The Port and Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses Sign Memorandum of Understanding
Partnership to revitalize and redevelop West End neighborhood is memorialized with MOU
CINCINNATI – The Port and Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses (SHNH) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) formalizing the partnership and communication channel that will guide the course of both organizations’ work in the West End. SHNH is the lead community development corporation (CDC), recognized by the West End Community Council and The Port. The West End anticipates significant development interest because of Futbol Club Cincinnati’s decision to build an MLS stadium there.
“The Port volunteered to enter into an MOU with Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses. We felt this is an important way for us to solidify our relationship and have the discussions and negotiations up front to lay a smooth path forward and understanding of how we’re going to work together and partner together as we embrace the big investment that’s being made by FC Cincinnati,” according to Laura N. Brunner, President and CEO of The Port. “Our goal at The Port is to work in partnership with SHNH to revitalize the West End, to prevent gentrification, to make sure that at the same time we celebrate new investment, new people and growth in the community, that we’re protecting the legacy residents that have been here for so long and not just keeping them here but providing opportunity for them, as well, to fulfill their personal dreams and share in the wealth appreciation and creation that’s going to happen.”
“Through the housing study and taking the West End Speaks plan into consideration, we will identify the desired mix of rental and home ownership; affordable, low-income and market rate housing and commercial space,” added Brunner.
“SHNH has long been a safe haven for the community with community service, outreach and positive impact for our neighborhood. In 2016, the West End came together and created the WE Speaks quality of life plan. More than 100 residents, leaders and stakeholders participated in this process and laid out where they wanted their neighborhood to go,” shared Tia Brown, Community Engagement Coordinator, SHNH. “By partnering with The Port, we will be empowered to lead progress that considers the community’s needs and serves as a catalyst for progressive development. The upcoming housing study, community engagement and long-term relationship will provide a path forward for the West End to realize an even brighter future that supports residents and considers the needs of the entire community.”
The Port, on behalf of the West End Community Council and FC Cincinnati, issued a request for proposal from qualified organizations to conduct an equitable growth housing study. The Port and SHNH have identified and retained APD Urban Planning and Management (Atlanta, Georgia) to undertake the housing study.
The housing study will play an important role in implementing the vision created by the West End community. The housing study will also help shape how the development landscape balances the desires of the community with the investment being brought to the West End through the construction of the MLS soccer stadium by FC Cincinnati.
The Port manages two non-profit revitalization organizations, the Hamilton County Land Reutilization Corporation (Landbank) and the Homesteading and Urban Redevelopment Corporation, that work to return vacant, blighted and underutilized real estate into community assets. Since 2013, The Port has acquired property and stabilized historic structures in the West End through the tools afforded to the Hamilton County Landbank.
In order to inform The Port’s work with the community and build community capacity, leadership and staff have been meeting with community organizations in the West End including SHNH, the West End Community Council (WECC) and LISC Greater Cincinnati. The Port, with the input of the WECC and SHNH, has identified Design Impact (Cincinnati) to do intensive community engagement work in the West End.
The MOU outlines establishing a Housing Improvement Fund to support the preservation and creation of a range of affordable housing opportunities for West End residents. SHNH and The Port will work to implement a program to disburse the $100,000 in funds, committed by FC Cincinnati in the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), to support the “immediate housing needs of low and moderate income residents in the West End.” The parties agree to fundraise for the Housing Improvement Fund and it could provide assistance to residents, such as down-payment or rental support, legal representation or the funds to remediate code enforcement orders on property.
“A unique aspect of the MOU is that The Port agrees that net proceeds from the sale of our properties in the West End will be reinvested in the neighborhood,” added Brunner. “We will also work with SNHN to promote economic and community development opportunities for current West End residents.”
The Port stabilized six row houses on Baymiller Street through a partnership with the City of Cincinnati. Two properties (1803 and 1807 Baymiller) will be preserved for low to moderate income homeowners by Habitat for Humanity. The remainder of the houses, 1813, 1817 and 1819 Baymiller, are currently listed for sale.
“FC Cincinnati is proud to be a catalyst for positive change. FC is funding $100,000 for an independent, third-party housing study that shows how we can best integrate rental and home ownership opportunities, identify the best mix of market rate, affordable and low income housing opportunities,” said Jeff Berding, President and General Manager of FC Cincinnati. “The housing study will also recommend actions to support at-risk West End renters, homeowners and business owners and help prevent displacement and protect against adverse effects of redevelopment. The study is a critical piece of work. I look forward to a report and the recommendations that will inform SHNH, The Port, City Council and other policymakers on how we can all work together to ensure that this positive development can be a catalyst for great improvement in people’s lives in our community.”
As a focus neighborhood of The Port and through neighborhood revitalization efforts, an emphasis will be placed on commercial businesses and development in the West End. Both parties will work to identify and support entrepreneurs, storefronts and access to the Driving Real Estate to Accelerate Microenterprise (DREAM) loan fund, established by The Port in partnership with The Kresge Foundation for support of small and minority-owned businesses.
COMMUNITY BENEFITS AGREEMENT HISTORY
In April 2018, The Port Board of Directors approved preliminary terms for The Port’s role in financing the FC Cincinnati Stadium project and related public improvements. Terms include the issuance of bonds, as well as a project lease, by which The Port will own the stadium. The Port Board will have the opportunity to review and approve final terms.
On April 16, 2018, The Port entered into a community benefits agreement (CBA) with FC Cincinnati related to its soccer stadium investment in the West End.
On May 16, 2018, the CBA was amended (First Amendment) to add the West End Community Council (WECC) as a Party and to set forth other specific obligations of the Parties to that agreement.
On September 18, 2018, the CBA was amended (Second Amendment) to modify minor provisions.
The CBA, First Amendment and Second Amendment (collectively, CBA) outline commitments to West End residents and stakeholders that support anti-displacement of legacy residents; bolster economic development and equitable growth; include West End residents in stadium construction jobs; and facilitate community input on projects as redevelopment inevitably accelerates in this historic urban neighborhood.
About The Port
The Port is a quasi-public agency that is the principal real estate and development finance specialist serving Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati. The Port both initiates redevelopment and manages projects on behalf of local governments and private institutions to improve property value and promote job creation. Our goal is to be inclusive of race, income, and age in housing and business development. More information: www.cincinnatiport.org.
About Seven Hills Neighborhood Housing
Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses is a one-stop social service agency offering a wide array of client-driven services to individuals, children, families, and seniors. Founded in 1961 with the merger of the West End’s Findlay Street Neighborhood House and the East End’s Riverview Neighbors House, Seven Hills has served individuals for 50 years.