Religious leaders: Not So Fast on The Banks
A coalition of 40 Tri-state churches is asking a Hamilton County advisory panel to let its newest members have more time to review a proposed contract with a developer that wants to build The Banks.
A letter issued Tuesday by the AMOS Project states that the advisory panel, known as The Banks Working Group, is about to approve a contract with Atlanta-based AIG/Carter, a firm selected as master developer for the multimillion-dollar housing and shopping district planned along downtown Cincinnati’s riverfront.
Before that happens, the AMOS Project wants more time to allow the working group’s latest appointees — Steve Love and Robert Richardson — to review details of the proposed agreement. The pair was appointed to the working group two weeks ago by Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials, who relented after months of complaints about the lack of African-American or labor union representation in the group.
Love, who is president of the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky African-American Chamber of Commerce, and Robert Richardson, who is president of AFL-CIO International Union Local 1268, are both black. The AMOS Project and some community leaders had been worried that the project’s contract wouldn’t have provisions for minority inclusion in contracting, hiring and job training.
Before the appointment of Love and Richardson, the Banks Working Group consisted of five white men, appointed by city council and county commissioners.
In Tuesday’s letter, the Rev. Gregory Chandler, AMOS president, indicated the signing of a contract was imminent and stated that Richardson hadn’t been given enough time for a thorough review.
“We did not support Mr. Richardson’s appointment to the BWG simply to achieve a symbolic impression of inclusion and broader community involvement in decision making,” Chandler wrote. “Rather, we believe that Mr. Richardson has the full right and responsibility to participate fully in the negotiation and decision-making process regarding a development deal with AIG/Carter and that he must not — and ought not — be expected to support a development deal before he has had the opportunity to fully evaluate what is on the table and to negotiate on behalf of the community interests he was appointed to represent.”
The letter was sent to Cincinnati Reds owner Bob Castellini, who heads the Banks Working Group. It also was signed by leaders from the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and the Faith Community Alliance. Those groups held a March 29 meeting that attracted about 300 people and prompted city and county officials to make the recent appointments.
Chandler’s letter continues, “Mr. Richardson must be given ample time to review ALL information that is available and to PRESENT the important issues that have been raised by the community BEFORE an agreement is signed.”
Proposed in 1999, The Banks is envisioned as a mix of condominiums, offices, shops and a hotel on 15 acres between the Reds and Bengals stadiums next to a large riverfront park. The project has stalled over funding and jurisdictional issues, particularly who will pay for up to $81 million in parking garages and other improvements needed to lift the development above the Ohio River flood plain. County sales tax revenues were supposed to pay for the garages but are far below initial projections.
About $200 million in taxpayer money is expected to be included in any financing plan for The Banks, which has an estimated price tag of about $800 million.
AMOS has proposed a set of goals to the county that calls for hiring Hamilton County residents for at least 50 percent of all workers needed to build The Banks. Of that amount, AMOS wants to have 25 percent come from low-income areas and 15 percent come from apprenticeship programs through area labor unions, so people will gain skills that they can use to find jobs after the project is completed.
Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune has said he expects groundbreaking for The Banks to occur within the next 18 months.
— Kevin Osborne