The name Southbank Partners may not ring a bell with most people in Northern Kentucky.
Mention the Purple People Bridge, however, and almost everyone will instantly know you are talking about the iconic purple pedestrian bridge crossing the Ohio River between Newport and Cincinnati.
Turns out that Southbank Partners, a not-for-profit economic development organization that coordinates activity on behalf of the cities of Fort Thomas, Bellevue, Dayton, Newport, Covington and Ludlow, helped to bring the Purple People Bridge to fruition, says Jack Moreland, president.
Southbank Partners was created in the mid-1990s to bring people and businesses back to those urban core cities along the Ohio River through project like the Purple People Bridge, he says.
A 2011 agreement solidified the cities’ partnership and created a powerful tool to lobby for money from state legislators in Frankfort, says Moreland. “[Legislators] understand partnerships,” he says. “They understand if you’re working together that they get more bang for their buck because now they’re doing something for six cities as opposed to doing something for one city.”
The organization has helped bring other popular projects to the riverfront, including the Southbank Shuttle bus route, which connects the cities of Covington, Newport, Bellevue and Cincinnati, he says.
Southbank Partners’ most recently completed project is Taylor Creek Overlook Park, located on the Ohio River between Joe’s Crab Shack in Bellevue and the Chart House restaurant in Newport, says Moreland.
This 1 1/4-acre park was created to stabilize the riverbank where the culvert for Taylor Creek emptied into the Ohio River. “They say you ain’t growin’ any land any more, but we did,” says state Rep. Dennis Keene (D-Wilder).
The $3.8 million park, which Southbank Partners plans to use for community concerts, is also part of the organization’s newest project, Riverfront Commons. That’s a proposed 11.5-mile paved multiuse trail along the Ohio River from Fort Thomas to Ludlow, says Moreland.
Southbank Partners recently started seeking bids for four pieces of that trail in Ludlow, Covington, Newport and Bellevue, says Joyce McMullen, executive assistant to Moreland. Those projects are expected to break ground this spring, she says.
Other portions of the trail may take longer to complete, says Moreland, because riverbank stabilization projects have to be coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before the trail can be built on those sections.
A series of points along the trail will provide easy access to neighborhood, residential, business, entertainment and historic districts, he says. Asked when the entire trail was expected to be completed the 70-year-old Moreland says, “Before I die. I hope that’s pretty far away … but I have no guarantees.”
Another current project that Moreland expects to live to see completed in 2018 is the Licking Pike Connector that will connect state Route 9 (AA highway) to the Taylor Southgate Bridge in Newport.
The $27 million, four-lane road will open up approximately 60 acres of new developable land on the riverfront, says Keene. It will also provide people in downtown Cincinnati an alternative route to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport instead of traveling on Interstate 75, he says. “It’s all continuous. There’s no stoplights,” Keene says.
The reason Southbank Partners gets involved in these projects is for one simple reason, says Moreland: “Everything that we’re doing here is about creating jobs.”
“Every single waking hour that we have we focus on doing projects with the express purpose of providing jobs to our people to be able to live and work downtown,” says Moreland.