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Covington Taking Steps to Prepare for IRS Departure

The City of Covington is set to take action as the departure of the IRS processing center looms.

The cost to the city will be roughly 1,800 jobs, leaving a $1.2 million hole in the budget.

In 2016, the IRS announced its plans to shutter the Covington location next August or September.

On Tuesday, the city commission listened to City Manager David Johnston explain that he would like to begin negotiating with a firm that will help lead the city in the planning process for what to do with the sprawling site near the riverfront west of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.

Eleven firms from across the country responded to the city's request for qualifications, and Johnston, following the recommendation of a committee, suggested Atlanta-based design firm Cooper Carry and its associated partner that specializes in federal government-owned properties.

The potential of the project is already generating nationwide buzz, Johnston said.

"As we were going through the process, we had commercial developers saying this 23-acre site is viewed as one of the most unique and sizable redevelopment opportunities between Baltimore and New Orleans. So, it's on the radar screen for investors," he said.

Following a review of the eleven submissions, the city's committee interviewed four firms. "We looked at which firm had the best balanced approach to achieve some very significant goals," Johnston said. "Cooper Carry from Atlanta proved to provide that balance.

"They have a great portfolio, great references that will serve us extremely well."

Johnston, following approval, will begin negotiating with Cooper Carry on a contract for the work. He said the firm plans an extensive public input process. Its credentials and application will be posted online, Johnson said. "I think you'll be impressed with their credentials."

"They are one of the pre-eminent firms in our country when it comes to redevelopment. They bring one of the most significant economic development networks to the table," Johnston said.

Redevelopment of the IRS site has long been a goal for the City of Covington, even before it was announced that the agency would close the location. The sprawling operation conducts its federal work in a large one-story building in a part of the city that is seeing massive amounts of redevelopment. The IRS operation at the adjacent Gateway Center is expected to remain in place.

The timeline could be long. "Once the IRS says, we're done, it then is the time where the (General Services Administration) comes in to mothball the property and it will take about four months to mothball the property," Johnston said. "So, they're doing things while we'll be doing things, so we want to work with GSA during that process."

It could take longer than a year, he said.

"The feds have their goal of the highest price they can get, but zoning is a local issue so you may have an investor that wants to get it, but if it doesn't meet the city's vision, it's not going to happen," Johnston said.

"That's why it's important for the city to be the lead."

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that the IRS made its announcement about the planned closure last year. It was in 2016. RCN regrets the error.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: IRS processing center in Covington (RCN)