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Wow: Possible Designs for Covington's Riverfront Emerge

Without question, the City of Covington has lagged behind its neighbors in terms of attracting residents and visitors to its riverfront. Though the city boasts a significant skyline for a place its size, with major hotel brands and tall office buildings, at the shore of the Ohio River there is little to see or do. Impressive murals that detail the region's history are important pieces of art but are rarely viewed due to the limited pedestrian appeal. Instead, the 13-year old works of art stare across the Ohio to the booming Banks of Cincinnati where corporations are constructing new office towers, where the Reds and Bengals play in new stadiums, where the Banks are full of new restaurants and apartments, and most compelling, where Smale Park attracts families, visitors, and tourists to its sprawling green space with playgrounds and water features.

Smale also offers a view of the mostly vacant Covington shore.

Not since the 1990's when Covington Landing and BB Riverboats gave the riverfront a pulse, and not since Jeff Ruby's famed Waterfront restaurant washed away down river, has there been much of anything there.

But that is about to change, and for the first time at Tuesday night's Covington City Commission meeting, possible plans for what the riverfront could become were revealed.

The vision: to elevate Covington's riverfront as a vibrant civic asset and vital component of a unified regional riverfront. 

That's how it was explained by Ryan Geismar, an associate at Human Nature, the Cincinnati-based firm that works in the design of public spaces, including significant work on landmark projects in the Queen City like Smale Park and Washington Park, and helped the City of Covington develop a master plan for Devou Park in 2007.

"We want to celebrate the riverfront as a regional hub for civic gathering and recreation with unique amenities that complement rather than compete with," Geismar said. One such goal would be to build a connection to history through the Roebling Suspension Bridge by using it as a canvas for such elements as a digital projection to tell the stories of Covington and its neighboring River Cities.

The planned Riverfront Commons project, the trail system that will connect six Northern Kentucky cities from Ludlow and Covington in the west to Newport, Bellevue, Dayton, and Ft. Thomas in the east, will play a significant role in the city's plans. The bridge would also be a part of a strategy to create better pedestrian flow along the riverfront. 

Other objectives of the planning phase are to better connect the city's main northern districts (downtown, Roebling Point, Duveneck Square, and Mainstrasse Village) and the Cincinnati riverfront. There would be bold gateway and feature elements to serve as beacons and the project would elevate and influence the standard for land use in future urban core and riverfront developments, Geismar stated.

In addition to detailed plans for the Covington riverfront, Human Nature also created a vision for some of the surrounding parts of the urban core. 

The main riverfront focus is highlighted in orange in the above image.