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

OTR housing development moves ahead, bypassing historic conservation board opposition

The proposed site of OTRCH's 44-unit permanent supportive housing development on Dunlap and Henry Streets
Nick Swartsell
The proposed site of OTRCH's 44-unit permanent supportive housing development on Dunlap and Henry Streets

The Cincinnati Planning Commission voted Friday to approve a density variance for a permanent supportive housing project in Over-the-Rhine. The project will have 44 units of housing for people who have experienced long term homelessness, with on-site case management and supportive services.

If council also approves it, the development will move forward despite opposition from the Historic Conservation Board and a group of outspoken residents. The building is slated for a lot at 2000 Dunlap Street that currently has a surface parking lot.

Jeff Luggen is a Managing Partner at Cincinnati Industrial Auctioneers, located at 2020 Dunlap; it’s one of a few businesses on the street opposed to the project.

“We are not afraid of the homeless, homeless people. We deal with it every day and have been for the past, you know, 40 years that we've been here. There is no fear on our end,” Luggen said. “It is simply just not the right lot for this project … There is no parking for residents or support staff and very little outdoor space.”

Developers say the vast majority of residents will not own cars and therefore not need parking in the area. Other business owners expressed concern about traffic congestion and street closures during construction that might disrupt their operations.

The Over-the-Rhine Community Council was split on the project in April, voting 34-30 to oppose it.

The project has also garnered intense support, with residents and representatives of local advocacy groups showing up to Friday's planning commission meeting by the dozens, sporting buttons that say "I SUPPORT DUNLAP PSH."

Jackie Dean says she's lived in Over-the-Rhine for 63 years and is embarrassed by opposition from other residents.

"I see people sleeping on the church steps, they sleeping anywhere, and on people properties, and they eating out of garbage cans. And I'm like, I feel like there's no compassion," she said. "We need places where people can live so they can feel stability about theyselves."

Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, also a member of the Planning Commission, listed several concerns she's heard from critics and her own reason for supporting the project anyway. For example, the claim that the project concentrates poverty in a majority Black and low-income neighborhood.

"The testimony today was OTR is no longer majority Black, and it's no longer majority low income," Kearney said. "Our job is to take care of all 309,000 residents [of Cincinnati], including the approximately 7,000 residents experiencing homelessness. The housing-first model of permanent supportive housing with in-house wraparound services is a proven model."

The project needs the density variance to build anything with more than 14 units because of how the site is currently zoned. The developer, Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, has been awarded $1 million in federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits for the development.

The variance will get a public hearing in a council committee on Tuesday, November 8. If the committee approves the variance, it will go to full council for a final vote the next day.

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.