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Sweet Deal Turns Sour: No Chocolate Shop for Downtown Covington

The couple working on renovating a building that once housed a nuisance bar where they would operate a chocolate shop, have turned the keys back over to the City of Covington.

The city sold Red Mare Holdings the former Bottoms Up building on Fifth Street in September and William Poole and his partner Loren Penton had been busy turning the rotten structure into a usable retail space with an attractive 2-story residence above.

Those plans stalled earlier this month, as reported by The River City News, when a utility box that powers much of the block was deemed to be too close to construct scaffolding for the purpose of renovating the facade. After a lengthy back-and-forth between Red Mare, the City, and Duke Energy, Poole and Penton have decided to move on.

The couple, who would have named the shop Fortvna (with a Latin-style v in place of the u), had also purchased a property on Holman Avenue but placed that up for sale, too. They had operated a successful chocolate shop in Denver and a bed and breakfast in New Orleans. They lost tens of thousands of dollars on the failed deal that involved the City of Covington.

The property, which had suffered crime on the first floor and a fire on the upper floors, was purchased by the City in 2010. Red Mare Holdings was sold the building for one dollar with the contingency that the City would hold the first mortgage, valued at $17,500. That mortgage was to be released once the building was renovated, the mold was remediated, the roof repaired, and the shop opened.  Red Mare expected to use $96,000 in cash on hand to complete the project.

The City will return the one dollar and take possession of the building again.

"Not every deal works and unfortunately this one didn't," City Manager Larry Klein said. He added that the City did not have the expected $15,000 - $25,000 in its budget to move the utility box but is hoping to find a grant through Duke for its replacement.

The good news, Klein said, is that Covington is now in possession again of a building that has had significant upgrades done to it and no cost to the City. The City also has an option to buy the building that houses Floyd's 7-11 Club across the street and already owns the building adjacent to that one where the Covington Police Bike Patrol is currently housed.

The Bike Patrol will soon move to a renovated space on Scott Boulevard leaving another vacant space on that block of Fifth Street ripe for redevelopment. Blend coffee shop recently opened there and the Grand events center operates within the historic Odd Fellows Hall. The former Greyhound Bus building on the corner is on the market and recently saw its facade upgraded. Gateway Community & Technical College has plans to activate the alley on the block, dubbing it "Electric Alley", to make it more attractive for students and pedestrians.

The City views the block as a gateway through the City and has eyed full redevelopment of it.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Bottoms Up Building/RCN file