Old and new join forces to drive progress in Newport

The city of Newport has experienced steady growth in the 15 years since Newport on the Levee brought a major boost to the Northern Kentucky riverfront. More recently, an influx of community-minded residents and business owners has helped Newport solidify its reputation as far more than an entertainment destination.

Small, private investors and business owners are driving much of the city’s revitalization these days, working together to build a diverse new local economy and culture. Many such establishments dot Newport’s main business corridor, particularly near the busy intersection at Monmouth and Ninth streets.

Carabello Coffee is one of the newer community hubs of Newport’s historic business district. The coffee roasting company was started in 2009, moved to Newport in 2013 and is currently implementing plans for expansion.

On a global level, owners Justin and Emily Carabello use some of the proceeds of their business to support causes in coffee-producing developing nations. They're also committed to investing in Newport, where the couple works and lives. Justin is an active member of ReNewport, a citizen-led economic development initiative, while Emily serves as beautification chairperson for their neighborhood’s East Row Historic Foundation.

View from the cafe on the corner

From the coffee shop at 107 E. Ninth St., Justin Carabello can see Newport changing before his eyes.

When Carabello Coffee moved in five years ago, Newport already had a solid base of long-term residents and businesses, but new development was slow. Many storefronts were occupied by short-term tenants, and many surrounding properties were vacant or in disrepair.

Without much incentive to invest in their properties, it’s easy for small businesses and landlords to become complacent. Part of the goal of initiatives like ReNewport is to encourage owners to make positive changes that will affect the community as a whole.

When a few key investors begin taking steps to improve their property and their businesses, there is a ripple effect, Carabello says. He has seen the evidence in surrounding blocks — since they announced their expansion a year and a half ago, new developments have begun springing up in all directions.

Much of this energy, he says, is coming from new residents who are happy to make Newport their home and are excited to get to work.

“We’ve now got all these younger people who want to be here for the next 10 or 20 years and they’re saying, ‘Let’s actually work with the city to bring about the changes that we want to see.’ We’re working together in a really positive way because we don’t have a city that’s just flush with staff and resources. We kind of need each other.”

Commercial district celebrates longtime fixtures, embraces diverse newcomers

With new investment from property owners and enthusiastic residents, local businesses thrive.

The past three decades have seen the growth of longtime Newport favorites such as York Street Cafe, Pompilio's, Green Derby, La Mexicana and Sis’s on Monmouth, while recent years have welcomed new additions to the business core that include Web’s BBQ, 27 Bar+Kitchen and Strong's Brick Oven Pizzeria. These are only a small sampling of Newport’s near 100 restaurants, many of them locally owned and significant contributors to the city’s growing tax base.

Newport is also busily attracting young creatives with entrepreneurial ambitions. New businesses such as Borderlands (a creative workspace and studio), Drive Media House and Turn Vintage Warehouse have joined the community where marketing firm Powerhouse Factories had already set the stage. Down the street from Carabello Coffee, a new Aveda salon called Industry is set to open soon, offering rental apartments above the shop. These are not short-term popup shops — they’re business owners who plan to stay for a while.

Newport continues to maintain affordable and diverse rental options that rival other urban neighborhoods. Some of the most recent housing developments in Newport are the work of larger investors, such as Towne Properties’ new Monmouth Row Apartments as well as the soon-to-be-completed luxury riverfront apartment complex, Aqua on the Levee, from Capital Investment Group. But smaller developers are keeping pace, with a wealth of available rental units in all of Newport’s downtown districts — East, Central and West — that can meet anyone’s price point.

Potential homebuyers can find everything from small row houses and fixer-uppers under $100,000 to historic turnkey single-family homes in the $200,000-$600,000 range. All of these can be found near the central business district, within comfortable walking distance of the Ohio River and Newport on the Levee. Cincinnati is only a few minutes away. As an added bonus, residents within a few hundred feet of Monmouth Street may soon have access to free wifi courtesy of a partnership between Newport IT providers Nexigen and Cincinnati Bell.

Between the diverse and affordable housing options, the rising creative culture and the new and old places to dine and spend time, Newport is on the rise. For those who haven’t been to visit in a while, it’s worth another look.
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