PDT Staff Writer
Portions of downtown Portsmouth could become brand new areas of development with a series of stores and townhouses, if a downtown development idea being floated by a group of area business leaders comes to fruition.
“One of the things that has evolved from our discussion about bringing people to town for software design, or manufacturing, or whatever it is, we would like for people, when they get to town, to have a good experience,” developer Jeff Albrecht said. “And when you think of somebody who has never been to Portsmouth before driving down Chillicothe Street, it’s not going to leave a good impression with them.”
As a result of that knowledge, Albrecht said the business leaders, who meet at the Holiday Inn on Second Street on Thursday morning, have come up with an idea for stores and restaurants well within walking distance of Shawnee State University.
“We have been working on this with a number of players for the last six or seven months,” Albrecht said. “It takes a long time to make things happen.”
Albrecht said some of the things the group has identified through discussions with Shawnee State University is a need for food businesses.
“We’ve identified a coffee place such as Starbucks or Caribou Coffee,” Albrecht said. “We have a gentleman that’s interested in developing a Mexican restaurant that is totally unlike any other Mexican restaurant in town, called Salsarita’s. We’ve identified a yogurt store similar to Orange Leaf that is in the Ashland (Ky.) Mall, and we’d like to have a pizza and sub fun kind of pizza place with an outside seating area that would include a table, a fountain, and landscaping, something to make it exciting - something to make it fun - and something that will attract the Shawnee State students.”
Albrecht said the group also has some other retail store ideas they want to bring into the mix.
“There’s 5,000 people located just at the end of Second Street (at SSU),” Albrecht said. “Between the students and the administration and staff and faculty, there’s 5,000 people there, and imagine if each person just spent $100 a week in the downtown area, that’s half-a-million dollars that could be spent in our downtown area. So we really feel like we want to do something to promote the university, and be there for the students, and something that could help our community as well.”
Albrecht said it is important when someone who is a business person such as a manufacturer comes to down, the business community should show them Shawnee State University, the new U.S. Grant Bridge, the new Holiday Inn, and all the other new things in the community.
“We don’t want them to leave just thinking of Chillicothe Street,” Albrecht said. “We want to show them this is a place where something is happening.”
Can it be done?
“Absolutely,” Albrecht said. “We’ve got a plan that we’re putting together, and we’ve got two or three locations for this plan where we could implement it. And as long as the property owners will just sell their property at fair market value, that’s all we want. Nobody gets greedy here, then it’s something that we can make happen.”
Albrecht said if those involved could pre-sell or pre-rent the retail area, and over-top of the retail, housing, which he said would include high quality townshouses and condominiums, thus limiting the risk to the real estate investors.
“We’ll have it all rented out. We’ll have most of the condominiums pledged,” Albrecht said. “The thing that is going to be remarkable is that this area is going to be very high quality; very upscale; very big city. We want to design it so that it fits the look of the area, yet it’s got to be high quality so that we can put people there who will appreciate what we are putting there.”
Albrecht said he is still excited that the proposed New Steel plant is moving forward.
“The big corner that we’ve turned is getting the governor involved,” Albrecht said. “I’m so excited about doing some things that people can invest their money in and make a reasonable return. People who have been stuck with property in this area can sell their property at fair market value. Plus we will be doing something for the city. The whole point of doing everything we are doing in our group is that we are all okay at what we do and we’ve been successful over the years; we love our community; love the people in it, the people who have made us successful, and this is our way of giving back.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at email@example.com.