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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bank of Kentucky Buys the Nevada Building

Today the Nevada building sold at auction to the Bank of Kentucky. While I am not sure the full motivations of the Bank of Kentucky, the purchase appears to be speculative. According to the article in the Enquirer the bank felt that it can sell for higher than $240,000 (the price paid) and feels there is interest at the higher price. Despite this, it appears there are no solid buyers the bank has lined up for the property.

There were multiple bidders for the property and I know at least one had a strong vision for the property - including the street-front retail space. I hope that a buyer is found with a solid vision for the property that fits with the needs of the community. I am hopeful the bank is patient to look for the right owner and not just jump at the quickest offer that provides a return.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Madeira Development Plan

According to our friends over at Building Cincinnati, another area community is working hard to develop the same type of community and feel that the residents of Fort Thomas desire.

Some highlights from the article include:
  1. Madeira plans to use Camargo road as the main gateway for the town and are focusing their efforts on development along that road.
  2. According to the article one of the primary goals of the session is to, "clarify the zoning code to make the corridor more attractive to developers." I am sure this doesn't mean they are going to tear down the zoning but rather look for strategic ways to make it easier to build businesses along this planned gateway.
  3. "The study will also address under performing structures, traffic flow along the road, and how to attract more pedestrian activity." This indicates a fair amount of foresight in that they are looking property by property to see how it fits into their vision.
  4. Lastly, it is interesting to note the format of the workshop where residents and business owners would break into small groups to create the plan.
It will be interesting to follow Madeira's progress as they put together this plan - I believe this can be a model for how Fort Thomas can create a vision for retail and the various business districts that go beyond facades.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Gallery Zaum

I know this is old news but I wanted to at least comment on it before it was too distant a memory, but a few months ago we lost a good business along the central business district to Newport and their Monmouth business district - Gallery Zaum.

I spoke with the owner to better understand why they made the move - not to grind an axe but to help us better craft a vision for attracting and retaining the retail that is currently in town. The primary reason Gallery Zaum left was because they wanted to own their own building where they could have control over the facilities and house another business his partner runs in the same facilities.

I wanted to be sure I cleared the air on the potential that the community was not supporting the business or that it couldn't survive in Fort Thomas. I believe this is the general perception the community gets when they see a store front turn over and is one of the biggest challenges to rallying the community around attracting more retail to the area.

We also discussed the city's role in supporting the business while they were here and he seemed indifferent. They clearly didn't go out of their way to make it easier to do business and he indicated the city was somewhat difficult to work with regarding things like sign-age. Lastly, he said it appeared the city just lacked a vision for what they wanted retail to become in Fort Thomas. Newport had a very clear vision for what types of retail they wanted along Monmouth Street and the type of vibrancy they desired. While this was the determinant it was just another notch on the scorecard for moving to that location.

I think the lesson we can take away from this are two of the handful of key ingredients to attracting and retaining retail. 1. The lack of vision that we have in Fort Thomas for what we want our retail districts to have and what complimentary businesses we want to attract to the particular retail districts. 2. Reducing barriers to opening retail and providing an environment for retail to thrive.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Big Crowd Tonight at Council

A large crowd showed up tonight at the City Council meeting. I would estimate the crowd to be about 100. After listening to about 40 minutes of commentary it was clear that about 90% of the crowd was against the current ordinance allowing deer hunting in the city. Of the 10% that were not there to oppose the ordinance they too were not in favor but were there to support the need to control the deer population.

Channel 9 and Channel 12 had cameras and it appeared that a reporter from the Cincinnati Enquirer was there as well. Two officers were on hand to keep order but were really not needed. Many of those there were very emotional about what they saw as a hastily crafted ordinance that is doing more to endanger the public than avoid a nuisance.

Of the more interesting things of the evening I spoke with an officer who indicated he was just happy he didn't have to shoot the deer. It really did appear that no one outside of the 6 decision makers at the front of the room were interested in continuing with the hunt. It will be interesting to see what happens now.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Can a Coffee Shop Thrive in the Midway?

As a result of a recent post about investors looking at opening a gourmet coffee shop in the Midway district a question that I have pondered is the competitiveness of this new shop compared to Starbucks. Will enough morning coffee drinkers choose a new shop on the way to work over Starbucks?

Here is a recent article I ran across about the competitiveness of small local coffee shops that compete head to head (in many cases right next door to) a Starbucks. There doesn't appear to be a lot of real research, mostly anecdotal evidence that they can in fact thrive. The article mentions various reasons including the anti-big corporate crowd but there were two reasons I found particularly interesting.

  1. The lines were too long and / or prices too high for many consumers. This one is interesting because as anyone who has visited our Fort Thomas Starbucks between 6:30 and 8 am will know there can be long lines from time to time. So long in fact that I have gone in and turned right back around and left at a rate of about once per month. One of the baristas told me once that this store is, if not the most, one of the busiest stores in the entire Cincinnati metro area from a revenue stand point. There are some interesting quotes in the article from an executive at Seattle's Best, a chain of coffee stores mostly on the west coast.
  2. Starbucks tends to create more caffeine addicts and creates a bigger "pie" rather than monopolizes the current size of the market in a given geography. I think the same can be true for Fort Thomas. Ciani's did a great business on Fort Thomas Avenue with a closer location than the Midway has.

I think the net effect is that the Fort Thomas market can take another coffee shop and judging by the response to the survey on this blog so far it is the over-whelming favorite to add to the retail scene.

Also, I am posting a link from another Cincinnati area blog that recently profiled a new coffee shop in Covington that my wife and I visited a few weeks ago - Pike Street Press. It has a great atmosphere and should be a great place to pick up some ideas for a new coffee shop in the Midway.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Nevada Building Sale Rescheduled

The sale of the Nevada building (see history of the building in a previous post here) has been rescheduled for January 29th at 10am at the Newport Courthouse. Hopefully the sale will complete this time. This is an important property for the revitalization of the Midway district. The building has good parking in the back, views of the reservoir, sits right next to the pub, has great visibility from the street and intersection. If you know anyone interested in bringing retail to the two store fronts on the building and possibly renovating the apartments into condos please let them know about this opportunity.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Disappointing News Story from Channel 12

I came home from work today to a disappointing news story on Channel 12. According to the news story some of the worst fears related to the new deer hunting ordinance appear to be coming true. In the news story (there is also video provided) there are at least 2 disturbing reports that include random hunters in backyards along Highland Ave and along Taylor Ave there have been reports of arrows in back yards as well as a wounded deer that had to be put down by a Fort Thomas police officer using their hand gun. Both stories are troubling at best and I only hope that council comes to their senses soon.

Coffee Shop Being Considered in Midway

A reader of this blog is seriously considering opening a gourmet coffee shop in the Midway district. The space they are considering for the shop would be the old ceramic store in the Midway, a couple doors down from the Pub.

Their early vision for the shop would include a fireplace, long serving bar, all hardwood flooring, free wi-fi, and comfortable furniture. They describe it as being very similar to a "Friends" type of environment. Gourmet coffees will be served, as well as homemade bagels and other breakfast dishes, lunch and inexpensive kids food. It may feature open mike nights, as well as revolving art displays that feature works from Fort Thomas adults and children. We'd like to have a small conference room with a flat screen TV and DVD player, which could be reserved for private meetings. They are considering evening hours as well.

They asked each of the readers of this blog for their feedback. Please post your comments about this vision of a neighborhood coffee shop. If you know the location be sure to provide any of your thoughts about any potential ideas or problems you might see with the location. Do you have any concerns about parking?

Personally, I think it is a very good vision. I believe Fort Thomas is in desperate need of a relaxing environment to hang out and kill a few hours - especially if you can sip on a beverage or have a pastry to enjoy. I think Wi-fi is a must and I think evening hours would be great for a couple of reasons. First, I believe it will give the Midway district the appearance of some life beyond 6pm and secondly because I believe most people are working during the day and would only truly be able to enjoy the atmosphere on the weekends.

What are your thoughts? Would you support the coffee shop?