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Bavarian Building, Surrounding Area Target of Big Ideas by NKU Students

The Bavarian Brewery Building in Covington has fallen into deep disrepair, languishing from neglect and vandalism, and facing demolition. The historic structure's owner, Columbia Sussex, is currently awaiting a judgment from Kenton County Circuit Court on whether it will be permitted to tear it down in spite of the City of Covington's multiple rejections of that request.

Despite the uncertainty, one student at Northern Kentucky University has plan for the building and the surrounding neighborhood which is currently experiencing the very early signs of a resurgence thanks to a state highway project that widened Martin Luther King Boulevard (12th Street) and the renovation of nearby historic properties by entities like the Center for Great Neighborhood and Mansion Hill Properties.

Connor Wall, as part of a presentation for a public relations course at NKU, developed a plan for the landmark Bavarian building and to enhance the surrounding business community.

Wall was part of a group that came up with ideas for the Swedish-inspired coffee shop Fika, located a block east of the Bavarian. Those ideas included things like pairing specific pastries with the coffee the shop sells. From those initial efforts, though, Wall saw that the way to not only help Fika, but the whole 12th Street corridor, was to resuscitate the Bavarian in a way that has been a proven success in other urban areas.

“It started out with some ideas we could do with Fika but as we developed into the project more, we realized that there was a real need for some government and non-government relations along the way,” Wall said. “That mainly focuses around the Bavarian Brewery Building. The building has been falling into disrepair for a long time now and we found a way that the coffeehouse can work with the community to turn that into something that will attract more business and will ultimately save the coffee house from being negatively affected by any demolishing of that building.”

The owner of Fika, Daniel Connor, was very receptive to the suggestions. Currently, Fika has closed for the season until the first week of February at which time Daniel Connor intends to adjust the menu and implement some of the ideas that Wall and his group came up with.

“There were some things that they presented that were good ideas. We're trying to streamline the menu and get some employees trained up and take some of their suggestions into account. We should open and be a little bit different but still the same character in February,” Connor said.

Columbia Sussex has taken steps to raze the Bavarian, claiming that the site next to I-75 would be more marketable to developers if it were vacant land. The company purchased the building, that most recently housed a Jillian's nightclub location, with the anticipation that the Kentucky General Assembly would pass expanded gaming in the Commonwealth, making the site an ideal spot for a casino.

That didn't happen.

“If Columbia Sussex gets its way, they will demolish that entire block,” Wall said. “More than likely, they will offer Fika some kind of payout and say that we own your place now. Fika is a wonderful little coffee shop and is something the community can really thrive around and be a really pivotal part of the community. So it would be a real shame to have it demolished and be a real shame for them to suffer any negative consequences from that building being demolished. We recognize that there is a real opportunity for that building to be something better for the community which would bring more business for the coffeehouse and more development to the area in general.”

Now, Wall seeks to work with the Covington City Commission to declare eminent domain over the building and make it into a more communal place for local businesses to set up shop inside.

“Our idea is that it could be turned into something like a Findlay Market as an indoor garden and farmers market and if that were to happen, then ideally the building would be able to maintain its current structure and be able to maintain that current historical landmark that it's been deemed all this time now. It would become a more thriving metropolis area,” Wall said.

Daniel Connor agrees that any improvement made to the Bavarian building would be a huge boost for the area.

“I think something like a farmers market would be incredible. That building has so much potential. The only drawback could be parking which could potentially impact all the buildings on our side of the street. Either way, though, if it were to be developed I think it would be a good thing for everybody there,” Connor said.

However, the expected high cost of renovating the Bavarian is not lost on anyone. Investors would be needed to provide the funds needed to get the ideas off of the ground. 

“The upkeep of the building is a concern, especially now since its fallen in such disrepair. I think that Columbia Sussex wants it to fall into such disrepair that the community would then say that they would rather have it demolished and with that, they would be able to do whatever they wanted to do to it, more than likely make it into condominiums. It's fallen victim to a lot of vandalism, the windows have been broken out, it's been stripped of all of its copper piping, so it would take some serious investors and investment from the community to give it a chance, but I think overall it has some good bones and it would be worth it in the long run for the community and the building itself,” Wall said.

Community interest, specifically from the other nearby businesses, would also ratchet up support for such a plan. Some of those efforts are already underway. The Hellmann Lumber Building will soon become the Hellmann Creative Center where the Center for Great Neighborhoods, the Carnegie production shop, and local artists will set up shop. The former Flannery Paint building will be renovated to house a commercial operation and features a new mural welcoming drivers and visitors to the city's Westside. Wunderbar is a popular German restaurant on the street, across from Guttierez Deli, which, along with Fika, create an international flavor across this important east-west Covington corridor.

“If this were to happen, you would see a large influx of new businesses in the area. If you look at Fika, the buildings on either side are currently condemned and they're great buildings. There is a lot of potential there, but there is not a lot of involvement with the community so that's what we're trying to inspire here.”

As for Fika, it appears that the work of the student group has combined with the business owner to provide an excellent future for the establishment once it reopens again in February.

“Shortly after we concluded our project, Daniel (Connor) reached out to me and said that he would like to work with an intern from NKU to continue the efforts that we already kind of implemented and I believe that there is a relationship that is continuing to develop between Fika and NKU,” Wall said.

“I think that his group did a good job of researching,” Connor said.

The future of the Bavarian building remains up in the air but there is certainly an interest to improve it and the surrounding businesses like Fika.

“If there was work done on the Bavarian, obviously it would be great for the 12th Street corridor and would be better for our business,” Connor said.

Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor
Photo via Fika's Facebook page