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Hotel, Mixed-Use Building Coming to World Peace Bell Site

A hotel and mixed-use building along with a parking garage are coming to Newport's World Peace Bell site.

The parking lot adjacent to the local landmark surrounded by Monmouth, York, Fourth, and Fifth streets, is the last "missing tooth" in the revitalization of this section of Newport's downtown and will offer better connectivity from Newport on the Levee to the city's central business district.

The site is next to recent apartment projects such as the completed Monmouth Row and the in-progress building on the former site of Fourth Street School.

It is also steps away from the recently-announced indoor/outdoor music venue coming to the riverfront Ovation site. 

"We have a vacant lot there for years and every report I ever saw brought up that vacant lot," said City Manager Tom Fromme, in announcing the project on Monday night at the city commission meeting. "It was really a missing link with connecting the Levee to Monmouth Street. When you looked at Monmouth Street there was never a connection to the Levee, and that was one of the lots they keyed in on."

The city entered into a memorandum of agreement with World Peace Bell Hospitality, the firm behind the Hampton Inn in Newport which saw a 92 percent occupancy rate last year. The hotel developers also have two hotel projects underway in Sharonville, Oh.

World Peace Bell Hospitality has the site under contract, principal Shaun Pan told The River City News. It has long been owned by Northern Kentucky businessman Wayne Carlisle. 

The plans call for a 144-room hotel, likely a Home2 Suites by Hilton, Pan said, and a 350-space above-ground parking garage. Though it was explored to place the parking structure underground, Fromme said that proposal was cost-prohibitive. Instead, the garage will have a sort-of facade, Fromme said, to make it attractive on the Fifth Street side where it will be placed. The hotel will face Fourth Street while the mixed-use building will face Monmouth Street. 

The World Peace Bell monument will remain in place at the corner of York and Fourth streets but the building on the site which houses Southbank Partners will be brought down. Southbank Partners will operate in one of the buildings on the site, Pan said.

Fromme said that the city has been in negotiations with a company about occupying some of the square footage in the commercial building next to the forthcoming hotel, but he could not say which company.

Pan said that his company would be willing to build-to-suit any needs by an appropriate occupant. The street-level spaces in the mixed-use building on Monmouth Street will be open to retail operations, he said. The upper floors could either be office or residential. "It will complement the Monmouth Street businesses," Pan said. 

The hotel and parking garage will be phase one of the project while the mixed-use building will come afterwards. 

Pan said that the project is likely a year out from breaking ground and that he would be seeking to create a tax increment finance (TIF) district at the site. 

The city will likely issue industrial revenue bonds to assist the project. That type of bonding does not reflect on the city's books as debt.

"This project is going to make a major contribution for traffic flow downtown," Mayor Jerry Peluso said, referencing potential new patrons for local businesses.

"It's an ideal site and wonderful location," City Commissioner Ken Rechtin said. "I think it will lease up really quickly for you."

The 350-space garage "more than doubles current parking" at the site, City Commissioner Thomas Guidugli said. "We have parking challenges. It will be an improvement."

The vote to approve the memorandum of agreement was unanimous.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: The current look of the site in Newport (RCN)