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Downtown Covington Building Receives $10,000 Grant to "White Box" Storefront

An historic downtown Covington building undergoing a renovation is the recipient of a $10,000 grant from the Covington Business Council and the Urban Partnership. 

The sister organizations announced the grant program earlier this year along with the Catalytic Fund and the Duke Energy Foundation (which provided the grant money).

David Vissman is the first recipient of the $10,000 Commercial Whitebox Program, and is developing a three-story property at 12-14 West Pike just west of Madison Avenue. “Its proximity to MainStrasse Village, Roebling Point, and Downtown Cincinnati brought it to our attention,” Vissman told The River City News in a June profile. “Walking through, the 8,000 square feet of walnut floors, huge windows, and high ceilings made the building a really exciting project to get involved with. It’s probably a little bigger than we had hoped for our first project, but the area was too attractive to pass up. Also, the considerable recent investments made in the area and great neighbors sold us on the building.”

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Currently there are 22 storefronts in the block of West Pike with eight vacant, according to the Covington Business Council. Retail vacancy rates generally have a close tie to unemployment which ultimately has a negative effect on the local economy, said Pat Frew, executive director of the CBC and UP adding that the program was developed to encourage reinvestment and ignite further interest in downtown Covington.

“What happens when these storefronts sit vacant, and some of them have been empty a decade or more, it has a chilling effect on outsiders' views of the area and can deter potential developers and investors from entering in to improve the situation," Frew said. "And building owners can feel discouraged about getting a return on investment from the cost of making these storefronts inhabitable. We hope to direct more efforts like this to continue all the positive momentum that Covington has seen such as the development of the nearby Mutual Building, Hotel Covington, Braxton Brewery and more.”

“White boxing” can involve HVAC, electrical, plumbing, bathrooms, wall and ceiling restoration. As part of the program the developer must at least match the grant. Candidates were selected by a committee comprised of CBC, Renaissance Covington, and Catalytic Fund representatives.

Vissman is still in the construction phase of rehabilitating the building. He said that the second floor of the building is slated to be used as a photography studio with the third floor space to be residential.

-Staff report

Images: 12-14 West Pike Street (RCN file)

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