H&LA Development Update: Newport, Kentucky

H&LA’s recent research for a project in Newport, Kentucky revealed some exciting new hospitality-related developments happening in the area. These developments will have a major impact on tourism, employment, and the general economy in the Newport area in 2019 and beyond.

  • In 2018, the Newport on the Levee retail/entertainment complex was sold to Cincinnati-based North American Properties following years of declining performance. The new owners have since made various aesthetic improvements and rolled out a series of community events aimed at attracting more visitors. Barnes & Noble, one of Newport on the Levee’s main retail anchors, closed in September 2019. This and other recent closures have opened up possibilities for future redevelopment.
  • Plans for a new $40 million indoor/outdoor concert venue were recently announced for a 25-acre site along the Ohio and Licking Rivers in Newport, just west of Newport on the Levee. This major project will serve as the centerpiece for the long-planned Ovation mixed-use development, which is expected to include a mix of condominiums, hotels, restaurants, office space, and parking. This massive project, led by Covington-based Corporex, represents a total investment of around $1 billion and is slated for completion within the next eight to 10 years.
  • Plans are moving forward for a new $15 million SkyWheel just north of Newport on the Levee. This privately funded project will create a 235-foot-tall Ferris wheel along the riverfront. Scheduled to open in May 2020, this new attraction will feature 30 fully enclosed six-person gondolas with glass windows and doors. These temperature-controlled gondolas will give riders unique views of downtown Cincinnati year round, and the SkyWheel is expected to complement the existing stock of retail, restaurants, and attractions.
  • A $28 million mixed-use development is planned at the World Peace Bell site in Newport, south of Newport on the Levee. As envisioned, this project would include a hotel and a parking garage, with retail and office space to be added in a second phase. As of our research date, no official timeline for this project had been announced.
  • The Internal Revenue Service closed its longtime tax return processing center in nearby Covington at the end of September 2019, resulting in the loss of 1,800 jobs. The closure is part of the agency’s consolidation of its paper processing facilities as more people file tax returns online. However, about 500 of these employees have already accepted new positions with the IRS and another roughly 500 positions are expected to be filled in Covington, Florence, and Cincinnati in the near future, meaning that the closure will not be as detrimental to the area as originally feared.
  • Online retailer Amazon.com has announced plans for a massive new air hub on 900 acres near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. The first phase of this project is slated for completion in 2021, with full build-out anticipated by 2026. In all, this represents a total investment of about $1.5 billion, and it is expected to generate more than 2,000 new jobs across Northern Kentucky and greater Cincinnati over the next several  years.
  • FC Cincinnati, a new professional soccer team, began playing its home matches at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati in 2018, on the campus of the University of Cincinnati. The team is part of the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer (MLS). A new soccer-specific stadium for FC Cincinnati is now under construction in the West End district of Cincinnati, northwest of the CBD. Scheduled to open in 2021, this $200 million stadium will seat around 26,000 spectators.