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Thursday, April 29, 2021

Ovation and Levee Developments on Track Together

The Ovation Music Pavilion features VIP seating, a generous mosh pit, three bars and grass-planted section atop the venue's garage to offer soft seating for fans.

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 by Robin Gee 

Justin Otto, general manager for Newport on the Levee, and Eric Buck, senior development associate for Corporex, were on hand Wednesday to speak with members at the April meeting of the Newport Business Association. Corporex is the developer for the Ovation project. Both shared updates and noted how fortunate it was to have two exciting developments on the river side-by-side.

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"You can build a Newport on the Levee anywhere. You can build it in Mason, Ohio. You can build it in Union Kentucky, but what’s really hard to build is an Ohio River, a Purple People bridge, a Cincinnati Skyline, a Newport Aquarium and, especially, a development like Ovation. We are so lucky to have something like this, a partner to feed off of, and to work with. It’s synergistic, bringing the northern part of Campbell County alive," said Otto, who also praising the city of Newport for its vision.

Buck agreed, "With nearly 1,000 residential units, our development is mostly residential, so to have an amenity like Newport on the Levee right next to us, that’s why we’re so excited to have the partnership, connecting our two projects and our developments. For me, and for all residents living in Newport, it’s not just about Newport on the Levee and Ovation, it’s all about the riverfront development, the district. That’s how it needs to be seen."

Preparing for the return to concerts

Buck gave an overview of the two phases of the Ovation Project. The first, nearing completion, is the $40 million, 38,000-square-foot concert venue in partnership with AEG Worldwide/PromoWest, one of the largest music entertainment companies in the world.

"With more than 180 events a year – that’s almost one every other night with an average attendance of 2,300 for each event, it creates a good catalyst for our entire project," he said.

RELATED: Ovation Project in Newport Has Plans for Hotel, Office Building Next to Music Venue

Due to the pandemic, few bands are touring right now, but Buck said that is expected to change by September. While the concert venue has perhaps created the most buzz, Buck’s updates highlighted what’s next for the project (Phase one and two) in addition to details about the performance space.

The concert venue boasts an outdoor space with room for up to 7,000 people. There will be three bars, a generous mosh pit area, an extra viewing screen off to one side of the stage, VIP seating and an expanse of real grass planted on top of the building’s parking garage for audiences to relax and enjoy the show.

When the weather turns cold, concerts will be held inside the building with space for 2,700. All told, Buck said they expect to draw between 350,000 and 400,000 music fans each year.

Buck said many of the features at the facility put an emphasis on ease of movement for concert goers, what he said AEG likes to call “the circle of life.” Getting people from their seats to the bar and in and out of the restroom as efficiently and as comfortably as possible is a key need addressed within the project, he noted.

Going vertical this summer

A rendering of the five-story office building and 124-room hotel, the next project for Ovation.

Next to the concert venue will be a 100-square-foot five-story office building built above a parking garage with retail shops on the first floor and a five-story, 124-room Homewood Suites Hotel with a plaza-level bar and a rooftop bar. "We plan to go vertical with that this summer," he said.

From there, Buck moved onto "phase two" of the project, which will be connected by a new, wide pedestrian bridge. He said the developers worked for almost two years with the Army Corps of Engineers to expand the Levee. This part of the Levee has walls 26 feet tall and will run in front of the planned residential building facing the river.

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More than 900 residential units are planned, rental and condominium. Presale for 88 condominium homes will begin this summer, he said. The site will include restaurants and retail on the first floor, and the plan is for the expanse between the residential units and the levee tol serve as the front lawn." The goal is to provide access to the river from the residential property.

"You will be able to walk directly down to the river," he said. People will also be able to drive up to the plaza level and straight into the off street parking with the help of a ramp. The project spans Central Avenue to the roundabout on Route 8.

Buck said developers also have been working with the city of Newport to help support acceleration of the city park in that area.

The developers are also excited about another city project that should be completed in the next few years – the renovations on the Fourth Street Bridge connecting Newport and Covington.

The mixed-use Ovation project includes rental and condo properties facing the Ohio River.

Ovation developers worked two years with the Army Corps of Engineers on the Levee expansion.

Praising new and long-time Levee tenants

Much of the work for Newport on the Levee has been completed or is nearing completion. Otto highlighted improvements to the facility including parking access from Third Street, a complete redesign of the Gallery Building, a total refresh of the promenade between the Gallery Building and the Bridgeview Box Park, a new entrance connecting the Gallery Building to the pedestrian bridge, and an open walkway along the river with restaurants and retail.

He also noted the addition of Trade™, a rotating group of 12 new and upcoming vendors along with four permanent retail spaces. 

Renovations to Newport on the Levee are nearing completion. This is a rendering showing the refreshed plaza and Bridgeview Park

RELATED: North American Properties Continues Plan to be "Newport’s Livingroom"

RELATED: More Changes on the Way at Newport on the Levee

The latest development has been the addition of one of the two new LED screens for events mounted on the plaza (with the second inside the Gallery Building due soon, he said.) The big screen comes just in time for the Levee’s second annual Run for the Roses event in the Bridgeview Box Park on May 1.

RELATED: Race to Newport on the Levee for the Second Annual Run for the Roses Event on May 1

Otto said he is most excited to welcome new businesses to the Levee. The Beeline offers craft cocktails, 2,800 square feet of space and access to an expansive outdoor patio. Its 'sister" is The Buzz also specializing in craft cocktails and featuring frozen drinks.

Craft brewery West Sixth Street adds Newport on the Levee to its list of locations in Lexington, Louisville and Frankfort. It will be in the space formerly held by Leaf and Lamb, which is moving inside the Gallery Building.

In the Bridgeview Box Park, Blackmarket Saloon will provide fresh-squeezed spiked lemonade. The Crepe Guys is a European franchise featuring sweet and savory crepes and coffee. It will take the place of Bon-Mi, which also moves inside the Gallery Building.

Otto said he wanted especially to thank all the tenants who have stayed with the Levee despite all the challenges from the pandemic and from the renovations.

RELATED: Newport on the Levee Announces Five New Restaurant, Bar Concepts 

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