Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dohoney advises against using Linden Park money for land banking

Money intended for College Hill's Linden Park project should not be used for a neighborhood land banking strategy, according to a report to Cincinnati city council by city manager Milton Dohoney Jr.

The report results from a motion, passed by council in November, to channel $1.5 million intended for the development of Linden Park to the College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (CHCURC) to acquire and demolish buildings in the mid-core business district.

The 1.05 acres, between 5943 and 6033 Hamilton Avenue, would then be available for residential redevelopment when the economy recovers, making the business district more mixed-use and sustainable.

But transferring the funds would contradict the City's precedent of land banking property only if a developer has a specific proposal for the site or if brownfield remediation is necessary, according to Dohoney.

"Typical examples are acquiring environmentally contaminated property and remediating it to put the City on a level playing field with the suburbs or assembling blighted property, such as the Queen City Barrel site," he says.

The Linden Park Commons project was meant to be the centerpiece of the 2004 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area (NRSA) plan for College Hill, one of four in the City that includes a $2.1 million investment in Northside's Factory Square project and $2 million for the redevelopment of Madisonville's Madison and Whetsel area.

In College Hill, the City spent $780,000 on acquiring and demolishing the Shuller's Wigwam site, provided CHCURC with a $80,000 pre-development grant, and spent more than $3,900 to maintain the lot.

The City also acquired the Eastern Star Nursing Home for $850,000, and, because of asbestos abatement, demolition is estimated to cost between $200,000 and $250,000. Maintenance costs have been just over $2,800.

In addition, the City appropriated an additional $1.8 million because Al Neyer, Inc. was willing to sign a development agreement.

Neyer backed out of the project last August due to poor condominium pre-sales and the inability to secure retail tenants.

"Had it not been for the actions of this developer and their willingness to undertake the associated risk, the Administration would not have recommended the appropriation of this funding," Dohoney says. "Providing College Hill with an additional $1.5 million for further land bank property is not only inequitable when compared with other land banking projects, but may deprive other communities of development subsidy funding that may be needed during 2009 for projects already in the pipeline."

Dohoney specifies those projects as Factory Square, Madison and Whetsel, the Spring Grove Village market study, Clyffside Lofts, and Brewery Heights infill housing.

Of the additional $1.8 million budgeted for Linden Park, nearly one-third already has been channeled to other projects.

Dohoney recommends that the City should focus on redevelopment of the intersection of Hamilton Avenue and North Bend Road, where it already controls 6.4 acres.

"These 6.4 acres are of sufficient size to spark additional redevelopment in the business district once the economy recovers," he says. "If these funds are redirected to the mid-district in College Hill the property that was to be the Linden Park project will remain an eyesore."

Previous reading on BC:
Linden Park money will aid other College Hill projects (12/2/08)
Neyer backs out of Linden Park (8/29/08)
Linden Park reception to kick off sales center opening (3/6/08)
City to sell land, provide loan for Linden Park (2/1/08)
New rendering, townhome developer for Linden Park (9/24/07)