Home » NKY real estate sector bolstered by small-town charm, urban allure

NKY real estate sector bolstered by small-town charm, urban allure

Interest in NKY life fuels robust residential and commercial real estate growth

By Jeff McDanald

Presales have begun for The Residences at Ovation, part of Corporex’s Ovation mixed-use development in Newport, which, when completed, will cover nearly five city blocks on the riverfront.

Both the commercial and residential real estate markets remain strong in Northern Kentucky, and local leaders are optimistic that vitality will continue through 2022, thanks to historically low interest rates and despite the lingering challenges of COVID-19.

Bumps along the way—labor shortages, supply disruptions and inflation—have not been enough to hold back growth or dampen demand for real estate.

Real estate investment firm and developer Corporex Companies had record years in 2020 and 2021, said Heather Harris, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Covington-based company.

“Commercial leasing continues to grow for us. We saw expansions just in the last year alone for six tenants, which is a testament to the companies we partner with, and their respective growth in their industry sectors,” Harris said.

The 53-year-old company is known for iconic developments such as RiverCenter Towers and The Ascent at Roebling’s Bridge, the uniquely shaped blue-and-white glass residential building that has become a local landmark.

“The Towers at RiverCenter are 95% full, with many of our tenants back in the office,” Harris said. “We’re not seeing a reduction or elimination of physical office space but we’re seeing that many are looking to change their spaces to provide more room for collaboration and upgraded amenities.”

“We’re also seeing unprecedented interest on the residential side,” Harris added. “We sold several high-end units in The Ascent this past year and have seen strong interest in our preferred buyer, presale list for the Boardwalk Residences at Ovation.”

The Ascent at Roebling’s Bridge, the iconic blue-and-white riverfront residential building with a spiral-sloped roof, is a notable fixture of the Northern Kentucky skyline.

Ovation, a 25-acre mixed-use Corporex project in Newport at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking rivers, has been growing in phases since 2019 and represents a $1 billion investment. Ovation will ultimately include the already-constructed indoor/outdoor concert venue; 1,000 residential units; 500,000 s.f. of Class A office space; 524 hotel rooms; the Ovation Membership Club; and 125,000 s.f. of retail and entertainment space.

Changing the skyline

“Ovation will completely change the Northern Kentucky skyline,” Harris said. “Ovation is unlike anything in the area. These riverfront homes are centrally located, with million-dollar views and five-star amenities.”

Each residence features two private balconies, covered and secured parking, and private and direct elevator access to each home. Additional amenities include onsite car detailing and valet services, high-end finishes, smart appliances and access to a state-of-the-art membership club featuring a full-service spa, group exercise classes, cardio and free weights, and a heated roof-deck pool.

“Amenities are key for residents, employers and employees—especially with a renewed focus on attracting and retaining top talent,” Harris said. “They want spaces that are walkable, accessible, have great dining and entertainment options, and look amazing with views of downtown Cincinnati, which are best from the Northern Kentucky side of the river.”

The first phase of the project, a concert venue called PromoWest Pavilion, opened in August 2021. Homewood Suites by Hilton, a 133-room hotel with a rooftop bar being constructed on top of a 550-space parking platform at Ovation, is the final piece of Phase II of the project. An office building is also under construction.

“Construction on the Ovation development has really picked up and will continue to over the next few months,” Harris said.

In October of 2021, Corporex and the Northern Kentucky community celebrated a “topping out” ceremony to commemorate the final steel beam placement on the new office building adjacent to PromoWest Pavilion.

Presales began in late 2021 for Ovation’s 88 Boardwalk Residences that are part of Phase III of the 25-acre development. In February 2022, Corporex opened an on-site experience center for prospective residents and tenants interested in joining the community to learn more.

A new riverfront in Covington

The summer of 2021 saw the grand opening of the $6.5 million Covington Plaza on the banks of the Ohio River between Greenup Street and Madison Avenue. Features include two hiking and biking trails that link to the six-city Riverfront Commons trail system, two overlooks, canoe and kayak access, and a 1,350-seat amphitheater and event area.

The Covington Plaza project represents not only a dramatic physical transformation, but also a shift in Covington’s relationship with its riverfront and a new era of public access. The new amphitheater immediately swung into action with everything from a three-day taco festival to the weekly Luv-The-Cov Concert Series to live theater performances by The Carnegie.

Completion of the $11.3 million new home for DBL Law in the revitalized Monarch building provides 34,000 s.f. of Class A office space right on Fourth Street. Other office projects include the ongoing renovation of the former Two Rivers Middle School into 68,000 s.f. of modern office space as global headquarters for the branding and marketing firm DeanHouston and other tenants. The six-story 27,000 s.f. Republic Bank Building is being redeveloped with a total investment of $5.4 million to include a rooftop restaurant and bar.

The Gateway Flats at Manhattan Harbour opened in May 2021 on the Dayton riverfront. The 76 units have sweeping views of downtown Cincinnati and the Ohio River.

Meeting the high demand for housing, a development team that includes Al. Neyer and Urban Sites is investing $31 million to transform the former City-County Building on Court Street into 133 luxury apartments known as The Hayden. Two floors will be added to the high-profile 10-story building, which once was home to both Kenton County and Covington governments.

Work continues on two historic buildings at the corner of Pike and Madison, one of Covington’s most visible intersections. The $22.5 million mixed-use project will include three tenants—a northern trailhead for a bourbon distillery experience, 60 luxury suites that are an expansion of the nearby Hotel Covington, and 10,000 s.f. of office space. A distinctive turret atop the 1912 building, which previously housed the YMCA and the Gateway bookstore, has been restored after being blown off by a tornado in the 1960s.

The City of Covington is also embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime project: redeveloping 23 riverfront acres that for many years housed an IRS processing center. A few years in the planning and legal wrangling, the city’s plan seeks to replace what was once its biggest employer with a completely reimagined neighborhood that includes a restored street grid, a levee park, a community plaza for festivals, and a mixture of buildings that will include offices, retail shops and places to live.

Sanctuary Village, a new Fischer Homes community in Villa Hills, recently was completed. Home prices start at around $550,000 and go up to $800,000.

Record-breaking residential

The Northern Kentucky Association of Realtors (NKAR) and the Northern Kentucky Multiple Listing Service (NKMLS) closed out 2021 by breaking previous records in sales and dollar volume of sold listings. Home sellers saw a 15.25% increase in average price over 2020.

In addition, buyers offered thousands over asking prices, eager to get their offer noticed as multiple buyers submitted offers on the limited number of homes available.

In December 2021, the average price of active listings reached an all-time high of $500,865, more than double the average December 2016 listing price of $243,681.

The number of sales in 2021 and 2020 was nearly the same (708 sold versus 678 sold), but the total dollar volume sold for 2021 versus 2020 was up by 15.89%, a positive difference of more than $283 million.

Even with so many positives for home sellers in 2021, a common reason many sellers held back was because they couldn’t find a property to meet their needs or couldn’t get an offer in fast enough on an available listing. On the other hand, buyers—especially first-time buyers— may have slowed their house hunt because of rising prices and fewer homes available to purchase.

“The conditions in a hot real estate market require everyone—the realtor and their clients—to act immediately as new listings come up. Many times, buyers only have 30 minutes to see a listing before the next potential buyer arrives for their appointment to see the home,” NKAR said in a November 2021 press release.

Residential sales in January 2022 were exactly the same as January 2021: 455 homes sold. But the average price was up 18.5%, and the average number of days on the market was down to 25 from 28 in January 2021, according to NKAR statistics.

In early 2022, NKAR members met in Frankfort with local legislators to discuss issues impacting the industry, including tax reform support and protecting the mortgage interest deduction. They also voiced their opposition to sales tax on real estate services.

NKAR has 1,308 members in the region, and there are 1,877 users of the NKMLS.

+++ Partner Content +++

Corporex: A new look at development

Corporex is a privately held investment company focused in real estate, hospitality, sports and fitness, and capital markets. Corporex has a 57-year legacy of designing, developing, constructing, managing and investing in real estate assets. With a long rich history of value creation and community impact, Corporex changes skylines while changing lives. It builds buildings, companies, relationships and teams that reach new markets, seek new opportunities and launch new products. It is a trusted local name with a strong national presence. 

Covington-based Corporex Cos. LLC controls over $1 billion of real estate investments in 20 major U.S. markets. It has a reputation as one of the nation’s leading privately held owner/operators of commercial real estate. The pandemic has changed the world in many ways, most notably for Corporex, it has changed the way companies and employees live, work and play. Because of this, Corporex is taking a new look at its approach to its two largest mixed-use projects.

Rendering of the completed street level for Corporex’s Ovation project

Its newest development is Ovation, a 25-acre mixed-use development sitting at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking rivers. This urban development plans focus more on office, hotel, residential, restaurant and entertainment opportunities with a walkable community with the core focus of engaging the community directly with the river, like nothing this region has seen. Ovation will grow over three phases to include approximately 500,000 s.f. of Class A office space, 1,000 residential units, 524 hotel rooms and 150,000 s.f. of retail and entertainment spaces, and an Ovation Membership Club. 

A fresh new approach for its CirclePort development, a 650-acre mixed-use project just minutes from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) has emerged post pandemic. With CirclePort sitting only seven minutes away from largest commercial air hub in the U.S., there is a lot of excitement and focus on the need for amenities and housing to support this growing community. New development plans are underway for a 20,000 s.f. retail center, a multi-family apartment development and continuation of walking trails. 

If you are looking to grow in the Midwest, look no further. Location and convenience are key selling features for Circleport. Opportunities for expanded space with the convenience of the CVG hub are now available at Atlantic Corporate Center, located within CirclePort. With a prestigious building, 200,000 s.f. and highway visibility, it’s perfect for a company’s headquarters.

For more information on these opportunities, contact Brett Lowery [email protected].


100 E. RiverCenter Boulevard
Suite 1100
Covington, KY 41011
(859) 292-5500

Corporex is a privately held investment company focused in real estate, hospitality, sports and fitness, and capital markets. Corporex has a 57-year legacy of designing, developing, constructing, managing and investing in real estate assets. With a long rich history of value creation and community impact, Corporex changes skylines while changing lives. It builds buildings, companies, relationships and teams that reach new markets, seek new opportunities and launch new products. A trusted local name with a strong national presence.

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