Bellevue looks to expand real estate offerings amid fast-growing demand

BELLEVUE, Ky. -- Bellevue, like many Greater Cincinnati communities, is in the midst of a real estate boom. If local organizers have anything to do with it, that trend will persist indefinitely.

In recent years, Bellevue’s once-sleepy main Fairfield Avenue has seen an influx of small businesses and new residents. Meanwhile, the last year alone brought a number of developments across the city.

In February, the city of Bellevue purchased an undeveloped parcel of land at Harbor Greene, adjacent to the Port of Bellevue, where current restaurant tenants include Joe’s Crab Shack, SubwayBurger King and Buckhead Grill.

Bellevue resident Kevin Wright -- who serves as board member for the city’s urban renewal agency and recently co-authored a highly touted regional planning guide -- will lead a series of public meetings to gather input for optimizing the newly purchased riverfront space.

"Our main goal is to connect Bellevue with our Northern Kentucky neighbors and create a space that’s accessible and valuable for all residents," Wright said.

Elsewhere, Covington-based Braxton Brewing Co. recently announced a second location at Bellevue’s Riverside Drive, long seen as a potential connector between the city’s commercial and residential districts.

Planners hope these changes will garner significant residential interest, and they’re working to promote Bellevue’s many benefits -- not the least of which being a small-town urban feel, walkability and fast access to the interstate and downtown -- while managing a potential influx in a way that’s beneficial to current and new residents alike.

"We’ve seen what last summer’s real estate market was like. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this year’s will be even better," said Bellevue council member Ryan Salzman. "I think this is the beginning of a trend, not just an anomalous year."

Bellevue is a 1-square-mile city that’s currently home to approximately 6,000 residents. There isn’t much unused space for new builds and property values for the city’s existing 3,000 residential structures are fast increasing.

"People have wanted to live in Bellevue for a long time," said NKY Huff Realty agent Rebecca Weber. "During the worst of the real estate crisis, Bellevue outperformed many other communities, and I think part of that can be attributed to the strength of its main street program and the fact that for a time you could acquire property at a very reasonable price."

As the local housing market continues to gain momentum, Weber has seen houses in Bellevue that once sold for under $100,000 now selling for $200,000 or more -- with many, she said, being snatched up by buyers not in a matter of days or weeks, but within hours of being listed.

"Housing stock in Bellevue is such a moving target," Weber said. "Right now, there are about 35 active listings in Bellevue and 11 of those are high-end townhomes and condos ranging up near the half-million-dollar mark. Unless a bunch of people start selling their homes, which isn’t likely, the only way we can hope to meet demand is with new construction."

That new construction could pose another challenge due to the fact that much of Bellevue’s limited developable real estate exists on hillsides, where avoiding slippage often results in much higher building costs.

Nevertheless, agents like Weber routinely promote Northern Kentucky neighborhoods as viable options for new residents moving into the area as employees of companies like Procter & Gamble, Kroger and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

"Northern Kentucky is a big part of Cincinnati, even though there’s a river dividing us," Weber said. "When I show off Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky communities like Bellevue are an important piece of that tour program."

City officials are waiting to see how planned developments impact residential demand in Bellevue, but for right now, they like what they’re seeing.

"Houses, especially those in our historic district, have gained in value," said assistant city administrator Jody Robinson. "It is almost impossible to get a fixer-upper because the market is ripe with flippers."

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