Newport, KY- Wonderful Historic Urban Suburban Across the Ohio River from Cincinnati

For this evaluation I included just the northern half of Newport north of the railroad. While much of the southern half was development before WW II its often blight, disconnected, and the Monmouth St (the commercial district) becomes very auto centric.

Newport was established as a town in the late 18th and incorporated as a City in 1834 with a population of only about 1,000. The first bridge spanning the Ohio River to Cincinnati opened here in the mid 19th century and the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge (the precursor to the Brooklyn Bridge). By that time Newport’s population was exploding reaching 10K residential in 1860, 20K in 1880 and 28K in 1900. The late 19th century also brought a large influx of German immigration. Population growth significantly slowed by the early 20th century and Newport reached its peak of 31K residents in 1950. The 20th century also brought  waves of “vice” to the City with liquor smuggling in the 1920s, gambling and racketeering in the 30s-1950s and sex clubs in the 60s-80s. In response the City demolished a significant part of the Downtown/waterfront area to create Newport on the Levee, a family friendly new urbanist development with a cineplex and a mall. This opened in 1999 but has lost much of its luster going into the 2020s.

South of the Newport on the Levee is a the Dwtn area, anchored along 4th & 5th Streets that have been ravaged by urban renewal and autocentric development. Fortunately the perpendicular street running up from the south (Monmouth St) is a fairly intact historic biz district with a good array of retail and cultural amenities. The eastern half of Historic Newport is Mansion Hill, filled with tree lined mid-late 19th century residential streets and a mix of grand and more modest homes. The western half is very working class historic stock. Newport also has solid public transit, great housing diversity, decent levels of safety, and solid walkable schools. For Newport to be a great urban district it needs more urban infill Downtown, along York and Monmouth, and other dead spots. There is a funny juxtaposition of great historic urban form and awful senseless post WW II development.

Click here to view my Newport, KY album on Flickr


* Decent urban density
* Good sidewalk infrastructure. Modern ADA curb cuts are hit or miss. Most curb cuts in the business districts have been updated but less than 50% of residential areas.
* Excellent historic architecture especially in Mansion Hill and the Monmouth Biz district. The western half is more working class.
* Modern in fill is mixed bag. Decent urban infill at Newport on the Levee and Dwtn but a good amount of auto centric crab as well.
* Solid public transit and great access to Dwtn Cincinnati being just across the river.
* Good connectivity.
* Good number of walkable schools but public schools were generally rated poor to fair. Several Catholic schools also mixed in.
* Good diversity of for-sale hsg options with 1-beds selling anywhere btwn 85K-400K, 2-beds btwn 100K-500K with some riverfront condos selling for more. 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 150K-800K with some newer product selling for more.
* Good amount of rentals available and nice mix of new and old. 1-beds lease btwn 800K-1.5K, 2-beds anywhere in the 1Ks, 3-beds 1.5K-2.5K. Good amount of afford. hsg here.
* Generally a safe place but good amount of grit, some vacancy, and medium levels of crime.
* Decent parks including the riverfront levee park, excel public plaza at Newport on the Levee, the expansive Ralph Mussman Recreational Complex, and a handful of smaller pocket parks.
* Excellent cultural amenities including many food & beverage bizs, a major cineplex,  a performing arts center, several live music venues, a couple art galleries, the Aquarium & a couple other local museums, and several historic sites.
* Good retail amenities including a couple grocerias, several drug stores, lots of boutiques, lots of antiques and gift stores, plenty of consignment/clothing stores, the Newport Levee shopping mall (no name brands clothing currently), a couple book stores, many banks, plenty of gyms & dessert stores, local post office & public library, lots of churches. Kroger’s and Target sit just outside urban Newport and other stores in the Newport Pavilion.


* Bike  infrastructure including a dedicated bike lane along the levee and a few bike rentals at Newport on the Levee. But much improvement needed.
* Decent economic and generational diversity. Racial diversity is pretty limited.
* Tree canopy was pretty sparse in parts, esp. the more working class western half and dwtn area. Mansion Hill has good tree canopy.
* Some bad urban massing along 4th and 5th Ave but otherwise pretty good.

Downtown Lexington, KY- A charming compact CBD with a bright future

Lexington’s street grid was platted beginning in 1780, and the Downtown Commercial District is contained within the oldest part of the city. Some of the historic brick buildings still stand especially around Church and Short Streets. Unlike Louisville, Lexington was able to avoid the worse of urban renewal and thus retain a lot of its urban fabric. Even with a good amount of urban infill along Market and High, surface parking lots are limited.

The other positive things Dwtn Lexington has going for it include: a clean Dwtn, good vibrancy and activity helped by its compact size, good connectivity to historic early 19th century neighborhoods to the east and west as an inner belt was never built, and good enough cultural and park amenities. There is also a good offering of for sale condos and townhouses, although more rental options would be nice. Downtown could also use more retail amenities (especially a supermarket & pharmacy) along with a dedicated bike sharing system.

Click here to view the Downtown Lexington Album on my Flickr Page


* Pretty good density for a Dwtn.
* Pretty solid architecture all around, both historic and in-fill.
* Most sidewalks have up to date ADA curb ramps.
* Nice array of dedicated bike lanes Dwtn .
* Good racially and economic diversity represented by Dwtn’s population.
* For Sale product seems much more diverse than rentals as price points typically range anywhere from 100K-600K. Nice mix of condos and townhomes. Fair amount of affordable hsg options Dwtn as well.
* Several nice Dwtn green spaces including Thoroughbred Park, Northeastern Park, Triangle Park, and the multi-block Phoenix Park, Dwtn’s civic plaza.
* Dwtn created an ambassador’s program in 2017 including a clean & safe component. Generally this is a very safe and clean dwtn.
* Pretty good mix of public/private elementary schools within Dwtn or nearby.
* No Colleges within Dwtn but UK is only 1-2 miles away with 30K students. Several thousands students also attend Transylvania University and Blue Grass Community College on the other side of Dwtn.
* For the size of the Lexington Metro (just over 500K) Dwtn Lexington’s 27K jobs is pretty good. Vacancy rate is around 12%, also not bad. And price per square foot is generally pretty inexpensive around $17-$18. Dwtn office growth is generally on a positive trend.
* Dwtn cultural amenities include a good array of restaurants, bars, and cafes, lots of clubs & some live music venues, several art galleries, a movie theater, a Lexington Opera House/performing arts center, Children’s Theater, a handful of smaller museums and historic houses, A convention Center/Arena Complex where UK basketball games are held.


* Public transit is only good within Dwtn and extending to inner city neighborhood. Decent within the 421 loop.
* No citywide bike sharing system. Some dedicated bike lanes connect to Dwtn from the North and East.
* Few family households Dwtn and cluster of Young Adults and empty nesters. But this is pretty typical of American Dwtns.
* Rental product is a bit limited buy pretty affordable compared to most Dwtns: 1-bedroom lease at or below $1,000, 2-bedrooms in anywhere from $1,000-$2,000, 3-bedrooms in the low $2,000s.
* Skyline is rather bland. Not enough tall buildings to create an impressive skyline.
* No Dwtn supermarket or pharmacy. Overall retail amenities are a bit limited in Dwtn to a several clothing stores/boutiques, a couple bookstores, and several antique stores. There is a dwtn library and post office.