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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Downtown Revitalization

I recently came across an article by 'Solutions for America' on downtown revitalization. I am not fully aware of all the politics of this organization but they make some great points in the article about revitalization. While most of the article is focused on big city downtowns many of the points that are made are applicable to small towns.

The article starts with the following quote that is very applicable to Fort Thomas:
"research shows that a healthy and vibrant downtown boosts the economic health and quality of life in a community. Specifically, it creates jobs, incubates small businesses, reduces sprawl, protects property values, and increases the community’s options for goods and services. A healthy downtown is a symbol of community pride and history."

For purposes of analysis as it relates to Fort Thomas I will focus my thoughts on the Midway district but a similar analysis could be interesting in regards to the central business district and Inverness. The report mentions a few strategies that appear to be successful across a wide array of communities and studies including:
  1. Aim for a multi-functional downtown - The Midway borders some great assets including Tower Park and the closed to the public reservoir. I think a vision for Midway should include these assets if we are going to make the area successful. In the history of the Midway district it was the Army base that is now our public park that provided a market for retail to begin with. Rather than focusing just on facades or parking we need to pay attention to how the community uses the assets around the retail district and how all assets work together.
  2. Create partnerships - the report says "Downtown revitalization encompasses a wide range of activities. Therefore, it requires the cooperation of local government, chambers of commerce, the private sectors, civic organizations, and other key institutions." While I have not researched the issue I wonder if the city would be able to work with the water district to still allow walkers, runners, & roller-bladers to enjoy the walkway around the reservoirs. That is just one example where cooperation with other area agencies could allow the Midway to be more than what we currently have on the drawing board.
  3. Focus on developing the unique qualities of downtown - the work of the Renaissance Board has definitely been a big help in preserving the architecture and character of the district and the current plan by council to improve the streetscape including burying the utilities and improving the sidewalks will go a long way towards success in this area.
  4. Maintain and develop genuine public spaces - this is one area that I think we have fallen far short on in the Midway. The article lists wide sidewalks as an option and I think this is key for outdoor seating and subsequently for attracting additional restaurants. For anyone that has visited Europe a great feature in many public parks are park tables with chess boards built into them -this is the type of concept that I think would go over great being so close to the VA Hospital and Tower Park.
  5. Get local governments involved - this point focuses on the council's role in making a favorable environment for a renewed community. This includes zoning and support with historical designation.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Home Depot out at Newport Pavilion

The Cincinnati Business Courier reported in their Friday edition of the paper that Home Depot has abandoned one of the three anchor tenant spots in the Newport Pavilion shopping center off 471 between Grand & Memorial. The other two tenants, Target and Kroger, are still committed and the developers Bear Creek Capital are now planning to break the third anchor into three smaller anchor tenants including a sporting goods retailer - which I assume is Dick's.

The article also mentions that as many as 6 restaurants could be slated for the development. How do you feel this will impact development efforts in Fort Thomas? Personally, I don't think it will have much of an impact. Targets that should be sought to locate in our business districts should not be competing with chain fast casual dining restaurants or mega discounters like Target. I believe there is a good niche that is still available to us with the right planning and vision that our residents can still be proud of.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Traffic Counts in Fort Thomas Business Areas

A reader's comment on my previous post made a great point about traffic counts and its impact on the ability to attract retail. As a result I did a little digging and came up with the following information as it relates to traffic counts in Fort Thomas (I believe these numbers are vehicles per day):

Fort Thomas Ave:
1. near Inverness at Waterworks - 3,991
2. at Highlands Middle School - 5,176
3. near the central business district at Chalfonte - 6,727
4. Midway at Tower Pl - 7,053
5. Intersection @ 445 (intersection at old Huff & Invisible Fence) - 11,092

By way of comparison - Fairfield Ave in Bellevue / Dayton:
1. between Walnut and O'fallen 12,650
2. between McKinley & Dayton 9,672

The traffic counts for Milford were a little more difficult to find as the Ohio site was not nearly as user friendly as the Kentucky site. However, it did appear that the traffic counts on US-50 (Main Street) were between 11,000 and 16,000. There is no doubt that vehicle traffic is important in attracting retail but the businesses still have to depend on local residents for support.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Another Story About Milford Renaissance

The Enquirer has published another article on Milford's development. While there is not a lot of new ground covered in this article there are a few items that are of interest for Fort Thomas.

Before I jump into those points I want to say that it was just 6 or 7 years ago that I would ride my bike from a friends house through downtown Milford on my way to the start of the bike trail. I remember a conversation I had with this friend about how there was so much promise but that it was an extremely dead area. The attitude within the community was that retail could not survive in the downtown area - a very similar refrain heard in Fort Thomas.

Some interesting points about the resurgence:
  1. Most everyone seemed to credit the presence of restaurants for the life that has been breathed into the town
  2. Also credited was the location of Milford. This includes its proximity to neighboring communities to draw from including Indian Hill. But possibly more important is the natural location near a river and the bike trail. This could be the same benefit that Tower Park could bring to a re-energized Midway district.
  3. The number of unique businesses that are located in Milford. This includes a toy train store and a doggy bistro. It appeared to be unanimous among merchants that they would not dream of putting their store in a mall. Fort Thomas must focus on these same types of businesses to be successful.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Fort Thomas Conservancy Forming

A group of citizens are forming a Fort Thomas Conservancy with the stated mission of creating 'a grassroots, nonprofit organization charged with promotion of the protection and preservation of natural areas and green space, along with the responsible management of wildlife and the development of park amenities and trails for the enjoyment of nature within the City of Fort Thomas, Kentucky.'

Some of the actions being considered by the group include:
  • enlisting the help of the Kentucky Nature Conservancy and the Hillside Trust along with State and Federal agencies (Land and Water Conservation funds, etc.) to acquire as much of this undeveloped land as is possible.
  • encourage the city government to oversee zoning and development to conform to community standards
  • advocate to the city government for responsible management of the city’s wildlife
  • advocate for the development of park amenities and trails within the city.
While the organizers are in the early phases of development they have been successful in mobilizing support. Plans include the further development of a website, memberships, and further organization. This is yet another example of grassroots mobilization around various ideas about the direction of the city.

What do you think about the stated goals listed by the group? Do you think the priorities are right for the community? What would you propose in each of these areas?"

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Candidates For City Council

As has been widely reported in the area media (Cincinnati Enquirer, Pat Crowley Blog) there was a large amount of interest in the local council races. The community recorder plans to have a brief summary of each of the candidates in their upcoming issue. Many of you will see that I have also thrown my hat in the ring. I will try to avoid using this site as a mouthpiece for the campaign (I have my campaign site for that), but lets admit it - this site has given me a bit of a soap box for some time. I will continue to stick to the developments in the community that I think are important, provide some brief editorial comments, and open it up for your thoughts.

Much has been made of the role the recent deer hunting ordinance has played in everyone's decision to run and much will continue to be made of its role but from my perspective it will not be a one issue race. Many people have indicated to me that they welcome some new faces on council - how do you feel?