New site emerges for potential Downtown grocery store

Developer has ties to Kroger

CINCINNATI -- A Northern Kentucky developer with experience in building Kroger stores has won a bidding competition to lead the redevelopment of the former Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority headquarters on Central Parkway.

The developer's site plan, obtained in a public records request by WCPO, shows a two-story grocery store with 235 parking spaces and three floors of office space above. Construction could start next year and take 18 months. 

The low-income housing agency vacated the site three years ago. It invited proposals from local developers last fall, listing a specialty grocery store, office and residential space among its development goals for the site.

“There’s probably a need for a grocery store with all of the new housing that’s going down there,” CMHA CEO Gregory Johnson told WCPO recently.

CMHA’s board unanimously approved Tuesday evening a resolution to authorize Johnson to negotiate a development agreement with Kingsley & Co. and Anchor Properties Development Inc.

Covington-based Anchor is a retail developer whose projects include the Corryville Kroger store, now under construction near the University of Cincinnati. Kingsley is a real estate company founded by former Cincinnati Bengals safety Chinedum Ndukwe. Its past projects include the Mabley Place parking garage Downtown and a Fairfield Inn & Suites hotel at the U-Square project near UC.

“The Contractor will work with the City to support and change zoning to accommodate mixed use development,” wrote CMHA Procurement Officer Bill Walters, in a Jan. 13 memo to Johnson. Walters said the “target date” for construction is 2017, with completion expected within 18 months.

The memo provides little detail on what’s planned for the site, except that it will be a “high profile project” and requires a developer with a proven track record and the ability to acquire funding for large-scale projects.

CMHA's request for qualifications said the following about development goals for the site:

Development of mixed use space for a specialty grocery store, supportive retail, office and/or restaurant space, including a moderate-to-high upscale residential community, which may include rental apartment buildings or condos and/or for-sale condominiums.

Here's how development plan submitted by Kingsley + Anchor describes the project:

A premier mixed- use building with a retail/grocery store, Class A office space, and significant structured parking. If selected for this project, we will form a development corporation to create a landmark development at this key gateway that provides a remarkable value to CMHA and the OTR community.

The development proposal says Ndukwe will serve as the project’s lead developer, with a professional team that includes SFA Architecture, THP for parking designs and Focus Workforce Solutions LLC in charge of outreach to minority- and women-owned businesses.

Renderings show a nine-story structure that rises nearly 118 feet with a landscaped roof.

"We envision this site developed with a mixed use building that not only provides critical community services in a retail/grocery store and significant shared structured parking, but also serves as an architectural landmark on this critical gateway site," the development proposal states.

Developer's vision for 16 West Central Parkway

One thing the proposal does not identify is an anchor tenant for the project.

But Kroger has said for months that it is interested in finding a site for a Downtown grocery store, and the company happens to be running out of space at its 25-story corporate headquarters building.

“Five or six years ago, we're on 10 floors,” said Kroger spokesman Keith Dailey. “We’re on just about every floor now.”

Dailey said no announcements are imminent from Kroger on a Downtown store or a corporate headquarters expansion.

The Central Parkway site is the second site within months to emerge as a potential expansion site for Kroger.

A real estate investment group called North South Properties LLC acquired 10 parcels in the same block as Kroger's headquarters tower, but the group has been tight-lipped about plans for the property. North South paid $3 million for the properties on East Court Street between the Kroger building and Walnut Street, Hamilton County records show.

Both the North South site and the CMHA property are about third of an acre and less than 100 paces from Kroger's headquarters.

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