By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer
EVENDALE - In a contentious debate over revitalizing Reading Road, business owners and village officials are back at square one, haggling over the best means to bring about improvements.
Reading Road property owners figured they had triumphed last month, when council members voted unanimously to repeal an urban renewal plan that declared 130 properties blighted. Lifting the designation freed the land from being taken for other uses through eminent domain.
But a new blueprint is before planning commissioners. While smaller in scale, it could still designate about 80 properties as blighted, including the Jewish Hospital Medical Office Building, if the plan is adopted by council.
The mere mention of blight prompts Reading Road property owners to rally once again. Revitalization can happen, they said, if village officials seek their opinions, and they all work together to woo businesses to the thoroughfare considered to be the "front door" of Evendale.
"All they have to do is get people working for them," said Bruce Hassel, owner of A to Z Discount Printing. "Everyone knows that blight is a lie here. This area is not blighted. If they took that (plan) off the table, we would be their allies in this. We would help them bring business to Reading Road."
After council adopted the original plan more than a year ago, Hassel posted a sign outside his business. It read: "Notice: You have entered a blighted area. The Village of Evendale has determined that the Reading Road Corridor is a menace to public health, safety, morals or welfare."
Hassel took the sign down when the blight designation was lifted. He vows to make his concerns known at a Tuesday hearing before planning commissioners. It will begin at 7 p.m. in the Evendale Municipal Complex, 10500 Reading Road.
Mayor Douglas Lohmeier said he realizes that Reading Road property owners are upset. But there are definite advantages, he said, to having an urban renewal plan in place.
It's the first step needed, he said, before the village can pursue such efforts as streetscape projects and grant applications for the corridor.
"The biggest benefit is showing the village of Evendale is willing to invest to make that corridor vital to the future of the village," he said. "You must agree, there are buildings in the area that are deteriorated beyond repair."
Lohmeier concedes that the village might one day need the plan to pursue eminent domain proceedings.
But, "there are people along the Reading Road corridor who don't want to do anything," he said. "They do not want to see Reading Road revitalized."
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