FLORENCE, Ky. -- It was once the place to go in Florence -- restaurants, hotels, offices along a curving street next to Interstate 75.
But age did some damage on Dream Street, taking it from a hot spot for social fun to a place with drug deals and shootings by 2014.
Drive down the street today and it’s changing again – for the better, and city officials and businesses want the trend to continue.
Soon Magnolia Springs, a senior living center, will open its doors on the Ewing Boulevard end. In between that and U.S. 42 in the last two years are a new McDonald’s, Chipotle, Heritage Bank processing center and a Recker & Boerger storefront.
The closing and soon-to-be demolition of the Florence Inn has played a big role in the shift.
Jim Recker of Recker & Boerger, which sells heating, air conditioning and appliances, said Dream Street’s “been cleaned up quite a bit” since they moved in almost two years ago.
"We signed contracts before the murders (in 2014),” he said. But the company liked the location and access to I-75."
Recker has seen a lot of the less savory things fade away, and credited new development such as McDonald’s and Chipotle and improvements at existing businesses as helping. “The police are doing a fantastic job.”
Florence Mayor Diane Whalen sees the ups and downs as part of a cycle with construction of retail, hotels and restaurants.
“You hit that 40-year mark and it’s time for a change,” she said.
The city improved the road in the last decade, adding rock walls and benches, all of which still look good.
And Sheena Parton, executive director of Magnolia Springs, is seeing the improvements after Florence Inn closed a year ago, and the then-Super 8 was faced with nuisance order violations from the city.
“Dream Street has a bad rap. But I don’t see it,” Parton said. “But we’re a part of the revitalization and we’re hoping to change that image.”
Magnolia Springs, set to open Dec. 12, will have 111 apartments, from studio to two bedroom for seniors, including assisted living. Parton sees the residents as part of the future vitality of the neighborhood.
Police responded to 279 calls at the Florence Inn in 2014, and it was the site of a shooting in early 2015. While other motels on the street also had issues, Capt. Tom Grau of the Florence Police Department said everyone is working to clean up the problems.
The city had also put pressure on the Super 8, which had its share of drug issues and where there was a shooting in early 2015. The hotel was sold, renamed the Roadway Inn and has been improved, according to Whalen.
“We have a drug unit now," Grau said, noting there hadn’t been any shootings in a long time. “We sat down and talked to all the businesses down there. We were walking into every business and checking on people.”
The Northern Kentucky Health Department finally forced the closure of the Florence Inn when owners didn’t correct problems with bedbugs, carbon monoxide leaks and mold, according to city officials. It will be demolished by the end of the year.
Whalen says the Roadway Inn has turned things around. She also adds that Heritage Bank bought a building along the strip, improved it and made it a processing location. Bob Evans has anchored the U.S. 42 end of the street since near the beginning. A Frisch’s and a Wendy’s also have kept their stores.