Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tenants and Landlord Still At Odds Over Future of Fort Thomas Plaza

Decision by Planning Commission Looms 
An aerial depiction of the Fort Thomas Plaza as displayed on the Facebook page: "Save the Plaza."
By Clayton Castle 

The Fort Thomas Planning and Zoning Commission is expected to discuss and vote on a measure to put an adult day care center in the Fort Thomas Plaza, amid opposition from local residents, at its meeting on Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m.

Previously in December, the Planning Commission voted 4-2 to table the discussion and study it more.

RELATED: Tenants, Landlord at Odds Over Zoning at Fort Thomas Plaza

The proposed zoning amendment would permit Active Day Senior Day Care “unconditional use” in the General Commercial district, specifically the Fort Thomas Plaza, according to Rob Robinson, owner of Fort Thomas Antique and Design Center, in an email to city council members in opposition of the project. He says that the majority of the tenants at the Fort Thomas Plaza oppose the zoning change that would allow Active Day to move into the Fort Thomas Plaza.

Overall Robinson, who leases nearly half of the space at Fort Thomas Plaza, says he doesn't believe this type of business would work well with what he and the other businesses have helped to move the forward momentum of the plaza's progress.

Robinson says he is also submitting a petition to the zoning commission that has the signature of every resident on Overlook Drive, which abuts the property on the north. The petition opposes the move of Active Day to the plaza. He says that the traffic caused by the business, among other items, would be a deterrent to the progress the plaza has made.

The petition reads:

We, the undersigned, residents of Fort Thomas, KY are adamantly opposed to the zoning change that would pemit an adult day care facility to operate in the Fort Thomas Plaza or any of general commercial (GC) zone.

For those of us who live on Overlook Drive, in some cases, our property line and backyard border the property line and back lot of the Plaza. The added daily traffc in our back yards, the added noise and exhaust of idling shuttle buses will be an annoyance and could affect our property values.

Robinson also owns the Highlander Bourbon and Wine Bar, Highlander Coffee House and Highlander Event Center in the same development.

According to Robinson, the space would be much better served with a hotel, which Fort Thomas has spent years trying to make happen.

A hotel would have such a huge economic impact,” Robinson said. “The Fort Thomas Plaza is 5-minutes from downtown, P&G, Kroger & Macy headquarters, 5-minutes from Fidelity’s campus in Covington, 15-minutes to the airport.  A hotel is a true game changer.”

The Fort Thomas Plaza has had a rough road over during the recent past. Anchor tenants Drug Emporium and Fischer Homes are gone, as are past owners of the shopping center, Myers Y. Cooper and Woodmen of the World and Neyer Properties, who managed the property for the latter.

Ken Perry, of Ken Perry Realty, bought the center with a group known as STPC LCC for $2,527,057. It was previously valued as high as $3.5 million. Perry's group also leases and manages the property.

Carol Hitch, who has worked at the Active Day since they opened in 2001, says they have been searching for new space for two years because they need more space.

"When we opened the doors we had zero members and we grew rapidly. Our original plan was to have 50 members, but we quickly found out that with our aging population, there was a greater need for the service," she said.

Hitch says that they currently see 65-75 members per day and that there are 120 people enrolled in Active Day. They have 28 employees with an annual payroll of just under $500,000. She said that they currently have six Fort Thomas residents that utilize the service and have served over 800 families since being in business in Fort Thomas.

According to her, the plaza is an ideal space because there are no stairs, which can be troublesome for her clients. Currently Active Day rents space at 725 Alexandria Pike in Fort Thomas.

Active Day at 725 Alexandria Pike. FTM file.
According to Robinson, the Northern Kentucky Eye Center, which sits on a standalone building in the plaza, currently has an agreement in place to occupy the space currently being scouted for the adult day care. That would allow the hotel to be built in the corner of the plaza.

Adult day care is a regulated medical facility, meaning it is regulated by the state and federal government. Also, there is already an Active Day Senior Care facility located in Fort Thomas, on Alexandria Pike.

Robinson says he doesn’t know why the new owners of the plaza have offered the site to Active Day, but says that space can be better served by a hotel.

“I believe a much better long term proposition for the owners and for the City of Fort Thomas is to have a hotel developed here in the corner of the plaza,” Robinson said. “Adult day care here in the plaza increases the value of the plaza incrementally; a hotel could double the value of the plaza.  Also I firmly believe that a hotel would help the Midway and Central Business districts tremendously.”

The zoning commission is expected to vote on the matter at its meeting on Wednesday night, taking place at 7:00 p.m. at the Fort Thomas City Building. Robinson hopes citizens will attend the meeting and voice their opinions.

“I encourage the residents of Fort Thomas to come out and support our position,” Robinson said. “This is one of the more important zoning issues that has been brought up before the city in several years.  This decision will have an impact on the city, county and the region for years to come.”

9 comments:

  1. Weather not withstanding, I will be there to oppose the zoning change tonight.

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    1. An adult day care will bring too much traffic but a hotel won't?!?

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    2. I know,right?

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  2. What am I missing? They are not proposing a jail, a methodone clinic or a new location for the Brass A! It's a caring, compassionate business geared to our elderly who need daily assistance and / or to afford family members the latitude to work or tend to other matters. How is the traffic a problem for a street not used to access the plaza? Those in opposition to this community-centered business should be ashamed! How is this an abomination, while the facilities on Highland, (around the corner) or in Tower Park never garner a word? This debate is absurd!

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    1. Have to agree with this. When Drug Emporium was in the plaza it was able handle a lot of traffic. And, how could a hotel generate less traffic than Active Day. You have to wonder if this isn't just opposition to Active Day's patients.

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  3. I had the same thought as Bernie. Unless they plan on the hotel to be a failure it seems there would be more employee cars, more guest cars and certainly even more traffic. I think Mr. Robinson may be more concerned that the elderly at the day care will not frequent his businesses while hotel guests may.

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    1. I think your last line sums it up.

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  4. Robinson wants the plaza to continue to move in a retail direction, that is all. There is certainly a momentum there that has not been seen in many years, and a use like a daycare will not add it, whereas more retail or other commercial uses would. The traffic is a side argument, and admittedly not a great one.

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