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Commission approves $200 million sale, re-imagining of Newport on the Levee

Posted: 11:58 PM, Oct 29, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-30 00:22:18-04

NEWPORT, Ky. -- City commissioners on Monday night approved the issuance of $200 million in industrial bonds -- the largest such issuance in the city's history -- for the sale and redevelopment of Newport on the Levee, a 17-year-old entertainment complex many nearby residents see as fun but inessential.

The sale would transfer ownership from California-based Price Group to Cincinnati's North American Properties.

City manager Tom Fromme said he couldn't disclose exactly what the new owner planned for the space, but it would involve investing an additional $100 million, adding parking and integrating the space more into surrounding residential streets.

"Which is a really great thing instead of it being like its own little Fortress of Solitude there," he said. 

The complex's nearly two decades in existence directly on the Ohio River have seen a number of shops come and go, although major staples such as the AMC movie theater, aquarium and Brio restaurant have hung on. Fromme admitted he believed there had been periodic "missteps" under Price Group's ownership, some of which were attributable to the company attempting to manage a location more than 2,000 miles away. 

According to him, the Levee suffered from never being able to target a distinct demographic. 

West Chester resident Jennifer Inoue, who visits occasionally with her son, said she sees it mostly as a spot for an occasional night out rather than an essential hub for people in the area.

"I'd love to see something that brings you down on a random Tuesday night," she said. "It seems like it's a lot of attractions right now and kind of brings you once a month, but then you don't really have more you can do."

If the state of Kentucky approves the sale, that could change fast. Fromme said he predicts the sale and upcoming changes could as much as double the complex's $800,000 annual revenue by 2025.

"This could actually become 10 percent of the city's revenue just from a really small footprint," he said.