Bellevue Shows What Donnermeyer Drive Could Look Like
A week after the announcement that federal funds were awarded to the City of Bellevue through the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI), renderings were released of how the money could transform Donnermeyer Drive.
The street has long been the focus of hopes by city leaders who want to see more urban-centric development in that part of town rather than the suburban style that dominates it currently.
OKI awarded Bellevue $792,000 while the city will be responsible for $198,000 to match. The goal of the funds is to make the road, which runs east to west through central Bellevue and is home to the city's Kroger grocery store and fast food restaurants, more attractive and friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.
The road is also an important connector to Newport where it turns into Sixth Street at the border with that neighboring Campbell County city.
“This area has been neglected and underutilized for a long time,” said Bellevue Mayor Charlie Cleves. “Because this roadway is located next to a large underdeveloped area, these road and sidewalk improvements will help create an excellent economic development opportunity in this area of the city.”
The primary purpose of the grant, which was funded through the federal Surface Transportation Block Grant program, is to improve safety, walkability, biking opportunities, lighting, signage, and aesthetics, including upgrading the street design and its driving surface. The grant will cover both the costs to design and construct the project.
The city released images that it used when applying for the grant funds to show inspiration for what Donnermeyer could become.
“This funding will allow the city to upgrade and improve Donnermeyer Drive, which needs to be done, while at the same time allow the city to be creative in re-energizing this area of the city,” said Bellevue City Administrator Frank Warnock. “It’s a win-win situation for attracting new businesses and customers to the area and improving connectivity for residents and visitors.”
Warnock said the federal funding for this project could only be used for projects on collector roadways that promote pedestrian and biker connectivity. This funding could not be used for other transportation projects in the city, such as infrastructure improvements needed on Lincoln Road and Covert Run Road.
“We would like to bury utility lines under or adjacent to Donnermeyer and we are currently studying the feasibility of being able to do that,” Warnock said. “If possible, that in itself would create a long-term positive impact for this area.”
“Donnermeyer Drive could be just as exciting as Fairfield Avenue if we take the time to focus and plan for its future," Cleves said. "This is an initial important first step. We have an open canvas to paint the picture we want, and we want to create a Picasso.”
Cleves, Warnock, and City Engineer Mike Yeager jointly worked on the grant application after the city council conducted a visioning session earlier this year.
“Applications for grant opportunities, along with improving our infrastructure, were among the top priorities from that visioning session,” said Cleves, who started serving as mayor on Jan. 1. Warnock became the city administrator on Feb. 1.
“We will be continuing our efforts to find funding for other transportation projects in the city,” Warnock said. “I’m knocking on doors and I’m not shy about asking for money. Of course, we don’t want to get too carried away because we often have to match these grant funds, but any time we can utilize grants, shame on us if we are not doing so.”
The city currently is determining what funding source it will use to match the federal grant for Donnermeyer Drive.
“The city has a couple of years to budget for this match,” Cleves said. “We do have funds in the bank we can use for economic-development purposes and those funds could possibly be utilized for projects like this one, which not only generates economic development but helps us rebuild our infrastructure and improve safety.”
Yeager said Donnermeyer Drive is an extremely busy corridor that sees more than 7,000 vehicles per day and has a relatively high crash rate.
“The purpose of this very important project is to improve safety, improve multi-modal transportation options, and make Donnermeyer Drive a gateway into Bellevue from the City of Newport,” said Yeager, who works with the city through a contract with Integrated Engineering. “We are trying to make sure that this important business center can be accessed as safely as possible by motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists while improving the overall aesthetics of the public amenities.”
Warnock said the city will continue to think long-term to focus on transformational projects in Bellevue. “The area adjacent to the corner of Donnermeyer and Riviera Drive screams of opportunity,” he said.
“When I go to other cities, I try to observe best practices, such as walkability, bikeability, and accessibility,” he said. “We want this area along Donnermeyer to be well lit, safe, easy to use, and stroller-friendly and accessible for all the young families who are moving to Bellevue and for our residents who have lived here for many years.”
Southbank Partners president Jack Moreland said the Bellevue project is an important piece of the puzzle that his organization has been working on for many years to make Northern Kentucky’s river cities more pedestrian and biker friendly.
“Projects like this one only help make our river cities more connected and more attractive to new potential residents and businesses as well as those already located here,” Moreland said.
Southbank’s signature project, Riverfront Commons, an 11.5-mile uninterrupted trail that links Ludlow, Covington, Newport, Bellevue, Dayton, and Fort Thomas, is currently under construction along the Ohio River.
That trail, which is now more than halfway completed, accommodates walkers, joggers, and bikers and provides access points to the river where people can launch kayaks and canoes and it connects with the residential neighborhoods and business, entertainment, and historic districts in these cities.
“Projects like this one in Bellevue as well as the recently announced temporary bike lanes that will be installed in Newport on Saratoga Street, which runs into the Purple People Bridge, and on Fifth and Sixth Streets will only make our cities more connected, safe, and livable,” Moreland said.
-Michael Monks, editor & publisher