More than 15 years ago, the city of Newport asked for ideas to develop 25 acres fortuitously situated on a corner of land where the Licking River flows into the Ohio. The site seemed to have it all—a prime location at the confluence of two rivers, sweeping vistas up and down the Ohio, and postcard-perfect views of downtown Cincinnati’s skyline.
Owned by the federal government for more than 200 years, it was used to house soldiers during the War of 1812 and was the site of public housing in the 20th century. When the city of Newport took possession, it was considered an opportune site for development, given its connection to the rivers and its nearness to the urban core of Newport and Cincinnati.
It took 15 years, but the Ovation site, as it’s known, is finally taking shape. The billion-dollar-plus development will change the face of Northern Kentucky’s riverfront and will be similar in scale to The Banks development across the river in downtown Cincinnati.
Rising out of the ground now are condominiums and apartments, built on a reinforced Newport floodwall on top of a 1,600-car parking garage. When finished, they’ll join a hotel, an office building, and an indoor-outdoor music venue that are already open, or will soon be. Ovation is the latest addition to the Northern Kentucky riverfront built by Covington-based developer Corporex, a company that has already built up the Covington riverfront with its RiverCenter residential, office, and hotel tower complex, as well as the neighborhood surrounding the airport, with its 650-acre CirclePort office and retail development.
Ovation will be even more extensive.
“In terms of the total dollar investment, this will be the biggest thing Corporex has ever done,” said Tom Banta, the company’s chief real estate officer.
Even as interest rates rise and inflation raises the cost of everything, there’s a demand for high-end living, Banta says. Half of the Ovation condos have already been sold, at about $1 million apiece, even though there’s only pictures to look at so far. That piece of the project, called The Boardwalk Residences at Ovation, won’t be finished until early next year.
Condo residents will enjoy prime riverfront views, restaurants, bars, and other retail on the ground level, and elevator access right into their homes. A 1,500-foot wooden boardwalk will border the project on the river side, providing access to the restaurants and other amenities that are planned.
Two big apartment buildings are also under way behind the condo buildings, and a membership club with fitness activities and dining is also in the works.
Those residences will join a five-story office building and a hotel that are nearly finished. Homewood Suites, owned by Hilton, will operate the hotel, which is slated to open sometime in the middle of this year. A North Carolina-based company called MegaCorp Logistics, which has a growing presence in Northern Kentucky, has leased much of the office building. It’s also purchased the naming rights to the music venue, now called MegaCorp Pavilion. With shows booked by entertainment giant AEG Worldwide, it began presenting concerts in August 2021 as pandemic restrictions eased, with a flexible stage that can be used indoors in cold weather and turned into an outdoor venue in warm months.
As residents move in, traffic will undoubtedly increase. Corporex says it is working with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet on modifying traffic patterns between the two roundabouts on Third Street near the Ovation development, changes that are expected to include the installation of a traffic signal at Columbia, the entrance to the two Ovation garages. Over the next several years, depending on market conditions, there’s room to add more hotels, office buildings, and retail to a development that is already transforming the small town (pop. 14,000) of Newport.