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Thursday, March 18, 2021

EXCLUSIVE: North American Properties Continues Plans to be "Newport’s Living Room"


The plan for Newport on the Levee is to create an open and inviting space that ties the whole project to the Ohio River and its surroundings.

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by Robin Gee


As more people get vaccinated, and we start to see things cautiously opening up, hopes are high for a return to near normal. No one knows for sure when that will happen, but when it does people are ready — more than ready.

North American Properties (NAP), the developer of Newport on the Levee, is ready, too. Renovations and construction have been underway for more than a year, and now the company plans a grand opening for Memorial Day weekend.

In fact, when we spoke with NAP Managing Partner Tim Perry, he had just signed leases for two new businesses coming to the project. He would not say who they were yet but noted that the mix of businesses coming to the space include restaurants, breweries and retail shops for things like home goods.


Among the plans, too, is a redesign of the river-facing side of the Levee, with the possibility of a restaurant and other businesses facing outward toward the river itself. With the Bridgeview Box Park and renovations to open up the flow of the plaza, the goal has been to encourage engagement with the riverfront. 

RELATED: A Year in the Pandemic: Newport on the Levee Owners Stay the Course

An entrance is being added next to the pedestrian bridge so, as Perry puts it, "you can actually walk up the stairs and go straight into the gallery building off the pedestrian bridge rather than going around it. You have this really bright continuous space that goes from the Aquarium and the box park all the way through...a much more porous environment that lets people circulate." 

The river calls


The connection to the environment was what attracted the developer to Newport on the Levee in the first place, Perry said. “The original basis of our investment there was the irreplaceable nature of the asset, the location, and all that’s going on around it. It’s a great thing to have natural amenities that are in place and you don’t have to go out and build.”

After all, he said, "you just can’t go to some other community and build the Ohio River."

Orangetheory Fitness. Newport Pavilion. 

Recognizing and highlighting the natural beauty of the river and strengthening the connections between it and their property has been the driving force behind many of the improvements people have seen and will see on the redesigned Levee.

Before NAP took over, the property seemed to have little connection to the river. It was difficult to get to the pedestrian bridge, connections to the Levee itself were not clear. The Cincinnati skyline was sometimes hidden from view.

The developer has taken an entirely different approach, making the river a focal point, opening up the property to embrace the river location. In fact, Perry said much of what they have done has been aimed at creating a “River Walk” experience where visitors can "... have a glass of wine, stroll along the river, sit on a bench, enjoy the view. All that is connected."

Gone is the long dark walk that visitors once took along the river side of the building. It used to be people moving from the Brothers bar to Mitchells would have to walk against a blank wall along the river. Now, there will be businesses facing the river along a walkway with access to the bridge and the levee.

Newport’s living room

Trade™is a revolving retail space inside the Gallery Building. The building includes comfortable gathering places with seating to give it a more relaxed vibe.

 

While the pandemic caused some setbacks and the addition of new safety protocols, the company pushed through the difficulties, keeping an eye on their prize. What kept them on track, says Perry is the original vision to have Newport on the Levee take its place in the community as "Newport’s Living Room."

Over the past year, NAP has developed the Bridgeview Box Park, improved and opened up the Gallery Building, torn down the Mitchel Fish Market Building and developed a more open and cohesive space. Work is now underway to bring their vision to the next level.

Besides updating paint colors and styles, Perry said, the company has focused on four main goals to:

  1. Create engagement with the river and the skyline
  2. Improve the arrival experience and entrance to the property
  3. Completely change the atmosphere of the Gallery Building making it more inviting and communal
  4. Opening up another entrance and create a flow from the pedestrian bridge through to the Gallery Building
The Bridgeview Box Park is perhaps the first, most visible piece of the puzzle. Opened earlier, the large outdoor community gathering, retail and event space is an extension of the plaza and connects to the pedestrian bridge, Levee walk and riverfront.

The company has added a 16- by 22-foot LED screen near the box park that can be used for broadcasting events, such as the Kentucky Derby and sporting events. Perry said more than 200 events for people of all ages are planned for the coming year. In addition there will be yoga and other activities. 

The Octagon building in the box park will be home to a concierge who will engage visitors and help facilitate the activities and events.

Perry noted that one major flaw of the previous set up was that one had to go around to the back to get into the parking deck. The area around Brio has been redesigned to provide an entrance where people can pull into the parking deck directly.

"The moment someone arrives defines the relationship between the guest, the community and the property," he said. "When you come up the stairs now, you are immediately engaged with the skyline and the plaza."

Part II of this story, which details more changes underway at Newport on the Levee, will be available tomorrow on FortThomasMatters.com.

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