Kentucky Riverfront Development

Officials approved an agreement that would clear the way for a development partnership to transform a 14-acre former public housing site into an estimated $800 million mixed-use community on Newport’s western riverfront.

The Newport City Commission approved an agreement Thursday with Covington-based Corporex in which the developer will pay the city $13.5 million for the property, related long-term development rights and certain city expenses. The complex is expected to be completed in 10 to 15 years.

Corporex will lead and coordinate all aspects of the project, which it has dubbed Ovation. The initial term of the deal is for 21 years, with extensions thereafter based on its progress.

Construction could start in about a year, depending on how quickly it can reach an agreement with the Kentucky officials on funding for a proposed rerouting of state highways through the site, said Tom Banta, Corporex’s executive vice president and project leader.

Corporex withdrew last year as the proposed master developer of The Banks site, across the river in downtown Cincinnati, after it failed to reach an agreement with Hamilton County officials.

AIG/Carter, an Atlanta-based development team, is negotiating with Cincinnati and Hamilton County to craft a development contract to make the long-delayed Banks a reality.

Banta said Thursday that the two projects are “very, very different,” with Newport’s being much simpler to develop by virtue of the city’s control of the core project site.

Corporex hasn’t decided which components of Ovation will be built first, but the project’s mix of office, residential, retail and hotel gives it a lot of leeway to time development based on market conditions, Banta said.

According to the agreement, the overall plan includes 1.2 million square feet of office space, more than 1,000 residential units, at least two hotels and a 3,000-seat Las Vegas-style showroom, more than 200,000 square feet of retail shops, and about 6,200 parking spaces. As envisioned, it will include high-rise and midrise office towers and riverview condominiums and townhouses arranged in concentric circles around a central plaza.

Much of the complex, now projected to cost $200 million more than when initially proposed, will be built atop underground parking garages that will raise it out of the Ohio River flood plain. The site is at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking rivers.