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‘A small town that feels like a city’

Northern Kentucky boasts hot cultural attractions with easy living

By Abby Laub

Devou Park’s stunning view of Cincinnati,
the Ohio River and Northern Kentucky is one of many reasons people love calling the region home.

Choosing a great place to live isn’t as simple as finding a great job. These days the place itself needs to impress arguably more so than a job, and Northern Kentucky does just that. It’s a region that has something for everyone, and it’s an important part of a Greater Cincinnati region whose cost of living is 12 percent below the national average.

“We truly have something for everyone, whether your stay is a day or a lifetime,” said Jack Moreland, president of Southbank Partners.

Southbank Partners Inc. is a Newport-based community and economic development organization that coordinates activity with the string of cities along Northern Kentucky’s bank of the Ohio River. It promotes and coordinates development activities, fosters teamwork and collaboration, and provides a unified voice for the partner cities in advocating common positions to state and federal governments, and other communities.

“The Northern Kentucky urban core is alive, well and working at a breakneck speed toward a renaissance that is already bringing young professionals, empty nesters and those who just love to be close to the action, back to downtown,” Moreland said. “We are renovating existing housing stock, building new modern apartments, lofts and condos, and providing leisure time amenities all in the spirit of establishing a place where everyone loves their lifestyle.”

The varied waterfront has a host of attractions to suit families, professionals and seniors alike, and a new coming attraction is a huge Ferris wheel to wow guests with spectacular views of Cincinnati, the river and the rolling hills around the region.

First announced in 2015, the SkyWheel project calls for a 240-foot-tall leisure attraction to be placed at Newport on the Levee on the Ohio River waterfront.

“Newport on the Levee is ideal for SkyWheel because it is a great combination of a social gathering place offering all types of entertainment for all age levels with restaurants, theater, aquarium, music and events,” said Matthew Stack, managing director of Koch Development Co. Stack oversees all aspects of the operations and development of the SkyWheel.

“The best part of SkyWheel,” Stacks said, “is that it is accessible to all ages and demographics. I would expect that with our project there will be other new investment at Newport on the Levee from North American Properties and others to further enhance the entertainment offerings in the area.”

On the wheel, riders will be able to see many other of the region’s attractions, while feeling they are atop a feather in the cap of a region on the rise. Northern Kentucky is all walkable and affordable. It also happens to be just across the river from multiple professional sports teams, yet more arts and cultural attractions, and ample world-class dining opportunities. And unlike most other large urban areas it is all within easy reach – even by foot or bike. In fact, two popular walking bridges – the Purple People Bridge and the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge – offer unparalleled pedestrian access to residents and visitors.

“With walkable and bike-able neighborhoods, Southern hospitality, plenty of non-franchise restaurants and shops, and other safe, well-lighted venues, both locals and visitors alike will find an atmosphere in Northern Kentucky that begs them to come stay,” Moreland said.

Who better to talk about the quality of place in Northern Kentucky than the people who live here? Here’s what they have to say.

Jim Guthrie, lives in Newport “via Cincinnati via Lexington via Los Angeles” and is principal at Hub + Weber Architects.

What he loves about NKY: “Diversity – it has everything and everyone. Its authenticity.”

Where he takes out-of-town guests: “Hotel Covington … but pick a bar or restaurant; you can’t go wrong.”

Education: Bachelor’s in architecture from DAAP at University of Cincinnati.

Scot Dewitz is a “Midwest kid (N.D., Minn., Ind., Minn. again, Ill.) and now home in Kentucky” and serves as sales director for Kaiser Roof and Exteriors.

What he loves about NKY: “I visited here about eight years ago, saw the potential and knew I wanted to be here. There is such an amazing blend of history, old charming neighborhoods, housing stock and great local music. I currently live in Ludlow and believe in the positive movement this community has had in the past two years. Having that community feel and being five minutes from downtown is just an amazing pairing for my lifestyle.”

Where he takes out-of-town guests: “There are so many options! I really tailor it to the individual, but we always hit our local spots during a stroll in Ludlow with stops at Folk School Coffee Parlor, Haters Dry Goods, Second Sight Spirits and now Bircus Brewing Company. MainStrasse, Rhinegeist and the Southgate House Revival are almost sure stops outside of Ludlow.”

Education: North Dakota State University for general studies.

Tess Burns, is a Northern Kentucky native and co-owner of Commonwealth Bistro and a brand designer.

What she loves about NKY: “Its rolling hills, small town feel and friendliness.”

Where she takes out-of-town guests: “Left Bank Coffeehouse, Commonwealth Bistro (of course), Lil’s Bagels, Covington mural walk or drive, the Overlook at Devou Park, OKBB, Hotel Covington, the clock tower to see the goats, Licking Riverside.”

Education: Associate’s degree from Gateway Community and Technical College, bachelor’s from Northern Kentucky University, master’s from University of Louisville.

Mavis Linnemann-Clark is a Northern Kentucky native and serves as executive chef and “fearless leader” at The Delish Dish, Made by Mavis and Kickstart Kitchen.

What she loves about NKY: “It’s a small town but feels like the city!”

Where she takes out-of-town guests: “We always go to Covington or OTR (Over The Rhine) for good beers and delicious food!”

Education: Syracuse University, then Kendall College in Chicago for a culinary degree.

Gordon Henry, Northern Kentucky native, is president of ReNewport and property manager at Cornerstone Renter Equity.

What he loves about NKY: “I love multiple things about the area. The proximity to a big city but the small town charm that I can still enjoy, the walkability, the ability and space to impact change across a multitude of causes. The pride that comes with being from our individual cities in NKY. The residents and friendliness of it all.”

Where he takes out-of-town guests: “Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar, the museums in Cincinnati, Great American Ball Park, Wunderbar, Wooden Cask Brewery, Washington Park, as many coffeeshops as possible. I’m biased towards Carabello Coffee and Trailhead Coffee.”

Education: Went to NKU for higher education, took a break to join AmeriCorps, now pondering a return to college.

Karen Etling, is a Northern Kentucky transplant from Munster, Ind., and is the executive director at Baker Hunt Art and Cultural Center.

What she loves about NKY: “I love Northern Kentucky’s rebirth. All the wonderful restaurants and stores that have sprung up, the great new living spaces and bars, and the upbeat personality that goes along with it all.”

Where she takes out-of-town guests: “Brunch somewhere in NKY, a distillery tour, Big Bone Lick for a hike, tour of a horse farm.”

Education: B.S. in finance from Indiana University and MBA in human resources from Xavier University.

Katie Meyer is a Covington native and serves as executive director of Renaissance Covington. She’s also co-author of Walking Cincinnati (facebook.com/WalkingCincinnati/)

What she loves about NKY: “I love our historic architecture, creative energy and locally owned businesses.”

Where she takes out-of-town guests: “I love to take visitors on a walk from the Roebling Bridge through Roebling Point, downtown Covington and over to MainStrasse Village. The combination of public art, architecture, and places to shop, eat and have a drink really make for a holistic experience. If it’s during the warmer months, we’ll make a stop at the Covington Farmers Market and a visit with the Goebel Goats.”

Education: B.A. in political science and journalism from the University of Kentucky. M.S. in urban policy analysis and management from The New School in New York City.

Shwetha T. Pai moved to Northern Kentucky from New York City and serves as CEO and co-founder of OrgAnalytix.

What she loves about NKY: “The friendly, welcoming people.”

Where she takes out-of-town guests:
“To FC Cincinnati games and for bourbon tastings.”

Education: MBA from Columbia Business School and BSBA from Boston University.

Mandy and Aaron Lehman moved to Northern Kentucky from Morehead, Ky., and Milford, Ohio, respectively. Mandy is a designer, photographer and creative at MANMAN (themanmans.com), and Aaron is an autism specialist at Cooper High School.

What they love about NKY: “Its humble, approachable vibe and that it’s close to the river and downtown Cincinnati,” says Mandy.

Where they take out-of-town guests: “Manhattan Harbor, coffee at Avenue Brew, lunch at Bellevue Bistro, movie in Newport, drinks at Darkness Brewery … we’ll also take them to OTR and other random places too, of course!” Mandy added.

Education: Mandy has a BFA from NKU, and Aaron has a master’s in special education from Xavier.

Vivek Mehta moved to Northern Kentucky from Austin, Texas. He is the CEO and co-founder of Weeve, a company that helps businesses reduce turnover by giving them a better way to understand and act on employee feedback.

What he loves about NKY: “There’s a vibrant and growing scene for start-ups and small businesses, lots of great shops and restaurants within walking distance, but most importantly – everyone is kind and welcoming. Midwestern hospitality is real!”

Where he takes out-of-town guests: To one (or several!) of the great bourbon bars.

Education: Bachelors in Communication Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.

Getting around made fun

Cincinnati Red Bike has 12 stations in Northern Kentucky.

Cincinnati-based Red Bike has 440 bikes with 57 stations – 12 of which are based in Northern Kentucky. Executive Director Jason Barron said the bikes make upwards of 100,000 trips per year and are about the most versatile mode of transportation in the region.

“Red Bike is huge for quality of life,” he said. “It allows people to get around in a different way than they’re used to getting around, and it adds to the transportation mix of the community, to the health of the population and the environment. And it improves the number of smiles in the community.”

Barron said the program has been incredibly popular, and people frequently use them to get across the river for work or leisure.

“Northern Kentucky is a crucial part of the Red Bike network, and I’d say one of the most common rides that’s taken is across the bridges to enjoy both sides of the river,” he added.