NEWPORT - A Northern Kentucky developer announced Friday he will break ground Nov. 1 on a 1,083-foot tower near Newport's riverfront that will be nearly twice as tall as Cincinnati's Carew Tower.
Developer David Hosea wants to build the Millennium Freedom Tower 2000 - complete with a free-fall ride and the world's largest bell - on a site across from the Syndicate restaurant on East Fifth Street.
Financing for the tower, which developers plan to open by New Year's Eve 1999, is expected to be secured within 30 to 60 days, Mr. Hosea said.
The Fort Thomas businessman unveiled his vision for the massive entertainment, tourism and retail complex at a press conference called one day after The Enquirer's article on the proposal.
He said 150 people have invested about 5,000 hours on the project, including a
just-completed feasibility study by International Theme Park Services Inc. of Cincinnati.
Helping with the financing of the project is Wayne Carlisle, president of Carlisle Construction Co. in Wilder, and a partner of Mr. Hosea's in various projects, including the Syndicate restaurant.
In recent weeks, the two have met with labor leaders, state officials, and private lenders about getting money to pay for the $75 million to $100 million tower, which would be built on a one-block site bordered by Fourth, Fifth, York and Monmouth Sts. A public offering of stock also has been discussed.
In meetings with state officials, Mr. Hosea and Mr. Carlisle discussed a Kentucky tourism incentive that took effect last July. The new program allows the developer to recoup up to 25 percent of the project's cost for up to 10 years in a sales tax rebate.
David Lovelace, deputy secretary of Kentucky's Tourism Development Cabinet, noted that the first application for the program was for the $40 million aquarium, which is scheduled to open by summer 1999 near Newport's riverfront.
''We're thinking about renaming the Kentucky Tourism Development Act the Newport Tourism Development Act,'' Mr. Lovelace said Friday.
Newport city officials said all that Mr. Hosea has sought from them is their blessing.
''I think it's a great concept,'' said Newport Commissioner Jan Knepshield, echoing comments from Mayor Tom Guidugli. ''It's a well-thought-out concept that has commercial space, restaurant space, corporate space, a ride, and stained-glass windows focusing on items of historical significance. It should really give the downtown area a shot in the arm.''
Ken Rechtin, Newport city commissioner, said, ''I tend to be the most skeptical one on the board, and I'm just astounded at the amount of private funding that's gone into this project already.'' He added traffic issues related to the tower will be addressed in a study under way for the downtown area north of 12th Street.
This weekend, representatives of three European bell foundries will meet in Cincinnati to begin designing the 66,000-pound bell that would be the world's largest swinging bell. Also helping with the design is the Verdin Co. of Cincinnati, the world's largest supplier of bells, carillons and clocks.
Tentative plans call for the bell to be cast in a giant pit at the tower site sometime during the next 18 months, with spectators watching from nearby bleachers.
The tower also will include 2,000 bells sponsored by individuals and corporations, as well as the world's largest carillon.
''From our company's viewpoint, (the tower) is highly unique and very complementary to the area,'' said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc. ''There's nothing else like it.''
Other features include:
Mr. Speigel said the tower and a $40 million aquarium proposed for a site just two blocks away - at Second and York Sts. - should complement one another.
- A base that would include gardens, a seasonal ice rink similar to New York's Rockefeller Plaza, 24 upscale international shops, and traveling museum exhibits similar to the Titanic exhibit now in Memphis, Tenn.
- At 200 feet, visitors would be able to board the largest free-fall ride in the world, ride up to the 600-foot level and free fall to 200 feet in an electro-magnetic powered ''Tower of Terror.''
- As it begins its descent, the ride would pass through a bar and restaurant built at the 550-foot level. Visitors would ride an elevator from the 200-foot level to the restaurant.
- The elevator would continue to corporate offices at the 700-foot level, where developers envision a major television or radio company moving its headquarters.
''Both are short-term visitor attractions, and they're close enough that people could walk from one to the other,'' Mr. Speigel said.
The study projects at least 1.5 million people will visit the tower each of its first five years of operation. It also concludes that existing parking, including a 450-car garage planned as part of Newport's aquarium, will be sufficient for the planned attraction.
''These are exciting times for Newport,'' Mr. Rechtin said. ''We'll (soon have) an aquarium instead of dancing, and now we'll have a tower instead of gambling.''
The structure that would be the world's 11th tallest, just ahead of the Eiffel Tower.
TOWER EAGERLY ENDORSED April 18, 1997
PROPOSED TOWER WOULD BE WORLD'S 11TH-TALLEST April 17, 1997