The grand opening last week of the Residences at One Highland project in Fort Thomas drew sizable crowds to celebrate and tour an open model of the newly completed luxury condominiums.
City officials, developers, and area business owners were joined by local residents at the corner of North Fort Thomas and Highland avenues to get a closer look at the $20 million project. The building includes 12,000 square feet of first-floor retail and 18 condominiums on the two floors above.
A vision and a partnership
Developer Rick Greiwe opened the event with a welcome and description of his vision for One Highland.
“The architecture is exceptional, inspired by the historic water tower of Fort Thomas,” Greiwe said. “At the tour today, you’ll get to experience the open floor plans and designer finishes that really are expressive of today’s lifestyle and the location here in beautiful Fort Thomas—what a perfect home-town setting for an engaging life.”
He then introduced and thanked a long list of individuals and teams who helped design, build, manage and sell space in the project, as well as city and county officials and the retail businesses who have already moved in or have signed leases for a first-floor space.
“This development really required a strong partnership,” Greiwe said. “And today we have Dick Williams of North American Properties and Rob Sibcy, chairman of the board of Sibcy Cline. Without their involvement, this would not have been possible. Also, we had strong public sector partners. The city of Fort Thomas, we could not have done it without their help.”
The original plan was for the project to be completed in 2021. Greiwe thanked the builder, Joshua One, and the subcontractors who stuck with the project through delays and other challenges brought about by the pandemic.
Dick Williams, executive vice president of North American Properties, congratulated the team that included NAP, Greiwe Development and Sibcy Cline realty. Rob Sibcy also praised his partners and said, after working with them on other similar projects across the river in Mariemont and Hyde Park, he was excited to be involved in One Highland. He also introduced his daughter, Robin Sheakley, president of Sibcy Cline, and realtors Pam Schuerman and Jody Brosey, who are representing the sales team for the project.
Key city involvement
Fort Thomas Mayor Eric Haas singled out business developer Dan Gorman, who helped identify and pull together the first group of properties for the potential project.
“He had the vision to know that things like this could happen and help get the properties together for us to get the developer,” Haas said. “And, I was excited by all get out to have Rick Greiwe be the person we were able to get interested in Fort Thomas, and then to partner with North American Properties and Sibcy Cline. We could not have gotten a better team to work on this. I’m very excited about that and about all the businesses that are here.”
Recently retired City Administrator Ron Dill was on hand to see the vision he worked on for several years finally come to fruition.
“It really is cool to see it all come together, really exciting to have the project in this state after living through the pandemic and all of that,” Dill said. “We were really excited to have Rick come to town and put this great team together to make an investment in Fort Thomas like this.”
He pointed out former city Renaissance Board Director Debbie Buckley, who also came to celebrate the project.
“Debbie and the group she headed had the vision of what this could look like in the middle of our community and how important it would be to build something that at last would be our centerpiece,” Dill said. “We did a lot of analysis. We asked our community what they wanted. I’ve repeated this several times but the biggest threat to our business community was doing nothing, and this is something. It’s pretty awesome, very exciting, to have it in this state and being offered to the community.”
A retail anchor
The group did not cut a ribbon to mark the official opening, but instead raised a cup of coffee, appropriately “Highlander Grogg,” in honor of the first retailer to move into the building.
The owners of Fort Thomas Coffee, Christine and Justin Smalley, became involved in the project early and worked with the developer to create a vision for their own space. The couple said they wanted to expand upon their popular coffee shop to include a wine bar, a full-service kitchen, a business center with meeting rooms and more spaces for community activities.
But the One Highland development has not been without controversy. People from the community expressed concerns at city planning and council meetings about the size and scope of the project. The addition of Fort Thomas Coffee provides a key point of contact and potential connection for city residents.
“When Justin and I purchased Fort Thomas Coffee three years ago, we did so with the mission to embrace community and what better place to do that then in the town where I grew up, Fort Thomas,” Christine Smalley said. “I have very deep roots, a long lineage here in Fort Thomas, so when we joined the One Highland project, I got to have a seat at the table from the standpoint of carrying the heart of the community and that was totally an honor.”
Bisbe Capital and dentist Dr. Troy Kramer have also moved into the commercial space, and a new boutique, Lavender Trails, owned by Shannon Motzer of Bluegrass and Sass, is in the process of moving in.
Meet the first residents
After the speeches and toast, gold confetti shot over the crowd from above, and the Highlands High School marching band marched past along the sidewalk. A tour of one of the upper floor condos completed the event.
Taking it all in from a patio table outside Fort Thomas Coffee was Stacey Jacobs. She and husband Jeff Jacobs are the first and presently only condo residents at One Highland.
“We are the only ones so far. We hear there are others coming,” Stacey Jacobs said.
She said she is looking forward to welcoming other new residents but so far it’s just the Jacobs, and they are “having a really good time.”
Each morning Jacobs said she comes down to enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the passersby—joggers, walkers, people heading off to work, children on their way to school. Some days, she gives them a “royal wave” from her seat outside Fort Thomas Coffee.
Relaxing in the morning with a cup of coffee and taking in the fresh air and the scene is one of the joys of living at One Highland, Jacobs said.
Jeff Jacobs explained that when the last of their four children left home for college, it seemed time to make a change. That meant selling their home in Terrace Park and moving across the river to Fort Thomas.
Stacey Jacobs has lived before in Fort Thomas, but moved to Cincinnati after meeting and marrying Jeff. They’ve been together for almost 30 years.
“It just felt like the right time,” Jeff said. “We have four kids and the last one is at the University of Kentucky. And, we were a little tired of paying out-of-state tuition for UK.”
Two of the Jacobs’ other children went to the University of Kentucky.
Jeff Jacobs excused himself to go upstairs to work. A business developer, he said he does work from home but has a lot of meetings and appointments that take him back across the river.
“I’d much rather just come home and hang out here,” he said.