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With BID on Hold, Covington Business Council Looks to Renovate a Storefront

The Covington Business Council is changing its focus after spending the better part of the previous two-plus years pushing for the implementation of a Business Improvement District (BID) in Downtown Covington. The BID, which requires signatures from a majority of the commercial property owners in the district while also representing a majority of the property value who would then assess themselves a fee to fund the BID, would have to then be approved by the city commission.

And that's where the BID has died in its current form as the city commission has failed to act one way or the other on implementing the program that would offer clean-up and promotional services to a downtown in need of both.

In a pilot phase two years ago, the CBC-affiliated Urban Partnership, which would oversee the BID, kept the streets of Downtown and Mainstrasse Village tidy and presentable. Since funding ran out for the pilot phase, the streets have returned to being littered with garbage and cigarette butts, a stark contrast from the downtown areas in neighboring River Cities and Cincinnati.

On Thursday, CBC executive director Pat Frew accepted a $10,000 check from the Duke Energy Foundation as part of a new effort to "white box" a storefront while CBC board member Tom Tilmes announced a new weekly networking meeting for local business owners.

"Good relationships make for good business," Tilmes said at the CBC's monthly luncheon last week. The requirements for the weekly meeting: bring a business card and a 30-second pitch about your business. "This is about building relationships. The business will come."

The new weekly meetings take place every Wednesday from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Covington branch of the Kenton County Public Library. 

Frew also outlined the results of a CBC member survey that found more education and presentations about the growth of Downtown Covington would be beneficial to members. A new monthly after hours will be launched on April 9 at The Grand from 5:30 to 7 p.m. for this purpose.

"We hope that by sharing all these things that you should realize we are serious about serving you better," Frew told the luncheon crowd.

And there will be much to discuss about projects in Downtown Covington where construction continues on the Mutual Building commercial/residential project across the street from the work underway at The Hotel Covington which shares a block where work continues on the future home of a Barnes & Noble college bookstore that will serve Gateway Community & Technical College which has multiple renovation projects underway in the urban core.

Independent developers are also hard at work on buildings up and down the struggling streets of the Central Business District.

Next up for the CBC is an effort to add to the new spaces available for commercial tenants. The $10,000 contribution from the Duke Energy Foundation will go towards the renovation of a commercial space that has yet to be identified. 

"There is so much going on in Covington and about four years ago we started a program called our Urban Revitalization Initiative and it is basically an opportunity to provide catalytic grants to urban revitalization projects in our core urban communities and we though that was really important because Duke Energy has always been very involved in economic development," said Rhonda Whitaker of Duke Energy. "We realize that our urban core is critical to economic development in this region."

The $10,000 will have to be matched by the owner of the vacant property which will be identified later in the spring, Frew said. A committee will evaluate nine properties and select the most viable one.

Other notes from the CBC luncheon:

Kristine Frech of Vision 2015 presented the key indicators of the past three years in the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky regional economy. It was noted that the region has fallen off pace of other areas in terms of injecting capital investment dollars into start-up businesses. 

The Holy Cross High School girls basketball team was also in attendance and recognized for winning the state championship earlier this month.

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