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Historic Covington Building - Moved for Road Widening - is About to Have Life

Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Covington is a hotbed of activity these days.

Formerly known as Twelfth Street, the boulevard was widened in recent years, and now it's populated with popular local businesses like Wunderbar, Gutierrez Deli, and the soon-to-reopen Covington Coffee Company, to name a few.

Kenton County is in progress of redeveloping the former Bavarian Brewery site to be the new home of the county government campus.

The Center for Great Neighborhoods is comfortably settled in at the old Hellmann Lumber Building which has been re-fashioned as the Hellmann Creative Center.

And now, another old building is about to have new life.

Not an easy task, said Mark Ramler, the Newport-based developer known for his quality historic restoration projects through Mansion Hill Properties.

"It is a difficult project because of the extensive rehab it needs. Everything needs to be done," Ramler said. "And the size of it makes it difficult to do for a commercial project."

But, 501 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. will get the attention it needs, he said, because it finally has a pair of tenants.

One happens to be growing firm WorK Architecture + Design.

"I like the location," said Tyler Watkins, a partner with the firm. "I pride myself and my company by working on transformative projects, and I think this is in a spot that has a lot of opportunities."

The City of Covington awarded a $50,000 grant to the project to fill "a crucial gap in financing due to extensive rehabilitation costs" at Tuesday night's city commission meeting. 

The property will also be home to a retail cafe operation for Mavis Clark, the local chef behind Made by Mavis and the Delish Dish. It will also be home to the Joshua One real estate development team.

The project is four years in the making. Ramler bought the property at auction in 2013. It was one of the historic buildings saved when the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet worked to widen the boulevard. The building was one of a few that was picked up and physically moved to a new location.

Historically, it was known as the Flannery Paint building. In 2015, The River City News toured the property and produced a photo gallery. Later that year, a mural was placed on the building's rear wall to welcome visitors to the city's Westside.

"It's the perfect time. All the stars are lining up for this project," Ramler said. The Catalytic Fund is financing and underwriting the project, he said. It was difficult to find financing because there are no comps for the area. It's several blocks south of the bulk of Covington's urban renaissance.

The project is located within Covington's tax increment finance (TIF) district so will help to boost other projects downtown. Also, "I think it will be a really nice entrance to Covington," Ramler said. The building is one of the first seen by drivers entering the city from nearby I-71/75.

As for Watkins, he finds himself working on designs for a home for his business - not an easy task, he said. "It's hard to do something for yourself. I have to step back and let my office do a lot of it," he said. 

The company will grow into the space. 

Currently, WorK employs three people but within two years, per the incentive agreement with the City of Covington, it will grow to six.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

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