Bellevue Hears Recommendations for Riverfront Development
Bellevue city council listened to a presentation of the Bellevue Riverfront Corridor Study on Wednesday night.
The presentation followed months of work following the appointment of residents and business owners by Mayor Charlie Cleves.
Cleves requested that Southbank Partners, a River City economic development organization, to lead the study and to make recommendations about further development and improvements along the south side of Fairfield Avenue (KY 8) from the city's border with Newport in the west to the border with Dayton in the east.
“When I became the mayor of Bellevue, I quickly realized that I didn’t have the background. Knowledge, or expertise to make an informed decision on how to best develop our riverfront or improve our business district,” Mayor Cleves said.
“However, I knew several developers and also knew that Southbank Partners had completed similar studies for other river cities in the past. So I asked Jack Moreland for help in assembling a team of successful developers and businesspeople, most of whom are Bellevue residents or business owners, who volunteered to share their time, experience, and knowledge with our city and we are thankful for their contributions.”
Among the issues examined in the study was how to incorporate Riverfront Commons, the 11-mile hiking and biking trail along the Ohio River, into the city and its park system; addressing traffic and parking issues on Ky. 8/Fairfield Avenue; reinvigorating the downtown business district and addressing incompatible business uses; and laying the groundwork for future development opportunities along the Ohio River, particularly on city-owned property at the foot of Berry Avenue.
At the presentation before city council on Wednesday night, Jay Buchert, a member of the Southbank Partners board of directors who served as chairman of the Corridor Study Group, told the city council that Riverfront Commons was an important component of the Bellevue riverfront corridor.
“This includes the pathway location itself as well as its integration with Bellevue Beach Park, the Fairfield Avenue Business District as well as the other unique benefits it provides to the Bellevue community at large,” Buchert said. “This pathway not only improves connectivity between the seven Northern Kentucky Southbank Partners’ cities, but it also is a key to the economic vitality provided to these riverfront cities through this riverfront asset.”
He emphasized that the hiking and biking trail needs to be located “along the riverfront, not away from it” and should be developed in a way that enhances the amenities at Bellevue Beach Park and should be designed to provide both residents and visitors using the trail with convenient access to the Bellevue business district and the greater community.
In its report, the Study Group recommended that the city immediately begin working with Southbank Partners to locate and obtain funding needed for the sections of the “pathway” through the Bellevue Beach Park, on city-owned property between Lafayette and Patchen Avenues, as well as working with private property owners, such as the WatersEdge condominium complex and Port Bellevue, to see if the city could route this path through these properties. The group’s report also recommended making three connection points -- or nodes -- from the river trail into areas of the city.
Traffic and parking issues on Fairfield Avenue
The Study Group also examined traffic and parking issues on Fairfield Avenue (Ky. 8), especially as it pertains to the future of the Bellevue community. “As you are aware, the Fairfield Business District is an important feature of both the quality of life and economic vitality of the City of Bellevue,” Buchert told the city council
Buchert said the city must consider how outside factors affect current and future traffic patterns and trends in the city and the overall effect of this traffic on the community. “The City of Bellevue must be proactive with respect to this subject and cannot take a ‘wait and see’ attitude,” he said.
The report recognized that residential growth in the City of Dayton will continue to increase the amount of traffic traveling both east and west through the city, and particularly during the “peak hours.” The report suggested the city should ask the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to conduct a traffic study and issue an opinion about the possibility of creating an alternative east-west route through the Bellevue other than Fairfield Avenue.
Fairfield Avenue Business District
Regarding the Fairfield Avenue Business District, the Study Group conducted a focus group discussion with Bellevue residents who regularly use the business district. According to the report, the Study Group believes that the renaissance of the city’s business district “more than likely reached its peak approximately five years ago. Since that time, growth, business retention, promotion, etc. have been more or less static.”
“The current business district requires revitalization, including a new mix of venues and promotional offerings that can take the business district renaissance to its next level of success,” Buchert told city council at its meeting on Wednesday.
Development of city-owned property at the foot of Berry Avenue
“The most important subject” of the report, according to Buchert, is the Study Group’s recommendations regarding the potential development of city-owned property along the Ohio River at foot of Berry Avenue.
“While the entire riverfront corridor is a most important asset, this strategically located property is the last of its kind, and represents the city’s most pressing issue and important decision with respect to its development as well as for the future of the city,” Buchert told city council. “It’s potential is enormous and should not be underestimated or overlooked.”
The report recommends that the city split the development site into two developable sections -- a northern site and southern site.
On the southern site, the group recommended development of a commercial/residential/ retail site over a garage structure with its access to the structure from the rear and/or sides off of an improved Lafayette Avenue and/or an extended Harbor Green Drive.
On the northern site, the report recommended development of a “high-end” residential development similar to the WatersEdge condominium complex. “This type and size of this product will bring both the ‘highest and best’ use and return on the city’s investment in the site,” the report stated.
The report also recommended that the city consider creating of a Tax Increment Financing district to help pay for construction parking garages and other infrastructure improvements.
The Corridor Study Group members appointed by Mayor Cleves are Buchert; Mike Brandy, developer and owner of Port Bellevue; David Windmiller, owner of Bellevue Plaza Office Center, Neal Morris, resident of Harbor Green; Clay Stinnett, resident of WatersEdge; Steve Crawford, Bellevue resident and an owner of Assured Partners/Crawford Insurance; Ken Stapelton, Bellevue at-large resident representative; George Bitsoff, Bellevue at-large resident representative; and Sean Fisher, Bellevue City Council liaison.
The Corridor Study also included a focus group of six residents (Sharon Aston, Jill Fessler, Kathy Jennings, Gayle Lanham, Annie McCartney, and Catherine Salzman) and also heard from elected and appointed officials and community leaders, including Mayor Cleves; Jack Moreland, president of Southbank Partners; Dennis Keene, for State Representative for the 67th District who now serves as Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Local Government; Carol Ramler of the Kentucky Department of Transportation; Ross Patten of Covington Department of Economic Development; and Mike Yeager, Bellevue City Engineer.