Wednesday, October 8, 2003

New exit stokes dreams

Developers plan $7.7M project in Grant County

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WILLIAMSTOWN - A Northern Kentucky development group has big plans for a new Interstate 75 Exit 156 interchange that opened Tuesday in the Grant County seat.

The group - Jim Berling, Bill Zalla and Dave Heidrich - hopes to build a large-scale retail development at the new Barnes Road exit, a $7.7 million project that is 35 miles from the Ohio River.

"It may take a few years," Heidrich said Tuesday during a formal dedication of the interchange attended by Gov. Paul Patton and a number of local officials.

"But this could be the next Houston Road," Heidrich said, referring to the Florence retail strip dominated by appliance retailers, shopping strip centers, restaurants and office buildings.

The group, which has developed retail and office space in Northern Kentucky, has started preparing a 75-acre site adjacent to the interstate. No retailers or other tenants have committed to the property, but Heidrich thinks it's only a matter of time before development begins.

"You're just 30 miles or so from the river," he said. "Go north from the river, and 30 miles is Mason and the Kings Island area. That's not country anymore. The growth has moved north, and with projects like this interchange, the growth will move south."

Grant County's population grew by nearly 50 percent during the 1990s and is now at nearly 25,000.

"A project like this is an investment in a community and an investment in the future," said Patton, who included money for the project in the state budget.

During a dedication ceremony the people who helped make the project a reality were recognized. Along with Patton they included:

• Grant County native Dr. Floyd Poore, who as secretary of transportation during the early 1980s first began planning for the project.

• Grant County Judge-executive Darrell Link, who lobbied the Patton administration for years to fund the project.

• State Rep. Royce Adams, D-Dry Ridge, who for a decade in Frankfort worked to secure money for the interchange.

"It shows what can happen when people are determined and they work together," Adams said.

The road will not only improve business but will also provide quicker access to the St. Elizabeth Grant County Unit medical center, which is on Barnes Road less than a mile from the new interchange.

"This interchange could shave 15 minutes or more for someone hurt on the interstate and trying to get to the hospital," Adams said. "That could save lives."

"It's huge," said Chris Carle, the hospital's administrator and a St. Elizabeth vice president. "This is a big boost for the area, and a great convenience for patients coming to the hospital."


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