Manhattan Harbour, a proposed high-tech, mixed-use development along the Ohio River in Dayton, Kentucky, is one of the largest projects ever proposed for northern Kentucky. It is named after a former beach in the city. The development is physically eight times larger than The Banks development in Cincinnati, and four times larger than Ovation in Newport.(4)
David C. Imboden, president of DCI Properties, first eyed the potential of the vacant, grassy land along the river in Dayton as his company moved forward with redevelopment projects along Riverside Avenue in Cincinnati.(3) In November 2005, Imboden signed a deal with the city for development rights to the property, and began working to get federal approval for modification of the riverbank that could accommodate his proposal.
“The minute I approached them, their arms were open, and they said, ‘What can we do to help you create some tax revenue for us?’ All you have to do is look at Northern Kentucky and see the development that’s going on. You can’t even prune a tree in Cincinnati so you can have a better view.”
-David C. Imboden, president of DCI Properties
Manhattan Harbour was first proposed as an 800-home development,(2) but was soon scaled up to include 2,100 housing units and 230,000 square feet of commercial space on 142 acres along the riverbank.(1)(3) The development would include four mid-rise buildings that would range in height from eight to fifteen stories, and one high-rise tower that would be anywhere from sixteen to twenty stories. Plans also included a 150-room hotel, walking trails, green space totaling 28% of the total acreage, and a revamped Watertown Marina.(1)(3)(14)
A preliminary design was released in November 2007.(15)
A $30 million boulevard was proposed to link the city to the development,(3) along with two ferries between Dayton and Cincinnati.(5)
In the proposal submitted to Campbell County’s Planning and Zoning in April 2008, Manhattan Harbour would be broken into six smaller communities.(1) From west to east, they include The Commons, The Lookout, The Bend, The Vistas Estate Homes, Harbour Pointe and Manhattan Flats. An updated conceptual plan, released in June, aimed to integrate principles of “great neighborhoods,” such as walkable streets, public gathering spaces, recreational opportunities, a sense of place, visual excitement and a connection to historic neighborhoods.(14)
The Commons community features 560 residential units and up to 40,000 square-feet of ground floor commercial space.(6)(14) Multiple four-story buildings are arranged on both sides of the street that will provide broad vistas of the Ohio River, with two mid-rise structures complimenting the project.
Initial renderings showcased a twelve-story building near the western entrance on O’Fallon Avenue, eight four-story townhome flats and 37,800 square-feet of commercial space.(1)(14)
The Lookout features 360 continuous care and retirement-oriented housing units.(7)(14) One mid-rise on the south side of the levee would offer amenities for retirees and empty nesters, while multiple one- and two-story indepdent living units would line the north side of the street.
The Bend features 296 housing units, along with a proposed mid-rise building along the eastern fringe.(8)(14)
Harbour Pointe features 290 residential units with ground- and second-floor commercial and retail space.(9)(14) The buildings would be centered around a central park. A six- to eight-story, 150-room hotel would overlook Watertown Marina.(1)(9)
Manhattan Flats features 410 residential units and up to 65,000 square-feet of ground-floor and boardwalk commercial space.(10)(14) Anchoring the eastern end of Manhattan Harbour, the community features three-stories of residential townhouses and a proposed sixteen- to twenty-story residential tower.
Tagging along would be The Vistas Estate Homes, which would be state home sites ranging in price from $500,000 to $1 million.(11)(14)
Prices for the residences would range from $200,000 to $2 million.(2)
DCI Properties purchased the Watertown Marina for $5 million in 2008 in anticipation of its eventual overhaul.(1)(3) The 460-slip marina, built into an inlet along the river, was constructed in 1988 at a cost of $13 million.(3) It has since been renamed the Manhattan Harbour marina.(4)
In February 2009, the Dayton City Council approved an application for a federal EB-5 designation that would allow the development to attract foreign investment. Such a designation from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services grants visas to immigrants in exchange for investment.(5)(12) Foreigners can apply for the EB-5 visa if they can create ten full-time positions in an enterprise worth $1 million or greater, or $500,000 in certain “targeted employment areas.”
The state later designated Dayton a “targeted employment area.” (13)
C&M partnered with South Korean firm LG Electronics to build Manhattan Harbour as a high-tech community.(13) In the proposal by LG, residents would use smart-phones to pay for services or goods, and public amenities, such as cameras, trash cans and even traffic controls, would be state-of-the-art. Northern Kentucky University’s College of Informatics has began a study of other technological innovations that could be incorporated into the development.
Newark, Ohio-based Park National Bank is financing Manhattan Harbour, which has backed other DCI projects in the region.(2) To assist in financing the $1 billion project is tax-increment financing (TIF),(2) which would be paid off in 30 years.(5) TIF allows cities to use increases in property tax revenues generated by the new development to go towards public infrastructure costs associated with the project.(3)
In August, the city submitted a TIF application to the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority worth about $60 million.(3) It was granted preliminary approval on January 29, 2009.(5) The city will issue more than $100 million in TIF bonds to fund the construction of streets, utilities, parks and other public structures. On March 26, the Authority approved $109 million in TIF bonds, but allowed C&M to receive up to $260 million if the developer can show a need to the state.(5)
The state, city and county have agreed to devote 80% of the increase in tax revenue gained from the development to pay the bonds that will fund the infrastructure.(5)(12)
On December 10, the Authority approved $198 million in TIF for the Manhattan Harbour project.(13) In addition to the state funding, the city of Dayton and Campbell County Fiscal Court agreed to $250 million in TIF bonds. That allows C&M to sell bonds to finance the project.(12)
The full build-out of the project is expected to double the city’s property tax base of $220 million.(3)
I don’t think there’s any question this is the most important event in Dayton in 100 years. It could be one of the most important events in Northern Kentucky.
-Dayton City Administrator Dennis Redmond(13)
In May 2008, DCI began trucking in 1.2 million cubic yards of dirt to raise the property fourteen to sixteen feet to raise the ground out of the flood plain. The Dayton Planning and Zoning Commission approved a zone change for the development in the following month.(2)
By December, approximately $23 million had been invested into the site.(2) $20 million of the investment was used to prepare the site for construction, while another $3 million sum was used for engineering studies required by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.(3)
One of the first buildings proposed to be erected for 2010 is a 20-story residential tower with ground-level retail in front of Watertown Marina at the project’s eastern entrance.(2) Named Manhattan Flats, the tower would include one-hundred condos valued at $300,000 and above.(4) It is being self-financed by Imboden.(5)
It would be followed up with a continuous-care retirement community and four-story townhouses.
Construction of the superstructures could begin in early 2010, with the first developments coming online in 2011.(12) The expected date of completion is 2020.(2)