Monday, April 22, 2002

Carthage welcomes new homes

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Robert Hartlaub admits he was skeptical.After all, community revitalization and manufactured homes usually aren't mentioned in the same breath.

        But the Carthage Civic League president and his neighbors now embrace a plan by Potter Hill Homes to build 32 manufactured homes at the former Car thage Mills industrial site.

        The plan is likely to win Cincinnati City Council's approval this week. The neighborhood has gained a powerful ally — Mayor Charlie Luken, who challenged city staffers to quickly execute the long-awaited development.

        The neighbors see prefabricated bungalows and Cape Cod homes as an important part of rejuvenating the old industrial neighborhood that has struggled to keep families.

        Mr. Luken envisions the project as a test for the city's future: finally push through a housing develop ment that has labored at City Hall since 1999 and maybe other projects will come a bit easier.

        Community Development Director Peg Moertl said her department recently convened a meeting of several city departments to iron out any lingering problems.

        The city Planning Commission took an important step Friday by voting to sell a 4.7-acre site to Potter Hill Homes for $1. This week, City Council will be asked to contribute another $800,000 to prepare the site for Potter Hill.

        The initial 15 homes will be built by mid-October for display at a joint Citirama and Manufactured Housing Institute home show. If another 17 homes sell, the city plans to give the developer an adjoining 8.6 acres to build 20 more homes within two years.

        Home prices will range from $93,000 to $150,000 depending on size and location.

        Just a year ago, the ambitious project for the aging central-city neighborhood was in jeopardy.

        After spending $6 million to clean the site and relocate businesses, City Council in January 2001 killed a proposal to spend another $6 million to build conventional homes.

        Instead, council wanted to hire a private developer to pay costs or consider turning the site into a park.

        “We finally found the right combination and solution for housing,” Mr. Hartlaub said.

        Carthage hasn't attracted the interest of developers as much as other near-downtown neighborhoods with impressive views of the city's skyline.

        Neighborhood homes were built around the Carthage Mills factory. When the factory closed, many families followed.

        Yet Carthage has remained more stable than many city neighborhoods. In the blocks surrounding the proposed development, the home ownership rate is 55.7 percent, better than the overall city rate of 38.9 percent.

        The community also faces the closing of its only public school, Carthage Paideia, in 2007.

        The community has protested the planned school closing, and Mr. Hartlaub hopes the new housing attracts enough families to change the school district's plans. School officials have promised to consider rebuilding schools now targeted for closing if surrounding communities attract more families.


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