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Bellevue Sets Sights on Future as New Plan Begins

Residents and business owners in Bellevue joined city officials and representatives from the Northern Kentucky Area Development District (NKADD) for a workshop Tuesday night, to discuss ideas for updating the city’s comprehensive plan.
 
Roughly forty people attended the meeting, filling nearly every seat in Bellevue’s Callahan Community Center, which also houses Bellevue City Council chambers.
 
A rather informal proceeding, the meeting began with city and NKADD officials presenting the most recent census data on the region, comparative to national trends in demographics and economic development. Upon concluding, though, the floor was opened up to residents, each of whom were given a chance to name one of Belleuve’s greatest assets and a way the city could improve.
 
Of the city’s assets mentioned, Bellevue’s size and close­knit sense of community dominated the discussion. Joe Neary, former resident of Belleuve and current Dayton resident and candidate for city council, pointed to community members’ willingness to convene and discuss the city’s future.
 
“This sharing of ideas within the community is wonderful,” Neary said. "That’s the biggest thing Bellevue has going for it, their government asking them what they want and people coming together to answer.” Along these lines, a number of residents also praised the city’s officials for their accessibility and accountability for the city’s well­being. 
 
Liz and Bernandin Joseph, transplants to Northern Kentucky from New Jersey and New York/Philadelphia respectively, mentioned that they moved to Bellevue specifically because it is a community on the rise.
 
“We moved here because we could be a part of a community that’s growing,” Bernandin said.
 
“This place is up and coming,” Liz, his wife, added.
 
Several residents also brought up the city’s central location and its walkability, as both an asset as well as a point where the city can improve. “We have grocery stores, parks, a waterfront, all in walking distance,” one resident said. Just minutes later, however, another resident argued that the city is “not doing enough to capitalize on our location.”
 
For some, capitalizing on Bellevue’s central, urban location would, in many ways, benefit the city but could also pose infrastructure issues as new development projects begin to take off and more and more residents businesses move to town. Parking along Fairfield Ave. was of particular concern among residents.
 
Like other Northern Kentucky river cities, Bellevue currently finds itself on the cusp of new economic and residential development while still trying to maintain its historical heritage. One resident explained how Bellevue's "generational legacy" is what "holds the city together," and several participants pointed to Bellevue's many multi­generational residents and historical homes as proof of a legacy worth preserving.
 
At the same time, though, some feel it's crucial to appeal to younger generations and introduce new ideas and technologies. Tom Wiethorn, who served as mayor of Bellevue from 1986 to 2001, wonders how many more young adults would consider Bellevue with what are becoming, in other urban areas, common amenities, such as same­day delivery on items like groceries or a more active presence on social media.
 
"We need to make sure Bellevue moves in the direction of other, more connected urban cities, with easily accessible amenities, that communicate regularly with their citizens, and gets them more involved," he said.
 
Wiethorn, whose family has lived in Bellevue since 1882, feels Bellevue historically has been "ahead of the curve" when it comes to community development, and that the city should strive to continue that approach.
 
Many mentioned Bellevue Schools as a critical tool for attracting younger families and retaining young residents. The school district's new superintendent, Rob Smith, attended Tuesday night's meeting and described the relationship he envisions between the school district and the city of Bellevue.
 
"The school board, the mayor, city officials, etc... they all have the same goal in mind: to make Bellevue a great place to live," Smith said. "We want to teach our kids how to be good citizens and community members. The school board is 100% behind the community."
 
Like its neighboring cities along the riverfront, Bellevue is finding itself tasked with striking a balance between its history and its future.
 
And residents are hopeful. One Bellevue man explained that it's the strong sense of "We are Bellevue" across generations that makes the city unique.
 
Wherever Bellevue is headed next, Jay Buchert, a board member for Southbank Partners, pointed out what was instantly clear at Tuesday night's workshop: "Among all the Northern Kentucky cities I've worked with, Bellevue has always shown a continual, relentless pursuit of improvement."
 
Story & photo by Pat LaFleur, RCN contributor