Friday, January 30, 2004

Brent Spence replacement may force firms to close



By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

When the Hue family opened the Cork 'n Bottle on Crescent Avenue in Covington 40 years ago, being next to a bridge - the Brent Spence - helped make the family beer, liquor and wine business a success.

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Now, what the bridge gave the Hues, it may take away.

In several of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's concepts for replacing or augmenting the outdated, overcrowded Interstate 71-75 bridge over the Ohio River, the Cork 'n Bottle - along with other Crescent Avenue businesses like Willie's Sports Cafe and the Hampton Inn - might have to relocate or fold because a new straight-line bridge would mean Crescent Avenue would be no more.

"I have no idea what we'd do," said Brian Hue, who, with his brother Tim, runs the business his father started 40 years ago. "This business feeds a lot of families. This business was the first development in this part of town. I'd hate to see it all wiped away."

But, under several of the options presented by the Transportation Cabinet, wiped away it would be. And so might dozens of other businesses and properties on the Kentucky and Ohio sides of the river, all the way up to the boundary between Queensgate and the West End.

A Cinergy substation sits within a few yards of the Brent Spence Bridge. Cinergy spokeswoman Kathy Meinke said one, and possibly two, of the bridge proposals could have an impact on that substation, which supplies power to the southern half of downtown Cincinnati and parts of northern Kentucky.

If the old substation, which once was a coal-fired power plant, has to go, a replacement would have to be built before construction of the bridge.

"Obviously, you'd have to have a way of keeping the power going," Meinke said. "You can't have that kind of disruption of service for the time it would take to build a bridge."

But Cinergy officials believe they can work with local officials to avoid a disruption, even if they have to build a new substation elsewhere.

The utility has a representative on the committee working on the bridge plan.

"We know that in the second stage, they'll be coming to the businesses and property owners who might be impacted and working with them," Meinke said. "There's no need for concern at this point."

Next to the electric substation is the 100-year-old Longworth Hall, the former train depot that is now a 272,000-square-foot office building. It was bought in 1985 by developer Roy Schweitzer, who spent $17.6 million renovating the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Schweitzer's investment will apparently be safe, since the planners took care to avoid touching Longworth Hall, although construction of a new bridge would take place nearby.

"It's hard to say what we'd do until I see the actual plan, but I suppose we'll have to hire an attorney," said Cork 'n Bottle's Hue. "We have to do something to protect ourselves."

E-mail hwilkinson@enquirer.com




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