2013: The Current State of Affairs at Ft. Thomas Plaza
File photo from the Myers Y. Cooper website. Ft. Thomas Jewelers was not yet here, which means this photo is at least 8 years old.
The Ft. Thomas Plaza was built in 1989. Property stalwarts like Drug Emporium carried the Plaza through its infancy. The likes of Jeff Wyler and Pannell Swim Shop led the way into its next phase as the Plaza had almost a full occupancy. Fort Thomas Jewelers, DEP's and Fischer Homes all had thriving businesses just a short time ago. Now they are all gone or will be gone.
Now, as the dreary picture above depicts, The Ft. Thomas Plaza is a sad place. The Myers Y. Cooper Company is the investment developer for the property. Anchor stores seemed to do well at the Plaza, but the smaller retail, restaurants and professional services were overwhelmed by the last economic downturn. Couple that with The Newport Pavilion and The Banks within a 5 mile radius, and The Plaza is in the place it is today.
Shelley Deiters, Leasing Agent for The Ft. Thomas Plaza for Myers Y. Cooper said, "New development in the area is drawing retail attention away from Ft. Thomas Plaza. That being said, we are working hard to find new businesses that will be compatible with other business entering the market that will be an asset to the community. This work takes time and we appreciate the community's interest and concern."
File Photo from Meyers Y. Cooper's website
Randy Cooper, President of Myers Y. Cooper echoed that sentiment "Like many shopping centers, Ft. Thomas Plaza has evolved over time. Originally a neighborhood convenience center with Drug Emporium, What's Next, Phil's Record, Miller Brothers Paints, the "next generation was more regional in focus."
With Fischer Homes, DEPs and Ft. Thomas Jewelers in place, leasing agents for Myers Y. Cooper had anchor stores in place to help fill the vacancies around them.
DEPs left the Plaza to build out a larger space in the old Moore's Hardware Store just South on Alexandria Pike in Fort Thomas. According to Ft. Thomas Jewelers owner, Vince Keairns, who still has his business in The Plaza, he said the departure of DEPs was"that was the straw that broke the camel's back."
"Myers Y. Cooper is an established company, who obviously does well with their other properties," Keairns said. "Ft. Thomas Plaza must be their lost leader. A needed tax write-off because it just doesn't seem like the effort is there (to bring in new tenants)."
According to the Myers Y. Cooper website, they are the investment developer for 8 total properties.
Keairns went on: "When DEPs and Curves moved out, we had no choice (to move). We're now a jewelry store with no neighbors. If it hadn't been for the dedication of the Fort Thomas Police department who have gone out of their way to ensure our security, we would have left a long time ago."
According to other business owners who did not want to be named, when businesses began to move out, the remaining businesses absorbed the remaining "cam" costs that a fully occupied development would generally have an equal share. "Cam" costs are things like snow removal, blacktop maintenance, waste removal and miscellaneous taxes. According to these owners, this was at the option of the developer.
Ft. Thomas Jewelers is moving to a brand new location in Cold Spring on July 18th.
Debbie Buckley, Renaissance Manager for the City of Fort Thomas, is doing all she can to help entice new business to fill the once flourishing Ft. Thomas Plaza.
"Myers Y. Cooper is working hard to bring new business here," she said. "The Ft. Thomas Plaza is a diamond in the rough and a great opportunity for new businesses. You cannot beat the location."
I asked her to give me her sales pitch to new businesses she tries to bring to the Plaza. I was very impressed.
Without hesitation, it starting rolling off her tongue before I finished the question. "It's the halfway point of all Campbell County," she said. "It's the point where people have to make a decision to go South to Florence, or up to Eastgate or Kenwood. It's right off of 471 and the visibility from there cannot be beat."
She also quoted a statistic that the Fort Thomas Plaza is the axis point for the highest alcohol sales in a 15 miles radius. If the Plaza comes back to it's glory, she should get a lot of credit.
So what does all this mean? Where does the Plaza go from here? It's no doubt, going to the Plaza right now is depressing. It's a virtual ghost town. I think Randy Cooper subtly touched on it when he talked about how the Plaza had moved from a neighborhood development to a regional one. In my opinion from talking to those with access, one of the problems is that the developer does not have accurate demographic information to be able to make up-to-date decisions on what to bring into Ft. Thomas Plaza.
The area has changed. I'm not sure the developer has it's finger on the community's pulse.
I have it from high sources that the city was inches away from landing a chain burger-type restaurant. Now, there are high hopes that the Plaza will bring a new development to the city that has not been to Ft. Thomas in my lifetime.
In my opinion, it would work. The City of Fort Thomas is busting its tail to make it work. Now it's time to see if Myers Y. Cooper wants it to work.