After losing a two-year court battle, a nonprofit is now being forced to sell the Anna Louise Inn, a women's shelter providing housing in downtown Cincinnati for more than 100 years, to a Fortune 500 company which plans to turn the historic building into a hotel.
The 60 women living on the property will be forced to leave.
Western & Southern Financial Group offered to buy the building several years ago for less than half its value. Instead of selling it for $1.8 million, Cincinnati Union Bethel, the nonprofit that operates Anna Louise, raised $12.6 million in tax credits and intended to renovate the shelter. But Western & Southern wasn’t done with its bid. They sued the Anna Louise over a zoning issue and a judge ordered a halt to the renovations.
The dormitory-style building is a Georgian Revival. Opened in 1909, Anna Louise was originally a place to stay for Cincinnati newcomers. Over time, it evolved into low-income housing for women who left abusive relationships, prostitution, and drugs behind.
After an expensive legal battle, Cincinnati Union Bethel couldn’t afford to fight any longer and was forced to sell the Anna Louise to the hotel chain.
‘‘I’m upset with them that they would be that greedy to take away what’s been here for so long for women,’’ said Robin Howard, a 55-year-old who moved to the Ann Louise more than two years ago, after escaping an abusive relationship. “We have rights, too. This is home. It’s a safe haven.”
Western & Southern CEO John Barrett has repeatedly said it was time for the women at the Anna Louise to go, alleging they are holding up neighborhood gentrification.
‘‘This truly is a win for everyone and will make Lytle Park a destination like no other,’’ Barrett said in a Monday press release.
Barrett repeatedly referred to the women living there as recovering prostitutes who don’t belong in the neighborhood.
The women are reportedly being relocated to another building in a “shabby” area off a busy street.