Posted on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 by Joyce Joyce McMullin in Newsletters
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Route 9 

Work has started on the rebuilding of KY Route 9, a nearly $40 million project that will dramatically improve access into downtown Newport.

The 1.5 mile project will provide direct access from Interstate- 275 in Wilder along the AA Highway/KY Route 9 through Newport’s west side and into downtown Newport, culminating at the southern terminus of the Taylor Southgate Bridge near Newport on the Levee. The project also includes two innovative traffic roundabouts: One near the Fourth Street Bridge into Covington; the other near the Taylor-Southgate Bridge.

The project has already attracted one major economic development project, a Hampton Inn hotel planned for the site now occupied by the Travelodge.

“This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Newport City Manager Tom Fromme recently told The Kentucky Enquirer. "We've been advocating for that roadway for a long time, probably over 20 years. We always felt this was critical for revitalization and to get traffic out of the west end.”

Southbank Partners President Jack Moreland said the project could also attract economic development opportunities and projects to other areas of Newport’s west end, including industrial areas along the Licking River and the site of the planned Ovation residential, retail and hotel project between Fourth Street and the Ohio River flood wall.

 Red Bike Share Program

Southbank Partners has joined other organizations in funding a Red Bike Program for the Northern Kentucky River Cities.

A $20,000 Southbank grant will help launch the popular bicycle ride sharing program. Other contributors for the Newport program include Capital Investment Group, Newport on the Levee, the East Row neighborhood and Peter Newberry of Newberry Brothers Coffee.

The program has been eyeing an expansion into Northern Kentucky, particularly in Newport, Bellevue, and Covington. Bellevue has taken steps to prepare for Red Bike stations prior to the arrival of Major League Baseball's All-Star Game in Cincinnati in July. Newport and Covington hope for a similar timeframe. 

Each station costs between $45,000 and $50,000. Newport plans to install four stations: two at Newport on the Levee; one on Monmouth Street; and one near Water Town Square. Newport on the Levee is a top choice for Red Bike users. 

Covington and Bellevue are also raising money to develop Red Bike stations. Portions of the Southbank grant will be used in those cities as well as in Newport. 

“This puts us on the cutting edge,” said Newport city Commissioner Beth Fennell. “There are more Newport residents riding bikes than ever before. I think it could bring more people to Monmouth Street, too.”

Northern Kentucky Economic Development Partners with Bluegrass International Fund

Southbank Partners and The Catalytic Development Funding Corp. of Northern Kentucky have teamed up with The Bluegrass International Fund (BiF) to attract foreign investment into the state and region.

Frankfort-based BiF has been approved to operate as an EB-5 Regional Center by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. Created by the US Congress in 1992, EB-5 Regional Centers can provide low-cost financing for qualified projects that generate a significant number of new jobs through foreign investments.  BiF was established in January 2014 to attract foreign investments for real estate projects in Kentucky and Southern Indiana that spur jobs and economic growth. 

Lynn Allen, CEO of BiF, said approval of BiF as an EB-5 Regional Center gives it the green light to offer attractive financing for projects in Kentucky, including Northern Kentucky. 

“Northern Kentucky has an abundance of assets, including attractive real estate development projects that will spur new jobs and economic growth” Allen said. “BiF looks forward to working with Southbank Partners and The Catalytic Fund to provide meaningful capital that will help make the goals of Vision 2015 a reality and contribute to the enormous potential of the Northern Kentucky region.” 

Southbank Partners President Jack Moreland said the EB-5 designation is a proven method of attracting new jobs and investment into communities. 

“Southbank has been interested in EB-5 for quite a while because we have such tremendous economic development opportunities in Northern Kentucky,” Moreland said. “And we know that when presented those opportunities, foreign investors will be interested.”

 Taylor Creek Culvert

Taylor Creek Culvert is located between the Chart House Restaurant and Joe's Crab Shack Restaurant. This area has substantial deterioration.  Severe erosion around the outlet of the culvert has occurred, requiring modifications to the culvert's discharge location.  When this project is complete, it will stabilize and improve the river bank area and will become a very nice green area for residents and visitors to enjoy.

Sunesis Construction Company, of West Chester, Ohio has been awarded the contract on this $3.8 million project.  

Southbank Partners worked with Rob Hans, Chief District Engineer for Department of Highways District 6, State Rep. Dennis Keene, D-Wilder, and the cities of Newport and Bellevue on the project.

“This structure has exhibited substantial deterioration of the last several years,” said Hans. “Severe erosion around the outlet of the culvert has also occurred, requiring modifications to the culvert’s discharge location. When the project is complete, it will stabilize and improve the river bank area, allowing opportunities to the City of Newport and the City of Bellevue for future use of the area.”

Southbank Partners has received some funding from Duke Energy to help with the green space and will continue to seek additional funding to complete the green space project.  

“This is just another part of cleaning up the riverbank to allow the river cities to capitalize on one of their biggest assets, the Ohio River,” Moreland said.

Riverfront Commons Springs to Life 

Last June officials from Southbank, The City of Newport, The Kentucky General Assembly and the State of Kentucky Transportation Cabinet dedicated a $1.2 million walking bridge that connects Newport on the Levee and the Purple People Bridge with a new walking path atop the floodwall that runs east of the Levee to the I-471 bridge. 

The project is the first phase of Riverfront Commons, the planned 11.5 mile walking and biking path that runs along the Ohio River from Ludlow on the west to Fort Thomas on the east. Funding came from a combination of federal, state and local dollars. 

“You have to have teamwork to win and that's exactly what this project has,” Newport Mayor Jerry Peluso said at the dedication. “When we come together there is little that we can't accomplish.”

Work will continue in 2015. Southbank worked with the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Council of Regional Governments to (OKI) secure about $600,000 in federal transportation grants that will pay for about 1.5 miles of the path through Ludlow, Covington, Newport and Bellevue as well as new signage.

Covington is spending an $182,000 federal grant on a paved bike and walking path from the Roebling Suspension Bridge west to KY Route 8 just past the Brent Spence Bridge.

Ludlow will use a $250,000 federal grant for 3,000 feet of riverfront path from the Board of Education property to the Railroad Bridge.

In Newport, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will spend $3 million to develop a park and stabilize the ground where Taylor Creek flows into the Ohio River near the Bellevue City Line. State Rep. Keene assisted in securing the funding.

Bellevue will install new signs along the river and pave sidewalks in the retail development that features Buckhead and Joe’s Crab Shack with a $200,000 grant.

Southbank will continue to pursue additional grant dollars to complete the Riverfront Commons Project.

Developers’ Day

Southbank, its partner cities and several other public institutions and private companies showed off the region’s success and economic development potential during the 2014 Developers Day held in August at The Northern Kentucky Convention Center.

Members of the Kentucky General Assembly joined local leaders, business owners and elected officials at a Cincinnati Reds game the evening before Developers Day.

The actual event featured a morning meeting of the Kentucky General Assembly’s Appropriations and Revenue Interim Committee, which heard presentations from a number of organizations and individuals including:

  • Northern Kentucky Convention Center Executive Director Gretchen Landrum; 
  • Northern Kentucky University President Geoff Mearns;
  • Gateway Community and Technical College President Dr. Ed Hughes;
  • Mike Conway, chairman of the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau and Bureau Executive Director Eric Summe;
  • Jeanne Schroer of the Catalytic Development Fund of Northern Kentucky;
  • Casey Barch of UpTech;
  • Newport on the Levee General Manager Harold Dull;
  • Developers Gregg Fusaro of Capital Investment Group and Arn Bortz of Towne Properties, companies that building residential developments in Covington, Newport and Dayton;
  • Developers Bill Kreutzjans and Guy Van Rooyen, who are restoring historic properties in Downtown Covington;
  • State Representative Diane St. Onge (R-Lakeside Park);
  • Southbank Partners President Jack Moreland;
  • And representatives of the six river cities that make up Southbank Partners.

The afternoon session featured presentations to developers, investors, property owners and others from city officials as well as economic development and real estate investment experts and professionals. Representatives from Duke Energy, The Taft Law Firm, The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and others lead the discussions and presentations.

“We are a dynamic community offering incredible development projects for the right professional,” Moreland said. “Northern Kentucky Developers’ Day will serve as the catalyst for the right match.”

New Development at the Levee

Newport officials and developer Capital Investment Group broke ground last November on an $80 million development alongside Newport on the Levee. 

It will include a 144-room hotel in the burgeoning Aloft chain and 239 apartments atop an 800-space garage for a development called Aqua on the Levee. 

"The changes we are about to embark upon are nothing short of amazing," said Newport City Manager Tom Fromme as he stood under a tent in the parking lot next to Newport on the Levee with several dozen people in business attire. Some came from as far away as California, as was the case for the managers of the Price Group, which owns Newport on the Levee. 

They also expect the 10,000 square-feet of meeting space for the hotel to make Northern Kentucky more competitive to host events and organizations.

The Levee's owners, The Price Group, out of California, have committed $12.5 million to build 305 parking spaces for Levee visitors in the new garage as well as a common area connecting the Levee and the new hotel and apartment complex. 

The hope is that having the new residents and hotel guests across from the Levee will attract more retailers, restaurants and other businesses to fill out Newport on the Levee's remaining spaces, said Sherry Bahrambeygui, a managing member with The Price Group. She couldn't say what the current occupancy rate is.

The seven-story hotel building will feature rooms that resemble loft apartments, hence the name, said Chester Musselman, with Louisville-based Musselman Hotels, which will operate the hotel.

The apartment complex is expected to be completed in fall 2016. The hotel will likely open in late 2016 or early 2017. The parking garage must first be built underneath the hotel and apartments. 

"With this project, we'll have over 1,000 construction jobs in the next two years," said David Bastos, a partner with Capital Investment Group. "We're going to have 500 residents here between the hotel and between the apartments, living, breathing and working here and going back and forth between Newport on the Levee, downtown Newport and downtown Cincinnati."