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Scott Blvd Building to Be Renovated, Will House Police Bike Patrol

"The city is willing to invest in those willing to invest in the city," said Mayor Chuck Scheper, repeating one of his tenets that emerged when he was first appointed Mayor of Covington. The repeated remark came Tuesday night after the Covington City Commission approved a deal that will transform a blighted, vacant building on the 400 block of Scott Boulevard. In unanimous votes, the city will sell 409-415 Scott Boulevard to RAH Realty, LLC for one dollar and will enter into a development agreement with that company.

Alan Haenle, owner of RAH Realty, is responsible for the redevelopment of two other formerly blighted buildings on the same block. What is known as the Ice House is home to the PPS Group, a full service video production, post, graphic design, and special effects company. Haenle also renovated the neighboring structure known as the Rankin Building. 409-415 Scott Boulevard will be used by PPS Group for more office space and storage for the growing company. "They're literally working on top of each other," Haenle said of the PPS Group.

Assistant City Manager Larisa Sims explained the deal: there will be a seventy-five percent occupational (payroll) tax rebate for five years, a fifty percent occupational tax rebate for the Rankin Building for ten years, a $400,000 loan from the city, and a $100,000 community development block grant (from the city's federal funds). The city acquired the building in 2009.

"This is a building that is producing nothing and is in danger of disintegrating if we don't get it in good hands," said City Commissioner Steve Frank. "This is another sign of life in that area." The building is one block north of the expanding Kenton County Public Library and Gateway Community & Technical College's urban center which will soon be part of an announced $80 million urban campus.

Haenle has agreed to build out a space on the first floor for the Covington Police Department's previously transient bike patrol which was heralded at Tuesday's meeting as one of the best in the nation. "We no longer have to have our work benches on wheels," said Jim Donaldson of the police department. Donaldson said that the department is the only one in North America to use cyclocross bikes which are designed for racing and also that Covington has a larger-than-usual bike patrol, even bigger than Lexington's. "Covington is known for its bike school," Donaldson continued, highlighting a bragging right that the city's police department is sought out by officers from other agencies looking to learn how to better patrol on two wheels.

City Commissioner Steve Casper also applauded the bike patrol for its swiftness and efficiency, telling a story about a ride-along he participated in. Casper was with an officer in a cruiser when the pursuit of a vehicle began. The suspect fled to Cherry Street in Lewisburg and even though ten police cars responded, the first to the scene was a bike patrol officer. "He came all the way from Madison Avenue," Casper said.

As the police department benefits from a permanent home (the rent-free deal is good for fifteen years), the neighborhood benefits from regular police presence. "I know Dr. Ed Hughes is very excited about this," Mayor Scheper said of Gateway College's president. "Having the bike patrol there will be good for the campus."

The rest of the block will benefit, too. "We need to address that street," Haenle said. Though he has developed two buildings and is set to embark on a third, the 400 block of Scott Boulevard has its share of undesirable street traffic that travels from the front of the library at the southern end to the liquor store at the northern end. That liquor store operates in the tiny northwest corner of a large otherwise vacant mid-nineteenth century building with mostly boarded up windows.

Haenle plans to add several cameras to the property to help the police keep an eye on things as he single-handedly works to revitalize one of the the city's most highly trafficked blocks. Mostly, though, Haenle is happy to build a space for the bike patrol. "I want it to be an overwhelming home for them," he said. "They deserve a permanent home."

Written by Michael Monks, Editor & Publisher of The River City News

PHOTO: 409-415 Scott Boulevard/RCN file