Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment

Opticare Vision/Express Mobile Transport

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fort Thomas Political Update

Fresh off some big national headlines related to politics that includes the passage of a giant health care bill and the talk of mid-term elections perhaps it is time to start talking about some local politics and prepare for a plethora of yard signs like the ones above from a previous Virginia state race.

There really does not appear to be the same type of hard issues facing the city this year as there was 2 years ago.  Have we grown complacent or are we really that satisfied with where the city is headed?  In addition to the city council race again we also have the mayoral race taking place again which has the potential of firing up the election locally.

With deadline for candidate filings just 3 short weeks away (Jan 23rd) I thought I would check in to see who if any have filed for the local races.  A quick call to the Campbell County Courthouse indicates that no local Fort Thomas candidates have filed for any races.  Is anyone aware of any new challengers for council or for mayor?

Some updates to local news that could provide some issues for candidates to seize (assuming that it is a competitive race) include:

1. Rossford Park - a little shocked at the price tag.  While the plan has been approved financing has not been decided.  The plan will likely still be 2 - 3 years or more before the vision becomes a reality.  Given that fact that it has been at least a year converting the tennis courts in Highland Park to volleyball courts and it is still not completed or the time it has taken to get the amphitheater fill dirt leveled out I am guessing it will be some time to see the full plan realized.

2. Counting the Deer Population - $8,000 seems like a small price to pay to get a baseline of the deer population.  I had advocated this approach 2 years ago when the deer hunt was an issue.  The outrage seems to have subsided now but this should be at least a good factual data point to evaluate as decisions about the hunt and how to control the deer population re-emerge at the end of 2010 when the initial plan expires.

Also, there was a recent article on where the County Clerk indicates that there will be paper ballots in the 2010 election cycle instead of voting machines.  This feels like a step back to me but the reason given was to speed up voting.  I just hope it doesn't create quality problems in the vote count.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

NYE in Fort Thomas

Hope everyone had a great Christmas. Hopefully yours was spent among friends and family.

Just wondering if anyone knew of local businesses throwing New Year's Eve special shindigs? A quick, Google, Facebook, Twitter search allowed me to find some (listed below).

Personally, I can't think of a better way to celebrate NYE than in Fort Thomas: not a far drive = not having to deal with amateur hour on the roads.

Vito's Cafe

Obviously they are touting a NYE Gala. Here's a PDF they created to promote it. Sounds awesome.

The Olde Fort Pub

Found a Face Book page promoting their event. It obviously has a theme: A Night to Remember, New Year's Eve Prom.

A click of The Midway Cafe and 915 Pub and Grill showed that their events pages hadn't been updated in a while. Can anyone add any insight?

If you're planning an evening in, don't forget about Sarelli's Cafe and Catering .

Most importantly, whatever you do, have a safe and happy holiday!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fort Thomas Real Estate Update

As the snow and cold temperatures descend on the Ohio Valley this is a bit of a dead time for the real estate market.  However since my last post on the Fort Thomas real estate scene the first housing stimulus tax credit expired and was replaced with an extension of the first for 1st time home buyers and extended to all homeowners. 

Many national sales trends have been positive the past few months and Fort Thomas is no exception.  Here is a run down on the latest:
  • 14 sales in the month of November
  • 89 active listings at the end of November
  • The average home has spent 91 days on the market which is down a bit from previous months.  I am assuming this is because a couple of homes have moved or been taken off the market that had been on the market for a long time
One sore spot in the numbers is the average price on Zillow has been down the past two months in a row registering 0.7% decrease in October but about even to this point last year.  Overall home values have not suffered a lot but lets hope we are not at the top of a trend rather at the bottom and about to work our way up.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Newport Pavilion has their blueprint for success - What is ours?

Growing up in Fort Thomas, you just get used to driving to other cities to run errands or to be entertained. Perhaps that is part of the reason why all the excitement surrounds the Newport Pavilion.

Don't get me wrong, I'm excited as anyone about the prospects of dining at Chick-Fil-A or shopping at Target , but even with the ingrained routines of Ft. Thomas citizens burning tire tracks down Grand Ave, 471 and 275, I wish Fort Thomas would or could attract and retain businesses.

I was going to try and come up with a formula for success for future entrepreneurs wanting to throw their capitalistic hat in the Fort Thomas ring. I had about three bullet points before I realized I was kidding myself. So instead I thought I'd ask a Ft. Thomas business owner who's actually had a successful business for 33 years: Bob Arnzen, owner of the Olde Fort Pub.

"We try to treat all of our customers with appreciation and respect and listen to what they say." Arnzen said. "We are lucky to have good employees who care and know how to make everyone feel welcome."

I personally know this to be true. Michael and Annie, classmates of mine at Highlands (along with Nate and Megan Arnzen), work there (or have worked there) and quite literally make it a family atmosphere which is very difficult to fake.

Bob let me off the hook and gave me better bullet points that's allowed his business to thrive:

1 - Consistency
2 - Attention to detail
3 - A friendly and safe atmosphere
4 - Close to home for Fort Thomas residents

Arnzen circled around what was ultimately going to be my main point of what I think makes a successful Fort Thomas business - a family atmosphere.

Our community is very close knit. Generations grow up here. Kids come back here to start families. Traditions thrive. Residents are generally excited about new businesses that start here and are very willing to give them every opportunity to win them over. Without the family atmosphere, they just seem to fade.

It is a comforting feeling to walk into a family owned and operated business that has successfully welcomed patrons by their name for over three decades. Arnzen recounted that Woody Harrelson (from Cheers) used to come to The Pub in the early 80s. Arnzen gets it: "We were always glad they (the Fort Thomas residents) came."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fort Thomas on Etsy

Don't know what Etsy is?  You should - it is the eBay for local artists.  Many believe we are about to come out of an era in the US where big box retail has ruled the day and see a renaissance in main street boutique stores.  Etsy has gone a long way in fueling this resurgence.

There are a few unique local artists hocking their wares on Etsy and I thought I would bring it to your attention. Etsy has a feature that allows you to search your local merchants called Shop Local that indicates the following Fort Thomas Etsy artists creating a strong following:

Font Supply - a great concept of selling unique fonts for copywritting.  They have a great selection and offer digital downloads for a small price.
Itty Bitties - creates small clay miniatures with a very strong following.  Has carved out a very unique niche of tiny characatures.
Under the Sun - eclectic mix of vintage goods for the home
Pink Pineapples - advertises wearable art (jewelry & knitting) with 9 listings

Is there a way to promote these local artists as a component of a retail strategy?  In the past few years there have been hosted art shows at the mess hall but what if we used an open store front in the Midway to support these local artists or provided free space at the Earth Mother Market when it reopens in May?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Collinsworth to the Irish

A big CONGRATS to Highlands senior all-purpose stud, Austin Collinsworth , who ended his recruiting process yesterday when he committed to newly appointed Notre Dame head coach and former UC coach, Brian Kelly.

Collinsworth had been recruited by Kelly at UC and was also recruited by Kentucky, Stanford, Vanderbilt and Louisville.

Kelly said that Collinsworth will line up as the slot receiver for the Irish. According to Dale Mueller, Austin will be the first Highlands grad to play at Notre Dame.

Although my fanhood wishes he'd stay in state so I could watch him at UK, I think he'll be great at Notre Dame. And at least he didn't go to little brother, Louisville.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What's Next for the Newport Pavilion?

So Kroger made a big splash at the Newport Pavilion with their grand opening last week and the question that may arise is 'what's next for the Pavilion?'  The following represent some significant challenges for the development:
  1. The main problem with tenants and Newport is the length of the construction and delays.  You may have read of past commitments from retailers like Logan's Roadhouse which had a signed lease but  terminated it because of an out clause for delays ( it didn't hurt that they pulled back on their expansion plans).  Had the site been completed sooner, they may not have had the right to terminate.  Fifth Third also had a signed lease and they terminated. 
  2. This leads into the next big problem for the site - the current economy.  Best Buy for instance has shown interest in the site but the glut of available sites and buildings is depressing rents.  Instead of the $13/ square foot that Newport may want for a retailer like Best Buy the retailer is finding deals in the $8/ square foot range and not necessarily in the Cincinnati area. The Newport site has to not only compete with sites in the Cincinnati area but across the US.  If a retailer limits its expansion plans to 20 locations in 2010 they are going to find the best deals in under served markets regardless of where they are.
  3. The last and probably least important issue are the issues with the Kenwood site.  These have been well chronicled and the final chapter has yet to be written.  Undoubtadly this has to be yet another detracter.  The last thing any retailer wants to consider is a store fully stocked and not able to serve customers because of maintenance or site issues.
Additionally, the earliest Target could be opened is October.  The generally only open in March, June, or October and with the lead time for a June opening past the window on October is closing as well.  If we don't see the building rising soon this could be more clouds gathering on the horizon.

With all that being said there is a bit of a silver lining and that is the location and incredible traffic that Kroger has generated.  The old real estate mantra is 'location, location, location' and this site has it in bunches.  I hear it from a local retail consultant that retailer interest in the site is still strong and hopefully with completed site infrastructure and a recovering econcomy retailers start hopping on board.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

More Craziness from Ft. Thomas Kroger's

Just wanted to add something random to Darrin's post from earlier regarding the insanity that is Newport's new jewel, "The Ft. Thomas Krogers." ***

Nothing really more can be said, especially if you were brave enough to part the sea of people for those free samples of Boar's Head turkey with the pretzel toothpick (and don't pretend like you didn't partake) - it was nuts.

I went twice this weekend. Once at about 3:00 on Friday and again after the Bengals game on Sunday for groceries.

I was impressed. I was even more impressed that with all that was going on in the store, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus were hanging out in the furniture area and not a person was paying attention to them. I think there was just too much to see.

Anyway, before I go any further in my postings, allow myself to introduce... myself. Mark Collier, born and raised in Fort Thomas. Graduated from Highlands in 2001 and UK in 2005.

I'll leave it at that for now. I hope I can add to your Fort Thomas Matters experience. Now go get to the Fort Thomas Krogers *** and hang out with Santa Claus. I think he's lonely.

*** Just wanted to point out that there is no "s" on the end of Kroger. I have been called out repeatedly by people in Lexington and Louisville for doing this. Must be a Fort Thomas thing.

Random Thoughts & News

 First thing, the insanity at Kroger is unbelievable.  Here are my observations from the first weekend:
  1. The crowds have to subside sometime right?  This has to be just curious people and not everyone from the Remke, Bellevue Kroger, and other shopping options.
  2. It is great to have fresh sushi within a few short minutes of our house
  3. I know it is in the Newport Pavilion but can we call it the Fort Thomas Kroger?
  4. It must be nice for the people who live on Chesapeake Ave to have their shortcut back
  5. Even though ground has not been broken on the Target there is still hope for an opening in 2010.  There was a great article on Target in BusinessWeek and one nugget from that article is that they can tear down and rebuild a store in less than 9 months.  Of course they have never built with Bear Creek before.  Here is to hoping.
In addition to the Kroger related news -some additional notes from around Fort Thomas:
  1. Continuing the trend of offices opening in store fronts there is a new accounting office at the corner of Grand and Highland in the small building next to Cobblestone Cafe.  They replace Interior Design Consultants in that spot who is latest loss to the Bellevue Fairfield Avenue business district.
  2. The Fort Thomas firefighters held their annual MDA fundraising event this weekend at the 915 (who continues to be an amazing sponsor) and continued to raise money for this wonderful cause.  They do not yet have pictures or results posted but you can see how much fun was had at last year's event.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Annexed Land Behind Mildred Dean Elementary

The city of Newport outmenouvered Fort Thomas yesterday with news of the annexation of unincorporated land behind Mildred Dean Elementary and adjacent to St Elizabeth Hospital.  This is important because Mildred Dean will be closing soon and it opens up development possibilities. 

Who, you might ask, would be interested in that real estate?  Afterall it has poor visibility and is land locked.  The only logical choice is an expansion of St Elizabeth in the future or related medical offices.  With new (and better) ownership there is a real possibility for a more focused facility on the east side of Northern Kentucky or more medical offices to better serve the hospital than the older facilities up and across Grand from the hospital. 

Who ends up with this increased tax revenue base?  Not Fort Thomas - Newport does because they have been much more focused on building a better community.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Highlands Adds to Successes & Collinsworth Snubbed

On the day Austin Collinsworth was not even nominated for Mr Football (apparently not one of the 16 best players in the state according to state media) he scored 3 rushing touchdowns in the first half to give Highlands a big early boost towards their third straight state tittle.

Clearly Highlands High School has had some amazing success in the past few years and even this decade, as noted by the Enquirer.  Three straight championships and five this decade is a tremendous accomplishment - not to mention a second round draft pick in the NFL draft this past year.  But how about this Highlands team?  This has to be the greatest team this decade and maybe longer.  Lets look at the accomplishments:
  • Undefeated season - perfect 15 - 0
  • National recognition - now 6th in the USAToday rankings, 10th by Rivals, and 11th by ESPN and soon to go higher after this latest championship
  • More sure fire division 1 talent
The question is... Is this the best Highlands team of recent history?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Kroger Invitation & Grand Opening Specials

I received an invitation today in the mail for the Kroger Marketplace Grand Opening on December 10th.  Many of you as Kroger Plus members may have received the same mailing today.  Inside the package included 10% off orders of $50 or more until January 10th.  In addition to this valuable savings it included the following additional grand opening specials:
  1. Free $10 Kroger Gift Card to the first 300 customers at the 7am opening
  2. Entry Forms for drawings in the following areas:
    • Fred Meyer Jewelers - 1/5 ct diamond
    • Toys - $100 Toy shopping spree
    • Pharmacy - $20 1st transferred prescription, $30 for second, & $50 for third
    • Kitchen Place - drawing for $100 in merchandise
    • Deli - drawing for $150 in Boars Head products
    • Sushi - drawing for $65 sushi platter
    • Produce - drawing for $50 fruit and vegetable tray
    • Floral - drawing for $100 in fresh floral arrangements
    • Home Fashion - drawing for $200 in home decor
    • Bed & Bath - drawing for $200 in merchandise
    • Liquor Store - drawing for Spiegelau basket
    • Murray's Cheese Shoppe - drawing for cheese party tray
    • Chef Prepared - drawing for $500 chef catered party
    • Meat Department - drawing for $150 in prime steaks & $100 in fresh seafood
    Swing by in one week for some amazing specials

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    Third Places in Fort Thomas

    I referenced in a recent blog birthday post about Starbucks being one of the only good public gathering spots in Fort Thomas.  Shortly after that post I stumbled upon the concept of 'third places' in a recent article on Soapbox Media in reference to a book entitled Retrofitting Suburbia.

    By way of background, wikipedia provides the following definition of third places:
    The third place is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace. In his influential book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg (1989, 1991) argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place.

    Fort Thomas has a dearth of third places, lets look at each of the traditional areas where third places happen in most communities and Fort Thomas' use of those buildings or institutions:

    Churches - Fort Thomas churches are generally only used on Sundays and Wednesday evenings.  Traditional church settings finds parishioners gathering for a service and quickly exiting the facility once the service is over at which point the facility is locked and not used until the next service.  The Highland United Methodist Church with its café open to the High School and surrounding community has worked hard to make it more of a third place but the traditional church building design doesn't lend itself to creating a third place.  Crossroads in Oakley is a great example of a church creating a third place.  They offer free wi-fi, coffee and soda, lots of comfortable gathering places and play areas for moms with busy kids as a way of serving the community.

    Offices - The offices that do exist in Fort Thomas are mostly single unit offices such as banks, insurance agencies, or health related that are not only not able to share their space to the community but federal regulations require them to keep strict security.  Has anyone ever tried to find a conference room to rent in Fort Thomas?  It is impossible - the closest opportunity is the Library and they have restrictions on use. 

    Library - Provides a good opportunity for moms with small children to engage them in learning but not building the library in the center of town and excluding good common areas limit its ability to serve as a third place.

    Parks - Tower Park can serve this purpose when the weather is nice.  Any warm spring or summer day finds large groups of parents and children playing and talking at the playgrounds - but this is not really an option 5 months of the year.  Also the pocket park and clock tower between Miller and Lumley has become that (again only in the summer time).

    Schools - Highlands High School on Friday nights in the fall is a third place but otherwise unless you are a student in an activity this is not much of a third place.

    Theatres / Museums - this is more appropriate in larger urban areas but some facilities do exist including the Village Players and the amphitheater in Tower Park.  I have written at length about what I think needs to happen with the amphitheater and I hope to see some of those changes with the new facilities.  The Village Players has real potential and I may focus on them in a future post.

    Community Center - The YMCA is the closest thing to a community center in Fort Thomas.  Even though membership is required the great thing about the Y is that they will not turn anyone away because of financial limitations.  The biggest problem with the YMCA as a true third place is that they are terribly space constrained.  They have 1 meeting room which can be reserved but large lobbies or gathering places are non-existent in this older, dated building.

    City Hall - 2 tiny meeting rooms in addition to the council chambers which are really just not that practical for much of anything.  Again older, dated facilities not built for general gathering and socialization.

    Buildings that could become a great third place in Fort Thomas include:
    1. Stables building in Tower Park - the market had a great first couple months but it takes time and continued progressive thinking about how to use the historical building
    2. Nevada building - with the right retail tenant that entire building is big enough to be a third place, lets hope there is enough vision to make that viable
    3. Village Players theater building - location and size make this an attractive building but it needs to find the right use.  The shows are a good start and hosting the Fort Thomas Woman's Club helps but it feels exclusive - the community needs to feel invited for a building or institution to become a real third place.
    4. Mess Hall - only used currently for rented events such as weddings or fund raisers.  How amazing could this building be if it were open to the public from 7am to 9pm with free wi-fi, a café, reservable conference rooms, and outdoor patios.  My recent post on the Northern Kentucky Encyclopedia illustrates its important role in community building in the past as it served as an ice skating rink.
    Any other thoughts? I would love to hear your feedback.

    Friday, November 27, 2009

    Fort Thomas & The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky

    Want a holiday gift for the dad or grandfather that is impossible to buy for?  Try the Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky.  Words just do not describe the amount of information that is in this volume.  Weighing in at over 1,000 pages, it includes over 2,100 entries written by more than 300 authors.  I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of the book in the past couple weeks and I thought I would take the opportunity with all the 'Black Friday' talk to make a case for buying the book as a Christmas gift.

    While I haven't had a chance to read all the entries that relate to Fort Thomas one thing stood out to me more than anything else; the important role that Samuel Bigstaff had in building Fort Thomas.  Not only did he build much of the housing stock (especially that built in the early 1900's) but he donated the land for the current Highland United Methodist Church but also developed the Highland Country Club.

    In addition to the role Samuel Bigstaff played in Fort Thomas here are some additional tidbits on our fine city:
    • The mess hall was built according to the same plans as the stone mess halls as the Presidio in San Francisco and at Fort Riley
    • The amphitheater was built for boxing matches between the service men stationed at the Fort
    • The mess hall has the original red quarry tile floors intact throughout even though they were flooded at times to provide winter ice skating.
    I think that is enough to get you interested. Check it out if you get a chance and buy one for a friend to support this amazing effort.

    Update: At least 2 Ft Thomas residents were contributors or authors of articles in the NKY Encyclopedia----Bill Thomas and Paul Whalen.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Programming the Renovated AmphiTheater

    While a renovated amphitheater while undoubtedly improve the image of Tower Park, as I mentioned in a previous post, the success of the investment in the amphitheater will depend on how it is used.  As I read the Enquirer's coverage of the progress on the amphitheater I was disappointed to read the reaction from the Parks Department about future uses of the amphitheater:
    "Buerger said he hopes the bigger stage and better seating will encourage more community groups to use it.  One of the things discussed is the potential for weddings."
    You can't just build it and hope that people show up.  Clearly this is the attitude of the recreation department.  The city has to be proactive with programming to really get the most of the new facility.  A great example of this is the redesigned Fountain Square.  Cincinnati spent the money to upgrade the square but it would have been a huge failure had they stopped there, instead they schedule focused programming on a nearly daily basis.  I am not saying it needs to be that frequent, in fact our community of 16,000+ couldn't support that level of programming but we can't have an attitude of merely encouraging the public to use it.

    Here are some ideas to make the most of the improved facilities:
    1. Create a program committee to set a schedule of events - the input from a good cross section of citizens will ensure programming that will appeal to as many citizens as possible.  The program committee will also ensure the Parks Department can focus on their leagues and facilities.
    2. How about engaging Midway businesses such as Sarelli's to offer discounts and packaged picnic dinners that can be purchased for dinner during the concert or movie.  This cross promotion of a nearby business district is a win - win.
    3. Beyond summer kid movies, what about a childrens theater performance or Shakespeare in the park from a Cincinnati area performance group.  Partnering with the Know Theater or other area arts group for some unique, eclectic programming.
    We have wasted a lot of money and the Greys' time if all we do is book a couple of additional weddings.  This is a great opportunity to really engage the community - especially our families with the new facilities.  We have to take advantage of that.

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Kroger Hiring Ads on the Radio - Opening December 10th

    The push is on for a grand opening on December 10th.  I heard radio ads today for a job fair this weekend at the store on Pavilion Way.  US Bank branch inside the Marketplace is also opening on December 10th.  We knew it was immenant with the lights working and the entrance from Grand Avenue now paved it had to be a matter of days.

    It has to be a bummer for Kroger that they will miss the Thanksgiving shopping crowds from Northern Campbell County but they have much bigger issues with their Fresh Fare store in Kenwood.  I have included a picture below from the Newport Pavilion Fans site on Facebook that was taken last week from the Chesapeake entrance to the shopping center.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Want Help With Your Christmas Decorations?

    Amy from Do It Yourself TV has asked me to put out the word on a show they would like to do not only in Cincinnati but hopefully in Fort Thomas.

    The show has shot a couple of episodes in Fort Thomas, and they are always struck by how beautiful the community is.  DIY is preparing to shoot a Christmas episode and is looking for a street that really does it up with Christmas lights and decorations. The goal is to help the house on the block that's poorly decorated. They will help the homeowner fix up their front yard to be on par with the neighbors... and the best aspect is that there is no cost to the homeowners.

    You can visit their website to complete the application.  They are very interested in finding a family in the Cincinnati area along with the cities of Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Dallas.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Happy Birthday Fort Thomas Matters

    Today is the second anniversary of this blog and I thought I would take this opportunity to promote the site a bit.  I would like to start by talking about why I started the blog and how it has evolved over the past two years and where I would like to take it from here.

    I started the blog really as a way to give the community a voice.  At the time I felt our community was really moving in the wrong direction and I sensed there was frustration about many issues in the city and people were struggling for an outlet.  I do think some things have changed for the better but we have a long way to go to develop the type of environment that can support small business retail ownership that I think is one of the life bloods of a community.  A quick aside on this point.  I stopped in to Starbucks the other day and there were literally no seats available anywhere in the store (including the two small tables near the bakery case).  I realized that this community craves a gathering place where they can meet friends for a quick chat or do their homework.  This is what good locally owned retail can be to a community and what I hope to see grow over the coming years.

    But back to my post....

    Since that time I do believe the city has cleared up some other thorny issues or they have become less of an issue.  This includes the firefighters contract and the deer hunt.  But that doesn't change the fact that our community needs an additional outlet to talk about the things that the Recorder or Fort Thomas Living can't or won't discuss and in a timely manner.

    With all that being said I do have a vision for what this site can become.  I would like more personal profiles on people in our community that do amazing things day in and day out with little recognition.  I would like more coverage of our schools and I would like to have another view point or two - even different than my own.  In order for this site to really become a valuable news source to its readers I need more content.  If you are interested in providing a regular post on a particular topic please drop me a note.

    This also brings me to my final point.  I have done this blog now for the past two years at a cost to me both in time and money with no personal gain and I would like to change that if only to make my expenses back for hosting and registration.  I am looking for advertisers.  I don't want a cluttered home page but I do think the site can be an attractive way to communicate to customers not just in Fort Thomas but in Northern Kentucky.  Let me illustrate with a few key figures:
    • The largest perportion of visitors to the site are from Fort Thomas but over 50% of the traffic comes from Fort Thomas and surrounding communities of Newport, Bellevue, and Dayton. 
    • The site is now averaging over 2,000 visitors per month and nearly 4,000 page views per month. 
    • The site has seen phenomenal growth in the past year as evidence by the fact that the site's page views were up over 175% and the total number of unique visitors were up 218% over the previous year.
    It would be difficult to find that type of advertising opportunity anywhere else.  So if you are interested give me a shout.

    Thanks for reading!

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Top Twitter Follows from Fort Thomas Kentucky

    I have to admit I stole this idea from a recent top 10 Cincinnati twitter follows from Soapbox Media in a recent issue.  Having said that, I thought many of you could find this beneficial as well.

    Here is my list of the top Twitter follows in Fort Thomas and why following them can help you keep a pulse on the community:

    1.Kevin Keith - Kevin is a wine buyer for Liquor Direct in Fort Thomas.  He has over 1,000 followers and provides good updates on the regular tastings in the Fort Thomas Plaza store.  He always has good insights if you are a fan of the tastings and want some advance insight.

    2. Merril Hoge / Andre Caldwell - not much Ft Thomas news here but if you are a football fan follow our famous Fort Thomas residents as they break down all the NFL or updates on the Bengals.

    3. Jennifer Specht is an example of the great un-discovered talents in our community through her art in polymer clay.  I don't even know what polymer clay is but one look at a couple of examples on her profile page and I am instantly interested.

    4. My former neighbor Mark Collier who recently bought a house on North Fort Thomas Ave is a great follow for me not just because I know and like him but because he is from the area originally and has some good friends still in town and is just getting started with a family in Fort Thomas.  Wish him and his new bride Lindsay best of luck.  Mark tweets more than anyone I know and has some good witty thoughts - enjoy.

    5. Peggy Murriner - I know this is a little self serving but I had a difficult time finding a better 5th option and given the connections she has not just in Fort but in Greater Cincinnati she makes a great pick.  Peggy works under the BabysitEase (her business) name but tweets great information on deals she finds or great area places to shop and visit.

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Bluebirds Football Update

    While the final score was not impressive when you consider they started seniors that are not normal starters against one of the better teams in Northern Kentucky (ranked #8 in the Herald Leader poll) then it was a great way to end the season.  Being a spectator at the game I saw quite possibly the best high school kick when Weinel kicked a 47 yard kick with a good 10 yards to spare.

    With the win they finish the season undefeated and move into the state playoffs.  In the first round they face a 3-7 Montgomery County and then play what may be their toughest test prior to the finals in Blazer with a record of 9-1.  A possible rematch with Cov Cath could come next.  A possible semifinal matchup with Pulaski Southwestern and then everyone's dream matchup of Highlands and John Hardin in the state 5A Finals.  You can see the entire bracket here.

    As far as a rankings update - none of the teams above Highlands lost and the St X win over Moeller didn't appear to carry much weight.

    USATODAY - 9 still no change
    ESPN - 13 still no change
    Rivals - 15 (up from 22)

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Update on Newport Pavilion & Kroger Opening

    Based on comments from the Facebook group 'Newport Pavilion Fans' here are a few updates:

    1. Latest opening date for the Kroger Marketplace is now the week before Thanksgiving.  I am actually starting to believe that the date can be met given that surfacing of Pavilion Way is nearly complete and lighting is about 3/4 completed.  The turn late from Grand Ave has also been carved away and should be surfaced soon.

    2. Another member of the Facebook group attached the picture above of an older version of the master plan.  While this plan includes a Best Buy which is apparently no longer an option it does shed some light on where BW3 and Chipotle are planned - the outlot near LaRosa's on the Grand Ave side of the development.  This is a more detailed map than the one that was on Bear Creek's website prior to the domain going down.

    3. The final rumor that was included in the stream from the 'Newport Pavilion Fans' site is that Costco is rumored to be looking at the surface lot at the corner of I-471 and Grand Ave. 

    I have left another message with Kroger to confirm the date above and will let you know if I hear anything else.

    Fort Thomas - A Growing Community?

    Recent news from the Enquirer about over crowding at Moyer is just the latest indication that population in Fort Thomas is not decreasing as census numbers would indicate.  The article mentions the rationale given by Fort Thomas Schools that younger families moving into the area and replacing older families is the cause for the over crowding.   There is some impact from out of district enrollments but the numbers indicated in the article is only a fraction of the total increase.  Taking a look at district wide enrollment numbers provides a further indication that this is not a Moyer only phenomenon

    Years                 District Enrollment                    Growth Rate
    08-09                             2,564                                     4.5%
    07-08                             2,453                                     1.7%
    06-07                             2,413                                     2.2%
    05-06                             2,363                                     1.8%
    04-05                             2,322

    Even if the housing stock is not increasing (I'll cover this item in a minute) this indicates the average household size is increasing thus leading to increased population.  The article mentions the Ville Grande development and this is one of only a few recent developments that has increased the amount of housing in the city, a topic that I covered before on the blog.  Increased housing stock + larger average family sizes adds up to 1 conclusion - increasing population.

    You may be asking yourself - 'why does this matter?' and the conclusion is funding.  Performing a quick google search indicates the following areas where funding could be impacted by census counts:
    We are all familiar with the wealth penalty that Fort Thomas gets when it comes to education funding and the same penalty applies with other state funding but the Vision 2015 effort and other regional groups are working hard to change some of these formulas as the 3 population centers (Lexington, Louisville, and NKY) continue to be a larger share of state population.  Lets hope they are successful changing impressions about this component of the funding formula.

    While regional efforts work on those changes Fort Thomas should focus on what they can impact and this is one area.  Generally the biggest areas of impact from the population component of funding formulas are general health and safety and it truly requires further work from the city to ensure Fort Thomas is getting their fair share.

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    School Lunches & Fort Thomas Independent Schools

     As I read a recent issue of Time magazine I came across an article on school lunches and I was reminded of some of the changes that have occurred with school lunches within the Fort Thomas Independent School District.

    There has been a lot of attention lately to the potential negative impact on student health as our children become adults. Fort Thomas has been working hard to get out ahead of this wave of change and help support our kids becoming physically healthy adults and not just mentally healthy adults.  In addition to being in a state that has progressive initiatives like the Kentucky Farm to School Program, Highlands has hired a nutritionist and a chef to prepare menus and has taken a very progressive step on this issue.

    The school district recently reported a 20% increase in cafeteria sales that they attribute to the program.  As I have talked with students they confirm the increase in cafeteria usage.  In the past only rainy days led to crowded lines and now it is more common than not to encounter lines.  The school has replaced fried foods with grilled and white breads with whole wheat.  In addition to the healthier choices Highlands also added an ala carte line with some higher end choices and corresponding higher prices.

    Saturday, October 24, 2009

    Coffee & Donuts

    Fort Thomas got a new retail store front this week - "Coffee & Donuts" and they serve that and only that... well fruits and juices too.  It is located right next to the 915 Bar & Grill in the Renewal Medical Massage location.  They serve Bernhard's Bakery pastries out of Newport which have some delicious specialties.

    It is nice to have another spot in town that serves anything but I am a bit concerned by the small space, spartan menu which is sourced from other local establishments (brews Starbucks coffee as well).  The owner plans to open between 6:15 and noon Monday through Saturday but when I swung by at 10:30 this morning they were not open.  That being said it is good to see another business owner making a run at it.  Lets all swing by and support him in the coming weeks.

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Highlands Football Update

    After a win against rival Cov Cath there was not much movement this week in the national polls for the Bluebirds.

    Rivals - unchanged at 14
    USA Today - unchanged at 9
    ESPN - unchanged at 13

    Scott and Ryle are left on the schedule.  A win against Scott will not help their rankings without a loss from another power.  Ryle follows with a bit more of a threat.  They have a current district record of 3-1 and overall record of 6-2 with their only loss in the district to Simon Kenton (#2 in the Enquirer poll).

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Pergola - Other Options?

    Pergola is still open for the remainder of this week serving coffee and baked goods (and as reported in Polly Campbell's blog post on offering refunds on gift certificates).  A nice show of good faith.

    The conflict between Pergola's owners and the property owner is the reason for the shut down and there is the possibility that the restaurant can be kept in Fort Thomas.  Representatives are searching for another location and there appears to be a slight glimmer of hope that the restaurant can remain open in Fort Thomas but it would have to be at another location.  Stop in for a coffee and cinnamon bun and show your support while you still can.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Pergola Closed!

    Another unfortunate retail closing occurred today as Pergola shut their doors for good after only a few short months.  I had been hearing rumblings for a over a week now but decided against posting anything to avoid contributing to an issue.

    I did speak to those with some knowledge of the situation and I want to be clear that although business had been down the past couple of weeks as the weather turned bad their closing had little to do with community support.

    The issues included:
    • A 6 month liquour license expiration that required Pergola to be moving toward purchase of their facility.  The current land lord would not sell at a market rate and kept them from renewing the license (a key revenue source).
    • Land lord issues rear their ugly head again.  While business was down some the past two weeks land lord issues forced the closing.  To reinforce their belief in the concept and the community they had an agreement to build a large pergola to provide shelter over the patio but the land lord did not approve.  Legal action was a consideration but to salvage the investment and avoid frustration they closed the store instead.
    I hate sounding like a broken record but until we come up with a solution that provides reasonable lease situations for retailers in Fort Thomas we are running up hill in developing a retail presence in this community.  This is at least 4 food service businesses in Fort Thomas that have folded not because of community support but because we have property owners along Fort Thomas Avenue that will not support business.

    I want to give a shout out to Debbie Buckly as she did everything she could to keep Pergola open but ultimately it was a business agreement that could not be salvaged.  Debbie works very hard for this community but needs more resources and a stronger vision from the city.

    Sunday, October 11, 2009

    Green Grants Available & Some Possible Uses

    This past week the state of Kentucky received another $26 million in energy grants from the Department of Energy, bringing the grand total of funds received from the State Energy Program of the recent stimulus plan to $52 million.  The state has commented that they plan to use these funds to retrofit schools and public buildings.  The article states that "other programs might include conservation training and education, and transportation programs that will increase the use of alternative fuels and hybrid vehicles."

    This is yet another opportunity for the city of Fort Thomas to grab some federal funds to lower ongoing maintenance costs of running the city.   Some suggestions could be to start with the city building.  Despite recent upgrades for the police department the rest of the building is still rather dated and the fire department's facilities are a bit lacking.  Couple upgrades with some of the following green features and I think they could win funds for facilities upgrades.

    1. More efficient windows - not only avoid heating and cooling loss but more natural light can go a long way to save energy costs.

    2. Solar panels for the roof of the city building or perhaps other facilities such as the armory.

    3. Capture water run-off from roof tops of city buildings.  Could be used to water landscaping around the city. 

    The transportation component could also be used for upgrades to maintenance vehicles with better gas milage or perhaps even upgrades to key service equipment such as fire engines.

    Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    Changes at St Luke

    So by now you must have heard about St Elizabeth's reorganization as they integrate the two St Luke hospitals into their health care system. The bottom line is the loss of obstetrics at the St Luke East Hospital. I doubt this has a major impact on the Fort Thomas community per se as no one I know in Fort Thomas gave birth there. The hospital seems to service rural Campbell County, Pendleton County, and Bracken County. When my parents lived in Bracken County some 37 years ago they delivered my oldest sister there and the same appears to hold true today. As long as they do not cut emergency service which is highly unlikely I see no real loss of service for the Fort Thomas community.

    With that being said, I see 2 potential impacts:

    1. A reshuffling of doctors with office locations in Fort Thomas. There are currently quite a few doctors that have at least a part time presence in the offices on Grand Ave. Many are likely to still have at least a partial presence there but with obstetrics shifting to Edgewood it would make sense to have their offices closer to the hospital and their patients.

    2. Every coin has two sides and the flip side of the loss of obstetrics in Fort Thomas is an expansion of oncology, women's services, chemical dependency and mental health at St Luke East. This creates more opportunities for specialized medical care not just at the hospital but at many of the same offices on Grand Ave that could lose an OB/GYN or two.

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Fort Thomas Retail Update

    As I walked by the empty store front that used to be the Mustard Seed on Fort Thomas Avenue I couldn't help but wonder what the future holds for the Central Business District. Again we lose another business because it is difficult to get good signage and a lack of support...not from the community but from the property owners who are unwilling to support the vision of moving our retail business districts forward. Locating the business in neighboring Southgate worked better for Amanda after a short time in Fort Thomas.
    CORRECTION - Amanda does not have a store front in Southgate and is still running her catering business out of a friend's catering kitchen in Hebron until she decides her next step.

    What if there had been vision by the city and some support for a busy street corner? We could have had an amazing wine shop next door to a great sidewalk cafe. Again, don't blame the citizens of Fort Thomas for not supporting their businesses. We must have property owners who are willing to give a small business owner some help - even if it means the city steps in with some help. This could be a non-profit type organization like 3CDC in Cincinnati that helps bridge the gap between startup and business success.

    Without supportive zoning and a city council that continues to only have vision to update sidewalks and awnings where will businesses like the independent drug store, Ft Thomas Drug Center, turn when increased competition arrives from the Kroger and Target pharmacies that will be opening in the Newport Pavilion?

    I got a bit of an answer as it relates to how Ft Thomas Drug Center hopes to compete when I opened my mail today. I received a card from the Good Neighbor Pharmacy that was branded with the Ft Thomas Drug Center name. It turns out that the large pharmaceutical company AmerisourceBergen has created a co-op of sorts for independent pharmacists to help fight the large chain stores. While it makes for some great press when the large pharma company helps out the independent business owner I am sure there is a bit of self-serving in it somewhere. The postcard provides some free offers and is the first piece of marketing I ever remember seeing by the drug store.

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    Kroger Opening Delayed... Again

    Kroger now hoping to be opened by the 'end of the year'. The article confirms that there were in fact issues with the storm water pipe and they site the unfinished road - Pavilion Parkway. This has to be very frustrating for Kroger as each day that passes without an opening, especially with the holidays approaching, is lost revenue and a longer payback.

    Bear Creek has completely gone silent and will not return any media contacts. Additionally, the Bear Creek website has been down for well over a week with the statement "The site is currently unavailable. Check back soon."

    Additionally, a nice article on the history of the Cote Brilliante neighborhood illustrates the history that was lost with this development. History that includes a visit by JFK, amazing structures, one of the first modern shopping centers, and modern roads. If the city of Newport took the investment in the bonds and used a revitalization strategy that has worked so well in other parts of Newport would they have something better to show for it instead of missing out on additional retailers that can't move into a half completed 'big-box showcase'?

    Don't get me wrong - I am excited to have more shopping options but this has to be difficult to watch for the city of Newport.

    Monday, September 28, 2009

    Highlands Football Gets National Praise

    All the major sports news outlets are singing the praises of the Bluebirds only a few short days after their big win over St X. Here are links to the major services:

    USA Today - Highlands moves up to #23

    Rivals - Highlands at #20 (one of only 2 teams in the top 25 with their stock rising)

    ESPN - Highlands at #24 (ESPN calls the St X contest a 'statement game')

    With Elder being ranked in the top 5 by all the major services should we hope for a big win against Elder to support the Blue Birds?

    Sunday, September 27, 2009

    Sidewalk Along Memorial Parkway

    The Kentucky Post has an interview with Don Martin where he indicates work has in fact started again on the sidewalk along Memorial Parkway. I had actually assumed that work had finished near the city line with Bellevue and would never be completed. I am excited to see that it will be connected with Taylor in Bellevue.

    However, my excitement is muted by the fact that the section of sidewalk in front of the apartments along Memorial has shown no signs of being completed. Not only did the developer tear out a hillside and trees which provided good erosion control but they leave the grounds unkempt. Because it is the developer's property it is their responsibility to complete the section of sidewalk in front of their development. My question is why the city can not fine the developer everyday that this work goes unfinished. As homeowners in town we are just billed for street resurfacing and other work I think the same operating procedures should hold for this developer. What do you think?

    Friday, September 25, 2009

    Stimulus Funds Flowing to Fort Thomas & Campbell County

    There is a new website - - that provides details on where stimulus money is flowing across the country. The site breaks out contracts, grants, and loans and provides some high level information about what the award is for and who it is flowing to.

    The map shows that a contract was awarded by the Department of Veterans Affairs in Fort Thomas for Building 1 and 15 facade restoration. The contract was awarded to Chevron Construction Services based in Mason.

    While there were no grants or loans awarded in Fort Thomas there is a long list of each in Campbell County.

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Pocket Park @ Grand & Highland

    I didn't know that the city rented our pocket parks for promotional purposes. This was taken today around 5:30 - not sure what Cincinnati Bell was doing but they had a highly visible display at one of the busiest intersections in the city. Any idea what it costs to rent the park?

    Wednesday, September 9, 2009

    The Latest on the Newport Pavilion

    Today the Business Courier reported that Target is still planning a summer 2010 open date which I still find hard to believe considering not 1 brick or ounce of concrete has been poured. With that being said it is encouraging to hear a confirmation from Target - the first such confirmation in some time. The other big news is that it will be a Super Target - one of only 50 in the nation. They have one such Target in Fisher Indiana and it is quite impressive.

    Kroger continues to commit to the early October open date despite rumors to the contrary. No mention was made by the Kroger spokes person about any water / drainage issue as has been rumored but only mentioned final approvals as the delay.

    Needless to say this is very good news for the development. Regardless of who may still be committed (Chipotle did not confirm the location in a recent article in the Enquirer) the traffic generated by these two mega stores will surely bring other great eats and shopping options.

    Friday, September 4, 2009

    Random Updates

    As we move into the long Labor Day weekend a few things you might be interested in:

    1. You may have seen that the African Children's Choir was recently in Fort Thomas and while I was not able to go my family had an amazing encounter with the group this week. Peter, my young son was at the park with his babysitter when the choir showed up to play at Tower Park. At one point during play one of the care takers asked the children to stop and provide an impromptu performance and needless to say my 2 year old was in awe.
    2. The Fort Thomas Board of Education has a published position of the Obama school address for the upcoming week. I think this is the right position. Use the address as a learning opportunity - I felt this way about the Bush I address in '91 and I feel the same about the Obama address as well. Our children will and should be exposed to many different thoughts, ideas, and beliefs many of which we have no control over - this approach allows each family to address it in their own way.
    3. On the Newport Pavilion Facebook page someone commented that they went to the job center and they informed him that the Kroger will now be delayed until November. There are apparently problems with the water main.
    4. I am hearing some rumblings that there have been some near misses on new retail around the Midway. I believe there will be some real momentum in the area once the construction gets out of the way. Open retail spaces have dropped in price and are now near a level where money can be made.
    5. Merchant's & Music Festival is on September 26th and lets hope for good weather. The last 2 years have been difficult for all outdoor festivals in Fort Thomas. You may remember my mention of a LinkedIn group called Fort Thomas Provides (FTP) that helped with the Ruth Moyer rain garden - FTP now has a Facebook page and will be at the Merchants & Music festival offering support at the beer ticket booth.
    6. Pergola's will be switching their seasonal menu on September 21st. It should be interesting to see the new menu items and if the concept changes any as we move into the fall and winter.

    Monday, August 31, 2009

    Fort Thomas Housing Market Update

    While the graphic above may look abysmal there is some rays of light in the Fort Thomas housing market. July housing stats show a huge turnaround locally with 25 sales in July and another 21 in August at an average sale price of nearly $230,000 and $215,000 respectively. This is an amazing rebound for only 28 sales in the entire second quarter. Median prices have also held up well in the $175,000 range which seems to indicate that our area has managed to avoid many of the REO fire sales that has depressed prices in other neighboring communities.

    Census & Fort Thomas

    There has been a lot of stories in the past few years about the census and its impact on funding at both the federal and state level. A high profile example has come from across the river as Mayor Mallory has successfully challenged census estimates in the past. A recent article in Soapbox indicates that the city of Cincinnati is taking that challenge even further this coming year as a full census count is approaching.

    This brings up an important question for Fort Thomas that I have actually heard a lot - even during my unsuccessful run for City Council - 'How is the population of Fort Thomas shrinking?' This question comes from seeing new condos, Fisher Homes neighborhoods, apartments, and multitude of flag lots sprouting across the city over the past 10 years - yet the population has steadily declined. On top of housing our elementary, middle, and high schools are more crowded than ever.

    To illustrate this paradox see the following chart:

    While I doubt a concerted effort around an effective count would yield quite the results that a concerted effort had in Cincinnati - perhaps it is time to put a bit more emphasis on a correct count. While it may not yield a lot of additional funding it could have an impact on decisions by retailers or others on locating their business in our great community.

    Sunday, August 9, 2009

    Kroger Marketplace at Newport Pavilion Opening First Week in October

    8/24 UPDATE: Just heard from the Kroger's Consumer Affairs group and it is now confirmed - opening in the first week in October.

    The latest word on the new Kroger at Newport Pavilion is an opening date some time in September but an official grand opening date has not been scheduled. Some additional details about the new Kroger location includes:

    1. A new concept for Kroger called a chippery. The chippery is a station where customers can have potato chips made, fresh and before their eyes, while they wait.

    2. The grocery department will include a dine-in bistro with an on-staff chef and a custom sandwich bar, a meat and seafood section with a grilling station and dry-aged beef, and a self-serve bread slicer in the bakery.

    3. The deli will include an olive bar and cheese shop, hot soup and sushi.

    4. A spirit shop selling goods from the local schools.

    I am particularly excited about the last item as I have always been interested in purchasing Highlands gear but do not have a child in school yet. Hopefully it brings in some additional revenue for Highlands and surrounding schools.

    It appears that with all the recent headlines related to Bear Creek Capital over the weekend (front page articles in both the Enquirer and Business Courier) it hasn't affected the Kroger opening but one has to wonder if Target's delays and recent poor sales will have an effect on the rest of the development.

    Saturday, August 8, 2009

    New Historic Marker for Evergreen Cemetery - Your Help Needed

    There is a group of people working to establish a new historic marker at the Evergreen Cemetery. The group has currently raised $1,000 but needs your help to raise an additional $1,400 to make the marker happen. The group has also received approval from the KY Historic Marker Commission (yes this is apparently a real group that approves historic markers) and they just need your help.

    Check should be written to John Hayden Atty Trust Account--with Evergreen Marker in the memo space. (any amount appreciated!). Contributions should be mailed to Paul Whalen at PO Box 22; Fort Thomas, KY 41075.

    The marker will have the following text:

    Congressmen Buried At Evergreen
    Four US Congressmen from Newport are buried here.
    John Woolston Tibbatts represented NKY as a Democrat in Congress from 1843-1847. He sponsored the legislation to annex Texas. After voting to declare war on Mexico, he enlisted as Colonel and fought in Mexico.

    Thomas Lauren Jones practiced law in Newport and served in Congress from 1867-1871 and 1875-77. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for KY Governor in 1883.

    Albert S. Berry, “The Tall Sycamore of the Licking" was Mayor of Newport prior to election to Congress. He served from 1893-1901. After leaving Congress, he served as Circuit Judge.

    Brent Spence
    was a lawyer and banker prior to representing the area in Congress from 1931 to 1963 . He chaired the House Banking and Currency Committee for 15 of 20 years from 1943-1963.

    A member of the Confederate Congress is buried at Evergreen; George Baird Hodge elected to represent the area in the Confederate Congress in 1862. He simultaneously served as a colonel in the Confederate Army. After the war, he served in the KY legislature 1873-1877.

    Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    Why Can't Fort Thomas Create a Strategy?

    Two news stories lately that are great for Northern Kentucky but underscores the city's inability to attract and retain good retail.

    Exhibit A - Brian Wiefering's WieFit gym and fitness studio will be opening along Monmouth Street in Newport. Brian is a Fort Thomas resident who chose to open his studio along Monmouth Street near Fusion Studio, a former Fort Thomas business. Here is an excerpt from the article on
    WieFit joins other health businesses that have opened along Newport's business district. Fusion Studio, a gym specializing in cycling and spinning classes, opened in March 2008 above Reser Bicycle Shop. Newport's business district also features yoga and dance studio Kula Center for the Movement Arts, pilates studio Studio P and Meters and Miles, a running shoe and equipment store.
    Amazing, thought - complimentary businesses located in close proximity that feed off of each other and create a district focused on the same customers.

    Exhibit B - Today the Enquirer reports that a cupcake shop, Three Tiers Contemporary Cakes & Cupcakes, is opening in Bellevue. This new shop compliments the existing collection of eclectic shops along Fairfield Ave that includes shops like The Cozy Cottage, Knit On, Saponi Soaps, the Bellevue Beadery, and of course Mrs. Teapots.

    It would be easy to chalk the success of these communities up to the traffic flow along Monmouth Street and Fairfield Ave which Fort Thomas residents do not want for Fort Thomas Ave. There is some validity to this argument. However, the ultimate success of these communities is the vision they created that served as a true rallying point for executing the strategy through promotion, policy, and support.

    Back to Exhibit A, I contacted Brian to ask him why he chose Monmouth St and Newport. I did not get a response as of yet but I would be willing to bet it was the same reasons that Red Hot Promotions or Fusion Studio decided to locate there which includes support of the city and the complimentary businesses. Living in Fort Thomas I am sure he understands the deals he can get on store fronts in the primary retail areas but he chose not to locate there despite people traveling from Lexington and Indianapolis to Fort Thomas to his home in the past.

    What ideas do you have for a good retail theme for the Midway district? Right now the theme is "hodge podge".

    Sunday, July 19, 2009

    Data Point on Fort Thomas Real Estate

    June was a great month for home sales in Fort Thomas Kentucky. After spending months in single digits in sales volume - 17 homes were sold in the city. I personally know three people who have purchased a home here. That is the good news but the not so good stat of the month includes a still somewhat protracted 4 months average time on the market and average sales price of $160,000 which could have a negative impact on comps for anyone else looking to put their home on the market.

    Friday, July 17, 2009

    Recent Observations in Fort Thomas

    1. Found a good blog via twitter by Breanna Gaddie who bills herself as a photojournalist. She has some good pictures on the site and from time to time visits Fort Thomas. Her most recent post includes a dinner at Pergola. Speaking of Pergola, I am hearing more and more people talking about how Pergola is having a difficult time figuring out what they want to be. The patio invokes the image of a great place to hang out with friends for some good bar food but the menu is anything but. I enjoyed the food but I do agree with a recent review that called it ambiguous.

    2. According to the Facebook site, Friends of Newport Pavilion, there appears to be some confirmation that Target will open next year. While I haven't been able to confirm that timeline the recently erected sign on the Memorial Pkwy entrance confirms they are still in the plans. Also it is very exciting to see the awning over the gas pumps and it appears that black top could go down any day.

    3. You can vote for Earth Mother Market as a favorite farmers market on the Love Your Farmers Market site for a chance for them to win $5,000. Although I would like to support them more - my favorite is still Findlay Market. We make the trek nearly every weekend.

    4. Lastly, there was recent news on plans to complete the amphitheater by next July. This is exciting but only as exciting as the city's ability to get quality programming during the summer. We need family movie nights, symphany performances on fall evenings, live performances of Shakespeare, or some quality bands. Please lets take advantage of the facilities. One potential negative in all of this is the possibility for no organization of the 4th at the Fort in the future. The event was started as a fundraiser for rehab of the ampitheatre and without that as a goal Flow and Dan Gray will no longer be the driving force. Regardless of what happens to the event I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Grays for their determination and support for our community.

    Sunday, July 12, 2009

    Ruth Moyer Rain Garden

    On Saturday, July 11th a group of Fort Thomas residents gathered at Ruth Moyer to install a rain garden in front of the Ruth Moyer front steps. You may be familiar with this area by the caution tape that generally surrounds it as it is prone to standing water after large rains.

    The group of citizens included a large contribution of labor by Fort Thomas Provides, a non-profit that started on the social networking website LinkedIn and quickly moved beyond the virtual world into tangible ways of making the community better. You can check out their profile on LinkedIn or visit their website.

    The project would not have been possible without the leadership of the Garden Coach, Kris Barton. Kris provided the creativity and organization that allowed the group to complete the successful project. Principal Jay Brewer was also on hand to help out with the garden.

    Thursday, July 9, 2009

    News on Twitter

    I have added a new Twitter Search feature on the right hand side that shows the latest Tweets on Fort Thomas (limited to the last 5 tweets - interested in more then click here). There are some truly fascinating comments about people working in places around town, eating at restaurants, and even running in the Firecracker. Be sure to glance over on the right hand side of the page from time to time for some updates and who knows you may even find somebody you are interested in connecting with.

    Speaking of Tweets, I noticed one recently regarding the news that Vito's and the Midway had filed for brew pub licenses. The feed however was for a site called Hoperatives that is all about promoting beer in the Cincinnati area. You really just never know what you are going to find and this is a great example of a community and site for all interests.

    Since we are talking Twitter... if you are interested in getting more immediate updates from me then feel free to follow me.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009

    Kentucky News & You

    I know I generally keep these posts focused on local (Fort Thomas) news but a couple of items from Frankfort have too much potential impact on our community to ignore. As you may have heard there was a special session recently that required our legislators to return to Frankfort for discussion and voting. In this session there were a couple of bills they had to take to a vote.

    The first item was dubbed the 'tax incentive bill' and focused on items to stimulate the state economy. It is famous for tax incentives for Newport on the Levee and the Ky Speedway that could have provided enough incentive to finish out the original plan for the Levee (which included a hotel and more) and bring a major race to the Speedway. However because the bill included a provision to allow tolls to be used for mega projects like bridges. There was no specific mention of the I-75 bridge but even the possibility was enough for all but 4 NKY lawmakers to vote no on the bill. What happened to negotiation and finding common ground? How is possible that our elected officials insist on playing politics instead of finding the right solution. I can't imagine if I made decisions at my place of employment this way - we would have gone bankrupt decades ago. Stop layering on pet initiatives, projects, and causes on bills that make sense - we have to start making the right decisions for our state.

    The second, and some might say equally appalling, item that saw debate but ultimately met its demise was the gambling initiative. Without inciting backers on both sides of the debate I do find it ironic that in the same week this bill is voted down the Argosy's $300m+ remake is completed in neighboring Indiana. By the way neighboring Indiana has a $1B surplus while Kentucky and Ohio continue to struggle mightily to balance a budget. That surplus is not there because of gambling but because of sound fiscal and political management. Kentucky should take a lesson.

    Thursday, June 25, 2009

    Woodfill - Wow, What a Miss

    Staggering blow today with news that Woodfill's bids have come in 12.5% over budget or $1.1m. Given the current economy this is a huge miss in estimation and will eat into 'urgent needs funds' that could have been used in other places in the district.

    I know I have mentioned this before but doesn't this count towards the $924m in stimulus funds dedicated towards education in the state of Kentucky alone? Where is this money being spent? I know the state of Kentucky launched a site to inform citizens of how the money is being allocated but it is sorely lacking in details.