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Historic Fort Thomas Officers' Homes Get Federal OK for Development

The City of Fort Thomas had a pretty big announcement at Northern Kentucky Developers Day on Thursday.

"We have finally received final signatures from the US government for the procurement of ten residences within Tower Park," said Debbie Buckley, the city's economic development and renaissance manager. She was speaking on behalf of Mayor Mary Brown before the Appropriations and Revenue Committee of the Kentucky General Assembly which held its latest hearing at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.

Southbank Partners presented the meeting and surrounding forums as Developers Day, in which the six urban cities that make up Southbank highlight their successes and their needs for legislators. 

There are ten former homes at the original site of Fort Thomas, for which the city is named, that housed officers in the US Army in an area known as Alexander Circle. The historic Queen Anne-style buildings were constructed at around 1890. The sprawling buildings (five of which were used as duplexes) were designed with the expectation that they would be able to host large events.

Now, the city hopes a developer will view the properties as a money-making possibility that will attract affluent residents. The US Department of the Interior gave its blessing last week, Buckley said. "People call the city every day about this project," she said. "How many places can you find that many buildings that have been preserved, and in one of the top two school districts in the state?"

The developer will have its work cut out for it. There is lead and asbestos that will need to be abated, but there are tax credits available for that effort. "(The developer) is going to be a person who loves historic preservation ad getting his name out there. This is going to be known all over the world," Buckley said. 

The properties would be ten single-family homes on a site that overlooks the confluence of the Ohio and Little Miami Rivers, as well as nearby attractions like Riverbend and Coney Island in Ohio. Tower Park, the 81-acre property where the ten houses are located, is on the National Register of Historic Places. At its peak, 80,000 soldiers were inducted into service here.

The city expects to put the project out to bid in the coming weeks. Developers will have to follow historic preservation guidelines.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

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