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Retail Market Study

Northern Kentucky University study
shows Carrollton downtown ‘lacking’

Collaborative Marketing Project
is behind the push to upgrade service

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. (January 2005) – The city of Carrollton has many tourist draws: a state resort park, an outlet mall, a variety of antique stores and several family-style restaurants. But, according to a recent survey conducted by Northern Kentucky University students, certain overall characteristics are missing from the downtown area.
From Oct. to Dec. 2004, Carrollton was the subject of a downtown retail market survey. Senior marketing students led by NKU Assistant Professor of Marketing, Dr. Aron M. Levin, Ph.D., evaluated a targeted 21-block area from the Kentucky River to Seventh Street and from the Ohio River to Sycamore Street.

Carroll County Courthouse

Photo by Don Ward

Carroll County Courthouse.

To begin the project, students polled 353 attendees in Sept. at the Carroll County Tobacco Festival. Each participant was asked to complete a four-page written questionnaire to determine how to best grow and improve the area. Questions also targeted respondent’s awareness of the Main Street Program and its goals, and the importance of downtown revitalization efforts.
Carrollton has been a part of the Kentucky Heritage Council Main Street Program and Renaissance Kentucky since 1996. A similar survey was completed then, but it was not specific to what has since become the Renaissance district, said Carrollton Main Street Director Sam Burgess.
Renaissance Kentucky requested a survey be completed that was specific to this district, said Burgess. But, no new information has become available with the recent survey; it was only a repeat of what was said before, Burgess continued.
The result is that “some things are missing from the downtown area,” said Burgess. He cited a decent family restaurant, recreational outlets for young people and a better mix of retail stores, as factors lacking from the area.
Two groups of students have contributed to this survey. Each made a separate report on the Tobacco Festival survey findings. A formal presentation was made at NKU on Dec. 2, which Burgess attended. In turn, he asked the students to provide a presentation to the Carrollton City Council in Dec., which would be the last meeting students could attend before their class was finished for the semester.
Reno Deaton, executive director of the Carroll County Economic Development Corp., attended the NKU presentation with Burgess. Deaton said he enjoyed the presentation and is “looking forward to getting the underlying data.” Once the final results are tallied, Deaton said he would have a better understanding of the project and its concepts, and how to proceed with it.
The Main Street Program board of directors has yet to meet as a group and discuss the results of the survey. This will probably take place at the January meeting, said Burgess.
From survey results, students concluded that most people aren’t aware of the Main Street Program or its goals for the city of Carrollton. Renaissance Kentucky strives to assist communities like Carrollton with downtown revitalization efforts to keep the areas vibrant and highly visible.
The Carrollton Main Street Program is a nonprofit organization, governed by an 11-member board of directors. The Program addresses the concerns of the historic downtown business district through a four-point approach: economic restructuring, design, promotion and organization.
The Program’s goal is to protect and maintain the historic architecture and culture of the downtown area, while revitalizing the development of the area. Carrollton has been funded grants for its Streetscape Project, which provided new sidewalks and lighting in the downtown area, and the Façade Grant Program, which assisted in renovating storefronts.
Of the Carrollton Main Street Program, Burgess said there is “some recognition, but it’s not widespread.” He conceded that the program has received some name recognition over the last three years, but just like any other project, when there is “no controversy, there is no recognition,” he said.
The survey has been presented and the next step is to give the board of director’s time to devise answers to the questions raised by the project. Plans must be laid out, taking into consideration the opinion of residents and merchants.
Carroll County has a “tremendous industrial foundation,” said Deaton. “This is the heart of the community.” These assets must be given time to mature and develop into a viable commercial capacity.
The downtown area has a mix of retail businesses and services, and a nice variety of restaurants, said Deaton. The focus now is on developing a plan to draw new business downtown and provide them with the incentive to remain there.

• For more information contact Burgess at (502) 732-5713.

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