Sunday, December 10, 2000

Bond Hill uncertain about hosting Olympic Village

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A jail. A U.S. Postal Service hub. A waste transfer station. It seems everyone is pushing a grand plan to revitalize Bond Hill except the people who live and work there. The latest idea to build an Olympic village in the Cincinnati neighborhood has sparked outrage from some, chuckles from others.

        But civic leaders and citizens agree that it reinforces an image that outsiders can propose anything for Bond Hill and they just might get it through.

        “A lot of residents don't want that (Olympic village),” said Cincinnati City Councilwoman Alicia Reece, a Bond Hill resident who helped develop an economic plan to weed out the junky proposals from the gems. “When they're gone, will it bring the type of income that people here need?”

        Organizers of a bid to bring the 2012 Olympics to Cincinnati picked Bond Hill and Blue Ash as two possible sites to develop a village of housing for 15,000 athletes and officials during the games. The city favors Bond Hill because it wants to sell the Blue Ash airport site to the city of Blue Ash, a white-collar northern suburb that has experienced an explosion of new office development in recent years.

        The Cincinnati Planning Commission last week endorsed the idea of building an Olympic village in Bond Hill on a site that includes Maketewah Country Club, Woodward High School, a 276-unit apartment complex and property owned by TechSolve (formerly the Institute of Advanced Manufacturing Sciences) and Allen Temple.

        Resident Mike Kierein said he's skeptical that an Olympic village in Bond Hill will bring the low-income housing the area needs. The taxi cab driver and father of five said he doubts a string of new houses intended to showcase Cincinnati to the world would cater to the working poor.

        “There isn't enough low-income housing here,” Mr. Kierein said.

        Nick Vehr, who heads Cincinnati 2012, the group trying to lure the Olympics, said it's too early to tell the price range of new housing that would be developed. But he promised dozens of public meetings chock-full of community input before the first shovel of dirt is turned.

        “I understand completely what the citizens of Bond Hill and Roselawn feel,” because of past projects developed against their will, said Mr. Vehr, a former Cincinnati councilman. “Their skepticism is well-earned in many respects.”
        Paving Maketewah

        Olympic organizers picked Bond Hill for a housing village because it bolsters Cincinnati's chances of landing the Olympics. The U.S. Olympic Committee will judge Cincinnati against seven other U.S. cities and pick one to compete internationally.

        The largest piece of land for the proposed housing village is controlled by Maketewah Country Club, which doesn't want to sell.

        “In no way did they express a desire or intention to sell," Mr. Vehr said. "They are interested in continuing as a country club."

        Undeterred, Mr. Vehr said the land could be freed up over the next decade as Cincinnati's Olympic quest advances. Maketewah General Manager Charles Carpenter didn't return repeated telephone calls.

        Not all residents oppose the idea of paving over Maketewah, which Bond Hill Community Council President Rose Nelson describes as a landmark that has little to do with the surrounding community.

        “I don't think it's a secret they don't do a lot for the folks who live here,” Ms. Nelson said.

        The community council endorses the Olympic village plan if it brings new homes.

        Bringing 700 new homes to a distressed neighborhood that would be sold to residents after the games might be Cincinnati 2012's “greatest legacy of all,” Mr. Vehr said.

        Any development must past muster with Bond Hill's newly adopted plan, born out of years of frustration over a lack of community control, Ms. Reece said.
        Creating an identity

        Ms. Reece said establishing three “gateways” along Seymour Avenue at Paddock Road, Reading Road and Langdon Farm Road will give the community a sense of identity. It will also help new and existing businesses thrive.

        There are plenty of those. TechSolve, Swifton Commons, Cincinnati Gardens and Walgreen have all expanded or reinvested in their properties.

        The U.S. Postal Service packaging hub will bring up to 5,000 jobs to Bond Hill from the West End. A library will be built near Swifton Commons and Kroger wants to expand its store at Hillcrest Square.

        “This neighborhood needs help now,” Ms. Reece said. “The Olympics are a long way away. If it's complementary it's something we'll take a look at.”

        The business owners and residents are concerned more about basic needs like street sweeping and police patrols.

        Safety is a concern or a lot of shoppers like Wanda Booker, 38, of Silverton.

        During a recent trip to Hillcrest Square at Reading and Seymour, Ms. Booker said Bond Hill eventually needs new housing like that the Olympic village proposes. But that's 12 years away. The community first must make sure it's safe.

        “I'm surprised they would pick Bond Hill for the Olympics. You would think they would go to Blue Ash,” said Ms. Booker. “If it's Bond Hill, your first have to worry about security.”


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