Saturday, September 22, 2001

Opening banners to wave on levee

By Sarah Buehrle
Enquirer Contributor

        NEWPORT — The fish restaurant will be one of the first attractions to open at Newport on the Levee.

        Live rock "n' roll theater is also coming soon, but visitors will have to wait until early November to browse the Barnes & Noble store as businesses start to unfurl grand opening-banners at the entertainment center.Developers of the 500,000-square-foot complex, in the making since 1996 have set ates for tenant businesses to open this fall.

        Newport on the Levee will offer more than 60 entertainment, retail and food vendors. The Firstar Imax Theatre held its grand opening Sept. 14, and venues will continue to open through 2002.

        The Shadowbox Cabaret, a sketch-comedy theater, and Mitchell's Fish Market, a fresh-fish, coastal-style restaurant, will open in October, followed by American Eagle and Pacific Sunwear clothingstores. Newport city manager Phil Ciafardini said he thinks the stores will provide excitement and anticipation for months to come as various establishments hold grand openings.

        “I think it (Levee opening) comes at a good time, so that people have the opportunity to try something different, and it will hopefully provide some welcome relief from the stresses of last week,” Mr. Ciafardini said.

        Though he cited the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as one of the reasons that he could not give specific dates for many of the store openings, David Wechsler , vice president of the Levee's developer, Steiner& Associates, said the tragedies did not greatly alter plans for the large-scale project.

        Mr. Wechsler said the attacks' most noticeable effects on plans were the same as what most of the nation was facing, such as delays in mail and shipping.

        No company has withdrawn from the project since the Sept. 11 attacks. The $210 milllion project is expected to draw 5-6 million visitors per year, an estimate that has not changed over the last few weeks, according to the developer. “This is a new project, and people are going to be able to escape into it,” Mr. Wechsler said.

        Mr. Wechsler said that, while specifics cannot be discussed, security would consist of foot patrols and cameras. Flagpoles will be installed at the complex, but there are no plans for a monument or patriotic-themed store, though some stores may display patriotic items

        Otherwise distraction from worries is the name of the game at the Levee. The Shadowbox Cabaret opens with “Heeeere's Shadowbox,” an R-rated “best of” show that features sketch comedy and live rock music from the Columbus-based theater. Katy Psenicka of Shadowbox describes the opening show as a roller-coaster production, which lasts about two hours, “give or take laughter.”

        The second wave of retailers moving into the Levee, many of which are still in negotiations, should be announced by December.


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