A deeply-divided Cincinnati City Council committee will allow the full 9-member council to decide the fate of a proposed $650 million expansion of Children's Hospital Medical Center in Avondale.
Council will meet on Wednesday in a special session.
Many Avondale residents are opposed to the hospital expansion, saying it would disrupt the neighborhood by reducing the housing stock and creating traffic problems.
If approved by council, the hospital will use about four acres of residential land on Erkenbrecher, Hearn and Wilson avenues to build the 150-bed, 600,000-square foot expansion. Houses in the path of the expansion have already been bought by the hospital.
At Monday's Neighborhood Committee, Council Member Yvette Simpson presented a motion to amend the enabling ordinances for the expansion to require the hospital and the city to commit more money to the neighborhood for housing and improvements.
Among the provisions of Simpson's motion are:
- A commitment by the city to give the $583,000 in proceeds from the sale of the city's right-of-way to the Avondale Community Development Corporation;
- A requirement that the hospital invest five percent of the development value of its new campus in housing development and neighborhood improvements in Avondale;
- A required traffic study by the city one year after the expansion is complete;
- And a commitment by the city and the hospital to encourage home ownership in Avondale among its current workforce, along with significant hiring from within the neighborhood.
"I heard the community saying we value Children's; we understand the work they do and we want them to serve young people; we just don't want it to impact us day-to-day so much,'' Simpson told the committee. "That's a reasonable request for people who live there each and every day."
Vice Mayor David Mann, who chairs the committee, said he didn't think putting more demands on Children's Hospital is reasonable.
"I don't think it's fair to expect Children's Hospital to be responsible for all things that challenge our neighborhoods, including Avondale,'' Mann said. "That's on the city. Some in Avondale don't feel that Children's did all that it should have, but Children's did quite a bit and has a record of doing quite a bit. They should be given credit for that."
Simpson said that although she would like to help Children's Hospital, she can't vote for the enabling legislation as it stands. That, she said, is why she offered her motion to amend.
"I want to support this development,'' said Simpson, who is running against incumbent Mayor John Cranley. "But I'm not prepared to do it at the cost of the residents."
Simpson and Council Member Wendell Young voted for her motion. Mann and Council Member Kevin Flynn voted against it. The vote was just the opposite on three ordinances for the project. The committee members agreed to allow all four to go to council on Wednesday.