Saturday, December 29, 2007
Kathy states in her latest email, "I want to thank everyone for your overwhelming response and feedback to my email regarding Ft. Thomas' deer management program."
I have found the same to be true. While there are some that I have spoken with that could care less one way or the other - the majority that I have spoken with think this is the most ridiculous idea our city council could have proposed.
Lastly, according to Channel 12 there have been two reported deer killings since the hunt began. The one thing that stuck out to me in the article is the fact that the city administrator is trying to compile a list of those allowing deer hunting on their premises. This underscores the hasty nature of which this ordinance was passed. These are the types of things that should have been handled prior to the beginning of the hunt. I would love to hear from anyone who has been contacted by the city to determine whether they are allowing hunting on their property.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Kathy provides the following links to other cities that she references:
Thursday, December 27, 2007
"In his presentation, Leinberger stated that the reason for the new market demand for more urban walkable places can be attributed to Generation X. Leinberger claims that this generation grew up on shows like Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex in the City, where city living is seen as hip. In comparison, the Baby Boomers grew up with shows like Leave it to Beaver. Gen-Xers view living the walkable metropolitan life as trendy instead being previously viewed as "dirty" by generations past."
Along this line of reasoning there is a new site - Walk Score - that gives a walk-ability score for communities using an algorithm that is a bit skewed but useful to some degree. It inventories things such as schools, grocery stores, coffee shops, libraries, parks, etc and calculates the distance between each and the location you submit for a walkability score on a scale of 0 to 100 where 100 is highly walkable and 0 has you hopping in your car to get anywhere.
The results for Fort Thomas is a bit disappointing - 58. This is even more disappointing considering some of the flaws probably worked to inflate the score. For instance it lists Chik-fil-A at Tower Place Mall as .82 miles and adds to the restaurant score. It also listed Fort Thomas Independent Schools - the Board office - as a school. By comparison some scores of neighboring or even comparable communities:
Bellevue - 65
Newport - 82
Milford - 45
Mariemont - 80
Fort Mitchell - 58
Loveland - 28
While not fail proof this site can be a good tool for policy makers to determine the types of retail that should be attracted to the business districts. If I were to create a second generation of the tool I would incorporate more weighting for locally owned businesses that are unique and create a sense of community. A location that adds to the live-ability of the community.
According to the US Census Bureau the following represents a summary of the percentages in the various age categories from the 1990 and 2000 census:
Categories 1990 2000
Total Population 16,031 16,495
Under 18 23% 25%
18 - 24 8% 7.8%
25 - 44 31% 29.1%
45 - 64 19% 22.3%
65+ 18% 15.8%
From these statistics there are a couple of things that stand out. The first is the shift from the over 65 age group to the 45 -64 age group. We see a 2.2% drop in the over 65 age group that is shifted to the 45 - 64 age group with an increase of 3.3%. The second shift that stands out is an increase in Under 18 age group of 2% that is off-set by the subsequent decrease of 2% in the 25 - 44 age group.
My opinion is that this paints two stories. The first is a decrease in the age of the community. The second is what appears to be the attractive nature of the school system in Fort Thomas. As I have seen from people I have met in Fort Thomas, it is the school system that caused them to move to the area. While it could also be families having more children I think the corresponding increase in the 45 - 64 age group shows it is more people moving in than just an increase in children to the same families.
This is the type of analysis that we need to communicate to potential retail investors. This is an attractive demographic for retailers. It is also important for the city to understand that with the shifting dynamic of the residents of Fort Thomas, they expect different things such as retail that they can have dinner at, a bakery they can buy fresh breads from, specialty groceries, or a relaxing night spot.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I am dumbfounded as to why we are going to allow bow hunting on private property in our city. As I mentioned in a previous post about demographics Fort Thomas is densely populated and when you have arrows traveling at over 300 feet per second this poses a public safety threat. I never thought that the very people charged with protecting its citizens would put them in harms way. And all this for 4 extra car accidents per year. I would love to hear from anyone out there who knows someone who has had a car accident with a deer in Fort Thomas because I know no one. The potential cost of this proposal absolutely does not outweigh the benefits.
Here is a link to the Cincinnati Enquirer article. Some of my favorite quotes from it include:
- Jeff Sudkamp apparently can't pull into his driveway because of the large deer hurds that prevent him from doing so. He indicates he has multiple people interested in hunting deer on his property which is located at Woodland off of Highland and .3 miles away from Ruth Moyer Elementary, Highland Park, and the Swim Club.
- "Our primary concern is safety," said Councilman Roger Peterman. "We were faced with issues of increased traffic accidents and human-deer confrontations." Again - anyone out there have a recent human-deer confrontation? I'm not even sure what that is and it is almost laughable that our councilman's primary concern is safety when he has now endangered the community with the solution.
- Violation of the specific ordinance will result in a $250 fine. This seems like a slap on the wrist if an arrow ends up in my yard or a dead deer carcass.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The results for Bellevue have been modest (20 conversions) - no numbers were given for the number of off-street parking spots but the incentive is $500 per parking spot. The quote from the city administrator: "By encouraging people to convert the homes back, we might be losing density, but we are gaining a possible homeowner which increases the value of the neighborhood and the quality of life for the whole community,"
A similar model could be used for attracting retail in the 3 defined business districts in to convert rental units to store front retail. Incentives could be offered for current street-front owners that are currently renting to office use or residential multi-tennant use. If, and I believe it does, begin with the decisions landlords make about what type of use they rent their commercial space for then a similar model could have an impact.
The key however is getting the administration to agree that this is one of our primary objectives for moving the city forward. Apparently the current number one objective is controlling the deer population?!?
Monday, December 10, 2007
I looked at demographic data for Loveland, Mariemount, Milford, Bellevue, and Hudson, OH as compared to Fort Thomas. While most of those surrounding areas are probably very familiar to you I have posted a few pictures to give you a better idea of what these communities look like and to give you a vision of what they have done in case you have never visited there.
Hudson, OH - the first picture shows their newer development and the second is the older part of town. Store fronts are almost exclusively retail and they have a good mix of locally owned and chain. All retail seems to compliment the store front next door. Also notice how the newer development blends well with the older part of town.
Hudson had by far the best demographics for retail. They had a larger land mass and population. Not to mention they had far and away the largest median income. That being said the other demographic numbers were comparable to Fort Thomas.
The next town we looked at was Milford, OH
Milford could not even match the attractiveness for a retail business investor. Granted the data was from the 2000 census and Milford has grown quite a bit since then but Fort Thomas should still be a more attractive retail spot. Across the board from crime to total population to median income and college graduates Fort Thomas should win but take a trip down Main Street in Milford and you would have no clue it was so lopsided.
Next is Loveland.
While Loveland has the advantage of having the little miami bike trail running through its downtown the demographics point to the fact that again - Fort Thomas could be a more attractive place to set up retail. Ask anyone you know in Loveland and the picture above did not happen by accident. It took planning, vision, and a dedication to make the area a destination. My wife and I have stopped for lunch during a fall bike ride and loved the experience.
At the risk of sounding redundant I am going to stop now. I think you get the picture - all beautiful locations with differing assets but the one common thread that has created a great place to eat, play, and live is the vision by planners and leaders in these communities to attract the right types of retail for their communities.
Take one look at the table below (I apologize now for readability concerns since blogger doesn't have a good way to create a table) and see that Fort Thomas too has some great assets but has never had a vision to create the types of retail districts seen in these other photographs.
|City||Population||Median Income||Land Area(sq miles)||Pop Density(per sq mile)||% HS Grads||% Bachelors||% Married||Daytime Pop Change||# Crimes||# Banks|
|US Average||$ 50,185||211.7 index|
|Fort Thomas||16,495||$ 60,658||5.67||2744||89%||37%||57%||-24%||173||7|
|Hudson, OH||22,439||$ 103,000||25.6||902||97%||67%||73%||19%||262||10|
|Milford, OH||6,284||$ 39,000||3.76||1681||78%||24%||50%||10%||328||12|
|Mariemount, OH||3,408||$ 61,800||0.85||3657||94%||64%||60%||49||2|
I would love to hear any ideas from you about how we can jump start this visioning process to allow others in the community to dream of creating a destination retail area for Fort Thomas residents.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Among the points from the panel discussion:
- The primary message from the panel discussion was that there are three main ingredients to attracting retail (in no particular order):
- Demographics - we'll go into this later in a future post.
- Market research - again more in a future post as it goes well with the prior point
- David Birdsall, CDO at Phillips Edison and panelist, was quoted as saying "I've been involved in very few projects in my 15 years that make financial sense on face" We have to find ways to provide financial incentives for retailers to locate in Fort Thomas. However, part of the problem is the lack of recognition by the city that this is our number one priority to create a vitality in the community that is not only currently missing but that most new residents expect. I have heard a few (minority voices) within the city administration that recognize this fact but we need more leadership and planning at the council level to create incentives that are not too costly and take away from providing basic services but are rich enough to truly incentivize those that are passionate about a particular business to invest their time and resources into a store-front.
- Steve Brandt, CEO of the brokerage firm Brandt Retail Group agreed that most demographics are digested rather quickly. So he posts a series of questions to community officials looking to attract specific retailers, such as: What is the community support for this tenant? He also asks about zoning regulations, utilities and architectural guidelines, because that can get expensive. Again this needs to be a component of a larger plan to attract retail to Fort Thomas. How to streamline the approval process, avoid making regulations overly restrictive to getting started generating revenue, and minimizing any fees that may be associated. This has been evident as the NKY skyline has grown over the past couple of decades for Cincinnati. They were overly restrictive and bureaucratic and watched investment walk away and across the river. Again, I will go into a more detailed discussion of some ways to make this happen effectively in Fort Thomas in a future post.
's recently launched "Shop 52" campaign to attract retail to not only downtown but to its 52 area neighborhoods. In the article they discussed how the plan called for 4 basic plans of action:
- Re-examined demographic figures to learn the local population is actually growing, not declining. While this is not a huge concern for Fort Thomas I do believe the demographics of our town and in relation to surrounding communities and the lack of retail provide an attractive option for their potential investment dollars.
- They assembled a retail task force. While I don't believe in over complicating the situation it shows a level of commitment to attracting retail and provides focused attention on getting retail investment.
- Began attending major retail and real estate trade shows. While chain stores is not exactly the type of retail we are trying to attract nor would it fit within the context of the community's needs we need to think about how we can cultivate retail business activity in Fort Thomas. This could include calling a summit of investors and interested retail business owners - possibly made up entirely of Fort Thomas residents but does not and should not be limited to that.
- Hired a marketing specialist. Again, I am not sure this is the best use of tax dollars for a town the size of Fort Thomas but we need focused attention on truly trying to attract the type and quality of retail expected in Fort Thomas.
- In the Business Courier article Steve Brandt indicates that the demographic and market data is important, "because in the end, cities and townships need to be clear about their dedication to a project. It's really important to the retailers to understand the commitment." Not to belittle the efforts that have been given by a few in the city administration but up to this point the city has really only given lip service to wanting retail but the city has made little to no concrete steps to develop retail. These could include any of the actions taken by the city of Cincinnati listed in the previous post or a whole host of other options which we will continue to cover on this site.
- "Birdsall added in a question-and-answer session, do not forget about the local offerings. There are only so many national chains out there, and many of the best opportunities - such as Boca and Via Vite restaurants - were raised right here in
. It is important to make risk-free opportunities for them as well, he said. We need to incubate and develop our own local retail." This quote pretty much sums it all up. We must find ways to provide incentives for the right types of retail to open in Fort Thomas to create the type of dynamic community we all desire.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Sunday, December 2, 2007
I spoke with a representative of Wessels today and identified the following:
1. The development encompasses just the east side (high side) of Memorial Parkway. I have some leads on the activity on the west side and will post more info on that later.
2. The expected completion time line is 24 months which puts it into 2009. They recently staked out a turn lane into the property but the weather and a backup with the paver will probably delay its completion.
3. As reported in the Enquirer a few months ago it is 120 market rate apartments - mostly two bedrooms but some one bedrooms as well.
In a few other notes he indicated that they have wanted to do this for some time but the apartment market had been soft but this year was their best year ever. As an editorial note I am sure the next couple years will only be better for them with the current foreclosure crisis and a small boom in the overall apartment market. He also indicated that the timing on the development was made much easier with the dirt from Capital and their development on the hillside in . This same dirt is being provided for the land across the street and may hasten development on that side as well.
While it is generally never good weather in the first week in December this year it was especially nasty .... thunderstorms? In December? It did really put a damper on the annual tradition and turnout suffered.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Here is a link to the city's site regarding deer control tips. The article indicates that Fort Thomas has averaged 9.2 deer collisions in the past 3 years. How does that compare to other areas? I know that I see a lot of deer carcasses along I-75 but never really see anything close to that in Fort Thomas.
According to the Kentucky State Police website there were 134 accidents in Boone County on average, 91 in Campbell. Obviously this is much larger area but the site also published a detailed map of every reported incident of deer collisions and at least 4 other areas in Northern Kentucky had many more incidences of collisions than in including Hebron Burlington (centered on Camp Ernst Rd), Erlanger (mostly along Turkeyfoot), (both US27 and the AA Highway were big hot spots for deer collisions), and finally in Independence along KY 17.
Now I don't want to down play the real threat that deer collisions can pose or the fact that they can cause deaths. However, generally deaths and damage for that matter occur generally only at higher speeds. In the only road that has a higher speed limit than 35 is along Memorial Pkwy which has been cited as the single biggest place for deer collisions. I also don't want to down play the cost of fixing a damaged car - according to the Kentucky state police site they indicate that a deer collision can cause $2,000 in damage on average.
While I do think that much of the criticism to the population control plan has been blown out of proportion I do think this is a very dumb idea. We have to look at the true cost / benefit of such a plan. I think the slight risk of a stray bullet outweighs the benefits of any reduction in accidents. Even if we are able to reduce the deer population with this plan there is no guarantee we will reduce the number of collisions that occur. While a reduction is likely other factors are at play including the number of people using Memorial Parkway and the loss of deer habitat from surrounding developments along Memorial Pkwy, in , Woodlawn, and Bellevue.
So is this a real problem for Fort Thomas and what are other reasonable solutions? While I think the problem has been a little overblown it can become a real problem down the road and doing nothing now can become a much bigger problem later. The ordinance to fine those who are feeding deer is a great first step and I believe will help - kudos to the city for this one. I also believe that there has to be a way to control the population through birth control. This approach is being studied across the country (here is an example of consideration being given to this plan in ) and may be a short year or two away from approval and widespread acceptance. I advocate the new city ordinance against feeding deer and waiting until other more viable options present themselves.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
The Midway district has held so much promise for the past couple of decades but has failed to live up to its promise. Its proximity to Tower Park (across the street), its location in town at the point of transition from North and South Fort Thomas, and its old town look and feel are all great assets that have never been fully exploited.
In the past year or two there have been many Renaissance Board grants that have been awarded to individual store owners to improve the facade on their buildings. Additionally, the city has filed for a historic designation. I have attached a link to an article from NKY.com regarding this application. Being awarded this designation could mean more money for building improvements by individual owners.
Many of you may know that there is also a plan for a re-development of the public infrastructure that is making its way through city council. I have not seen the details but have heard that it includes some repositioning of the intersection in front of Fort Thomas pizza, more parking and street scape improvements. I have not seen these plans but will pass them along to you if I can get them in digital form.
All of this adds up to a great opportunity for the area. With that being said not everything is roses for this area. I contend that the biggest thing that is lacking for a better district - not just Midway but the Central Business District and Inverness is a vision for the areas. The city should work with building owners in the area to identify the types of business that are desired for the area - possibly around a common theme - and then work to attract those types of businesses.
A perfect example comes from a recent article in the Cincinnati Enquirer regarding a new store in Milford - A&N Outfitters. This article really underscores the work that the city of Milford has done in re-vitalizing an older downtown that was in decline but has made a comeback in a big way. One quote really stands out to me as the owner talks about the advantages of moving to the location in Milford: "His store is a perfect fit with the neighbors, who cross-promote one another's businesses: Nature Outfitters, which sells outdoor gear, and Rustic Comforts, a cabin-home store, are just down the street. And the river is just out the back door."
For Fort Thomas to really re-vitalize the three business districts in Fort Thomas it takes this type of planning and vision to attract complimentary businesses that can not be found in a strip mall in Kenwood or Crestview Hills. Maybe this is capitalizing on the bike trails in and around Tower Park or perhaps it is creating a distinctive entertainment area for a more affluent laid back clientale. Regardless a vision must be created. Along with the vision must be cooperation among building owners and supportive zoning.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
Here is a link from NKY.com about the building if you need more info. I had a first-hand experience with the building while with a group that rented a portion of the building for a year. It is in a great location and a great location to capitalize on the re-vitalization of the Midway district. The buyer will definitely need to invest some money into improvements on the building but the spaces available in the building are unbeatable.
Info on the Sale:
Tomorrow morning (Tuesday) at 10:00 is the Master Commissioner sale of the building (1045 S. Fort Thomas Avenue).
The sale will be held at the Courthouse, just inside the doors.
To purchase the building, you will need cash or a check for $500 and a letter of credit from your bank indicating you have the amount of your bid available to use for the purchase. The balance will be due two weeks after the sale.
If you choose to use another bidder instead of showing up personally, that person will also need the $500 plus your letter.
The bid will begin at about $116,666.