Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Plan's dilemma: Drop-Inn Center

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The private development group seeking to recharge Over-the-Rhine told Cincinnati City Council on Monday that relocating two schools and expanding Washington Park is critical to spurring new housing development in the blocks surrounding the park.

But some City Council members were interested in another piece of the Over-the-Rhine puzzle that hasn't been mentioned in the plan - the fate of the Drop-Inn Center homeless shelter.

Stephen Leeper, chief executive of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., known as 3CDC, said "it's too early to tell" the future of the Drop-Inn Center, which is near Washington Park at 217 W. 12th St.

Among the things that must be studied is whether the Drop-Inn Center offers sufficient services to its clients or whether school-age children should be near the center's clients.

Shelter clients "probably need services that are greater than are offered," Leeper said. "There is obviously some fallout from that facility there. We've got a challenge there. ... At the same time, we have to be respectful of our students."

Pat Clifford, general coordinator of the Drop-Inn Center, said he's "concerned about the limited public discussion" since the private development group unveiled its Over-the-Rhine plan less than two weeks ago.

Though the development group has talked over its plan with individual council members, Monday's community development committee hearing was the initial public airing of it before City Council. The group also has shared its ideas with Cincinnati Public Schools and other school, parent and neighborhood groups.

The group's plan calls for expanding Washington Park north to the site of the existing Washington Park Elementary school and relocating the elementary school to 14th and Walnut streets.

The group also wants to build a new School for Creative and Performing Arts at Elm and Central Parkway. The school district's designated arts school site, south of Music Hall, would instead be developed as a 750-space garage.

Councilman Chris Smitherman urged 3CDC leaders to pursue "aggressive communication" of the plan, including a formal presentation to the Over-the-Rhine Community Council. The development group already has met with Over-the-Rhine Foundation, Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce and a neighborhood stakeholders group that helped write a master plan for the neighborhood.

Councilman Jim Tarbell warned that council shouldn't derail the plan's momentum.

"For this to be on the fast track for the first time in 30 years is a miracle," Tarbell said.


E-mail kalltucker@enquirer.com

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