Downtown Covington to Be Made Over by UC Class
A putt-putt golf tournament will take place on the top of the Center City Parking Garage on November 17. Student Benoit Vandeputte, an exchange student from Belgium, launched the event as part of a tactical urbanism class at the University of Cincinnati. He and several classmates will make a mark on Downtown Covington with the golf tournament and other efforts at creative uses of existing, underutilized spaces. Projects throughout November include an art installation and possible pop-up cafe near the underpass of the CSX train tracks near Covington Station. Other projects will involve refilling planters along Madison Avenue with plants that will break down existing tree stumps, a live arts event inside the Arcade between Pike and Seventh Streets, temporary chalk art paintings involving local students in the process, and the installation of art displays inside empty storefronts. Another project will bring back memories of what Downtown Covington used to look like with images of the past in front of what the buildings look like now.
Vandeputte calls his event Covington's first urban golf tournament. "It's like we try to change the look and feel of a city with minimal adjustments or a one-time event and what we do is we point out something that you otherwise wouldn't notice or think of and in my case it started with my surprise that Covington has so many parking lots and garages and that they are unused after business hours and there's no place for fun," Vandeputte said. "One (parking lot) in front of Mother of God Church had a sign saying no ballgames, no playing, no roller skating, so that doesn't help a city move forward."
The student is seeking business owners and organizations from the city who want to participate in the golf tournament by providing one "fun mini-golf track". Participating businesses and organizations will "make their own golf tracks, custom-made with obstacles related to Covington, so it's not cheesy gnomes or something like that," Vandeputte said. "They're completely free to do whatever they want."
Some of the businesses and organizations already signed on inclue flow - a shop for men, Mainstrasse Village Association, Pike Street Lounge, Hub & Weber Architects, Step-n-Out Studio, and Roebling Point Books & Coffee.
Design students from the University of Cincinnati have built a relationship with the City of Covington over the past year with many being involved in the construction of the Center City Action Plan, the framework created by Denver-based Progressive Urban Management Associates to help revitalize the city's urban core. Professor Matt Anthony is overseeing the students' work.
"This is a chance to do a class with a very immediate impact," Anthony said. "Urban prototyping is doing smaller or short-term projects that have a chance to show a longer term change. The goal is for each student to champion a product that addresses some basic need."
The class is operated through the university's Community Design Center and one of the goals at the center is off-campus engagement. Anthony will monitor the progress of the eight students and their seven projects and will then be tasked with grading them. "That's the hard part," Anthony said. "The goal is to get all the things done. The semester ends later so they're doing projects through this month and they have to find some way to measure the impact and make a suggestion to what is the larger goal they were trying to get at." Anthony explained that that analysis will include how the project affected the area, if pedestrian traffic was increased, and ofr holiday-themed projects, whether they helped make the season more vibrant.
"Hopefully they can talk about their events and if it isn't popular they can understand the implications and explain something that they learned," Anthony said.
Anthony and the UC students have enjoyed their time exploring and creating ideas for Covington, working closely with Renaissance Covington manager Katie Meyer and Arts Manager Natalie Bowers. "There's a lot happening right now," he said, noting that tactical urbanism is usally centered on residents taking action whether the action is legal or not. "(The City) has been receptive, making sure we're doing everything the right way, or pretty close to the right way."