ALEXANDRIA, Ky. -- Drive 25 minutes south of downtown Cincinnati and you'll find a little place "where the city meets the country."
That's Alexandria's slogan, and city leaders aren't worried about losing that identity even as it continues to expand. It's one of the few cities in Northern Kentucky that's not landlocked by other municipalities.
This means that, despite its hilly terrain, there's still room to grow.
As a result, says Scott Fleckinger, city council member and long-time business owner, more amenities and improvements are bound to follow.
Alexandria has picked up 3,000 residents since 1990, including 500 since 2010. A new-home development will add 1,100 houses, and other smaller developments could add 130 or more homes in the next couple of years.
That growth over 25 years has brought a wider highway (U.S. 27) through the middle of the city, plus stores like Wal-Mart and Meijer. But it's the future growth that is on the mind of city officials, and with that, a desire to keep that "small town" feel and the nearby countryside intact.
"(Alexandria) is what folks are looking for," said Mayor Bill Rachford. "It's the idea of living in a small town and in a few minutes be in the countryside. People know who you are. It's got charm."
And better home prices.
The median price on homes in Alexandria is $158,800, according to Zillow's most recent numbers, compared to $216,500 in West Chester at and $273,500 in Kenwood.
Arcadia's new 1,100 master planned development by Fischer and Drees offers homes starting in the low $200,000s, with options such as condos and patio homes and luxury homes lining streets that meander through hilly terrain. Access to the development comes off U.S. 27, which heads straight into Cincinnati.
Traffic is worse for sure, but as Rachford points out, it's all relative depending on where you've lived before.
Additional population -- and likely the need for more amenities -- will arrive with the opening of the Baptist Life Communities assisted-living and nursing home, which is leaving Newport for new digs now under construction. The 117-room facility at the corner of Ky. 709 and AA Highway will offer multiple levels of care and should open in the fall of 2017.
Fleckinger said he sees more opportunities for commercial and office construction, especially along the AA and U.S. 27. An O'Reilly Auto Parts store is already under construction.
Prior to SD1 taking over management of sewer lines in Campbell County in 2009, there had been a 10-year moratorium on sewer construction in Alexandria, Fleckinger said. Changes there have allowed for more recent growth that was not possible before.
That's in line with what Campbell County sees as development potential and a target area for building or expanding sewer and water access. Seth Cutter, Campbell County economic development officer, said the county envisions the construction of more office buildings, especially as the population grows, alongside other commercial construction including light industrial or warehouses.
Rachford said zoning laws are in place to keep development in check, but keeping an eye on the things that make Alexandria itself are equally important. The council doesn't accept many variances, a practice Rachford sees as a way to preserve the city's style.
The Sparetime Grill, which closed in December 2013, reopened this fall with new owners and a new name, Sparetime's Belly & Soul. According to the mayor and Facebook reviews, the 1958 diner came back to life with an immediate following and rave reviews, especially for its pies. That's part of the charm the city wants to keep.
Rachford also is especially happy that a church has bought a long-empty grocery store and the property has become alive again.
"The old Thriftway building is now the Bridge Church," he said. "It sat empty for 10 years. I couldn't be happier when that happened."
The city's original main street, now called Old Town, is still important, officials said, and the city wants to keep it that way. Parking is the main issue there, since the road is narrow, said Rachford. And since it's a Kentucky highway (Ky. 10), the state would have to be involved to make changes. But the county courthouse and boutiques and a bakery are a draw for the area, which Rachford hopes to maintain.
The area's biggest need, Fleckinger said, is more options for medical care, something he hopes the new growth will bring.
He's aware that not everyone wants the growth, though.
"It's the whole 'not in my backyard' kind of thing," he said. But "as a whole, it's all going to be good ... as long as we keep a handle on it."