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‘Dreams do come true’: Riverfront Commons takes big leap forward, as pathway connecting river cities

By Tory McKinley
NKyTribune intern

“Dreams do come true and we’re seeing that happen today.”
— Mayor Jerry Peluso, Newport.

The Riverfront Commons project celebrated a great leap in progress with the opening of the elevated pedestrian walkways connecting the path from the Taylor-Southgate Bridge to Newport on the Levee over the weekend.

Fortunately, the early rains didn’t stop the Saturday festivities. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Newport section of the path took place at 11:15 a.m. featuring many esteemed speakers and spectators excited for the opening of a portion of the new walkway.

Mark Policinski of OKI speaks at the ribbon-cutting. (Photo by Tory McKinley)

“Riverfront Commons has already proven to be successful in attracting visitors, residents and economic development to our communities,” Peluso said. “It’s a great marketing tool, and these pedestrian bridges make it even better.”

The City of Newport provided $275,000 for the pedestrian walkways project, but the bulk of the funding – more than $1 million in federal funds – came through a grant from OKI.

This leg of the pathway is essential in providing that connectivity throughout the river cities.

Riverfront Commons is an 11.5-mile walking/biking path that runs along the Ohio River from the City of Ludlow on the west to the City of Ft. Thomas on the east. Ecosystem restoration, riverside stabilization, economic development and recreation are all benefits the region receives from its development, led by Jack Moreland and Southbank Partners. Once completed, Riverfront Commons will make the south bank of the Ohio the most interesting walkway/bikeway in the Midwest, according to Southbank, and will seamlessly connect over the Purple People Bridge to trails in Cincinnati, the Licking River Greenway in NKY, the American Discover Trail and Devou Park in Covington.

“Riverfront Commons connects all of us together because of its walkability. It heightens contact that you wouldn’t get if you were driving around in the car,” said Mark Policinski, CEO of The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI).

Moments after the dedication of the pedestrian bridge, the party moved to the Bridgeview Box Park – one of the amazing new attractions that Newport has to offer. Another ribbon was cut in the midst of the new restaurants and retailers, and a live band played in the background. The park is part of the major redevelopment of the Levee by its new owners, Cincinnati-based North American Properties.

Bridgeview Box Park opening

“The city was thrilled when NAP, a company based just across the river in downtown Cincinnati, purchased the levee and promised to revitalize it. And they have been true to their word,” said Peluso.

Newport on the Levee’s Bridgeview Box Park is just one of the beautiful features that can be found when exploring the Riverfront Commons.

The phases of the Commons continue to roll on.

Cooperation and persistence is what is needed to complete the Riverfront project 20 years in the making – and the local Kentucky governments have provided just that.

“When I talk to other people in Kentucky, they can’t believe that we can get this cooperation amongst local governments in NKY,” said Roger Peterman, Southbank board member and chairman of Riverfront Commons Committee.

As a whole, The Riverfront Commons pathway is an 11.5 mile bike and walking trail that connects all of Northern Kentucky’s river cities – Ludlow, Ft. Thomas, Bellevue, Newport, Dayton and Covington.

There are several phases to the Riverfront Commons Project, most of which are making great progress.

Some of the planned projects include creating urban villages in Covington’s 5th Street area and along Riviera Drive in Bellevue, transforming the former Kenton County Jail into office space and other uses, and creating mixed-use development areas along Ludlow’s riverfront.

A few projects have come to life that make this long-awaited dream a reality. One is the pedestrian bridge in Newport. Another is Covington’s “Crown Jewel” Project which has been delayed due to COVID-19.

The Covington project, slated to be completed by late winter early spring of 2021, includes a 1,350-seat amphitheater where crowds can watch musicians and performances with the Cincinnati skyline as a backdrop, a cobblestone “pier” jutting into the river that will serve as a kayak and canoe launch and fishing spot, and two new concrete paths running along both the water’s edge and the floodwall murals and connecting with other sections of Riverfront Commons.

The trail also will connect with other local trails systems, such as Licking River Greenway along the Licking River and the Devou Park Backcountry Trails in Covington, the Tower Park Trails in Fort Thomas, and the Ohio River Bike Trail in Cincinnati, which will ultimately connect with the Little Miami Scenic Trail that runs through five counties in southwestern Ohio.

The trail will also provide easy access to public Red Bike locations and the Southbank Shuttle stops in three of the river cities.

“Thank you to the entire team and board of directors at Southbank Partners for having the vision for the Riverfront Commons,” Peluso said.

Visit Southbankpartners.com for updates and information on the Riverfront Commons Project.

Newport: Pedestrian walkway

Newport: The connections

Covington: Riverfront Commons work continues

Covington riverfront

Covington Riverfront Commons project

The plan (Southbank Partners)

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