Retail centers add apartments, condos so residents can live where they shop and dine (2024)

Randy TuckerCincinnati Enquirer

Retail centers add apartments, condos so residents can live where they shop and dine (1)

Retail centers add apartments, condos so residents can live where they shop and dine (2)

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Arianna Verasmende typically starts her day walking her four-year-old Bassett hound, Cooper, through her neighborhood.

Afterward, she might grab a drink at Starbucks before scrambling off to work at a shared office space she uses when she's not working from home.

A movie at the local cinema or dinner at one of her favorite restaurants may be on tap later in the evening.

Sounds like a lot to cram in to one day, right?

Not for Verasmende, who lives in The Obsidian apartments at Liberty Center, where she has access to an office center and a wide range of drinking, dining and entertainment options just outside her door.

"Living here has been very convenient for me. Just a lot of fun. I don’t have to think too hard about what I want to do or where I want to go. Everything is right here within walking distance,'' said the 32-year-old accountant who moved to Ohio from Florida about four years ago.

Mall operators want you to live where you shop

Verasmende is at the vanguard of a new wave of apartment dwellers and condo owners flocking to residential developments at mixed-use retail centers in the suburbs or in trendy urban neighborhoods.

And retail centers across the Cincinnati area are opening their doors to long-term residents as part of their overall development efforts, while expanding their non-retail offerings to provide more lifestyle and entertainment options.

In addition to Liberty Center, those developments include The District At Deerfieldin Mason, which is under construction; Summit Park in Blue Ash; Montgomery Quarter adjacent to historic downtown Montgomery; Factory 52 in Norwood; and the Ovation in Newport.

The developments are part of a nationwide trend that includes Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group − the nation's largest mall operator.

Simon Properties, which owns Cincinnati Premium Outlets in Monroe, expects to spend roughly $1.5 billion over the next five years to build 2,000 multifamily units and hotel rooms on its properties. No plans have been announced for the outlet mall.

Retail centers spending billions on new residences

Liberty Center received approval last year from Liberty Township trustees for a $350 million project that would include a new 264-unit luxury apartment complex and 145-room hotel.

According to General Manager John Taylor, the planned expansion is part of the development's continuing efforts to grow and add density.

"We're always asking ourselves, 'What else can we do to help increase the daytime population at Liberty Center so that the tenants directly benefit from it?''' he said.

Liberty Center residents can grab co*cktails at The Roosevelt Room; dine out at the posh Son of a Butcher Steakhouse; catch a show at the Funny Bone Comedy Club; even throw axes at In The Game family fun center, which also features virtual reality and arcade games.

And, of course, there's shopping.

Dillard's department store and Dick's sporting goods anchor the Foundry − an enclosed mall − while the open-air portion of the retail center features a variety of specialty stores and mom-and-pop shops.

Apartment rents at the mall 'not cheap'

Having direct access to the bars, restaurants and shops "is not cheap,'' according to Verasmende, who shares the rent and her apartment with a roommate.

“It's not just the rent,'' she said. "You spend more money than you normally would because everything’s so convenient. But it's worth it for everything we were looking for.''

Verasmende wouldn't say how much she pays in rent. But rents at The Obsidian range from about $1,600 for a one-bedroom apartment to just over $3,000 for a three-bedroom unit, based on listings.

Mathew Guajardo, 33, has lived at Liberty Center's other apartment complex, The Onyx, since 2020.

The 13-year veteran military recruiter for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force lives with his one-year-old Husky, Luka, and pays about $1,800 a month to rent a one-bedroom apartment with a den.

"I looked Downtown, and rents are about the same,'' Guajardo said referring to one of Cincinnati's most expensive rental markets. "And don't even mention the parking fees. They're much higher downtown.''

Guajardo also enjoys the convenience of living at the retail center.

"If I don’t feel like cooking, I'll just step outside to see what sounds good,'' he said. "It's a little bit of a 'bougie' lifestyle, but that's what I'm paying for.''

Retail becoming less of a focus at some developments

Traditional shopping malls and retail centers have already undergone dramatic changes in form and content as they reduce the area dedicated to retail and expand entertainment and living options.

From 2012 to 2018, landlords expanded non-retail offerings from about 19% to 25% of the gross leasable area at U.S. shopping centers, eliminating hundreds of millions of square feet of retail space, according to a report from the International Council of Shopping Centers.

As the retail landscape in Greater Cincinnati and elsewhere continues to transform, newer centers are being built from the ground up with less focus on retail and more on nontraditional retail uses to help drive foot traffic.

At Factory 52, on the former site of the United States Playing Card Co. factory, only about 10% of the leasable space is dedicated to traditional retail uses, according to Nick Lingenfelter, chief development officer at Kenwood-based PLK Communities, which developed Factory 52.

The rest of the development is occupied by more than 300 apartments and townhouse-like rentals surrounded by town-like amenities, including a town square with a stage; a dog park; Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams shop; pickleball courts at Aces Pickleball + Kitchen; and The Gatherall food hall, with a variety of eateries and an open-concept bar.

To be sure, retail is still an important part of the mix at Factory 52, where a handful of local boutique retailers have already set up shop.

"Retail is a small part (of Factory 52), but you have to have it,'' Lingenfelter said.

But Factory 52 centralized its storefronts along Park Avenue − the main road running through the development − to isolate the commotion of its retail activity from the residences there.

“We don’t need retail everywhere,’’ Lingenfelter said. "We concentrated it on the Park Avenue corridor, which can also be shut down to become an entertainment corridor. The idea is that you can live (in the apartments) and not have all the noise immediately below you.’’

That's exactly what Brad Slomsky was looking for when he moved into the Factory 52 Apartments about a year ago from the Duveneck Square complex in Covington's Mainstrasse Village entertainment district.

"That need to feel like I’m right there in the midst of all the bars and restaurants is a previous chapter of my life,'' Slomsky said. "I was looking for something smaller and quieter that would allow me to get out of my apartment without having to go too far to find something to do.''

Slomsky said he pays just under $1,900 a month to rent a one-bedroom apartment that's closer to his job in Kenwood, where he works in marketing and brand management. He lives with his 12-year-old French bulldog, Pig, named after Cincinnati's famous Flying Pig Marathon.

"I can take her (Pig) to the dog park anytime I want, and there's plenty of other stuff I can walk to around here,'' he said. "There's a beer garden and patio. I can go to the square to see live entertainment on stage. It feels like there's something going on here around the clock, but it's not just centered around drinking and bars and parties.''

Price tag for living at lifestyle center can be as high as $1 million

Across the Ohio River in Newport, the 25-acre Ovation development has upped the ante for those seeking the live-work-play lifestyle in a mixed-use center.

For prices starting at about $1 million, condo buyers moving into The Boardwalk Residences at Ovation will have front-door access to a unique blend of retail shops, restaurants and entertainment, including the MegaCorp Pavilion music and event venue, which opened at the development in 2021.

A newly constructed pedestrian bridge across West Third Street connects the condos to the music venue and a 133-room Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel with a rooftop bar.

The condos, nearing completion, will also have first-floor retail storefronts designed to accommodate shops, bars and restaurants running along a boardwalk being built parallel to the Newport levee.

Two high-end luxury apartment buildings with ground-floor retail are also planned behind the condos.

The Boardwalk Residences are filling up fast. At least 86% of the 56 units in two of the three buildings that comprise the condo complex had already been sold by the end of April, with most selling above $1 million.

Construction on the third building, which will have 32 units starting at about $1 million, is expected to begin next year, and many of those units have already been presold, according to the developer, Covington-based Corporex.

Liberty Center

  • Location: 7100 Foundry Row, Liberty Township.
  • About: Features more than 94 retailers and restaurants and 238 apartments in two buildings − The Obsidian and The Onyx.
  • Rents: Range from about $1,500 to more than $3,000 a month.

Factory 52

  • Location: 4590 Beech St., Norwood.
  • About: The $100 million redevelopment of the former U.S. Playing Card factory features a massive food hall, specialty retailers, pickleball courts, a dog park and 314 apartments in four buildings known as the Factory 52 Apartments.
  • Rents: Range from about $1,600 to more than $4,000 a month.

The District at Deerfield

  • Location: At Mason Montgomery Road and Parkway Drive in Deerfield Twp.
  • About: The 28-acre development, which is still under construction, will feature restaurants, retail space, entertainment destinations and more than 360 apartments.
  • Rents: Have not been determined.

The Neighborhoods at Summit Park

  • Location: Adjacent to Summit Park at 4335 Glendale Milford Road, Blue Ash.
  • About: The 110-acre mixed-use development on the former Blue Ash Airport runway features restaurants, retail offices and 290 apartments at The Approach at Summit Park.
  • Rents: Range from about $1,500 to more than $3,000 a month.

Montgomery Quarter

  • Location: 9260 Montgomery Road, Montgomery.
  • About: The $150 million mixed-use development features Class A office space, retail, restaurants and apartments, including the 148-unit The Residences at MQ.
  • Rents: Range from about $1,500 to $2,700.

Note: Rent ranges were based on listings on and input from leasing agents.

Retail centers add apartments, condos so residents can live where they shop and dine (2024)


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