City Link Loses Appeal
A controversial proposal to build a one-stop social services center in the West End was blocked today by a Hamilton County magistrate who rejected an appeal in a zoning dispute that was sought by the project’s backers.
Magistrate Richard Bernat ruled that the proposed City Link Center project is a “community service facility” and doesn’t qualify as an allowable use in an area that is zoned as a manufacturing district. Bernat’s ruling upholds an earlier decision by the Cincinnati Board of Zoning Appeals to deny a permit for the project.
If approved, the $12 million project would have created a nearly 100,000-square-foot facility that would have offered a “social services mall” where people could receive health care, job training, drug counseling and more at a single location. The project was proposed by a group called One City, which is a coalition of 10 prominent area churches and social service organizations, including Crossroads Community Church in Oakley and CityCURE of Mount Auburn.
Many West End and University Heights residents who live near the proposed 800 Bank St. site opposed the project, stating it would lower property values, pose a danger to children and hamper efforts to convert the struggling neighborhoods into a mixed-income area. Critics said One City repeatedly ignored requests for meetings with local opponents, lacked ties with local government that they believe would be needed for the program’s success and doesn’t have the support of the neighborhood or its churches.
In February, the West End Community Council voted to oust President Dale Mallory — brother of Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory — from office. Several members were upset that he’d used rules to block a vote to oppose City Link. Although Dale Mallory denied any connections to City Link at the time, since his impeachment it was revealed he lobbied for City Link while working for the Cincinnati Empowerment Corp., which administers federal anti-poverty funds.
City Link’s supporters and people who have done work on their behalf are a veritable web of local movers and shakers. Besides Mallory, they include attorney and conservative GOP activist Christopher Finney, attorney and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke, lobbyist Dick Weiland and a religious group affiliated with County Commissioner Phil Heimlich.
But City Link was opposed by Cincinnati City Council, Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. and 11 community groups located in and around the West End.
— Kevin Osborne