Construction Finally Nears for University Plaza

Timetable is fuzzy, but project could begin in spring

As the redevelopment of Clifton Heights continues to occur, another area neighborhood is also preparing for a complete renovation.

Corryville, which is located directly next to Clifton Heights and is home to many University of Cincinnati students, will be experiencing various changes during the coming year.

The first will be the complete reconstruction of a popular shopping center called University Plaza.

“The entire existing shopping center will be demolished and new structures will be created,” says Mike Ricke, vice president of development for Anchor Properties.

Anchor bought the plaza in late 2008 for $4.55 million. The firm, founded in Cincinnati 23 years ago, now has offices in Covington, North Carolina and Michigan. It has produced more than 100 retail developments throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan and western Pennsylvania.

Currently, the plaza contains a Kroger grocery store, Walgreens pharmacy, Pizza Hut and other small businesses. After the renovation, however, only a larger Kroger and a new Walgreens will remain.

“The center will not be a plaza anymore because it will only contain two stores,” Ricke says. “However, Kroger will be doubling its size, so it will be able to provide more products and services to its customers.”

Local officials believe that the new Kroger will also help boost the economy by creating an influx of new jobs.

“We anticipate there will be a increase in employment in the Corryville area because Kroger will need to fill a variety of positions,” says Beth Robinson, president and CEO of the Uptown Consortium.

Formed in 2003, the nonprofit group’s goal is to spur redevelopment in the Avondale, Clifton, Corryville, Clifton Heights, Fairview, University Heights and Mount Auburn neighborhoods. The area has more than 51,000 residents, or about 15 percent of Cincinnati’s population.

Through the consortium’s efforts, more than $400 million in redevelopment, new construction and neighborhood improvements has been invested in the uptown area.

While project developers say the old buildings were obsolete and outdated, the new buildings still will have character and reflect the older architecture of the neighborhood.

University Plaza’s reconstruction is one part of a broader plan to help revive Corryville.

“A diverse group of stakeholders have come together with the sole purpose of wanting to revive Corryville and this project is just one of many projects they have been working on” says Greg Koehler, a community development analyst for the city of Cincinnati.

This group of stakeholders includes the Short Vine Business Association, the city of Cincinnati, the University of Cincinnati, Uptown Consortium and other area organizations.

Another project the group has been working on is the Short Vine Streetscape Project. It will focus on renovating the 2600 and 2700 blocks of Short Vine Street.

“The purpose of this project is to make Short Vine a more pedestrian-friendly zone,” Koehler says. “We want to narrow the street, pave the street with brick and widen the sidewalks.”

They also would like to eliminate the curbs on the street and move all the utilities underground.

“We want to rejuvenate the business district and make it more of a UC student hangout,” Koehler says. “In the past, this area has been a very happening place to go and we want to turn it back into what it used to be.”

After the renovation, the group hopes they can close the street to vehicular traffic during the spring and summer and have street festivals.

“This fall we closed down Short Vine and had street festivals before UC football games and had great success,” Robinson says. “Once renovation is complete, we want to start a tradition of having events like this.”

Despite their ambitious plans, developers say they aren’t sure when the University Plaza construction will begin and don’t have an estimate of how much the redevelopment will cost.

“We are hopeful the demolition will start during the first quarter of this year, but no specific date has been set yet,” Robinson says. “However, we have determined that it should take around 12 months to complete once demolition begins.”

While Kroger and Walgreens are rebuilt, both stores will be closed.

The Short Vine Streetscape Project is expected to start in spring 2011 and developers hope it will be complete by the following fall or winter.

Walgreens and Kroger will be paying for the University Plaza redevelopment, while taxpayers will pay for the Short Vine’s new streetscape.

“It’s a $2.5 million project that is being paid for by tax increment financing (TIF),” Koehler says. “We divert the tax revenue increases into a special fund to pay for future public improvements.”

The tax revenue increases will come from the area’s property taxes.

When all is said and done, officials hope Corryville will be given a new life and attract positive attention to the area.

“We hope to transform the area into a thriving entertainment district that is a safe and fun place to go,” Koehler says. “We are trying to invest in the Corryville area and turn it back into what it used to be.”

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