Monday, June 21, 2004

Urban homes spread eastward along river



By Jennifer Edwards
Enquirer staff writer

EAST END - The sweeping turn of the Ohio River in the East End shows off stunning views up and down the waterway.

For decades, river captains set their watches by the clock tower at St. Rose's Church, its spire visible for miles in all directions.

[img]
Mary Dyar stands in one of the nearly completed condominium units at Riverwalk.
(Thomas E. Witte photo)
Now, a new wave of residents will enjoy that bend in the river from their terraces at a $9.5 million, mid-rise condominium development called RiverWalkat Eastern and Collins avenues.

The six-story building that opens today mixes 11 gallery-style lofts, 12 luxury units and five penthouses. There also is an underground parking garage, fitness center, library and restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating.

This is the first new mixed-use development of its kind in the East End in years, and comes in an old east-side neighborhood once known for wooden-ship building yards.

Of RiverWalk's 28 condos, seven have been sold; prices range from $259,000 to $600,000.

A second phase of RiverWalk, just to the west along Eastern Avenue, will start soon and include up to 21 town homes starting at about $475,000. The second phase also will have commercial development.

Eastern building boom

RiverWalk's debut is the latest in a flurry of housing construction in the East End, where housing is leaning toward young professionals and empty nesters.

In the past five to seven years, about $55 million in private investment has been sunk into an area within two blocks of RiverWalk, according to Bob Little Sr. of Urban Equity Partners. He developed RiverWalk with his son and partner, Bob Jr. Al Neyer Inc. of Blue Ash is the design and building partner.

Little said RiverWalk, along with growth in Northern Kentucky and downtown's revitalization along the Ohio River, is part of creating a dynamic urban environment.

"So many cities now have a real urban excitement, and Cincinnati is right on the sort of beginning edge of all that," Little said.

Another luxury condo project is coming across Collins Avenue from RiverWalk and across Eastern Avenue from LeBlond Park. Plans are in the preliminary stages for a project that will hold 12 to 15 units, said Gail Paul, a spokeswoman for Al Neyer.

And this month, building wrapped up on the Waterfront East condominiums along Eastern Avenue, west from RiverWalk fronting the Ohio River.

Out of the 31 units there, 26 are sold. Prices range from $250,000 to $1.6 million.

Development also is spreading farther west up Eastern Avenue near Bains Street to a parcel across from the Theodore M. Berry International Friendship Park.

That's where Towne Properties Ltd. of Mount Adams is building a 26-unit townhouse project, Twain's Point at Adam's Landing, said Brian Bortz, Towne Property's vice president of development.

Prices will range from $550,000 to $600,000. The main selling point is the river view.

"We are designing this for the empty-nester or people who choose to be closer to downtown, cultural events and all the action," Bortz said.

Columbia Square

The building boom also is rampant in neighboring Columbia Tusculum, which is abuzz with plans for a $24 million urban downtown called "Columbia Square."

The project mixes 60 apartments or condominiums with shops, restaurants and offices at Columbia Parkway and Delta Avenue.

Construction could begin later this year or in 2005.

Once Columbia Square begins construction, Gary Osterfeld, owner and president of Cottage Hill Development LLC of Anderson Township, plans to build 30 to 40 homes nearby on Strafer Street that will start at $300,000.

The building boom, said Brian Breneman, president of the East End Area Council, bucks the trend of declining home ownership as residents flee for new housing in the suburbs.

"We have exactly the opposite going on in the East End. We have a rapidly increasing housing rate and people moving back from the suburbs into the city. It is a trend that bodes very well for Cincinnati."

But some longtime East End residents are wary of the new housing, fearful it could push out families who have lived there for decades.

Most newcomers who buy the homes get property taxes reduced for several years under city-approved agreements. At RiverWalk, for instance, homeowners will be able to apply for a 15-year abatement on property taxes up to $230,000, Little said.

Dorothy Ellis, who has lived in the East End all of her 82 years, acknowledges some of those concerns. But overall, she stresses, the development is a big improvement.

"A lot of people now that are complaining are renters," said Ellis, president of the board of trustees at Pendleton Heritage Center on Eastern Avenue. "My taxes have gone up. But, hey, everything is going up."

Grand opening for new RiverWalk

As part of National Homeownership Month, Cincinnati city officials join Urban Equity Partners, LLC, and Bank of Kentucky for a 10 a.m. grand opening ceremony today of RiverWalk, a 28-condominium building in the East End with a restaurant on the first floor.

Located at 2260 Eastern Ave., RiverWalk is the first new mixed-use development of its kind of this area in years.

Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken will be among the expected 100 guests.

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E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com

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