Thursday, October 28, 2004

Consultant has new vision for Mall Road area



By Brenna R. Kelly
Enquirer staff writer

FLORENCE - The aging Mall Road shopping strip could become an innovative, vibrant district of entertainment, retailing, homes and offices.

But the transformation would happen only if business owners and developers buy into the need to adapt to growing competition in Northern Kentucky, the architect of the plan says.

Retail consultant Stan Eichelbaum envisions new buildings, new looks for existing structures, landscaping, bike paths, traffic circles and homes, all of which he says would turn Mall Road into "the most contemporary downtown in America."

And along with the new look would come new names. The district would become Florence City Center, and Mall Road would be redubbed City Center Boulevard.

The city of Florence hired Eichelbaum, president of Marketing Developments Inc., to help keep and recruit retailers as two new "lifestyle" centers in Northern Kentucky try to lure them away.

Last month, architects from Beame Architectural Partnership in Miami produced conceptual drawings of the proposed Florence City Center.

The design envisions 340,000 square feet of new retail space, 450,000 square feet of office space that could employ 2,400 people and homes for 1,500 people.

The nearly 30-year-old Florence Mall would be revamped with an open-air "lifestyle" section. A pedestrian walkway would lead to a traffic circle and across the road to an existing the strip mall, which would be renovated.

Around the circle would be an entertainment area Eichelbaum described as "high impact, high excitement" with themed restaurants or clubs.

Anchoring the pedestrian walkway would be the existing theater, a public library, symphony hall or other public space, he said.

In addition to new buildings, the fa┴ades of existing strip mall buildings could be updated by adding towers, awnings or dormers, Eichelbaum said.

There is no estimate of the cost of the transformation, but it would have to be a public/private investment, he said. The city would pay for improvements to Mall Road, but redesign of existing buildings and construction of new ones would be left to individual developers and building owners.

Eichelbaum said he believes building owners would see the benefit of new consumer interest and would agree to the structural upgrades.

The key to the plan is to act fast, Eichelbaum said, to compete with lifestyle centers in Crestview Hills and Crescent Springs. As of last month, 15 businesses had committed to Crestview Hills Town Center.

In addition to no firm financing, there is no timetable for the project. However, Eichelbaum said the first step would be the renaming of Mall Road.

Eichelbaum and the city plan to court retailers to sell the concept.

E-mail bkelly@enquirer.com




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