Sunday, July 01, 2001

In Cold Spring, growth is hot


AA Highway paves way for restaurant, retail plans

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COLD SPRING — This quiet Campbell County city is about to explode.

        Commercial development is detonating a surge of growth that promises to bring restaurants, office buildings, large-scale retailers and ultimately a hotel and mini-convention center.

        Along with it will come more traffic and residents to a city in which the population is already growing.

        “The area is ready for it,” said Ken Warden, a member of the Cold Spring Planning and Zoning Commission. “This area is already bustling if you go south to Alexandria or north to Highland Heights. I think people have been expecting this to come ever since the Double A opened.”

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        The “Double A” is the AA Highway, which cuts through Cold Spring where it intersects U.S. 27.

        It is on the four corners of that busy intersection that development is taking hold.

        Here is a look at each corner of the intersection of the AA Highway and U.S. 27:

        • Northwest: Developer Jack Morris, who lives just outside Cold Spring in Campbell County, is clearing land to develop as many as three restaurants.

        Mr. Warden said one of the restaurants will be O'Charley's, a national chain of casual sit-down restaurants that caters to families. It may open later this year.

        • Northeast: Cincinnati-based Bear Creek Capital has plans for two anchor stores, three restaurants, office buildings and up to 200 apartments. Over the next decade the developer wants to build a hotel and conference center, also known as a mini-convention center. The restaurants could open in the fall.

        • Southwest: In 1999 Meijer got development rolling there when it opened a 200,000-square-foot store and gas station.

        • Southeast: This is the only corner where development has not taken place. Cold Spring residents have speculated that Wal-Mart might be interested in the site for a superstore — a combination grocery and regular store — but the company hasn't publicly expressed any desire to buy the property, which is for sale.
       

New roads helped

        Dan Tobergte, senior vice president at Tri-County Economic Development Corp., or Tri-ED, the region's business recruitment agency, said he isn't surprised by the interest.

        “It's a good location, very accessible because of the highways,” Mr. Tobergte said. “That eastern section of Northern Kentucky is somewhat of an untapped market and we see a good opportunity for growth.”

        Cold Spring is about 8 miles south of downtown Cincinnati and just about 3 miles from where Interstate 471 runs into U.S. 27.

        The AA Highway runs from Northern Kentucky into the hills of eastern Kentucky. U.S. 27, also known as Alexandria Pike, is the main north-south corridor through Campbell County.

        The seeds of growth were planted in the early 1990s, when the AA began opening in sections. Following that were two major renovations of U.S. 27. The road improvements made travel easier and brought new residents to the region.
       

A people boom

        Figures from the 2000 U.S. Census show that Cold Spring grew from 2,886 residents in 1990 to 3,806 in 2000. The population in Alexandria grew by 48.2 percent to 8,286 while Highland Heights to the north grew by 55 percent to 6,554 residents.

        That growth is what attracted developer Bear Creek Capital, said Tim Baird, a partner in the firm.

        “That area is just growing so much, and the site we are on has great frontage on (U.S.) 27 as well as on the Double A,” Mr. Baird said.

        “And there is a real need for some retailers and quality casual dining restaurants in the area. So we're excited about our possibilities out there,” he said.

        Mr. Baird said his company is negotiating with two anchor stores on the property. Though word among some residents and city officials is that one is a Kohl's department store, Mr. Baird would not name the retailers.

        He said his company has signed leases with two restaurants, but declined to name them also.

        Mr. Baird said that based on the success of an Applebee's restaurant that opened in Highland Heights late last year, his firm believes there is a demand for family-style restaurants in this part of Campbell County.

        Drew Weidner, an assistant manager at the Applebee's, said that since opening in November the restaurant has been one of the top-performing in the region for the national chain, based on weekly sales of more than $50,000.

        “Business has been good,” Mr. Weidner said. “This is a good location and we seem to just keep doing better all the time.”
       

"Progress' ... and traffic

        Just off U.S. 27 in the driveway of a condominium on Springside Drive, Cold Spring resident Chester Racke was putting a shine on a glistening gray Lincoln as he pondered the growth of his city.

        “They call it growth but the main thing it will mean is traffic,” Mr. Racke, 75, a retired bank executive, said as he slid a rag across the car's side panel.

        “But you can't stop progress. It's going to come so you just have to be prepared for it.”

        Traffic is also the main concern of Cold Spring Police Chief Jim Hales.

        “That will be our biggest problem,” he said, adding there is talk in the city of new traffic lights along U.S. 27.

        Still, “we're looking forward to all of it,” Chief Hales said. “It will bring new business and new people into the city. I think that's good for us.”

       



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