Thursday, January 15, 2004

Concert hall idea played up for N.Ky.

Pat Crowley

The music director of The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra has begun a campaign to build a concert and events hall in Northern Kentucky.

J.R. Cassidy of Newport said the venue would be different from the arena proposed for Northern Kentucky University, where the primary function will be basketball games and larger events.

He envisions an 80,000-square-foot hall designed with optimum acoustics that would seat around 2,000 and be available for concerts, operas, plays, corporate events and other community uses.

"We need an intimate gathering place in Northern Kentucky," Cassidy said. "We are one of the largest areas of Kentucky, yet we don't have anything like this.

"This could be a place where people could enjoy everything from a symphony to (country singer) Vince Gill," he said.

Cassidy is searching for a location and at least $30 million. Other communities around the country have raised money with government bond issues and through corporate and private donations.

The symphony now plays mostly at NKU's Greaves Concert Hall, which is small at 700 seats.

He had approached the owners of the Crestview Hills Mall about locating there. At first the city was interested, but now the mall is set to be redeveloped into an outdoor mall of trendy shops and restaurants.

"He came to me last spring, before we had any development plans at the mall," said Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier. "If the mall was not being redeveloped I think it would be a fantastic way to go. But now I don't think there is room."

Cassidy disagrees and says he will continue to pitch the city and mall's developer and owner about the concert hall.

"I think it's perfect," he said. "You could go to a concert, then walk out and have dinner or go shopping."

The symphony and University of Kentucky's Opera Theatre jointly perform the opera Othello Friday night at 8 p.m. at Greaves.

NEW DEVELOPERS IN TOWN: Racon Development LLC, which has built hundreds of homes in the Columbus and Toledo areas over the past 13 years, is making its debut in Florence.

The company is building a $10 million subdivision of ranch-style condominiums off U.S. 42 called The Villas of Southfork. Units will sell for $142,900 to $174,900.

Company owners Randy Bacome and Jim Fallon have moved into the area and plan to develop more residential projects.

"We didn't move our entire families down here just to be one-and-done," Bacome said. "This isn't going to be our only stop. We love Northern Kentucky, and we've been blown away by the reception that we've been given."

THEY SAID IT: "I think the approach we've taken is the best approach, but we are open" to negotiation. Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, on his administration's proposed plan to cut the higher education budget by $70 million.


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