Thursday, September 11, 2003

Developer tells plan for mixed complex

Mayor threatens to send inspectors

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The new owner of the abandoned Huntington Meadows apartment complex went public with his plans for the 49-acre Bond Hill site Wednesday, a day after Cincinnati's mayor proposed to use eminent domain to take it from him.

In response, Mayor Charlie Luken turned up the pressure, threatening to turn city building inspectors loose on the property if the Connecticut developer doesn't build all single-family homes on the site - or sell it at cost to a local developer who will. He called the developer a "land speculator."

Joseph L. Trauth Jr., the Cincinnati lawyer representing Connecticut developer Michael Belfonti, broke five months of public silence about the developer's plans for the site Wednesday. He said the development plan has two phases:

• On the southern part of the property, the developer would bulldoze the vacant buildings and build 140 single-family town houses.

• To the north, the developer would tear down only the buildings in the worst condition, and rehabilitate the remaining buildings for 600 market rate apartments - "not subsidized," Trauth said.

But the developer also asked the city for $3.4 million to help with demolition costs and with street and sewer improvements - something the city wasn't willing to talk about unless the project is 100 percent owner-occupied, Trauth said.

"I'd like to live in the Taj Mahal, too. But I don't think it's going to happen," Trauth said. "We questioned the marketing ability of all single-family, especially with commercial next door."

"You're talking about a $6.5 million investment before you build one unit," Trauth said. And, he noted, the developer is spending $8,000 a week on security and utilities at the site.

Said Luken: "His carrying costs are going to get a whole lot higher if we have some building inspectors go out and post orders."


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