Monday, May 17, 1999

Bellevue's riverside fix next in line

Restaurants, offices coming

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BELLEVUE — The city's long-awaited riverfront development kicks into high gear this summer when a former marina and a former manufacturing building on Fairfield Avenue meet a wrecker's ball.

        In their place will rise at least two restaurants and office space, just a three-iron shot from The Party Source in Newport. Bellevue City Administrator Don Martin can hardly wait.

        “This is the beginning, and we feel there will be a lot more development in the next few years all along the riverfront,” Mr. Martin said. “Eventually it could extend all the way to the city park (four blocks east of the current site).”

        The city is developing the $14 million restaurant/office itself. It's a perfect fit for Bellevue because it will create new tax revenue, provide additional revenue through lease payments for the city, and is expected to spur other private development along the riverfront.

        Mike Crawford and his family, who own and operate Crawford Insurance in the former Avenue Restaurant building on Fairfield Avenue, own property behind their company along Eden Avenue just above the river and are looking at future development.

        “We're not talking about anything in the next few months, but in the long term we still plan to develop low-rise condominiums similar to those right across the Ohio River on (Cincinnati's) Eastern Avenue,” Mr. Crawford said.

        The Crawfords, Bellevue natives who have operated the insurance business in the city for over 30 years, bought the restaurant property three years ago and restored the one-story structure.

        Just across Eden Avenue, on the river side of the street, Cincinnati developer Winston Folkers has plans for a $15 million condominium project.

        Mr. Martin said in recent talks with Mr. Folkers, the developer said he was working on financing for the project. He said Mr. Folkers has indicated he likes the plan so much he may finance it himself if other financing is not immediately available.

        Because the city owns the land, it will obtain at least $50,000 annually in lease fees (and probably more) from the restaurants, in addition to an estimated $35,000-$60,000 in property, payroll and permit taxes.

        “We get calls here at the city building, mostly from restaurant companies, wanting to know where we have property available for construction,” Mr. Martin said. “But we don't have much land that could be used for that purpose.”

        The riverfront land is Bellevue's greatest asset, and city leaders say they intend to develop it wisely. At the same time, Mayor Tom Weithorn has made it clear he wants Fairfield Avenue, the city's main lifeline which is also Ky. 8, to enjoy as much redevelop ment and rehabilitation as possible.

        Plans call for removal of all overhead utility wires and utility poles, and possible public parking behind businesses along Fairfield.

        Mr. Martin said demolition of the marina and other buildings on the site could begin by late June, and construction of a geo-grid earthen retaining wall, similar to that used at Don Pablo's restaurant just downriver on Newport's Riverboat Row, will begin almost immediately after the land is cleared.

        “If we have a mild winter, the restaurants and other businesses should be in their locations by next summer,” he said. “The (restaurant) people have made it clear they want to get going right now.”

        One restaurant already identified is Joe's Crab Shack, a chain which has a similar seafood restaurant in Louisville and several more on the Atlantic Coast.

        “We think it will attract people from all over, not just from Northern Kentucky, because the restaurants are well known,” Mr. Martin said.

        Traffic, often considered one of the major negative trade-offs of development, should not be a consideration for the new development. “Traffic from this site will be pretty much self-contained,” Mr. Martin said. “Most of the traffic will come in and out from I-471.”


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