Friday, October 17, 2003

View from N. Ky. hills entices home buyers

Pat Crowley

BELLEVUE - The sweeping view from the top of Van Voast Avenue in this Campbell County river city is stunning.

On a crisp fall morning the Ohio River valley looks like a painting crowded with the colorful images of the Cincinnati skyline, the downtowns of Covington and Newport, the historic homes of Bellevue, the Mount Adams hillside, The Purple People Bridge and the Yellow Big Mac span.

"It's the best view of the river and downtown Cincinnati in this area," boasts Bellevue City Councilman Tom Ratterman as he gives a tour of the area.

Ratterman's opinion is certainly open to debate. The Kentucky and Ohio hills provide plenty of vantage points for great views.

But there's no argument that developers are flocking to the vistas of Northern Kentucky to build pricey homes.

Edgewood-based Ashley Development paid $425,000 for the Van Voast Avenue property in Bellevue and is now beginning to prepare the site for construction of seven homes that will start at around $600,000.

"The views are phenomenal from Bellevue, and that's what buyers are looking for," said Ashley owner John Yeager. He built two years ago on a hillside in Newport and was amazed about how much interest he received from Ohio residents.

"We build a subdivision in Edgewood or elsewhere in Northern Kentucky and you don't get a heavy interest from Ohio buyers," Yeager said. "We do something in Northern Kentucky with a view and the Ohio people flock to you because they can get a great house for a lot less money on this side of the river. In fact, it was an Ohio couple that told me about Bellevue."

Yeager said city officials, including City Administrator Don Martin, "went out of their way" to make his project happen. "You don't get that in most other places," Yeager said.

A real hot spot for new homes is Wiedemann Hill, which rises above Interstate 471. Homes are selling for as much as $1 million. The houses are stunning, but the view is helping developers get top dollar.

Fourteen custom-built homes have already been constructed. Six will be featured in the upcoming CitiFest home show set for Oct. 18 to Nov. 2. And more houses are on the way for the enclave.

Dale McPherson of Signature Homes in Florence plans to develop another 12 pricey homes around the Wiedemann Mansion on Park Avenue. The project has been selected for CitiFest 2004. All 12 lots have a view.

The gated community will feature period homes designed to resemble houses built between 1890 and 1925.

"There are lot of places to buy upscale homes in this area," said real estate broker Terry Rasche, who is helping market the project. "But you can't get these kinds of views five minutes from downtown."

Rasche has a knack for spotting real estate trends. He began steering investors and buyers to Newport's Mansion Hill in the mid- to late 1980s when homes were going for $30,000 to $40,000.

"Now some of them are going for $300,000 to $400,000," he said.

He also was one of the first brokers to realize the true potential of Newport's hillsides and Bellevue's historic homes.

Rasche is now pushing a piece of property in another river city, Dayton, that is home to Belmont Fishing Lake. The owner wants to sell the 13-acre site at the end of Maple Avenue that is 10 minutes from downtown. But the property is so secluded and lush with trees it feels like 10 hours.

"A developer could come in, buy the land (which lists for $349,000), close the lake to the public and build seven or so homes that sit on a lake," Rasche said. "This city is willing to work with developers and builders. The development and interest is moving east along the river. Dayton could be the next hot spot."


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