The first Kroger location in downtown Cincinnati since 1969 opened this morning to long lines of shoppers and celebration from city officials.
Getting in on the fanfare: Cincinnati Reds announcer Marty Brennaman, the University of Cincinnati marching band, Mayor John Cranley, members of Cincinnati City Council, county officials and more.
The Cincinnati-based grocer partnered with the city to build a 45,000-square-foot, two-story store as part of a mixed-used development. That project also includes an 18-story, 139-unit market-rate apartment tower and a 550-space parking garage. North American Properties, NorthPointe Group and Rookwood Properties are developers on the project, GBBN served as the architect and Turner Construction was the development’s general contractor.
A smaller nearby store in Over-the-Rhine on Vine Street has closed and will be torn down for parking. Urbanists and elected city leaders have salivated at the idea of a downtown store for years, but before 2017 — when the project on Walnut was announced — the pieces had never come together.
The location has been 15 years in the making, Kroger officials say.
Mayor John Cranley touted the opening as a sign of Cincinnati's continued recovery.
"The Cincinnati miracle is here," he said. "The comeback has happened. Fifty years ago, Kroger left downtown and we, like every other Ohio and Midwestern city, went into decades of population loss and decline... 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, this would have been unthinkable, but here we are with a brand-new skyrise building with a grocery store operating in downtown Cincinnati."
The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority also partnered on the project, issuing bonds to finance the structure's parking garage and providing subsidies for the construction of the store and apartments via structured leasing. Port President and CEO Laura Brunner praised the development as an example of a successful public-private partnership.
"This project represents a new, important chapter in our Cincinnati story," she said. "This large scale project is an exceptional example of what I'm describing, contributing hundreds of new residential units, parking spaces and of course a new downtown Kroger."
The almost $91 million project received an $8.5 million grant from a city fund that must be used for downtown development, $4 million from the Ohio Development Services Agency, $2.5 million in state and federal New Market Tax Credits, about $7 million from 3CDC, $19 million from Kroger and $42 million in private investment.
"It's hard to believe that just over two years ago, the site behind us was nothing more than a surface parking lot, and today, it's a modern 18-story building," said 3CDC Development Manager Katie Westbrook. "We are thrilled with the possibilities this project will bring to this section of downtown and believe it will act as a catalyst for new development between Over-the-Rhine and downtown."
Westbrook says the project's 139 apartments should be open in the next few weeks.
Kroger says the store is meant to serve customers living in downtown, Over-the-Rhine, the West End and other nearby neighborhoods. The store will have a bar, food court and other novel amenities. Among the perks: a walk-up Starbucks window for pedestrians on the Court Street side of the store. A second-floor food court features Eli's BBQ, Django Western Tacos, Dope Asian Street Fare, Cincy Whip and Kroger's own Kitchen 1883 Cafe and Bar.
A big crowd lined up to be among the first to shop at the new store. Kroger officials used a color-coded wristband system to let customers in 25 at a time.
There will be plenty of opportunities to check out the new location: the store will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, the company says.