Northern Kentucky: Connection and Revitalization of the Urban Core
Like many urban areas of the country, Northern Kentucky's urban core has suffered over the past few decades as homeowners and businesses populated the suburbs. However, a group of dedicated developers, individuals and community and private organizations are banding together to rejuvenate the region's once vibrant inner cities. Transforming Northern Kentucky's urban core won't be easy or quick. It will take long-term vision, planning, funding, determination and community support.
There are several plans and large-scale developments underway in the river cities of Newport, Covington and Dayton that are exciting and all different, but have some common threads: connecting neighborhoods, natural resources and amenities and jobs.
In short, revitalization of the urban core comes down to connecting people.
Covington's Riverfront Commons Project
Envisioned as "a nationally-recognized amenity and destination," Riverfront Commons is planned as a multi-use trail linking Northern Kentucky's river cities and offering connections to Cincinnati via the Purple People Bridge, to the proposed Licking River Greenway, and to the Boone County park system. The $170 billion project would include bike and pedestrian paths, erosion stabilization, and connections to the business districts and Devou Park in Covington along the path.
Officials with SouthBank Partners, which is leading the initiative, have said that Riverfront Commons represents $60 million in infrastructure that will encourage $1.5 billion in private investment. The plan is also expected to create 4,000 permanent jobs.
A large part of this project is connecting the region's river cities, making residential, arts, retail and dining easier to access city-to-city and neighborhood-to-neighborhood. The idea behind the project is to make the riverfront an attractive place for developers, potential shoppers, and homebuyers.
"What we want this area to be is a gathering place and a statement of what the Northern Kentucky community has to offer," said Roger Peterman, chair of Riverfront Commons SouthBank Committee spearheading the effort. "One of the statements we want to make is this area along the riverfront is where it all flows together for the Northern Kentucky community. We want to connect the variety of entertainment, shopping and tourism opportunities that exist."
The project is still in its early stages, but is gaining momentum. In less than two months, more than $200,000 of $350,000 needed has been pledged for DC advocacy efforts for the project, which is supported by many local river city governments.
SouthBank and its partners will soon begin working to educate community members about the project's benefits. That public support ultimately will play a large role in the project's success.
Dayton's Manhattan Harbour Project
The Manhattan Harbour Project in tiny Dayton, Kentucky, is set to totally transform this river city. This $900 million plan is set to create a "comprehensive village town feel," said Terry Chan, CEO of C&M Investment Group, in a recent interview with WNKU radio.
C&M, based in Over-The-Rhine, is spearheading this ambitious project which will include 2,000 residential units (in a city currently home to 6,000), 30 to 40 small restaurants, a marina, walking trails, a concert area and office space. About 35 percent of the 140-acre development would be green space. The plan has already attracted the attention of a South Korean tech firm that wants to use "smart technology" to make Dayton the first "smart city" in the nation.
Covington Arts District
In the past four years, the vision for the emerging downtown Covington Arts District has been to create a place where artists can work, play, live and make a living. The District got a big boost last year when it opened the multi-million dollar Covington Artisan Center, at 25 W. 7th St. It's a place where artists can come together and share ideas on business and their crafts. The center offers free workshop and gallery space and conference rooms. In addition, business, art and marketing classes are also offered.
"The strategic plan is to create revitalization through the arts. If you get artists here it becomes a creative experience (living in Covington) instead of a beat-up downtown area," said Natalie Bowers, Arts District Manager.
The district, which sits in the heart of Covington's urban core along Pike and 7th streets, encourages development and rehab of the city's historic buildings through a host of tax and other incentives.
"Covington is a city of 43,000 people that doesn't really give a city a whole lot of tax income and revenue, and we are operating on very limited means. One way to stimulate economic activity is through the arts. And whether it's organic or supported by a city effort, it is a way to bring the creative class to the city to make it more interesting," Bowers said.
Catalytic Development Funding Corporation of Northern Kentucky
Not all projects in the core can or will be as grand as what's happening in Covington, Dayton and other parts of the region.
The new, non-profit Catalytic Funding Corporation
of Northern Kentucky will help secure needed financing for smaller, residential projects in all urban river cities including Ludlow, Dayton, Bellevue, Covington and Newport.
"The Catalytic Corporation has a goal of raising $10 million with a longer term $20 million goal," said executive director Jeanne Schroer. She has more than 25 years in commercial real estate financing for companies including Corporex
. "It will be funded primarily through financial institutions and corporations," she said.
"The mission is to accelerate the revalidation of Northern Kentucky urban core neighborhoods. There are very large projects on the river, and a lot of investment on the river has been successful, but that investment needs to spread into the urban neighborhoods. These investments can have a catalytic impact. Money into a project will be a catalyst for another new development," she explained.
The corporation will fund mixed-use, small residential and neighborhood retail projects.
"It's important for the economic development of a region that the urban core is revitalized. That is what is going to attract companies and investment to this region," Schroer said.
Sources: Roger Peterman, chair of Riverfront Commons Southbank committee, Natalie Bowers, Covington Arts District Manager, Jeanne Schroer, Executive Director Catalytic Development Funding Corporation of Northern Kentucky and WNKU