Despite Berding's promises, West Enders still nervous about possible FC Cincinnati construction

CINCINNATI -- Despite FC Cincinnati president Jeff Berding's reassurances that potential stadium construction would not disrupt the West End, residents of the neighborhood remained concerned Thursday night that the team's interest in their home could mean a loss of housing, history and community.

"Keep our community and move the stadium someplace else," Sharon Carr said at a meeting of the Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses community discussion. "Change is good, but there have been so many families that have already been displaced, so many broken promises."

RELATED: Berding: I'll meet West Enders, no harm to Taft

The West End is one of three locations in which FC Cincinnati has expressed interest in constructing its Major League Soccer-mandated soccer-specific stadium. (FC isn't part of MLS, but hopes to nab its remaining expansion spot by March.)

The other two are Oakley, where experts are conducting a traffic survey to study its potential impact, and Newport, Kentucky.

Berding has touted the stadium as an economic boon to whichever home the team eventually chooses, but West Enders such as Carr said Thursday they were concerned that the construction of a $200 million stadium would increase the area's housing shortage and drive up the cost of living.

RELATED: NAACP demands more transparency about FC Cincinnati's plan in West End

Kelli Prather, who grew up in the area, said it was an issue of "people over profits."

"Right now, our area has a shortage of 40,000 units of affordable housing," resident Brian Garry claimed. "Once this comes through, we can only imagine what the West End will look like in 10, 20, 30 and 40 years."

So far, opponents of the stadium project have collected thousands of signatures opposing it.

No representative of FC Cincinnati attended the Thursday meeting, but Berding promised to attend a future meeting Feb. 13.

"If we are blessed to win the MLS award, we will be pro-active with a community engagement process that included residents, stakeholders and elected officials in these neighborhoods," he said.

Editor's Note: This story originally identified the group of West End neighbors as the "West End Community Council." The meeting was actually a gathering of the Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses. WCPO regrets this error.

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