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Costco helps solidify Florence as commercial hub

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Posted at 9:00 AM, Oct 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-14 09:00:18-04

Northern Kentuckians have just weeks to wait until they can at last shop at a destination their northern neighbors have enjoyed for several years.

Costco Wholesale Corp. plans to open its third Tri-State store Nov. 11 in Florence. It will be the first business to open in what’s being called Florence Heights, a 63-acre development on the east side of Mall Road south of the Florence Mall.

The parcel, the last large tract of undeveloped land along Florence’s commercial artery, was a farm owned by the Berkshire family. The family finally sold the land for about $10 million to Mall Road KY LLC, incorporated in Ohio. That group hired Anchor Properties Inc. to develop the property. Covington-based Anchor specializes in retail development.

Florence Heights also will include a Menards home-improvement store and a Dave & Buster’s restaurant. Negotiations are continuing on two remaining outlots, according to Josh Wice, business and community development director for Florence.

A site plan for the Florence Heights development shows the route for the extension of Heights Boulevard around to U.S. 42, bottom. Lot 5, top right, is Costco, which is to open in November 2015. Lot 4 is to be Dave & Buster's, while Lot 3 is slated for Menards. Planet Fitness and TANK's Florence transit hub are on the southwest corner of Mall Road and Heights Boulevard. (Thomas Consolo for WCPO)

None of the marquee businesses is new to the Tri-State, but all are new to Northern Kentucky. Costco and Menards both have two locations in northern Greater Cincinnati — Costco in Mason and Springdale, Menards in Fairfield Township and Evendale. Dave & Buster’s has one local outlet in Springdale.

Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco operates as a membership-only warehouse club. The company has 687 outlets, according to the company website, 481 in the United States and Puerto Rico. Last week it reported September sales of $10.75 billion, up 2 percent from $10.57 billion in September 2014. Sales at U.S. stores open at least a year rose 3 percent, a strong result among retailers.

Costco enjoys zealous loyalty among a segment of its shoppers. How zealous? Check out the website addictedtocostco.com.

He’s not addicted, but Scott Shattuck, supervisor for Cincinnati-based Turnbull-Wahlert Construction Inc., which is working on new roads at Florence Heights, is looking forward to being able to shop at a Costco close to home. The Northern Kentucky resident was introduced to the stores through his in-laws, who live near Indianapolis.

Trees for landscaping await planting on a strip of land separating Costco at Florence Heights from Crossroads Florence church. (Thomas Consolo for WCPO)

The Florence store will check in at about 148,000 square feet, according to Bob Nelson, Costco vice president of financial planning. He said that’s about standard for the company’s latest store prototype. It’s expected to employ between 250 and 260 workers.

Privately-held Menards operates more than 280 home-improvement stores in 14 states radiating outward from its hometown, Eau Claire, Wis. Its estimated 2014 sales of $8.3 billion ranked it No. 43 on the Forbes list of America’s Largest Private Companies. Construction is expected to get underway in the spring; the store is slated to open by the 2016 holiday season.

Dallas-based Dave & Buster’s combines a restaurant and bar with adult entertainment, including more than 200 games. The chain has nearly 80 outlets in 31 states. The Florence location would be its first in Kentucky.

Site preparation for Dave & Buster’s already is underway. The location is expected to open in the spring.

Wice, the city development director, said Florence Heights would benefit Florence in several ways. Signing three large businesses new to Northern Kentucky solidifies Florence as the region’s commercial hub, he said. When completed, the development is expected to generate several thousand dollars a year in payroll taxes to the city and up to $9 million a year in sales taxes to the commonwealth.

The city has invested $3 million to the project, Wice said, which covers about half the cost of infrastructure improvements. Those include a new intersection with Mall Road and the extension of Heights Boulevard through the development to meet U.S. 42 just west of Interstates 71/75. Wice is confident the improvements will handle the increased traffic the stores are expected to generate.

Although not part of the Anchor Properties development, the Heights site is adjacent to a 28,000-square-foot Planet Fitness center that also is expected to open next month. The Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky’s Florence transit hub opened there in 2013.