Tuesday, July 29, 2003

$55M upscale mall proposed

Project in Crescent Springs

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CRESCENT SPRINGS - A Cincinnati developer wants to build a $55 million upscale shopping mall on a 50-acre site off Anderson Road near Interstate 75 that would bring the outdoor "lifestyle" retailing concept to Northern Kentucky.

Bear Creek Capital, a developer of retail property, presented plans for the project Monday night during a Crescent Springs City Council caucus. No action was taken, but Bear Creek Capital principal Matthew C. Daniels said a formal development site plan could be submitted to the city and the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission within 60 days.

The Kenton County Planning Commission would make a recommendation on the plan to the Crescent Springs City Council, which would then vote on the requested change, said Mike Schwartz, director of land-use planning for the county planning commission.

Daniels described the 350,000-square-foot project as "very upscale, high-end retail" that would include two anchor stores, seven smaller retail sites and up to seven restaurants. It would also feature green space, gazebos, walking paths and fountains or ponds, along with an office building of at least two stories, but possibly higher.

It would be similar to Rookwood Commons in Norwood, the region's prototype for the so-called outdoor "lifestyle" shopping centers that have become popular with upscale shoppers, Daniels said.

The developers said they were attracted to the site for two main reasons:

• Demographics. The surrounding area includes several affluent Kenton County suburbs, including Crescent Springs, Fort Mitchell, Villa Hills, Lakeside Park and Park Hills.

• Visibility. The proposed development site is near I-75 at the Buttermilk Pike exit, one of the busiest stretches of highway in this part of the country, said Tim Baird, also a principal in Bear Creek Capital.

"You have 165,000 cars a day going by this site on the interstate," Baird said. "That's a lot of potential shoppers."

Council members asked several questions, including many about traffic, but gave no clear indication how they feel about the project. Councilman Jim Collett did call it "a very exciting project."

Daniels said questions about traffic, which raised the most concern among council members, would be answered in a traffic study that is not yet completed.

Daniels said the mall would have several access points, including on Anderson Road, Beechwood Road and through a continuation of a road through an existing retail center along Buttermilk Pike.

Bear Creek has contracts to buy the land needed for the center, which would be called Buttermilk Station.

The project would force a mobile home park owned by developer Ray Erpenbeck to relocate.

Baird said Bear Creek is working with Erpenbeck on a plan to move the residents of the park, but he would not elaborate.

If approved, the center would take a year to build, Daniels said.

Based in Montgomery, Bear Creek has developed CVS pharmacies in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Minnesota. The company is also planning to build a 1.2-million-square-foot, open-air shopping center that would include luxury apartments, condominiums and office space in South Lebanon.

Bear Creek is also one of the firms interested in developing the retail space in Newport's proposed Promenade development. And it is developing property at the intersection of the AA Highway and U.S. 27 in Cold Spring, a project that includes a Kohl's department store, Kroger and Longhorn Steakhouse.

Bear Creek also has retail developments in Liberty Township and Montgomery.

Several other lifestyle retail centers have been proposed in Northern Kentucky, among them plans to convert all or portions of two existing malls - Florence Mall and Crestview Hills Mall - into outdoor centers.


Cindy Schroeder contributed to this report. E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com

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