Cincinnati City Council on Thursday approved a zone change and the initial concept plan for the FC Cincinnati stadium to be built in the West End.
Council approved the issue by a 7-0 vote with Councilmember Chris Seelbach absent from the meeting. Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman has recused himself from voting on FC Cincinnati issues because his brother has a construction contract with the team.
The zone change vote was delayed a week while the team and the Cincinnati Ballet worked out a "good neighbor" agreement. The sides signed an agreement just minutes before the City Council session began.
"This good neighbor agreement protects the integrity of Cincinnati Ballet for the next 17 years should we remain at our current location on the corner of Central Parkway, as the agreement addresses many of our issues relating to parking, access, noise, operations and others," said Cincinnati Ballet Board Chair Debbie Brant.
"Should the Ballet ultimately decide to relocate, this agreement helps us to work in good faith with the leadership of FC Cincinnati over the coming weeks to determine a mutually beneficial solution, prior to the approval of FC Cincinnati's final development plan."
A separate agreement was also reached with Monica Williams who operated Just Cookin' Catering in the West End. She lost her lease when the team purchased the building where she was located. The city, team and Port Authority are all contributing to a plan allowing her to temporarily re-open in a food truck while she works on a permanent location. Williams was awarded $250,000 - held in a trust by the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio - until she identifies a new location.
"We have what we believe is a satisfactory agreement for Monica Williams and Just Cookin' and we're thankful for the commitment of all parties that worked together collectively to ensure that Monica be on a pathway to re-establishing her soul food restaurant in the community," said Joe Mallory with the local branch of the NAACP.
Attorney Brock Denton with Keating Muething & Klekamp, which represents FC Cincinnati, confirmed the agreements.
"FC Cincinnati looks forward to commencing construction on its stadium and bringing professional soccer to Cincinnati in the next few weeks," Denton said.
Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld voted last week to delay the FC Cincinnati zoning change vote until this week.
"We are in a better place than we were one week ago. We are in a better place than we were today for Monica Williams. We are in a better place than we were for the Ballet, we're not in a perfect place, but we are in a better place," Sittenfeld said.
FC Cincinnati can now move forward with construction on the stadium. It also has to finalize the development agreement for the project which will have to be approved by the city's planning commission. That is likely to happen in late March.