Haves and have-nots in Over-the-Rhine

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tpcejmeeting

Residents and Activists discuss displacement at a January meeting in OTR.

A MEETING held in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood on January 24 to draw attention to the impact of gentrification.

The People’s Coalition for Equality and Justice (TPCEJ)–a group made up of neighborhood residents, members of the International Socialist Organization and activists in the Over-the-Rhine People’s Movement, which goes back four decades–met to discuss the changes occurring in the neighborhood, how they have affected residents and what could be done to keep people in their homes, as more and more pressure is put on low-income and minority residents to leave.

For many residents, the level of inequality is illustrated on a day-to-day basis. Kenya described the situation in frank detail, saying, “Poor people are getting kicked out, and the rich people are moving in.”

Kenya stays in the Columbia building on Walnut Street, which stands on the corner of the current flagship redevelopment project in the neighborhood: Mercer Commons. Nearly an entire block was razed and $63 million was spent to build 28 condominiums, 124 apartments, a parking garage and retail space. Thirty apartments will be “affordable,” however, their affordability will be based on market-rate prices.

While the senior management of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), the group responsible for the redevelopment, boasts that the affordable apartments will be available to those making around $28,000 a year, it is important to remember that OTR is in a neighborhood where the average household income barely exceeds $12,000. In the 2010 census, the location of the Mercer Commons development and the Columbia building was ranked as the most disparate income tract in the entire country.

The Columbia building was recently bought by 3CDC and the plan is to move current tenants out so that it too can be renovated for more affluent residents. Tenants like Kenya are unsure of where they will end up. Such is the general trend of the changes in OTR.

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Issues with Redevelopment Issues

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Responding to this article in Citybeat, I am a member of TPCEJ

A few things:

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1) There has been systematic displacement for the last 20 years at least that has included using the police to forcibly evict residents who were paying their rents, landlords increasing rent on residents (who have no substantial protection against such increases), and the use of legislative and policing tactics to exclude residents from the neighborhood (esp. with the drug exclusion ordinance, and housing impaction ordinance). Furthermore, the empty buildings 3CDC is referring to are part of the systematic displacement. Neighborhoods like OTR don’t experience such rapid population decline (1990: 9572, 2000: 7831, 2005-5009: 4677) without external pressures. While 3CDC has only been involved for the last 10 years, they have been responsible for a great deal of displacement in OTR and downtown. An exact number is hard to find, but an investigation would quickly reveal hundreds of people displaced only by the actions of 3CDC. Displacement/depopulation/divestment must preceed redevelopment, it is a consistent part of the neoliberal urban process. Only when neighborhoods are sufficiently broken and redevelopers are able to buy property for a dollar, get tax credit for “new markets” and steamroll over existing residents and their concerns.

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