Saturday, January 22, 2000

City to seek funds for downtown spark

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDEPENDENCE — As a businessman who will soon mark his third anniversary here, photographer Kim Schmidt thinks downtown Independence needs a kick start from city officials.

        Mr. Schmidt would like to see the city buy and tear down some of the older homes in downtown Independence that have no historic value, and give the land to those interested in redeveloping the commercial area.

        “Small-business owners need facilities to lease, but the facilities just aren't there,” said the 24-year wedding photographer, who also runs a framing business at Ky. 17 and Independence Station Road.

        Mr. Schmidt said the city could require that it get the first chance to buy back the new development, should the developer choose to sell.

        As the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet begins to reroute Ky. 17 around downtown Independence, city officials hope to create an identity for the fast-growing city's tiny commercial district, and make it a destination.

        Business people such as Mr. Schmidt can offer their suggestions for a Main Street revitalization at a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the Kenton County Courthouse in Independence.

        “If the public gets involved, it will show whoever we're working with that we have public support,” said Independence City Administrator Gary Scott.

        Next month, Independence plans to apply for the Main Street program, which provides money for physical improvements in downtowns to entice businesses.

        Mr. Scott compared the city's development of a plan for downtown improvements to a home builder working with a customer.

        “If you're going to build something, it's better to build a house with the customer telling you the colors he wants and the number of rooms,” he said.

        “I think most anything would help, but it's almost impossible to really get anything to come here,” said Mary Riley, who operates a part-time antiques business on Ky. 17 in Independence. “We're too near Florence Mall. People don't want to run here and there. They want to go to a place where they can get everything.”

        To generate interest in downtown Independence, city officials have said they would like to attract businesses specializing in crafts, antiques or services.

        Independence officials also have talked about starting a farmers market on the courthouse lawn on Saturday afternoons this summer, Mr. Scott said.

        Mr. Schmidt suggested a fast-food restaurant or a hardware store as a type of business that might attract customers to downtown Independence.

        While the city's commercial area has a Kroger store and gas stations at its boundaries, there are few businesses in between to draw customers downtown, Mr. Schmidt said.


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