Is 3CDC About to Strike Again?
Hotel Plan Could Force out Hundreds of Poor People
By Mark Payne
More than 200 residents of the Metropole Apartments, many of them reliant on federal housing assistance, could soon be forced out to make way for a new hotel in downtown Cincinnati’s entertainment block.
The apartment building at 609 Walnut St. has been put up for a transfer of physical assets by Showe Management.
“All that means is the building would have a new owner,” says James Cunningham, Cincinnati field office director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
But it means more than that. The building sits between the Contemporary Arts Center and Bootsy’s, Jeff Ruby’s new restaurant, making it attractive real estate for developers. The group interested in buying the building is Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC), according to Rob Goeller, civil rights outreach coordinator for the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless.
Goeller says he spoke with Adam Gelter, development manager for 3CDC, who said he was leading the Metropole project. Gelter said 3CDC wants to buy the Metropole, turn it into a commercial hotel, then hand it over to a company called Model Management, according to Goeller.
When asked for an interview, Gelter declined, saying he would “get in trouble” if he spoke to the press. Kelly Leon, spokeswoman for 3CDC, also declined comment, saying it was “premature to make a statement.”
The city of Cincinnati hired 3CDC for redevelopment projects in Over-the-Rhine that have displaced low-income residents.
Showe Management wants to opt out of its housing assistance payments (HAP) contract with HUD when it sells the Metropole, Goeller says. The contract helps pay rent for low-income residents who qualify for vouchers.
The vouchers wouldn’t disappear, even if the Metropole evicted all of its residents.
“Somehow Model Management has this specific legal ability to move these HAP vouchers,” Goeller says.
But moving the vouchers from the Metropole would mean the residents would have to reapply for them. For some, the possibility of having to reapply could mean that they might not get re-approved for the vouchers.
“If somebody qualifies for a voucher now, when they get up to move, there’s no guarantee they will qualify for that voucher,” Goeller says. “There are certain things you could have on your record. … There could be something that happened 15 years ago, like a past-due (rent payment), but you have been living in the Metropole for 20 years. You’ve long forgotten about this, and when you get up to move, they say ‘No, you don’t qualify for a voucher.’”
Goeller is working with residents to defend their rights. He has been in the building several times to distribute fliers. He and attorney Rickell Howard of the Cincinnati Legal Aid Society organized a meeting to inform the tenants about the possible forced relocation. Tenants have formed the Metropole Tenants Association.
Goeller says residents should stay put.
Metropole resident Charles Mcafee says he enjoys living downtown. But he said having to move would be more than inconvenient.
“It would really hurt me,” he says. “Number one, I don’t have any family here in Cincinnati. I would be homeless and I would sink through the cracks. I don’t have anywhere to go.”
As of August, 208 of the 230 apartments at the Metropole were occupied, according to HUD.