Construction work began on the new $14 million Anna Louise Inn two weeks ago. The start of work marks the beginning of the final chapter in what has been a long, divisive battle for the 184-year-old social service agency against one of the city’s corporate giants.
Between 2010 and 2013 Western & Southern Financial Group, whose headquarters is located adjacent to Lytle Park and the existing home of Anna Louise Inn, fought the renovation of the agency’s 105-year-old home that was originally donated to them by the Charles P. Taft family in 1909.
What had started as an innocent project where the owners, Cincinnati Union Bethel, were awarded $10 million to renovate their facility, turned into an ugly battle with allegations of government misconduct and corporate bullying.
In the end, the corporation working to amass an entire district of property around Lytle Park won. Instead of renovating their long-time home, the Anna Louise Inn was forced to accept a relocation deal after the prolonged legal battle drained the organization’s finances.
The new Mt. Auburn facility will accomplish the goals of the original renovation plans. A new four-story structure will rise at 2401 Reading Road, where a historic streetcar barn previously stood, and include 85 apartments for single women looking for support. Cincinnati Union Bethel officials also say that the 1.2-acre site will include community space, private garden, computer lab and some office space for their administrators.
The project is being financial aided by an $850,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati and a $9.7 million financing package from U.S. Bank.
While the project is anticipated to open in early 2015, there is no word yet as to what Western & Southern will do with the building left behind by the Anna Louise Inn, but executives have previously suggested it could house the center city’s next posh hotel or luxury condominiums.
Community leaders and project officials avoided the controversial history at the groundbreaking, but the uncomfortable back story hung over the event like a thick layer of Beijing’s omnipresent smog.
“It makes no difference where Anna Louise Inn is located,” implored City Councilman Wendell Young (D). “If we applaud nothing else, let’s applaud their history, let’s applaud their work, let’s applaud their commitment, and let’s thank god we will always have Anna Louise Inn.”