City Council members' objection to hospital expansion 'disappointing,' says hospital president

WCPOPublished: August 9, 2017
Published: August 9, 2017

Cincinnati Children's Hospital says it will not support two City Council members' motion that would force it to invest another $14 million in Avondale in exchange for a zoning change needed to build a $550 million expansion. The hospital's announcement that it found the motion, which it called "a total surprise," objectionable could lead to a standoff when the full City Council votes on the zoning change Wednesday morning. Council members Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young introduced their motion Monday in support of the Avondale Community Council, which opposes the hospital's expansion plan. The hospital has already committed $11 million for housing and neighborhood improvements in Avondale. The expansion, which include a new emergency room and 10-story patient tower, would reroute Erkenbrecker Street and mean the demolition of a dozen or so houses. "It seems only the budget of this Goliath project matters to council members, not the further destruction of our black neighborhood," Patricia Milton of the Avondale Community Council said at the meeting of Cincinnati City Council's Neighborhood Committee Monday. "We don't want to create little ghettoes where these amazing institutions sit and surrounding them is deterioration, poverty, lack of positive health outcomes," said Simpson. "You cannot look at neighborhoods as acreage in the way of development that you want to do. You have got to understand that you're impacting the lives of people -- real people. They're not just widgets," said Young. Children's officials said the request by Simpson and Young caught them off guard. "I'm not familiar with political procedure so I have nothing to add to that," said Steve Davis, the hospital's chief operating officer. "We'll go back and our team will talk about it and we'll be here on Wednesday." The expansion would fill much of the block bordered by Erkenbrecher, Burnet, Hearne and Wilson avenues, north of its two existing patient towers. The plan also includes a 1,100-car parking garage expansion. The expansion would create up to 600 new jobs and accommodate a 26 percent increase since 2009 in the number of children spending the night at the hospital. Milton said Children's should consider building in Walnut Hills or Liberty Township instead. The current hospital is big enough, she said, and Children's didn't do enough to build neighborhood support during the planning stages.

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