Would you rather come home to a ranch on miles of rolling green pasture or live it up in a condo with a skyline view and easy access to clubs and restaurants? Either way, your ideal living arrangements can be found in Northern Kentucky.
“The thing that’s really fun about Northern Kentucky is, if you drive 20 minutes in any direction, you can have it all,” says Joy Amann, COO of Huff Realty.
Over the past 15 years, job availability in Northern Kentucky has grown by almost 90 percent, fueled by low taxes, two interstate highways, an international airport and a strong workforce, according to the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
And, executive vice president of the Northern Kentucky Homebuilders Association Dan Dressman points out, most people decide where to live based on the locations of their jobs. As the region’s population and average personal income continue to grow, so do its housing, nightlife, dining and shopping options. Along the way, many types of communities in the region are being revitalized.

An Urban Feel
Chances are you’ve seen some of the more notable luxury condo complexes being built on the riverfront, such as the Ascent at Roebling’s Bridge and South Shore in Newport. They are just a few of the many new developments along the Kentucky riverfront and surrounding hillsides in Covington, Newport, Bellevue and Dayton, and they are “making the river communities trendy once again, after years of decline,” Dressman says.
For example, The Views town homes and flats in Covington offer spectacular hillside views from every home, as well as terraces, vaulted ceilings, a community pool and spacious floorplans up to 3,000 square feet. But these communities offer a lot more than new luxury condos. Urban renaissance is one of the main priorities of Vision 2015, the 10-year strategic plan for Northern Kentucky, and it calls for communities to adopt reasonable rehabilitation codes and increase incentives for home ownership. Homeowners in these neighborhoods are renovating older urban buildings that have architectural character as well as prime locations near nightlife hotspots such as Newport on the Levee or MainStrasse Village in Covington. Older urban communities such as Mansion Hill in Newport or Wallace Woods in Covington are still popular, says Huff Realty’s Amann.
Dressman says that homeowners here typically prioritize quality construction, space for entertaining and security.
“Most of these homeowners are singles, empty nesters and young professionals who want to revel in the urban sights, sounds and entertainment venues. Typically, these homeowners are not as concerned with schools, but don’t want the maintenance and commuting that are part of ‘living in the ‘burbs’,” Dressman says.
Jim and Dianna Guthrie, UC grads from Lexington and Cleveland, respectively, were attracted by the reasonably priced real estate and urban environment of Northern Kentucky. Both architects, they bought a house on East Fourth Street in Newport for about $54,000 around 1991 and rehabbed it through the years. When the city put out a request for proposals around 2003 for a historic property across the street that had been damaged by fire and condemned, the Guthries stepped up. They completely gutted the extensively damaged building, taking out as much as they could without damaging its structural integrity, then designed and rebuilt it with a modern aesthetic. Features include open riser wood tread custom staircases under a huge skylight and a “roof deck” with a grill, vegetable garden, and trees. “We hang out there a lot and eat and watch sunsets,” Guthrie says. They also love the solid brick, stone foundations and heavy walls of their house. “It feels more real and less contrived than some of the other suburban architecture,” Guthrie says. Oh, and their previous house? Sold for $250,000.
The Guthries could have easily built a new home in the suburbs — they have three children and don’t have much of a yard in Newport — but they loved their community and the perks of an urban environment, including the diversity of the neighbors, many of whom have lived there for decades, the “rich” architecture of the neighborhood, and accessibility of downtown attractions like Reds games, Bengals games, and parties at Sawyer Point. “The kids can walk to Newport on the Levee or down the street to the park, they can ride their bikes to the library,” Guthrie says.

Communities Attract Families
The past few years have brought big changes for communities such as Burlington, Union and Florence in Boone County. New housing developments — including Triple Crown in Union, Treetops in Burlington, and River Shore Farms in Hebron — continue to spring up in what was formerly countryside, and the county’s population, which has grown by 50 percent over the last decade, leads the region in growth.
Dressman says the housing options have expanded the most rapidly in these areas, as well as in communities such as Independence, Taylor Mill, Cold Spring and Alexandria, because they are attractive to the largest percentage of the housing market: families. These communities offer affordability and a mix of older and newer housing in a variety of prices, and their good schools and safe neighborhoods add to their appeal. The typical home sold is 2,500 square feet with three bedrooms and a two-car garage, Dressman says.
The undeveloped land in many of these areas makes it easy for families to build new. Developers are attracted by the accessibility to retail and roads like the AA highway and I-75, says Amann.

Established Appeal
While the extraordinary growth in Boone County and new riverfront high-rises may be more noticeable, families moving to Northern Kentucky are still choosing to live in ever-popular communities such as Fort Thomas, Fort Mitchell, Edgewood, Park Hills and Fort Wright.
“All of these communities have good school systems that tend to be draws, (as well as) deep community pride and steady property values,” Dressman says. “The housing is older, but well maintained. Additionally, all have governments that are well managed with low crime rates.”
These communities might not have an abundance of undeveloped land, but remodeling has been on the increase for the last several years, Dressman says. And, notes Amann, developers are astute at looking at options for infill development.
These communities are more established and turnover is low, allowing for closer relationships with neighbors and an atmosphere that brings families back to the neighborhoods they grew up in. Residents here also have easy access to the interstate and downtown Cincinnati.

Down on the Farm
If you’d like to know the corner store grocer and all the teachers at your child’s school or maybe get a clearer view of the stars at night, communities such as Walton, Petersburg, Dry Ridge, Williamstown, Verona and Butler all offer a quiet small-town feel. These communities can offer large rural lots away from urban areas, ideal for “hobby farmers,” Dressman says. Rural communities like these also continue to grow as people move from more urban areas in Northern Kentucky and from other regions into the neighborhoods being built on undeveloped land.
Amann says that the country life has a lot of appeal, both to the agriculturally-oriented and those who just want to get away from it all.
“I think there’s kind of a romance to get to the quiet simpler things in life,” she says.