Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

In a rare move, Council refers money for King Records preservation back to committee

A historic marker in front of the now-vacant King Records building in Evanston.
Wikimedia Commons
A historic marker in front of the now-vacant King Records building in Evanston.

Cincinnati Council took an uncommon vote Wednesday to send an ordinance back to committee for more discussion. The measure allocates $410,000 for the King Records Legacy Foundation, which is working to preserve the historic city-owned building in Evanston.

Former Mayor John Cranley wanted to fund the project using federal stimulus from the American Rescue Plan Act, but federal rules made the project ineligible. A previous council approved $1 million for the project back in 2021, using leftover money from that fiscal year. The current Council needs to approve using $410,000 of that for pre-development costs.

Foundation Chair and Executive Director Kent Butts says another delay is a little frustrating.

"We've been working, we've not stopped working, but we've not been funded with what we were supposed to have since 2021," Butts told WVXU. "We're not angry — we've been through a lot of these different crazy things. It seems like there needs to be more education about what it is."

King Records started with country music in 1943 before branching out into R&B and many other genres. Music superstars like James Brown, Bootsy Collins, and Otis Williams got their start at King Records. It shut down in the early 1970s and eventually became vacant. In 2018, the city finalized a land swap with then-owners of the King site, which had filed for a permit to tear the property down.

Council Member Reggie Harris says he fully supports the preservation project, but wants more information about how the $410,000 would be spent; he says other development projects typically get $120,000 for pre-development costs.

"So this is a deviation from the amount of money that we allow for predevelopment dollars," Harris said during Council Wednesday. "And I think due diligence is just fiscally responsible, to dive into that, to understand the justification for that, why that is, and then have a plan go forward."

RELATED: What does a National Historic designation do for the King Records site?

Harris is chair of the Budget and Finance Committee; he says he wanted to hold the ordinance Monday, but didn't have the votes to do so. He put the measure up for passage "without objection," meaning it moves on to full council without a roll-call vote unless a committee member objects.

Council Member Jeff Cramerding was absent from Monday's committee meeting; on Wednesday, he requested the ordinance be sent back to committee. Cramerding told WVXU he's concerned about taxpayer money being spent to hire lobbyists and fundraisers.

Cramerding's motion to return the ordinance to committee passed with a 6-2 vote; Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney and Council Member Scotty Johnson opposed it. (Council Member Victoria Parks was absent.)

"This is a promise that was made before any of us were here — it's a promise we have to keep," Kearney said. "This board, this community, the city, are depending on King Records to move forward. It's been delayed too long; it's time to get going."

Kearney said the foundation has been working with the city's Department of Community and Economic Development and she's confident that city staff will establish a fair contract with adequate accountability for spending.

The ordinance will be back in the Budget and Finance Committee Monday.

Butts says he and the rest of the foundation are prepared to answer any questions that may come up.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.