Newport's reinventing itself from one end of town to the other thanks to $1.8 billion in investments

Why Newport? Why not?
Newport's busting out all over
Newport's busting out all over
Newport's busting out all over
Posted at 6:00 AM, Sep 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-05 06:00:50-04

On one end there's New Riff's planned $7.2 million whisky campus and brewing company. On the other, there's the $1 billion Ovation mixed-use development project.

The two anchor the ends of the under-construction Ky. 9 extension though Newport, which is getting at least part of the credit by city officials for the next big wave of development.

The reality is there are even more projects underway throughout the city that are helping to change this small river city's landscape that include another brewery, an Asian noodle factory and more shared office space for entrepreneurs.

The mostly private projects (there's a grant being applied for here and there plus local incentives) total more than $1.8 billion being invested in Newport over the next several years.

It's just the beginning, said City Manager Tom Fromme. There's also a collective vision by city officials and private developers for Ky. 9 projects that will set the tone along the west side.

The old silo at 10th and Ky. 9 has an "available" sign on it. Tom Fromme, Newport city manager, said there has been a lot of interest in using the silo for possible office space.

Newport started planning along the proposed Ky. 9 extension several years ago, creating a transitional district along the Licking River route to include everything from light industry to high-density residential units, said Fromme.

The largest acreage along the extension, from 12th Street to the Taylor Southgate Bridge and Newport on the Levee, is the old Newport Steel property at about 20 acres.

Matt Franks, a commercial real estate agent for Ken Perry Realty, said what ultimately happens will depend on how flexible Newport is about development.

"It will depend on if they want to wait for the bigger guys and projects or let the smaller guys [companies] do some projects," Franks said. 

Here's some of what's happening in Newport now:

New Riff Whiskey Campus, both sides of 11th Street at the bridge over the Licking River.

They're moving, they're not moving? Seems confusing, but New Riff is going to be in two places in Newport, leaving the distilling at its new facility at 24 Distillery Way on the east side.

The $7.5 million project includes renovating the original Greenline Bus Buildings for office and storage and a new 17,300-square-foot building for a rickhouse -- basically, where the barrels are stored.

It will all become a part of Kentucky's Whiskey Trail, and that means more people coming to the west side, said Fromme.

Ken Lewis, New Riff Distilling owner and founder, said the second phase will be down the line and would include moving Eight Ball Brewery to the new location.

"If it were to happen, we'll move the brewery over there with a big beautiful tap room," Lewis said. "There will be decks overlooking the Licking River. Very outdoors."

Why Newport?

"If it can happen to Over-the-Rhine, it can happen to west Newport," Lewis said. "There's lots of parking, the Licking River, a gorgeous roadway. We have lots of advantages."

Ovation, located at the confluence of the Licking and Ohio rivers.

WCPO reported that project closed in July on an additional 2.75 acres, giving the project the land it needs to start the first phase of the long-stalled project.

Fromme said many people are still skeptical, but "it's going to happen."

In fact, if you want to hear about the plan first hand, there's a presentation planned at the October Newport commission meeting.

Wooden Cask Brewing, 629 York Street.

Owned by Randy Schiltz, the brewery and tap room will be in what was the Rat-Pack era Flamingo Club during Newport's gambling days. Later it was the Jockey Club and, most recently, the offices for Yellow Cabs. Schiltz bought the building for about $400,000 a year ago and has been working on it ever since.

Why Newport?

"The easy answer is that it was the only building we could find that was the right size, had a parking lot and where the city would allow brewing and a tap room," Schiltz said. "But it's a good location. There's a lot happening down here."

There's not much history left in the building, but they've occasionally found a souvenir from its gambling days and a few old love letters, he said.

The brewery is set to open in mid-October.

Katharina's Cafe Konditorei, 736 Washington Ave.

Katharina's, previously located at 6th and Overton streets in the East Row Historic District, is moving into what was Mary Lou's Bar and Grille. The old and faded Mary Lou's sign still hangs out front during construction.

According to Mark Ramler, owner of Mansion Hill Properties, which purchased the building in late June for $140,000 including the liquor license, they have the original floor plans for the 1874 building and are using that to bring back some the building's history.

Expect a beer garden in back of the restaurant and private dining events upstairs, he said.

Katharina's is expected to open in the late fall.

Essence Food Inc., 2 East 11th St.

A brand new company on the scene has purchased an old Louis Trauth Dairy building where they made yogurt, according to Franks. According to Kentucky state records, Ming Huang Guo registered Essence Food Inc. in June. The company is out of Lockland, Ohio.

Essence's plan is to make processed food, including noodles, for Asian restaurants and markets, said Franks.

The building sold for about $200,000 plus an additional amount for existing equipment.

The St. Vincent de Paul Store on Monmouth Street sold in late August. The store will likely move to a building off Alexandria Pike, said Matt Franks, KPR Realty agent.

Borderlands, 906 Monmouth St.

Yep, that's the St. Vincent de Paul Store. Darrin Murriner, co-founder of the Borderlands creative workspace and event center at 842 Monmouth St., purchased the building for $245,000.

Franks said Borderlands is outgrowing its current location.

St. Vincent de Paul will stay until the end of the year with an option to stay longer while it looks for a new space somewhere along Alexandria Pike in Campbell County, said Franks.