Mixed-Use Concepts Hold Key to Cincinnati's Retail Rebound

by admin

If the recession is truly over in Cincinnati and the nation, we are thankful. Still, the pace of deal and development activity is exceedingly slow. Projects started before the Great Recession are proceeding at a cautious speed. Retail leasing, which has always had a long deal cycle, now seems to take forever.

But there are some bright spots in Cincinnati. The downtown market is thriving. Steiner + Associates and Bucksbaum Retail Properties recently announced that they will soon break ground on Liberty Center, a 1.1 million-square-foot, $325 million mixed-use development on 64 acres in West Chester, located about 18 miles north of downtown. And in an interesting twist on new development, college campus mixed-use projects are one of the few ways developers can develop in this risky environment.
The Banks Hits A Home Run
Our retail update begins on Cincinnati’s riverfront. Located on the Ohio River between Great American Ballpark and Paul Brown Stadium, the 18-acre mixed-use development known as The Banks continues to add new housing, offices, dining and entertainment. A few more restaurants opened this past year including The Yard House, The Wine Guy Bistro, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Tin Roof, which serves up lunch, dinner and music.
The Banks continues to grow its residential apartment population and has just unveiled plans for a nine-story, 305-unit apartment building to be constructed in 2014. Carter and The Dawson Co., both Atlanta-based firms, are the master developers of The Banks, a public/private project that includes the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
In the central business district, Rob Smyjunas, CEO of locally based real estate development firm Vandercar Holdings Inc., and Flaherty & Collins of Indianapolis plan to build a 28-story apartment high-rise on the site of the old Pogue’s Garage at Fourth and Race streets. The developers are seeking a specialty grocer for the first floor of the proposed development near Fountain Square.
The Horseshoe Casino opened in downtown late last year, and gambling revenues are growing, cutting into the business of southeast Indiana’s casinos on the Ohio River.
New developments in the core of Cincinnati are bringing visitors downtown, keeping office workers after hours and helping to build the residential population.
Rookwood On a Roll
About eight miles northeast of downtown Cincinnati in Norwood, the third phase of Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate Inc.’s highly successful Rookwood development. Rookwood Exchange’s 123-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel along with Seasons 52, a fresh grill and wine bar, and Capital Grille are all operating. BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse and Bravo Italian Restaurant will soon make their debut.
“The addition of lodging to the Rookwood Exchange filled a gap in the market that was longing to be addressed, and again offers another amenity for the office tenants opting to call Rookwood home,” according to Jeffrey R. Anderson’s website.
Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), the outdoor gear and clothing store, enjoyed a successful opening late last year at Rookwood Commons. It was REI’s first store to open in Ohio.
Cincinnati/Oakley Station
Oakley Station is a 74-acre mixed-use development on the east side of I-71 and Ridge Road, adjacent to the Center of Cincinnati developed by Vandercar Holdings. The second phase of Center of Cincinnati is fully underway with the 14-screen Cinemark Oakley Station movie theater now open along with 10 three-story apartment buildings.
A Kroger Marketplace is planned for the site. In addition to food, Kroger Marketplace specializes in home fashion and décor, bed and bath, kitchen appliances and home office and toys.
It will be interesting to see how this new Kroger will affect its flagship store at Hyde Park Plaza, which traditionally has been one of Kroger’s best performing stores in the entire chain and has actually suffered from too much business. The new store at Oakley, which is less than one mile to the north of the current Kroger, should take some heat off the Hyde Park location.
Kenwood’s Promise
About 13 miles northeast of downtown Cincinnati in Kenwood, the partially completed Kenwood Towne Place is now called the Kenwood Collection. The new owner, Phillips Edison & Co., and the leasing team at Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate have set their sights on upscale retail tenants and new-to-market tenants.
That is probably a good idea given that Kenwood is the top retail destination in the region, drawing from northern Kentucky, southeast Indiana and up to and beyond Dayton.
With its premier location fronting I-71 at Montgomery Road and adjacent to the dominant regional mall, Kenwood Towne Centre, the Kenwood Collection development looks to complete the mix of premium retailers promised when the project began in 2007.
In other Kenwood news, the site of a former Lone Star Steakhouse and Saloon at Montgomery and Hosbrook roads is under construction. The new development will feature Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant, which is new to the Cincinnati market, with some adjacent strip retail on top of structured parking.
The Buzz at Liberty Center
Liberty Center, the live/work/play project that Steiner + Associates and Bucksbaum Retail Properties will co-develop, is located at the intersection of I-75 and Route 129, about 25 miles north of downtown Cincinnati.
The fast-growing communities of Liberty Township, Mason, and West Chester that surround Liberty Center are situated along the core of the high-growth I-75 corridor that connects Cincinnati and Dayton, and are consistently ranked by national media outlets among the top places in the nation to live and raise a family. With signed anchors, Liberty Center promises to be one of the first major post-recession developments.
Steiner has announced Dillard’s as one of its department store anchors. The project also will feature Cobb Theatres’ CineBistro concept. Six of the 16 movie theaters will have a full menu, seat-side dining and a full bar and extensive wine list, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier. The other 10 theaters will have limited menus for food and adult beverages. The mixed-use project will also likely include office space, residential and hotels.
Steiner’s success with premier lifestyle center projects such as Easton Town Center in Columbus and The Greene in Dayton will be a welcome addition in the growing northern market of Cincinnati.
Northgate Mall
On the northwest side of town, the Tabani Group has had success in re-tenanting the former Dillard’s at Northgate Mall, which fronts Colerain Avenue.
By putting a new façade on the former two-story department store and exposing the stores to the street, Northgate Mall has added Ulta, Marshalls, DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) and Michaels — and soon h.h. gregg — to its tenant mix. After many years of decline, Northgate Mall is on its way back, adding retail vibrancy to the Colerain corridor.
Back to School
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region is home to many great universities, and lately many of them are getting into public/private developments to improve their housing, office and retail offerings. These projects bring a large captive audience to retailers and serve as an amenity to the campus population.
For developers, these projects share the burdens of development by often getting the school to assemble and pay for land and sometimes provide funding, while the developer brings architectural and construction expertise and the right mix of tenants.
University of Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati neighborhood has been the first to undergo a transformation during the past few years with large assemblages of older properties being converted to improved retail offerings with student housing, hotels and offices above.
Calhoun Street Marketplace began the trend in 2009 bringing PotBelly Sandwich Shop, Panera Bread, Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Buffalo Wild Wings to the first floor of their student apartment complex.
Across the street, U Square at the Loop has now opened, bringing lots more food and retail choices including Altered States, Great Clips, Rally House, Body Central and rue21.
New restaurants include Lime Fresh American Grill, DiBella’s Old Fashioned Submarines, Waffle House, Orange Leaf, and Keystone Bar & Grill.
On the eastern side of the University of Cincinnati’s campus, the old Short Vine neighborhood is gaining more student housing options with Vine Street Flats and Views on Vine. These projects also include first-floor space opportunities for retailers and restaurants that want to be near this dense urban university population.
Xavier University
Xavier University owns a large parcel of land at Montgomery Road and Dana Avenue and has been waiting for the economy to strengthen to try to kick off this project. Phase 1 will include a new campus bookstore, 180 apartments, some office and first-floor retail. The corner of Montgomery Road and Dana Avenue will serve as a gateway entrance to Xavier University.
Northern Kentucky University
Speaking of gateways, at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Ky., the proposed 12-acre Norse Point project is truly the front yard of NKU on Route 27 just south of I-275. This project will serve to give NKU a better architectural identity for the school and hopefully bring a hotel, movie theater, office, housing and first-floor retail to the front entrance of the school. The NKU project is still seeking developer participation.
Retail Back on Track
Meanwhile, we continue to see new retail entrants to the Cincinnati market, including big boxes like Dunham’s Sports, Menards, Goody’s and others.
In the fast food category, Jack in the Box, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen are looking to expand. The fast casual restaurant market continues to show its appetite for end-cap space. Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, Pizza Cucinova, Piada Italian Street Food, Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, Firehouse Subs and Panda Express are among the fast casual restaurants seeking available end-cap space.
Even the sit-down restaurant category has been active locally with a new Cheddar’s, Long Horn Steakhouse, Capital Grill, Seasons 52 and chef-driven concepts like Sotto and the relocated Boca downtown. During the downturn it seemed like no one would ever go out to a white-tablecloth restaurant again.
So, retail is on the mend in Cincinnati. Perhaps it’s not at the pace we would like, but still moving in a positive direction. We look for continued recovery and growth in 2014.
— John Thompson, senior vice president, The Everest Group

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