Northern Kentucky has become the residence for a growing number of executives relocating to Cincinnati and, surprisingly, some expatriates from the Cincinnati side. What is so appealing about "the other side" of the Ohio River? Many factors are in play. Let's begin with money.

Residential property values in Northern Kentucky are generally lower than comparable homes across the river, according to Mike Parker of Mike Parker Realty Group, which claims to be the number-one rated Huff Realty agent nationally since 1999. Parker works with 20 or more relocation agents a year. "Buyers in the $250,000 to $700,000 range find comparable homes in Northern Kentucky to be between 5% and 10% cheaper," Parker says, based on what those relocation agents tell him.

Dan Dressman, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association (HBA) of Northern Kentucky, assesses the difference higher. "New home prices in similar communities are typically 10 to 20 percent less in Northern Kentucky."

The other side also has more undeveloped land within closer commuting distances to downtown Cincinnati. The availability of undeveloped property has caused a boom in "mini estates" in the $400,000 to $800,000 range, specifically in Campbell County. "Less than 25 minutes from downtown, homeowners are able to enjoy several acres of land, and create a family estate that would be very difficult to obtain on the Ohio side," Parker comments.

Numerous home builders from Cincinnati are building and selling alongside the well-known Northern Kentucky builders. Drees Homes, Fischer Homes, Arlinghaus Builders and Ryland Homes, have been joined by John Henry Homes, Dixon Builders and Beazer Homes as leading residential developers.

"Executives that relocate to our area are surprised that there are still so many undeveloped sites with commanding views of the Cincinnati skyline," Dressman remarks.

Jim Cutter, president of the Northern Kentucky HBA, owns Cutter Construction, Inc., and Cutter Custom Homes. His companies build high-end custom houses and remodel older properties into elegant homes. His "Victorian Vista" won the People's Choice Award in Newport's CitiFEST showcase of homes (formerly known as CiTiRAMA).

The showcase featured six new homes in the range of  $850,000 to well over $1 million on Wiedemann Hill, which has spectacular views of the river and Cincinnati. Cutter built two of the entries, and resides in one of them.

Mike Parker has sold "the other side" appeal to several couples from Mount Adams. He says they were tired of feeling crowded and having to hunt for parking, while those hilltop perspectives in Kentucky fulfilled their desire for "the view."


If rich historic architecture in an urban setting is your preference, Covington, Newport, Bellevue and other river towns on the other side offer the historical appeal and convenience. Keep in mind that "Millionaire's Row" is on the riverfront in Covington. Town houses and private residences are a part of the Historic Licking River Home and Garden Tour.

But the hottest trend in upscale riverfront living is the boom in condominium development. Leading the way are these projects:

"¢ The Ascent at Roebling's Bridge, Newport  (Corporex). The crescent-shaped high-rise next to Corporex's RiverCenter I and I"”designed by acclaimed architect Daniel Libeskind"” will include 80 luxury condominiums at the foot of the Roebling Bridge. Units in the 21-story building, now under construction, are selling quickly. Gary Toebben, president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, estimates that people from Ohio have purchased more than two-thirds of the sold units. Corporex defined riverfront luxury living with Domaine de la Rive condos in the RiverCenter complex.
"¢ Harbor Greene, Bellevue (Ackerman Group/Star One Realtors). This is a $65 million residential and commercial development on 7.7 acres along the riverfront, sitting directly across from Mount Adams. Besides condos with great views priced from $360,000 to $1.5 million, Harbor Green will include park-like green spaces, a bike trail and river walk.
"¢ SouthShore, Newport/Bellevue (Capital Investment Group, Michael Kophfer). This $165 million project is located on 2.4 acres on land that was used for parking for Don Pabl'™s and the recently reopened Chart House restaurant, across from The Party Source and close to Newport on the Levy. The project is designed to have four 20-story towers featuring 200 luxury condos ranging from 1,000 to 4,000 square feet, along with 130,000 square feet of Class A office space. Kophfer opened the South Shore sales office in March. "Each unit is designed to offer incredible inside-outside views of the river and Cincinnati," Kophfer says.
"¢ WatersEdge, Bellevue (Joshua One). The 24-unit WatersEdge at Bellevue will feature luxury condos with 3,200 square feet, great rooms with panoramic river skyline views and 650 square feet of covered terrace space. Units in the seven-story structures are expected to sell in the $705,000 to $845,000 range.
The riverfront development boom has by no means peaked. In March, the city of Newport received responses from six major companies that are interested in developing 14 acres at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking Rivers, to transform what is now public housing into a major "urban village" including condos, office buildings, hotels and public green space.


For the Northern Kentucky region as a whole, numerous factors affect the housing market. Taxes, convenience, schools, recreation, shopping and entertainment: all of these "quality of life" factors are beginning to put Northern Kentucky on more competitive footing with suburbs to the north.

Property taxes are one of many selling points for builders and real estate agents. All things being equal, such as lot size and home value, property taxes usually are less in Kentucky. That's of particular interest to retirees or people making retirement plans. (The American Association of Retired Persons recently cited Northern Kentucky as a great place to retire.) Experts recommend consulting a tax advisor if you are considering the move to Kentucky to evaluate everything from homestead tax exemptions to how income taxes for retirees differ from state to state.

With the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport being located in Boone County, proximity and convenience is a plus for executives who make frequent business trips, and retirees who are frequent flyers.
Boone County, with a population exceeding 100,000, is the fastest growing county in Kentucky. The county has grown by 15,000 in just the last five years, and the population there is expected to exceed 188,600 by 2030.

"Convenience is important to people today"”especially with executives"”when time is the ultimate commodity," Dan Dressman observes. In most cases, he adds, downtown commuters have an easier time coming from Northern Kentucky than from other suburbs located the same distance from the city center. The expansion of I-471, completion of the Fort Washington Way improvements and modifications to the I-75/I-71 "cut in the hill" all helped improve commuting.

Mike Parker has sold several homes to automotive executives who refer to Northern Kentucky as the "Triangle." They make frequent business trips to Louisville and Lexington. "Northern Kentucky was a much better choice for them than Sycamore Township."

Not long ago, the biggest challenge to selling families with children on Northern Kentucky was the public schools. But the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA), passed by the state legislature in 1990, has produced dramatic results in many schools, and standardized measures of many Northern Kentucky schools now meet or exceed comparable schools in Ohio.

The state also has acted aggressively to improve higher education and give parents and students financial incentives to consider Kentucky colleges and universities. Northern Kentucky University experienced an enrollment boom in the past decade, with enrollment topping 14,000. Gateway Community and Technical College also has grown fast, and now enrolls more than 3,000 students. Gateway has four campus locations: Covington/Park Hills, Edgewood, Highland Heights and the new Boone County campus near I-75 at the Mount Zion Road exit.

For recreation, Northern Kentucky counties have been investing in green space and upgraded parks. When it comes to nightlife and entertainment, Newport on the Levee has made everyone in Greater Cincinnati sit up and take notice. As for retail, options abound, but the hottest thing going now is the new Crestview Hills Town Center on Dixie Highway at the 1-275 interchange. Developed by Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate"”the same company behind the enormously popular Rookwood Commons in Norwood"”Crestview Hills is anchored by a new Dillard's department store, Bed Bath & Beyond and Borders Books.


For sure, Northern Kentucky communities are gaining respect among homebuyers, families and investors. The two sides of the Ohio are separated by bridges, but the quality of life and lifestyle options seem to be more in step with one another.

Many observers believe that as the Tristate area develops more of an identity as an integrated region"”more than a collection of municipalities and neighborhoods"”there will be less of the "us vs. them" mentality. Or, as Chamber President Toebben puts it: "Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati are part of the same marketplace. You cannot separate them."