club, an apartment complex, high school, a temple and other property in Bond Hill as Cincinnati 2012's best hope. City planning staff recommends the 276-acre site; Cincinnati Planning Commission will consider it Friday.

        Housing is a crucial component that Mr. Vehr needs to account for when he submits Cincinnati's official bid by Dec. 15 to the United States Olympic Committee, which will select one of eight U.S. cities to compete against international cities.

        The challenge for the Bond Hill site along Seymour Avenue between Paddock and Reading roads is to cobble together the land. Mr. Vehr said he has no idea how much that will cost or how it will be funded but suggested it would bring economic prosperity to Bond Hill long after the Olympic torch passes through.

        Mr. Vehr said representatives of the 157-acre Maketewah Country Club, owned

        by Provident Savings Bank & Trust, have not indicated a price or even a willingness to sell.

        Other properties targeted include IAMS, Allen Temple, Woodward High School and Glen Meadows, a 218-unit apartment complex.

        John Stalnaker, general partner of Glen Meadows Associates Limited, seemed amused that the apartment complex he owned was being considered as an Olympic village.

        “It's nice, but it's not going to change our lives,” Mr. Stalnaker said. “We have a nice apartment community. It would be very expensive.”

        Mr. Vehr seeks support of Cincinnati's Planning Commission and City Council because it would bolster the bid, which has drawn critics and skeptics.

        An anti-tax group is predicting that bringing the Olympics to Cincinnati would cost about $9.5 billion with only questionable return.

        While the effort to land the 2012 Olympic Games is admirable, members of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes say it is not very realistic.

        “We would be very much on board with a Cincinnati Olympic bid if it is possible with infrastructure and facilities that are already here and if there is not going to be a huge infusion of public money,” said coalition spokesman Jim Urling.

        In a presentation to Cincinnati City Council's community development committee on Monday, he said a large portion of the expenses is expected to come from public coffers.

        Mr. Vehr once said no money will be used to bring the Olympics to Cincinnati. But last month, he sent letters to state, county and city officials in Ohio and Kentucky asking for $2.6 million.

        When asked to explain, Mr. Vehr said there is a difference between landing the games and operating them once they're here.

        Cincinnati officials have been asked to donate $500,000 a year in 2001 and 2002 in order to attract the games.

        “It is unlikely the games alone will justify either public or private investments of the magnitude needed to put on a quality Olympic celebration,” said COAST organizer Tom Brinkman.

        He said their findings were based on research of the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, this year and Atlanta in 1996.

        A.D. Frazier, former chief operating officer of the Atlanta Committee for the 1996 Olympic Games, told the Enquirer in June that it would cost the region billions to host the games.


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