Public reaction to Court and Vine’s project has turned ugly
Editor’s Note: The Enquirer contacted the owners of Vision & Beyond for every story posted, but they declined to be interviewed, relying instead on a spokesperson.
There has been a lot of talk about Vision & Beyond’s ongoing project on Court and Vine Streets in downtown Cincinnati. Some of these statements have put the spotlight on hand-picked information, and it seems the intention is to disparage our company’s reputation.
Here are the facts: We acquired the 19-unit building with the ultimate desire to invest in a structure that has not seen major improvements for 40 years. The Court and Vine building, while still beautifully historic, has not benefited from major updates for several decades. After inspecting the building, we discovered that we were going to have to invest twice as much money in renovations to install sprinkler systems and rewire the electricity.
The Vision & Beyond team knew that taking charge of this building would require a significant investment to restore its internal operations and equipment to modern standards. That’s why, at the end of May, we gave tenants one month’s notice of vacancy – not a formal eviction notice. The upcoming renovation project will be major and it is essential that all tenants vacate the building in the interests of everyone’s safety.
In June, we heard concerns from tenants about the time they had to prepare to move. We responded by giving each tenant two extra weeks. My partner, Peter Gizunterman, and I offered each tenant financial assistance with the move out of pocket. And we invited each tenant to speak to us one-on-one so that we could sort out specific difficulties on a case-by-case basis.
Not a single tenant has accepted this offer.
Instead, we quietly watched local media coverage fuel an organized movement against our company. We watched with great disappointment as social media comments turned to anti-Semitic rhetoric and suggestions that we should go back to Israel and let Americans handle the real estate development needs of Greater Cincinnati. We watched a protest by tenants outside our head office in Mount Auburn last week, with a public address system playing incendiary music about the liberation of Palestine.
It’s not exactly a warm welcome for a group of people who came to Cincinnati to start a business, like so many immigrants before us who also believed in the American Dream.
The truth is, Vision & Beyond is happy to invest in apartment buildings in neighborhoods such as Clifton, Avondale, Westwood, Price Hill and Walnut Hills. We have rehabilitated more than 2,000 apartments in Cincinnati – the majority of which involved Class C housing – serving the people who work in our local restaurants, hotels and hospitals. These developments have been overlooked by Cincinnati developers for many years. We pride ourselves on making improvements to working class housing, and we know that many of our tenants are proud to call our developments home.
And we are committed to evaluating and improving our processes. Vision & Beyond takes this commitment to excellence even further by becoming one of the first developers in Ohio to employ a Tenant Experience Officer. We want our tenants – our direct customers – to see our developments as real communities, not just apartment complexes.
Some Court and Vine tenants have decried our vacancy notices, which sometimes turned into eviction notices after tenants refused to move out, with some refusing to pay rent since April. Renters have shamed us, pointing to a housing shortage in Greater Cincinnati.
We recognize that the region is indeed facing a severe housing shortage. A report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development shows a shortfall of nearly 30,000 affordable and available units in Hamilton County. The region will have to rely on developers to meet this demand. It is unrealistic to expect local and regional government to meet this need; it will take private investment and commercial real estate developers to scale up and produce enough housing for our growing region.
The menacing and downright ugly comments related to our project and our business send a strong message to other developers who might consider coming to the area to help deal with the housing shortage. And that telegraphs a disturbing sentiment over Greater Cincinnati.
Peter and I are proud to call Cincinnati home. My wife and I raise our family here, and many of our team have moved from Israel to Cincinnati. Our team members have had babies here and we are happy to grow our bonds within the community.
We sincerely hope that some of these first impressions do not accurately reflect the people and culture here.
Stas Grinberg is co-founder and CEO of Vision & Beyond Capital Investments.