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City of Erlanger launches incentive program to turn Commonwealth Ave. into office business district

The City of Erlanger has launched an economic development incentive program that is designed to transform Commonwealth Avenue from a residential thoroughfare into an office business district.

Bob McNichol of Skylight Financial Group at his Commonwealth Avenue site in Erlanger. (Photos provided)

The Commonwealth Area Professional District Capital Improvement (CAP) Incentive and Grant program includes an Erlanger City Council-approved zone change that will encourage new or expanding businesses to convert existing residential structures into commercial office space or develop a new commercial building.

“Commonwealth Avenue is a tremendous area with outstanding potential,” said Erlanger Councilmember Rebecca Reckers, who chairs the city’s Small Business Taskforce. “The purpose of the incentive program is to encourage new businesses to locate along Commonwealth Avenue. The CAP program includes a zone change that allows for office conversions and will truly make Commonwealth a commercial zone by acting as a catalyst to attract businesses.”

Commonwealth Avenue is an east/west corridor that connects Dixie Highway to Interstate 75 and Donaldson Road, which provides a direct link to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

“We’ve already had interest in the area,” said Erlanger Mayor Jessica Fette. “Hopefully, the CAP program will incentivize businesses and investors to purchase and convert some residential properties into offices and we can start to see a transition along Commonwealth Avenue.”

Commonwealth Avenue’s central location, convenience and ease of access are what attracted Skylight Financial Group Financial Advisor Bob McNichol to the street. McNichol lives in Union and used to work in a downtown Cincinnati office building. But when his firm moved to the Rookwood Commons area in Norwood, he was in search of an easier commute.

“As soon as our office moved, the (Interstate 75/71) Brent Spence Bridge was basically closed down for 90 days to be repainted,” McNichol said. “I had always wanted sort of a cool office in Northern Kentucky.”

“And after sitting in Brent Spence traffic – sometimes for two or three hours a day while it was being repainted – I was ready,” he said. “I had been hearing good things about Erlanger and how business friendly the city had become, and I started looking for an office location.”

Before the city’s incentive program was even developed, McNichol purchased a stately home for his business at 441 Commonwealth Avenue, a majestic and recognizable white house featuring pillars, a fountain and a front yard flag pole.

Under the city’s former zoning regulations, home offices were permitted but a resident also had to live in the house. So, for the last few years, McNichol’s son, who is also a financial advisor with Skylight Financial Group, lived on the home’s second floor.

Skylight Financial Group’s office on Commonwealth Avenue in Erlanger.

Under the new program, a resident is not required to live in the building.

“Removing that residency requirement is going to make this program a lot more attractive,” McNichol said. “Commonwealth Avenue has so much to offer a business. It is centrally located, very convenient and I can envision it becoming the flagship street in Erlanger, a corridor lined with offices for lawyers, title companies, financial planning firms and other professional services.”

McNichol is so bullish on the area that he has purchased a second residential property at 437 Commonwealth Ave. that he also plans to convert to office space.

“Kudos to the Erlanger city leaders -including Mayor Jessica Fette, city council, the city’s administration and Emi Randall – for taking the right steps to make the city more viable and attractive for investment and new businesses,” McNichol said. “I’m very pleased to be part of a program that is going to be successful in achieving the city’s goals.”

The CAP incentive is available to certain qualified businesses located in the Residential-to-Office Conversion Zone and the Mixed-Use Zone to promote job creation and capital improvements in the Commonwealth Avenue area.

Businesses may request a reimbursement of up to 50 percent of their capital improvement expenses up to $40,000 – with $20,000 maximum reimbursement – associated with conversion of a structure from residential to commercial or for construction of a new commercial building. Expenses eligible for the reimbursement include visible exterior improvements such as signs, parking lots, exterior lighting and walkways. Fixed interior improvements such as removal or replacement of walls, flooring, cabinets, bathroom and break room fixtures are also eligible.

City of Erlanger

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