By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FLORENCE - Over the next seven years, the now-aging Mall Road shopping district could become a walkable, tree-lined destination, bustling with restaurants, a new movie theater and town homes.
A study unveiled at Tuesday's City Council meeting will help Florence officials "transform the Mall Road corridor into a modern first-class economic center of Northern Kentucky," said Warner Moore, regional manager of Jordan, Jones & Goulding, which prepared the study.
The aging strip centers along the road and Florence Mall are becoming dated and are losing tenants, the study says.
"The shine is no longer there," Moore said. "It's time to repolish and move it forward."
Several businesses, such as Dick's Sporting Goods, have moved from Mall Road to the higher-profile Houston Road area near Turfway Park.
After 20 years on Mall Road, Tarik Daoud is moving his LaRosa's restaurant to a new building off Houston Road. Accessibility was a major factor in his decision.
"It takes a while to get out of there," said Daoud, whose restaurant is on the north end of Mall Road.
Daoud also needed a free-standing building for a new causal dining concept of LaRosa's.
The strip shopping centers grew up on Mall Road in the late 1970s, soon after the mall opened, at a time when there were few rules about access points, pedestrian walkways, landscaping or architecture.
The study shows the city how to fix that while bringing new upscale shopping and dining to the area. The recommendations include:
Turning part of Florence Mall inside out, to make storefronts line a streetscape.
Building new shops in the parking lots of existing businesses because there is a lot of unused parking.
Lining streets with trees, sidewalks, benches and street lights.
Improving traffic patterns on the road and in the parking lots.
Replacing the Florence Cinema with a state-of-the-art movie theater.
Recruiting upscale retailers that are not in the area, such as Gaylans or Parisian.
Recruiting upscale restaurants and entertainment.
Building town homes and single-family houses at the south end of the road.
The study calls for the plan to be implemented over the next seven years. This year the city should adopt design, review and zoning guidelines for the area, hire someone to coordinate the plan, and create an association of Mall Road business owners, the study says.
"It's a big plan, it's a very industrious plan," said Mayor Diane Whalen. "It will take a huge commitment on the part of the city as well as the people who own property out there. We have a goal in front of us."
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