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Downtown Covington Building to Have New Life as Home to Growing Business

This story has been updated to note that the sale of the building has not been completed, and that H. Johnson only operates out of one location and while its storage operations will be moved off site, the offices, moving trucks, and records management business will remain at its current site, pending sale of the building.

A sprawling historic building in downtown Covington is about to have a new life.

The home of H. Johnson Moving & Storage will soon be home to Road ID, too, a growing small business that will bring more than 40 employees downtown, and hopes to grow beyond that in the coming years.

"What's going on here in the City of Covington is very exciting for Road ID," company co-founder Edward Wimmer told the city commission last week, as his company was granted an incentive package. "At Road ID, we like to say our purpose is to save lives and provide peace of mind."

The company creates personalized identification accessories for pedestrians, runners, cyclists, and others who may need contact information provided to emergency responders in case of an accident. Wimmer said that the company started as he lay in a ditch after nearly being hit by a truck while training for a marathon. 

The company was awarded an incentive by the state which the City of Covington agreed to match, which is a 1 percent payroll tax rate. There are 42 employees currently and the company hopes to add 30 more.

On Monday, the city's urban design review board approved plans for Road ID to raze more recent additions to the circa 1900 building that currently houses H. Johnson. The larger building, which dates back nearly 120 years, will remain intact, though it will have updated windows. Architect Jim Guthrie, of Hub + Weber, said that the project will have an industrial feel inside.

"It will have a cool interior, raw like the Hellman Creative Center," Guthrie said, referencing the new home of the Center for Great Neighborhoods on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. 
 
Covington's historic preservation officer, Emily Ahouse, added four conditions to the approval: that the final paint colors, signage, awning & canopy appearance, and parking screening be approved by city staff beforehand.
 
Guthrie said that the designers know what colors they want, they just haven't settled on a brand yet. "We think there could be some cool signage, either in the doors or on the storefront," he said. "They have a pretty strong brand and they are excited about being in the urban area of Covington where all the people are."
 
The project will take place directly across Eighth Street from the massive phase one part of Duveneck Square, a mixed-use project that will bring new market rate residential and commercial spaces to the city's core.
 
The sale of the building has not yet been completed. Leslie Kittle, senior manager at H. Johnson told The River City News that if the sale goes through and Road ID begins the work that it intends to do, that H. Johnson will move its storage operations off site, but its offices (including its operations for moving and storage), Tri-State Records Management, and the company's moving trucks will remain at the downtown Covington location.
 
The building may be sold, but the business is not for sale, she said. "We are expanding, so storage will be moved off site, but that's not going to be for some time," Kittle said. "Customers will be notified in ample time. It takes a lot of thought and organization."
 
The Sowder family will continue to operate the business, she said.
 
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Photos by RCN
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